“Crypto winter” may have set in, but Lightspark aims to bring a new era of innovation to the world of Bitcoin.

In the latest episode of The Verge’s “Decoder with Nilay Patel” podcast, Alex Heath interviewed David Marcus, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bitcoin startup Lightspark. The conversation touched upon the current state of the crypto industry, the unique opportunities offered by Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, and how Lightspark intends to simplify access to the network for developers and businesses.

Marcus, a veteran of the crypto industry, has weathered at least three crypto winters. He stated that the current one differs from previous downturns due to the industry’s expanded size, affecting more people, companies, and investors. As the stakes have risen, so has the need for valuable solutions to real-world problems.

When asked about his transition from working on Facebook’s stablecoin project Libra to focusing on Bitcoin with Lightspark, Marcus emphasized the importance of an open, interoperable protocol for money on the internet. In his view, Bitcoin is the only network that satisfies this requirement. With its robust, battle-tested infrastructure and lack of central control, Bitcoin offers a truly decentralized solution for digital money.

Lightspark is built on the Lightning Network, a Layer 2 payments protocol for Bitcoin. The Lightning Network enables near real-time transactions, is highly scalable, and offers privacy features that distinguish it from Bitcoin’s Layer 1. Marcus explained that while the Lightning Network is powerful, it is also highly complex and presents a barrier to entry for many users.

This complexity is where Lightspark comes in. The startup aims to simplify the process of using the Lightning Network by providing an enterprise-grade entry point. This will allow developers and platforms worldwide to tap into the benefits of a real-time global payment network easily and quickly.

With a business model similar to AWS or other SaaS cloud-based businesses, Lightspark charges a small fee for transactions conducted through its platform. At scale, this amounts to approximately 15 basis points with no minimum fixed fee. The startup targets developers, wallets, exchanges, and OTC players, focusing on empowering developers to build new and innovative experiences.

One concept Marcus is particularly excited about is “streaming money.” Streaming money involves sending small amounts of money, even fractions of a cent, in real-time across the network. This could enable new monetization opportunities for creators and innovative payment models. When combined with the low transaction costs and global accessibility offered by the Lightning Network, streaming money can potentially revolutionize how people transact online.

During the interview, Marcus also shared insights into his time at Facebook and the challenges faced by the Libra project. He noted that the team explored using the Lightning Network in the early days of Libra, but at the time, it was not mature enough to meet their needs. The primary issue with using Bitcoin as a transactional asset without a real-time settlement network, according to Marcus, was its volatility, which made it a poor medium of exchange.

However, as the Lightning Network has evolved, it has become a more viable solution for real-time transactions. This development led Marcus to build Lightspark on top of the Lightning Network, offering an enterprise-grade solution for developers and platforms seeking to harness the power of Bitcoin for their projects.

Marcus also addressed privacy concerns around the Lightning Network. While transactions on the network are not visible on-chain like Bitcoin, Marcus argues that this is a feature rather than a drawback. The privacy offered by the Lightning Network is similar to that of existing payment networks, providing benefits for both merchants and consumers who may not want their transaction history publicly accessible.

As Lightspark prepares to launch its platform, it hopes to encourage innovation and the development of new payment experiences built on Bitcoin’s decentralized, fast, and secure foundation and the Lightning Network. Marcus envisions a future where instant micropayments and streaming money open up new opportunities for businesses and individuals alike. By lowering the barrier to entry for those who want to engage with the Lightning Network, Lightspark aims to make Bitcoin-based transactions more accessible and practical for a wide range of applications.

In addition to streaming money, other use cases for the Lightning Network include cross-border remittances, enabling faster and cheaper transfers than traditional banking systems. By providing a secure and frictionless way to transact, the Lightning Network has the potential to revolutionize remittance markets and bring financial inclusion to millions of people worldwide.

Another potential application of the Lightning Network and Lightspark’s platform is the Internet of Things (IoT). As more devices become connected and able to communicate with each other, the need for seamless, low-cost, and real-time microtransactions will only increase. By facilitating these transactions, Lightspark’s platform could enable new business models and enhance the functionality of IoT devices.

Marcus also touched upon the role of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the current crypto landscape. While he acknowledged the growing popularity of NFTs, he expressed the belief that the Bitcoin ecosystem has the potential to offer a more robust and sustainable solution for creators and collectors. By leveraging the Lightning Network and Lightspark’s platform, NFT marketplaces could benefit from lower transaction fees, faster transactions, and improved privacy, enhancing the overall user experience.

As the crypto industry matures, startups like Lightspark are working to unlock the full potential of existing networks like Bitcoin and the Lightning Network. By making these technologies more accessible and user-friendly, they aim to drive adoption, foster innovation, and create a more open, decentralized, and secure digital economy.

By embracing the challenges presented by the current crypto winter, Lightspark hopes to usher in a new era of growth and development for the world of Bitcoin. With the support of the global developer community and the continued maturation of the Lightning Network, the company is poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of digital payments and online transactions.