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This is a revisioned transcript of an interview with Matias Bombi, a young entrepreneur, student of the ORT University of Uruguay and member of the CIE (Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). He and his team are currently working on a platform and app for crypto payments, preparing themselves for the next halving and the worldwide mass adoption of crypto. Will this project achieve its goals and become a success? That's up to the users to decide. Enjoy the interview!
When was CryptoVerse/CryptoPagos created?
The original idea for the project was born approximately a year and six months ago. At the beginning I had little technical knowledge of programming and marketing, so it took me a long time to properly prepare to carry out the project. I have started seriously developing the software a month ago and I finished it two weeks ago. Although it is relative, because I am always adding details and staying ahead of trends to improve the user experience.
Who created the project?
I got together with my best friend, who also studies at ORT, both undergraduate students in systems, and I proposed that we present the idea at the CIE (Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). My friend liked the project, and just when we started working on the idea, an alternative job came up, and we hadn't managed to connect enough during development. Looking for more people who could complement, I presented the idea to an economist and a programmer, also ORT students. Some guys from Argentina also joined, but the project still did not take shape. Finally, after so much searching, the one who joined in to give his support was Nicolás López, creator of two startups, OneSearch and Promptior, who I consider a genius. At first he joined the project from an observer and passive role, and over time he became the project's technological advisor. Nicolás is always available to collaborate, and when my work gets difficult, he is always available to point the right way.
What is the concept and use case of CryptoVerse/CryptoPagos?
There is a separation between CryptoVerse and CryptoPagos. The idea is that CryptoVerse is the matrix or platform on which applications like CryptoPagos are developed. My current focus is cryptocurrency payment, but in the future we will focus on other areas as well. CryptoVerse is an umbrella company, a platform from which other projects and companies are born. With CryptoVerse I want to make everyday use of blockchain technology easier for everyone, which is why I am working on cryptocurrency payments first. I even wish CryptoPagos was more popular than CryptoVerse. In the future I will be developing in other areas such as property tokenization and other ideas that will also work within CryptoVerse.
How do you see crypto/web3 technologies in Uruguay, currently?
Currently I do not perceive that there are many 100% Uruguayan projects. They are usually projects promoted by foreign companies, for example Binance Pay or Tether. What does predominate are exchanges, large cryptocurrency exchange houses like Criptala, for example. They are exchange houses, but we don't see much of the implementation of web3 technology, although the Scala team managed to implement a crypto ATM. I think they are the strongest projects at the moment. I believe there are also cowork spaces operating through NFT entries, where each NFT gives you different degrees of access to the infrastructure of the space. More than a national development of Uruguay, I perceive that the strength of crypto/web3 is essentially regional, since we have Argentina next to us, who are very evolved in this area. Uruguay little by little is adapting and evolving.
What do people need to use crypto on a daily basis?
I put QR codes in everyday places like pharmacies and supermarkets. I want it to make sense to have cryptocurrencies and for people to be able to use and spend them wherever they want. Today you should go to a cryptocurrency exchange house and sell them and then go buy something with the cash. If the payment infrastructure is improved, people will be able to have more confidence in cryptocurrencies because they can use them in any context. Continuous presence in local businesses and education in this regard is also needed. There is a project in Uruguay called Escuelita Bitcoin, it is a guy who goes to schools to show children what crypto transactions are like and so on. I think it is very important to be prepared for what is coming. For example, in Argentina, despite economic instability, merchants give discounts when you pay with crypto. We realize that crypto is already a reality in Argentina and other countries in the region, although not yet in Uruguay. There are even cultural differences. In Argentina the menus of any restaurant have a QR code. In Uruguay, businesses put QR codes ,but people don't scan them. The people of Uruguay are still not accustomed to the volatility and constant price changes of digital assets. However, there is an evolution in this regard.
Why CryptoVerse emerges in ORT?
It's funny, because in the first semesters of studying at the university I started to get interested in crypto and decided to get into it fully. I installed a browser extension that would mine crypto as long as the computer was on and connected to the internet. My computer's GPU was absolutely destroyed, but I managed to mine the equivalent of 1 USD. Then I thought “With this dollar, generated from nothing and thanks to having the computer turned on, I want to buy an alfajor right now.” But there was no way to buy an alfajor with crypto back then, and I asked myself “why?” Little by little the idea was created and I thought it would be great to present it at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, who have helped us a lot. I even came to study at the ORT because I always wanted to work at the CIE, and this CryptoVerse idea allowed me to fulfill my goal. Nowadays I almost never go to class and yet I pass all the exams, since all the experience I gain working on this project is useful for my studies. I study technology, and there is knowledge that we have not yet studied in class, that I had to learn anyway to make CryptoVerse. Working on this project helped me meet many professionals, companies and also enhances my own work making software. Now university is easier for me.
I saw an advertisement at a bus stop a few days ago. Do they use CryptoPagos in the ORT cafeteria?
Yes, we have CryptoPagos in the ORT cafeteria. The advertising you saw at the bus stop is already old, one of the first versions. Two weeks after having the idea, we went out to install QR codes around the city to see if it made sense to dedicate time to the project. We saw that it did make sense. That advertising that you saw was from a time when the project was nothing yet. We did a test to evaluate. We had generated a Binance Pay QR code to pay at the cafe, which has several limitations, because merchants had to be constantly converting prices from UYU to Crypto and it became very complicated. I think it wasn't very legal to use Binance Pay, but we decided to play that card to test the waters. Furthermore, Binance Pay does not allow you to have more than five QR codes at the same time, since the previous one always expires, that is, a huge limitation. To solve this, we created our own system. That advertisement you saw is also currently on every floor of the ORT building.
Do cryptotransactions work in the cafeteria? Is there adoption?
We assumed so because ORT has an Engineering faculty and its students understand a lot about technology, however adoption is still very slow. Even for me it is a great challenge to leave the university and academic environment, where there are people who understand technology, to go out into the real world to implement this in businesses. I know this is a process that takes time. I give as an example Pedidos Ya, a project created in this same space, the CIE in 2007. I don't remember using that app in 2007, in fact it began to become popular in 2014, that is to say that it took the project seven years to get people to order food through an app. So payments with crypto can take even a little longer. And I am surprised that transactions have been carried out on our platform, although not as many as we expected, many more than are considered possible in a small country like Uruguay.
I signed up for early access of the CryptoPagos app. What stage of development is it in?
Well the system as it works now is; You scan a QR and you are directed to a web address where you can enter the amount and select which cryptocurrency to pay with. The system then shows an address of a wallet where you deposit the amount that we indicate. Why are we going to make an app? The system now works well, but we want to simplify the user experience, with an app you can connect your wallet, and you do not need to enter any amount, you simply confirm and sign in the wallet and that is enough. We're doing pretty well. We hope to be able to finish the app by the end of the year, we are going to reuse the current system that we already have developed on the website and we are going to integrate it into the app. We are going to make it very simple, so it does not present a technological challenge for now.
Once the app is available, is there more chance of it expanding rapidly abroad, in addition to Uruguay?
We are thinking about going to Argentina, because there is more traction in crypto payment methods there. It makes sense for the project, as a startup, to generate transactions and that is why we also want to make the app soon. In any case, the app will not be mandatory, you can not have the app installed and still use the website from your cell phone as it works today. Regarding what you asked about the app expanding outside the country, I really think that the web version can achieve it better in a certain way, since there is no limitation of having to download an app and create an account, etc. You just scan the QR and it works.
What is CryptoPeso?
As I told you, we started almost a year and a half ago and we have had a long way to go until we were able to make the app, in fact we already made a version that is not published, in which you could have a balance in USDT that was loaded with a card, entering how much USDT you wanted to buy with UYU. We charged the equivalent in USD and it was reflected in your account. A simple way to buy crypto. With CryptoPeso we want to do the same. A stablecoin with 1-1 parity with the Uruguayan peso UYU. It happens that it is difficult to achieve it, because to begin with, having an account of this style and holding other people's money generates noise among investors, and there are still no regulations in this regard. Furthermore, it is very expensive to obtain licenses and accounts for electronic money stations. We decided that as a startup, we don't want to face that right now, but we do want the CryptoPeso to exist at some point, to be backed in and by a network, and to have that 1-1 parity with the Uruguayan peso. At the moment we are not working on this project but in the future we will return to it.
Don't you think it's risky to create a stablecoin?
In fact, there are many people who distrust crypto companies because of all the problems that have happened. There are people who want to steal and do evil, just as happens in the traditional banking system. Obviously this is not our case, we are university students. If we got into trouble, it would give us a very bad image and that would affect the university as well. We don't want to get involved in that kind of thing, therefore we are not afraid to create a stablecoin with 1-1 parity, since we have nothing to hide. When we do it, we will do it well and we will look for a way to achieve it, giving peace of mind to everyone and although we have nothing defined, we hope to achieve it soon and that people will have confidence in what we are doing.
Have you already tested the project in businesses outside the ORT? What results have you had?
At an event that took place at the Antel Arena, we placed the project in all the cafeterias. We are currently talking with the owner of the Antel Arena cafeteria to try to be at all the events. We also managed to implement easy access, which works like TickAntel ticket sales through QR codes with ecommerce integration. We set up a physical business in the cafeteria and in the summer of Punta del Este, we managed to get a property rented with cryptocurrency, and it worked. Renting properties with crypto was the area that worked the most for us. Surely from now on we are going to target tourist places to, for example, allow people from Argentina to vacation here and pay everything in crypto, which can be a solution to avoid moving money from Argentina to Uruguay, which It's quite complicated.
What profits do you make as creators of the project?
As creators of CryptoPagos, we earn through a type of commission based on the difference in the price of the currency, using the differences in overprice and underprice. That is to say, we earn on the quote we show to the client and what we pay to the local business. We make the link between the business and the client so that they receive their payments in local currency, that is, we take profits at price peaks. That's where the profit comes from. For now it works like this in CryptoPagos, when more products are launched, there will surely be other forms of monetization.
Do you consider yourselves as intermediaries? Where do they get the money to pay clients and businesses?
We have liquidity providers from whom on a certain date we request the change of the amount, and thanks to them we have local currency to pay the businesses, that is, we are a kind of intermediary, providing a tool that usually does not fall under any jurisdiction in uruguay. The only way to do this at the moment, as entrepreneurs that we are, is to jump in and see what happens. We are already preparing. When we associate with a company, we ask them to perform KYC, we ask them for the data of all the members of the company and we search for their document numbers and we search for them in more than 25 databases recommended by Senaclaft, among which are databases of Interpol, Risk Center of the Central Bank of Uruguay, etc. There are many databases. We also carry out a KYC process with users within the app but not on the website. In the app they must link an identity document. How do we solve this if we are not asking for a document on the website? We do chainalysis of the wallets involved and verify if they have been linked to any illegal activity. Everything gives more transparency to the project and prepares us for when there is obvious regulation. Whatever happens, we are ready.
What does the person or company that uses CryptoVerse/CryptoPagos earn?
They gain a way to naturalize the use of the digital assets they own. There are two types of people who own cryptocurrencies. Those who don't understand the subject but have crypto, and those who do understand and also have crypto. In both cases, cryptos cannot be easily used, unless they perform P2P exchange. But there is no real use case yet, for example going to the supermarket and buying food. This project is opening a lot of doors, especially for people who travel, and that matters to us because we want to be an international company, so as not to limit ourselves to the Uruguayan market, which is very small. Since we make software, there is no limitation on the number of places we can work. For example, I traveled to the Czech Republic, and there they use Czech crowns. I went to Spain, and they use euros. Even though both countries are in the European Union, they use different currencies. In Denmark they use Danish Krone, in Argentina Argentine pesos, in Chile, Chilean pesos. All the inconveniences that a tourist goes through, such as losing commissions at exchange offices, traveling with cash, or the urgency of spending all the money before traveling back, so as not to be left with bills that are of no use in their country of origin, etc., are solved with crypto. So, in those places where our project is going to be, it will be more comfortable for people, who will be able to travel carefree and shop in a simple way.
The app is published at the end of the year, correct?
We hope so, since we predict the Bitcoin halving for early or mid-April 2024. We want to cover the largest number of businesses in both Uruguay and Argentina, before that date. The idea is to have the app ready before that date. It even happens that at halvings there is always a boom. First there were the Initial Coin Offering, then there were the NFTs and according to our forecasts, we think that the next boom will be payment methods. That's where we want to give everything.
** Thank you very much, Matias**
Matias Bombi - Instagram (matias.bombi) • CryptoVerse - Website (cryptoverse.uy)
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