Sugi interviews Illia Panin, Lead Developer at Sofitto

After the interview with Sofitto’s CTO Igor Ruzanov, we are continuing with the Meet Us series. This time, we talked to Illia Panin, the Lead Front-End Developer at Sofitto.

After over 15 years of project experience with companies like Cysco Systems, TrendMiner, Collibra, Illia Panin has brought his expertise to Sofitto’s Sugi Mobile App.

With Illia, we discussed mobile apps in crypto payments, usability, and potential of crypto becoming a commonly accepted payment option.


Illia, you are in charge of the front-end face of the Sugi Mobile App. With many current cryptocurrencies hardware wallets being just that — hardware — an App obviously adds another usability benefit for the end user. What was the process (and challenges) of connecting the hardware Sugi Card and the Sugi App for mobile phones?

From the technical point of view, it wasn’t a big deal to connect hardware Sugi Card to the Sugi Mobile App, it was just a regular development process plus a little bit of tech magic, and that’s it. The biggest challenge was to find a way to deliver new user experience with our hardware Sugi Wallet Card and Sugi Mobile App.

Our audience is non-tech-savvy people, and they are not ready for the whole range of technical details of the crypto world and NFC communication. They want to have fun and an easy-to-use solution.

As I’m a technical person, I found it hard to remove “the very important checkbox in the payment settings,” which geeks want to see but nobody of the ordinary audience will use.

When we think about the cryptocurrency market, we are somehow more familiar with a desktop image of charts and exchanges. Although much has been done in the mobile crypto space lately, what do you think is still missing before we see broader adoption of crypto on smartphones and their use in everyday purchases?

There are 2 questions in the field of cryptocurrency payments:

  1. How to become a crypto user?
  2. Where can I spend my crypto assets?

All the recent hype around the crypto and blockchain market provides the answer to the first question. There are many wallets enabling users to create a mobile wallet version and purchase their first assets; however, the onboarding process is still geeky and requires some motivation.

On the one hand, the hype influenced the improvement in the onboarding process and made it more user-friendly for the non-tech users. From another side, most of the people only wanted to invest in or trade with crypto assets. Not many people want to spend crypto on a regular basis.

Most of the current wallets are focused on storing crypto assets and trading with them, not on spending them. Inflated crypto prices were one of the major blockers for the broad adoption of the crypto payments.

The hype is gone and it left many users who are familiar with the market but don’t have any idea where they can spend their crypto. So we need to build an ecosystem where people can employ their crypto and where vendors/merchants accept it as a payment option. One of the simplest ways is the reuse of well-known payment solutions and infrastructure for the crypto payments.

Sugi card is the EMV-compatible crypto payment card that can be used in traditional POS-terminals and ATMs. This way, even non-technical users can get all the benefits of crypto payments in a familiar payment environment without the need for knowledge about the underlying tech details.

Obviously, this is an important goal for Sugi — to make the broadest audience adopt crypto payments and make their experience pleasant and hassle-free. What would you say is the most user-friendly feature of the Sugi App that helps new crypto holders navigate through the crypto payments?

“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler,” said Albert Einstein.

I can’t select a single feature. The whole Sugi App is built with the goal to be user-friendly and easy to use.

When we are talking about cryptocurrency, the most challenging part is its security. Everybody wants to be protected, but not everyone wants to spend a lot of effort on that. Some of the wallets sacrifice security for better user experience. Other competitors are too focused on safety and ignore usage simplicity. This all makes it hard to adopt crypto payments for the non-tech users. The Sugi App, however, provides the simplest way to have a good UX without any security compromises. At least I hope the UX is satisfying, its security definitely is. :)

What are your thoughts on customization — providing custom app options for different profiles of users?

Ideally, an application should be as simple as possible and should solve user needs. But the users are different and so are their needs. It means that an application becomes more complex when it tries to cover all the needs of different people.

On the one hand, different profiles can solve this issue. But on the other hand, in our fast-moving world, people don’t want to waste time to change the settings of an application nor to care about abstract profiles. They just want the result! I think the best solution is to provide basic default functionality for common use cases and to offer organically integrated possibility to deep dive into details if a user wants something special. The ideal solution would be a single “Make me happy” button. :)

For example, transaction fees. The fee amount has a very technical background for a non-technical person. I don’t care about the fee amount if it’s reasonable in the current moment. I want just to execute my asset transfer ASAP. A transaction fee is a nice candidate to be “hidden” in advanced payment settings for not geeky persons.

In the Sugi Mobile App, we provide only simplified flows without additional settings. Our motto is “My mom can use it.”

Challenges of a good UX

What about the data protection and the ways that the front-end secures third-party access to the data stored in the back-end? For example, if a mobile with the Sugi App gets stolen, what are the mechanisms protecting the assets managed in-app?

First, the Sugi back-end does not keep any sensitive information that could be used to get control over your assets, it just helps to explore them and to support the payments infrastructure.

Secondly, the Sugi Card is a cold hardware wallet. Only through the Sugi Card you sign a transaction and transfer your crypto assets. Nobody can transfer your assets without a card and a pin. More detailed information can be found here.

And lastly, the Sugi App serves just as a user interface to your card. It uses a secure connection to communicate with the back-end. When you activate your Sugi Card, you should register your account using your e-mail or your Google account, and you must be logged in to explore your crypto assets. Additionally, we are instructing the users to enable built-in device protection (pin code, password, fingerprint or a photo ID).

Answering your question about what happens if your mobile is stolen, please don’t worry about you crypto assets, just install the Sugi App on a new device and log in with your card and your account.

For the crypto payments to gain wider adoption, do you think there should be more mobile cryptocurrency apps or more vendors/ATM offering crypto payment options?

The crypto world needs more merchants, vendors, ATMs that are offering crypto payment options. People own crypto, but the places where they can spend it are really limited.

Sofitto provides a full stack of technologies to build an ecosystem for the end users, merchants, vendors. More Sugi Card owners would help us make a deal with vendors/ATM providers. Our goal is to build a worldwide ecosystem there every person can use crypto in daily payments without any technical knowledge on how the crypto works.

What are your thoughts on the crypto market regulation — how could it influence the market on an everyday level? Would it make ordinary, non-tech-savvy people trust crypto more, or would it mean an even bigger obstacle for the use of crypto for daily payments?

The best answer to that was given by Igor Ruzanov:

High regulatory risk is related to the security tokens that are not used in crypto payments. Current regulations don’t have anything against using the base cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum for payments (at least in the developed countries).
From our side, we build a solution — a regular banking card with the integrated blockchain wallet, exactly for the non-tech-savvy people. They can use it for remittances or daily payments without thinking that there is a crypto-magic happening in the background. Just like regular banking card on steroids.

I have nothing to add.

The whole crypto market is moving and evolving pretty fast. Do you feel any added pressure of being the first mover in the crypto payment apps space?

The biggest pressure is the sluggish world of traditional payments. The merchants and vendors are moving very slow, they have long decision-making cycle. They are conservative and prefer 100% safe “innovation” (I have no idea how innovation can be safe) :).

One of the biggest arguments in the negotiation process is the amount of the Sugi Card owners. Each new Sugi Card holder helps us convince merchants and vendors to support our protocol and crypto payments in general.

What is your vision for the crypto payments space, either short-term or long-term?

It’s an exciting time. Some of the crypto hype newcomers will soon understand that crypto is not only about investments and trading but it’s also a universal worldwide payment tool. The attention of big players like banks, government organizations and investors was attracted to crypto payments and blockchain projects. They’ve got some experience in this area. Some of them are ready to play a long game and invest in a crypto-ecosystem.

In the long term, I’ll be able to pay with Sugi Card in the bakery near my home.

Illia Panin with Sugi Card’s prototype

The Sugi Card is still available at a limited-time Pre-sale discount.

Compare the features of Sugi to those of other hardware wallets and make an informed decision for your crypto assets.

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