It is widely accepted that mass adoption of crypto won’t be led by developed markets like the U.S. and Europe. Instead, emerging markets will pave the way. Latin America, in particular, is a perfect environment for the rise of crypto with its wide swings from left to right in politics and mercurial monetary systems. Thus, keeping an eye on the people and companies leading these epic economic experiments in crypto can yield many insights and learnings for crypto entrepreneurs and investors everywhere.
Here are 5 such individuals, their projects, and a few lessons we've learnt from them:
About: Serrano and his team were some of the earliest players in Latam crypto, creating Bitpagos in 2013. Focusing on creating infrastructure for wallets and payments, Bitpagos became Ripio, which then leveraged its 100K+ user base to execute one of the most successful ICOs in the region in 2017. They raised $37MM to launch RCN Network, an Ethereum-powered peer-to-peer lending network.
Successful ICOs, even more so going forward, need to be based on track record building useful tools and an existing captive community, which Ripio had already built.
The fastest and most sustainable way to scale global financial products, like lending, is by partnering with and integrating other wallets where crypto users already have their holdings.
About: Coquieri is a successful serial entrepreneur who cut his teeth building technology businesses in Brazil, including EZLike which was acquired in 2015. In 2017, he and his team built BitcoinTrade, a Brazil crypto exchange, which launched in October of that year. BitcoinTrade quickly became a leader in terms of volume (top 3 from launch) and a reference in the region in how to build a scalable and compliant crypto-related business. It effectively demonstrated that reputable executives and financial institutions can participate in this market. Coquieri is now eyeing international (Mexico) and product (crypto-backed Lending) expansions as BitcoinTrade’s next steps.
Building a robust and automated onboarding and compliance systems from Day 1 allowed BitcoinTrade to take significant market share from other players who could not handle sign-up volumes during the crypto boom from late 2017 to early 2018.
Collaborating with reputable financial institutions and government agencies allowed BitcoinTrade to create KYC and AML procedures that are the most robust in the country and likely to become an eventual standard for the industry, giving them a long term competitive advantage.
About: Torrealba’s Buda.com, founded in 2015 out of Santiago, has grown into the largest crypto exchange in the Andean region. With a focus on simplicity and no frills, Buda focuses on a streamlined process and a very didactic approach to help crypto noobs. Undoubtedly, Torrealba's university teaching experience has a deep influence in this approach.
Promoting Lightning Network to users as a method of expediting Bitcoin payment is a wise move to encourage activity-- showing them WHERE they can use their Bitcoin with Lightning Network is even better! In their site you will find a list of exciting vendors and apps and how to use them. Buda is great at hand holding its users, understanding that new technology can never be over-explained.
About: Pablo co-founded Bitso in 2013, garnering them the honor of being the first ever Mexico crypto exchange. His design background is evident in the overall user experience and in creating a strong visual identity for the brand. Focusing on compliance and creating integrations with financial institutions have also been crucial for Bitso's leadership positioning to date and their preparedness for Mexico's newly-instated fintech laws.
Anchoring themselves and their business model on one of the best use case for cryptocurrencies-- cross-border remittances-- will ensure the livelihood of Bitso long after trading volumes settle down.
A developer-centric attitude with a broad set of APIs positions Bitso as a platform and a B2B enabler.
About: Benites' Bitinka is arguably the most 'Global' of this Latam list with offices across Latam and presence in Europe and Asia. Like Bitso, Bitinka focuses on two main products- its exchange and Inkapay, a cross-border payments platform. Benites' background in finance and tech from IBM are evident in the design of their advanced trading platforms.
Setting up headquarters in Hong Kong is not only an interesting regulatory hedge for Bitinka, but also positions the company as a global, not regional player in crypto.
Banking on e-commerce globalization, which has been a major growth initiative of the Peruvian government, their remittances arm, Inkapay, also provides crypto solutions for merchants to sell their wares to a global audience.