These startup founders are reaching the ‘crypto curious’ of Latin America

April 5, 2022 | By Vicki Hyman

In 2021, there were two big blockchain bets in Latin America— El Salvador became the first country to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, and the Bahamas beat out much larger economies – including China and Nigeria — to launch the first central bank-issued digital currency in the world.

It turns out, last year was a turning point for cryptocurrency across the region. Nearly one in five adults in Latin America already use cryptocurrency, according to a new survey by Americas Market Intelligence (AMI) for Mastercard, with nearly half of all crypto consumers making their first purchase in 2021. While early users of crypto skewed wealth and tech savvy, the next generation of crypto consumer is likely to come from a wider swathe of the population. AMI survey shows that 68% of “crypto curious” consumers are low or middle income versus half of current crypto users worldwide.

Crypto has been seen by some largely as a speculative investment with little application for everyday use, but that may be changing in Latin America as well: The survey also shows that 10% of small and medium enterprises have enabled cryptocurrency as a payment method, and another 15% are experimenting.

Brazil’s Bitfy and Argentina’s belo, both cryptocurrency wallet apps, are working to bring the benefits of crypto to more people and have joined the latest wave of Start Path Crypto, Mastercard’s blockchain-focused startup engagement program, to accelerate those efforts. Start Path Crypto gives these startups access to partnership opportunities, insights and tools to grow.

“We are a startup that aims to be giant,” says Lucas Schoch, the founder of Bitfy, an application that offers greater security and a better user experience for the investor who wants to buy digital assets but is not a trader. "Partnering with a giant like Mastercard will allow us to learn from their experience."

Manuel Beaudroit is the co-founder of belo, whose digital wallet companion Mastercard prepaid card allows everyone to pay and save in crypto.

“I was very excited how this piece of novel tech can bring a change to some of the systemic problems we have in the world, and more specifically Latin America,” Beaudroit says. “At that point, I decided to make a bet and dedicate as much time as possible to make crypto massive and accessible for all.”

The Mastercard Newsroom recently spoke to Schoch and Beaudroit about their first experiences with crypto, how they built their businesses and where more opportunities may lay in blockchain:

Were you an early adopter of crypto?

Schoch: I was a player on the World of Warcraft game in 2011. Inside of the game you could buy and trade items with other players. That was how I mined and spent more than 1100 bitcoins inside of World of Warcraft. After losing that amount of moneyI created many use cases of crypto such as a mining pool, arbitrage, checkout and, at the end of the journey, the Bitfy Wallet.

Beaudroit: I started my journey in crypto in late 2012 by accident. I was working on a global marketplace for lending and borrowing, and we stumbled upon the problem of paying and collecting. At that time we got to know bitcoin and, after a deep dive into the possibilities, we integrated it as a means of payment. Obviously no one was using it then, since it was too early for most of the users. That experiment was the spark that took me to dedicate the following ten years to this amazing technology.

What was your “aha” moment in founding your company?

Beaudroit: The very first hypothesis we wanted to validate was that if you could build a product with a stupid simple UX more people will be onboarding crypto. The same day we launched publicly people started texting me like crazy about this and how they could onboard friends & family without needing to explain anything. That was the moment we knew the MVP we developed was going in the right direction.

Schoch: When we were in the second year of the company, more than five well-developed fintechs of the country asked me if we could share our technology in some way. That was the moment I realized that all of the development we did for ourselves is the gold of the company, not only the wallet.

What is the greatest challenge in taking crypto mainstream How could it be solved?

Beaudroit: Crypto is the sum of two very difficult topics, money and technology … One of the theses of belo is to abstract technology as much as possible and focus mainly on the problems we are looking to solve, both in terms of product and communication. In this way we can work with metaphors and analogies to better connect with common people and their day to day problems in a way, which is more intuitive to adopt the technology. 

Schoch: Crypto is still under development. We need to make it easier. I used to say that crypto is just like the TCP Protocol of the Internet in the early days and people are trying to develop Facebook. We need to create the browser and Google first.

What do you think is the most exciting new development in the blockchain/crypto space?

Schoch: Definitely the infrastructure products. Blockchain as a Service is going to skyrocket in the next two years. All of the fintechs in the world are going to be connected to blockchain someway.

Beaudroit: So many things happening ultimately in the space, it's kind of impossible to be updated in everything that is being developed. Definitely DeFi is one of the big things we should be looking at. The possibilities are huge. DAOs [decentralized autonomous organizations] are also one space which attracts me a lot — the possibility of creating through communities in the digital world is very exciting. Of course NFTs are a space which has been very active and with a lot of potential and value for creators. Nevertheless i think it's a bit irrational the amount of hype in the space. 

Where do you see your company in five years?

Beaudroit: Belo is going to be the first crypto platform that will give access to 1 billion users worldwide, allowing a new economy to thrive thanks to the power of DeFi, DAOs and the passion of people to create and generate value. 

Schoch: The blockchain industry is about to get into the mainstream. All the fintechs of the world will be connected to blockchain in some way. Bitfy is going to be the infrastructure behind it all.

To learn more about the Start Path Crypto program, contact Andrea Denadai, Mastercard LAC Communications,