American ATM network Athena Bitcoin is continuing its aggressive expansion in Latin America, with now 17 ATMs in five cities in Colombia. The company is sure the ATMs are a good investment but news.Bitcoin.com spoke to Colombians who were, if anything, baffled by the new machines.
Venezuelans the Biggest Users
Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin, saw its third bitcoin ATM installed this month, bringing the total number of machines in the country up to 17. The latest in Medellin is not fully funcional just yet but the Midwest US-based cryptocurrency ATM network Athena Bitcoin told news.Bitcoin.com that there had been “a really good reaction” to the ATMs throughout the South American country.
But just who are using the machines? According to Athena, Venezuelans in Colombia are the biggest users of the ATMs, followed closely by freelancers working in tech or marketing. Athena’s Latin America director, Matias Goldenhörn, said: “There’s more volume – more transactions and more people using cryptocurrencies for everyday things – in Colombia, though it’s picking up across the region.”
“There are a lot of freelancers in Colombia who receive their payments in bitcoin and they use our ATMs to get their money in fiat and then there are people sending remittances to Venezuela are using them. Those are the two main users we have now in Colombia.”
The machines, which support bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), litecoin (LTC) and Ethereum (ETH), have sprouted up in Colombia’s five largest cities. The company plans to also open one in the border town of Cucuta, a hotspot for the thousands of Venezuelans now crossing into the country every day.
Athena also has opened one ATM in Argentina, one in Mexico and another in Chile. Colombia has seen the biggest investment because people are more open to cryptos here – and in neighboring Venezuela – than in other Latin American nations, according to the company.
Bafflement and Intrigue
Athena’s ATMs are designed to allow users to purchase cryptocurrency without a bank account, debit card or credit card. There are close to 70 scattered across the US and the company promises people can buy cryptocurrency from the machines in as little as 90 seconds with an appropriate crypto wallet on their smartphone.
Other than tech-savvy freelancers or Venezuelans using the ATMs and crypto to deal with an economic crisis after fleeing their home country, others seemed confused, albeit intrigued, with the new ATM in Medellin. Writer and journalist, Julian Tabares, 26, said: “I think there are a lot of people in the city that have heard about Bitcoin, but we don’t really know how exactly it works. Some say it’s a bubble and I’m not sure how I would work the ATM.”
While 23-year-old student Natalia Hernandez said: “It looks incredible to me, like really futuristic. I’ve read a bit about the technology and it sounds interesting – but I’ve no idea what that machine does.”
And mother-of-four, Alicia Restrepo, 60, said: “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what cryptocurrencies are. I’ve heard people talk about them, though.”
Others who spoke to news.Bitcoin.com were confused, disinterested or keen to learn more. A number were enthusiastic and said they’d research crypto after it was explained what it could do for them.
The potential in Latin America is therefore huge, Athena said. “Latin America has a high number of people who are unbanked or under-banked,” Goldenhörn told news.Bitcoin.com. “Around 70 percent. And there is a huge smartphone penetration, too, which makes a good case for using crypto.”
“Based on the success we’ve had, we’re trying to raise $15 million and we’re in the middle of the round to continue accelerating the Latin America dispatch, to deploy hundreds of ATMs in the region.”
What do you think about Athena’s rapid expansion in Latin America? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
Need to calculate your bitcoin holdings? Check our tools section.