“Be your own bank! Join the revolution! Buy and sell bitcoins using Chilean pesos!” This is the slogan that the Yaykuy Bitcoin exchange uses to attract clients. Yaykuy was founded in 2013, and the company’s vision is to become the entry door to the world of Bitcoin for Chileans.
Specifically, one of Yaykuy’s main purposes is to facilitate the exchange of bitcoins using Chilean pesos. The company also wants to stimulate the use of bitcoins, as well as to promote the cryptocurrency in Chile. To achieve this end, Yaykuy’s team actively participates in various activities aimed at building a base of Bitcoin users, like meetup groups and educational events. Appropriately, Yaykuy is a Quechua word that means come in, to go in, enter.
In Chile, there is a small but growing and vibrant community of Bitcoin enthusiasts. It is made up mostly of college students, young professionals, and entrepreneurs. To spread the word about Bitcoin and blockchain technology, they organize workshops, talks, and meetups. Using social media, they exchange information such as news, articles, and announcements of Bitcoin-related events. For example, the meetup site Bitcoin Santiago is very active and has 307 bitcoiners.
Chile’s market-oriented economy has been quite successful vis-a-vis Latin-American countries. In Chile, there are no restrictions on exchanging dollars or any other currency for Chilean pesos. Indeed, there is no parallel currency market. Chile has a population of 17.5 million people, with a GDP per capita of $23,000 USD, according to the CIA’s World FactBook. In 2010, Chile became the first South American country to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As of 2014, Chile ranks 41st in the Human Development Index, which is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (Notice that Norway ranks 1st, the United States ranks 6th, while Niger ranks 187th.)
Presently, there is no legislation regarding Bitcoin in Chile. And, so far, no member of the government or of the opposition has made any reference to Bitcoin. Also, the SII, Servicio de Impuestos Internos, (the tax administration service), has made no mention of Bitcoin. Similarly, the Central Bank of Chile has issued no directives regarding digital currencies.
In addition, according to Mr. Andres Junge, CEO of Yaykuy, the local news media has usually referred to Bitcoin rather even-handedly, by providing basic information, as well as informing audiences about the various scandals that have plagued Bitcoin lately.
Most interestingly, the Chilean government has provided financial support to a Bitcoin exchange. In effect, early in 2015, the Production Development Corporation of Chile (CORFO) provided seed capital to the startup Bitcoin exchange SurBTC. CORFO is a Chilean governmental agency, whose vision is “to transform Chile into a global innovation and entrepreneurial hub.”
Most of the information about Bitcoin and blockchain technology is in English. This could be a barrier to increasing the popularity of these technologies, given that, according to the EF English Proficiency Index, Chile has a low level of English proficiency. It ranks 37th (among 63 countries measured). This is a report issued by EF Education First, an international company dedicated to language training, education, and cultural exchange. However, the amount of Spanish-language information about Bitcoin is becoming more available, mainly through social media channels.
Chile’s banking system is stable with steady growth and performance. “The banks present healthy capital and reserve buffers amid steady balance sheet and earnings growth,” says Moody’s. As a result, you might think that there is not an urgent need for Bitcoin in Chile. A need such as the one you encounter in countries undergoing financial distress, such as in Greece.
So, it would seem that there would be no major obstacles to restricting the growth of Bitcoin. However, as explained by Mr. Junge, the need for Bitcoin is strong among the poor. Specifically, the need is acute among those who do not have access to bank credit. As they cannot have credit cards, they cannot perform financial transactions on the Internet. As a result, says Mr. Junge, many small artisans, for example, use Bitcoin to participate in the global economy. They sell their products and receive payments internationally in bitcoins.
There are several businesses that accept bitcoins Santiago, Chile’s capital, and in other cities. You can search for these businesses using Coinmap.org. For example, in my home area, Valparaiso and Viña Mar, I found six places that accept Bitcoin. Incidentally, one of them is Bit Inn Suites. This company offers short-term, furnished apartments in Viña del Mar and Santiago. The owner, Mr. Bastian Ortiz, is convinced that Bitcoin simplifies financial transactions, reducing costs and saving time. Ortiz also believes that the hotel industry is the ideal place to innovate and test this new market technology.
Another place that accepts Bitcoin is World Coffee. It is a charming, cozy, and
reasonably priced establishment located in Viña del Mar. World Coffee comprises a coffee shop, bar, and restaurant. It also offers three comfortable, medium-size meeting rooms. The owner, Mr. Hector Salazar, is a Bitcoin enthusiast. He founded World Coffee in September 2014. Salazar started accepting Bitcoin payments when one of his clients convinced him to enter the Bitcoin World. He prominently displays, near the cash register, the QR code for his electronic wallet.
The clients paying with Bitcoin are foreigners, tourists, and business-people, mostly coming from the US, Japan, and Germany. But, as of late, a few local patrons have paid with the cryptocurrency.
So, Bitcoin has come to Chile, and it looks like it is here to stay! The future of Bitcoin is splendid because of the enthusiasm and tenacity being shown by the Chilean bitcoiners.
Where do you think Bitcoin will have the most success? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Imgur and Pixabay.