SatoshiTango (ST) is one of Argentina’s most well-known Bitcoin market makers. Since its beginning, the startup has differentiated itself through ease of use and a user-centric approach.
With simple steps, ST managed to deliver Bitcoin by selling prepaid cards that could be redeemed online on their website, now they smoothed out their process to fund accounts by using five different methods which are available in most of the country. Vice versa, ST also buys Bitcoin and deposits Argentine pesos to the recipient’s bank account, or even by carrying the money to their homes.
Amidst Argentina’s political turmoil, CEO and Co-Founder Matías Bari has managed to bootstrap his startup, based on a philosophy that seems to be focused on resilience. Bari told us what it takes to be an entrepreneur in Argentina and about the humble beginnings of SatoshiTango.
Cointelegraph: Matías, if you had to describe SatoshiTango in three words, which would they be?
Matías Bari: SatoshiTango is a Bitcoin multiservice platform.
CT: Tell us a bit about your story. When did you come up with the idea for your company?
MB: In March 2013, I read about Silk Road on the news. That’s when I heard about Bitcoin and began reading about it. I am an engineer, I like math and got interested in cryptography, specifically asymmetric cryptography. I was amazed by the whole concept and Mariano [Craiem, SatoshiTango’s co-founder] was in my same position. We started getting into it by reading more, buying, selling and trading. On Christmas Eve, while working together on a website we had, I told him about starting a brokerage service company. Since he is a developer, I challenged him to code it, and he did. In one night. Now it’s almost a year since we launched and it’s been an amazing ride.
CT: What do you think about Argentina’s legal stance towards Bitcoin?
MB: Legislation and regulation, it’s coming, whether we like it or not. I pray for our authorities to choose the right path: the path of innovation, to let entrepreneurs take their dreams to the next step. I hope other parts of the world take an approach where bitcoin is seen as an improved form of value transfer and not a threat to the status quo.
CT: What can you tell us about the early challenges of setting up your company?
MB: It’s not for everyone. You need to be a special kind of person to deal with the amounts of frustration, failure and bad feelings. Marcos Galperin, CEO and founder of MercadoLibre, said in an interview, “Never let success go to your head. Never let failure invade your heart.” I don’t know what success looks like yet, but I do know how to avoid failure getting into my heart.
“I hope other parts of the world take an approach where bitcoin is seen as an improved form of value transfer and not a threat to the status quo.”
CT: All in all, how do you feel regarding your current accomplishments?
MB: We are about to celebrate our first anniversary and we have accomplished amazing things. I realize now that we launched with nothing and that we have improved a lot. I am very happy and this gives me the strength to keep going, as we are still bootstrapping the company and looking for funding. I can’t imagine what we can accomplish with a little bit of money, if so far we have accomplished so much by using only our savings.
MB: We tell people that bitcoin is a very risky investment. Many people have lost lots of money. I can’t recommend anyone to invest all of their savings in bitcoin. You need to have a very special stomach to invest in bitcoin. But I do think this is the future and I have invested in this future myself with some of mine; you have to use money you are willing to lose.
CT: Do you believe Argentina has any comparative advantage for Bitcoin?
MB: We have talented people and we are very used to economic crisis. Moreover, we are used to “getting around things” and solving problems. This is why whenever you travel to any country in the world, you can see that there’s an Argentine succeeding. It’s crazy, but we grew up this way and it’s a shame that we do not encourage more people to do what they love because of the constant ups and downs of our economy. Anyway, I think that in the past 5 to 10 years, the whole “entrepreneur culture” has arrived in our country to stay and we can see the number of people taking a leap of faith for their projects increasing all the time. I like that very much. Having said that, I think there’s a huge opportunity here for Bitcoin and any technological startup.
CT: What can you tell us about Coinnect?
MB: Coinnect is a service that was developed between SatoshiTango and Volabit from Mexico. Since the very first time we met, we knew that we had to do this; we knew that taking bitcoin to the back end was the right thing to do in order to let the people take advantage of the Bitcoin protocol without them even knowing. Coinnect allows people to send money to another country in a very easy and seamless way. We are partnering with companies from all around the world and you’ll see countries like Spain, China and the USA jumping on board of the Coinnect network.
“I think that there’s a huge opportunity here for Bitcoin and any technological startup.”
CT: Should Western Union be scared of you?
MB: I don’t think a billion dollar company needs to be scared of us. I really like a quote from Socrates that says, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” I think that summarizes what I think.
CT: Apart from your exchanging activities, SatoshiTango offers merchant services. What can you tell us about them? Have you seen any difficulties in their adoption?
MB: We are still in the early adopters stage, which means that people buying shoes over the internet do not care about using Bitcoin. It has a lot of advantages, but we need to build layer over layer to allow people to use it. My mother does not understand what I do, and until she does we will not be mainstream. That’s why Coinnect is a very important service: if you don’t know you are using Bitcoin, it’s easy for people to see the advantages of the service. Bitcoin adoption is going very slow, but we’ll get there for sure. You now see television shows from 1990, 1991 talking about the internet and it sounded like this crazy thing that computer geeks use. Bitcoin, like the internet, is open source; and I’m not talking about coding. I am talking about the whole concept. Anyone from any part of the world can improve what you have already done. That’s an amazing and unstoppable driving force for the whole world.
“In Argentina, people work mostly with cash. It’s a cultural issue. Many of them are not in the banking system, and many others DO NOT WANT to be in the banking system because of the 2001 crisis; and they want to handle their money freely.”
CT: It is actually great that you do cash-in-hand home deliveries to your clients. How did you come up with such an innovative idea?
MB: In Argentina, people work mostly with cash. It’s a cultural issue. Many of them are not in the banking system, and many others DO NOT WANT to be in the banking system because of the 2001 crisis; and they want to handle their money freely. In that moment, we believed it was a great service to provide. Obviously, it has limitations, because outside of the city it’s really difficult, even more for the rest of the country. But the key is that you find what it is that your client considers as “benefits” in the value = benefits / costs equation. If I can get one more client because of that service in particular is considered a benefit, then it’s good for us. And it was.
CT: Can you estimate your market share in Argentina? Will we see SatoshiTango dominating it?
MB: I’m sure you will. I can’t share any numbers with you, but we are the #1 Bitcoin platform in Argentina. Anyway, we have a very strong community and an amazing friendly environment. All the surrounding companies are founded by entrepreneurs who like what they do and that turns this particular business space into a very comfortable one.
CT: Which are your growth perspectives?
MB: Sky's the limit. We have a lot of very exciting challenges ahead of us. We will see many, many people starting to use bitcoin and we want to be there for them and add value to their experience. We are developing new services for people to use their Bitcoins. We want to build a platform to offer you many different services related to Bitcoin.
CT: Any plans for altcoins? Cryptocurrency services?
MB: At the time, we are focusing on bitcoin. It hasn’t been like this always, but I do believe now that bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that is going to survive. The network effect is a very powerful force, and there’s no reason why people will switch from bitcoin to another cryptocurrency. But as I said, I changed my mind in the past, so I can change it again, and if SatoshiTango needs a change we’ll do it no matter what.
“We will see many many people starting to use bitcoin and we want to be there for them and add value to their experience.”
CT: Where do you see SatoshiTango in next three years?
MB: SatoshiTango is going to be a very big company, or will die trying haha! We want this company to be known around the world. We want the world to know that Argentina is a place with talented people.
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