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I was looking for something in my old Reddit posts when I came across some posts from 2014 when we were just a 7-month old Bitcoin startup, and had a good laugh at some of the comments, mostly from Buttcoiners, which ranged from honest questions like how will you make money? to straight up accusations of being scammers in a ponzi scheme just waiting to pounce on our customers once we grow big enough. Things like:
"Once the margins evaporate, they will take all the money and run just like every other exchange."
I totally understood all the skepticism back then, since this was when Mt. Gox was a fresh memory and Bitcoin just crashed from $1200 to $300. People dismissed Bitcoin as dead, as they have done over a hundred times as of today. Hell, even my own family did not believe me, and my own mother thought I could go to jail for what I was doing!
So we built our business model from scratch, had no real experience with startups (my co-founders and I had success in traditional businesses, but that was it), was bootstrapping for more than a year, and was working in an industry seemingly on the brink of collapse. The uncertainty was palpable at that time (2014-2015) with Bitcoin going below $200 at its lowest point, and the doubt was trying its best to creep into our minds.
But we stuck with it and didn't listen to those who said we were crazy.
It makes this recent rally back to new all-time highs a whole lot sweeter, as well as seeing all the amazingly positive developments in the industry as a whole. What a great time to be a bitcoin startup.
So here are some of the things that have happened to us since then:
A year ago, I posted an update on our progress here. It's a pretty long post but it shows some details on what we had done at that point in our growth and development. We've had some solid growth since then, with the Philippine Central Bank publishing numbers on the industry that I would say is on the low end of what we are actually doing today in the terms of transaction volumes.
“Volume is growing. We conducted a survey last year among just the top two players. The volume grew $5 to $6 million a month compared to $2 to $3 million the previous year. It doubled. There was an acceleration. Based on that, we decided to put this on a formal regulatory framework."
We closed our seed round with a major investment from Kakao, a $10 Billion company that basically owns the South Korean mobile chat app market with over 100 million regular users. South Korea is now a hotspot in the region for Bitcoin-remittance startups, with several players getting in on the action. We are leading the pack in this race.
Our business model has spawned several other competitors, which we believe is a really healthy indication that the industry is thriving.
Last week, the Philippine Central Bank released Circular No.944, a piece of regulation on how to do business as a "Virtual Currency exchange". This one is extra special for us, since I and my co-founders personally presented ourselves to the Central Bank and worked closely with them for the last two years in developing the framework for these regulations.
When I say work closely, it means that we were meeting with them regularly, answering all their questions about the local and global Bitcoin industry, presented our business model and used ourselves as the guinea pigs to show them that Bitcoin is a viable technology and business. Imagine the joy we felt when we read these words written right in the guidelines they published:
Section 4512N Guidelines for Virtual Currency Exchanges; Statement of Policy. "…Thus, the Bangko Sentral recognizes that Virtual Currency (VC) systems have the potential to revolutionize delivery of financial services, particularly for payments and remittance, in view of their ability to provide faster and more economical transfer of funds, both domestic and international, and may further support financial inclusion."
So here we are, at the start of 2017, with Bitcoin hitting new all-time highs and holding, the Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF looming on the horizon, Chinese BTC exchanges having less influence on the price, and our industry in this little corner of the world given a green light to pursue our bigger targets.
If you’re new to Bitcoin, I hope you read this and realize that even though the price of Bitcoin acts like a crazy rollercoaster, the work being done by countless developers, entrepreneurs, and professionals on the technology and its applications is for real.
As much as the price of Bitcoin is exciting, it is really the least interesting thing about it once you understand the true potential of the technology.