Founded by 24-year-old Ruben Galindo and 29-year-old Antonio Garcia of Mexico City, AirTM is a service that depends on the Bitreserve API to make transfers from the “new money” in the cloud to the “old money” of the cash system.
The two founders wanted to solve what they found to be an unfair problem in today’s remittance system. Garcia told Cointelegraph, “You're accustomed to hearing about all the hell that Mexicans go through to get to the U.S. and to work really hard to send money home, doing hard jobs that Americans don't want to do.” He continued:
“But for remittance, we need to be established in both the source and destination countries and that's a lot to bite off for a small startup. So we're focusing first on harsh currency regimes where there's a compelling use case for us — to help our brothers and sisters in Argentina and Venezuela to protect their wealth from devaluing currency due to the country's fiscal mismanagement.”
The duo had met on numerous occasions through a common interest in Bitcoin, where they discussed the pros and cons of digital currency over beers. The epiphany of AirTM came to them, however, when they both signed up as interns at Bitreserve.
“Bitreserve's message of inclusion, free and instant transactions, and real-time transparency really spoke to us both,” says Garcia. The founders cite Halsey Minor, the founder of Bitreserve and CNET, as their inspiration.
“Our mediation solves any problems. We are like Uber in that we connect clients who want money in the cloud, with cashiers who want to make money from helping clients consummate those transactions.”
The app will not reinvent the wheel with complex and in-depth UI. “There are just three buttons on our app — deposit, withdraw, and send. First use case is wealth preservation. Second is cross-border payments and remittance.”
Pegging Fiat to Fiat
The service is currently still in alpha testing, but it is set for release in Argentina in August. “Venezuela and Mexico will follow soon after,” said Garcia. “Then China and Europe. But we can't really say when. We want to nail one country and then move on to others. We don't want to try to drink the ocean.”
They plan to make money by taking a small cut from the cashier’s commission.
AirTM is similar to the money-transfer network Abra, but with a twist. Abra depends on a peer-to-peer network of tellers and clients, without the necessity for a bank, whereas AirTM matches clients with cashiers, both of whom must have access to the old money system of banks, and the new money system of Bitreserve.
A client makes a deposit by sending fiat money via bank transfer to a cashier. The cashier sends the client money to the Bitreserve cloud, the value of which the client can peg to the currency or precious metal of their choice.
In principle, with Bitreserve's real-time transparency, clients know their value is safe because Bitreserve publishes a real-time proof of solvency. Whereas countries like Greece could impose a restriction on how much money the populace can withdraw, fiat money that is safely stored in the cloud is easily accessible via AirTM, simply by finding a cashier willing to trade.
Withdrawals involve the reverse transaction between client and cashier. “Our Escrow and Bitreserve's focus on membership and financial identity make the transactions safe,” says Garcia.
The Gift of API
AirTM has no need to worry about compliance with AML or KYC, since the Bitreserve signup and verification process handles that tedious responsibility. Bitreserve, which has numerous developers already using their API, helped the Gsp and Garcia get on their feet. “The Bitreserve team has been super helpful connecting us with investors, lawyers, banks, everything,” says Garcia.
To use AirTM, users need a Bitreserve account, and to use Bitreserve one must provide identification and other information about sources and uses of funds. Both cashiers and clients will have to be fully identified by Bitreserve in order to use AirTM, rendering any attempts to move dirty money quite difficult.
When asked about Bitcoin as a payment option, Garcia said that the digital currency is a direct-payment option with AirTM. The end user never sees or needs to know about Bitcoin. Instead, cashiers use the bitcoin rails to move value into Bitreserve.
AirTM enables clients to hold value as stable currency (USD, EUR, etc.) in Bitreserve's cloud money system. Cashiers facilitate those deposits and withdrawals by first acquiring Bitreserve's cloud money. The only way to do that today is via Bitcoin. Therefore, the founders say, “AirTM is not really a Bitcoin app. It's a Bitreserve app.”