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Published Jan 5, 2022
By Cristóbal Blanco García, Qredo Head of Marketing

Building on the Bankathon

Cristóbal Blanco García, Qredo Head of Marketing, reflects on Qredo's involvement in the recent Bitcoin Bankathon and why he's even more excited about LatAm's crypto potential in 2022 and beyond.

Last year was a busy year for Qredo but a personal highlight for me was last month's Bitcoin Bankathon. 

Traveling to El Salvador and seeing street vendors accepting bitcoin, with prices marked in sats, was something I'd always dreamed of.

But the real standout for me was the energy and creativity on show at the hackathon – leaving me more optimistic than ever about Latin America's potential as a crypto hub and the supporting but vital role Qredo infrastructure can play.

The first ever Bitcoin Banking hackathon

From November 18th to December 9th 2021, Qredo partnered with Banco Hipotecario de El Salvador, Open Bank Project, API3 and Tropykus to host the Bitcoin Bankathon.

In case you missed it, El Salvador is the first country in the world to approve bitcoin as legal tender – part of President Nayib Bukele's mission to promote financial inclusion and enhance economic development.

The Bankathon brought together over 320 developers (virtually, and then on-site in San Salvador) in a competition to build new Bitcoin-based solutions – attracting attendees from El Salvador and around the world, including Canada, the Czech Republic, India and Norway.

Worlds colliding

It was inspiring to see so many talented developers using Bitcoin and blockchain technology to build new, democratized financial services for their communities.

But the icing on the cake was to see these projects having serious, detailed conversations with the seasoned entrepreneurs and representatives of the bank present at the event.

Seeing these forces collaborate around such a revolutionary technology is something that would have been unfathomable a few years ago – even more so in a country like El Salvador where some 70% of the population have no access to the financial system.

Bitcoin Bankathon El Salvador

The winning projects

As the Bankathon's main sponsor, Qredo was part of the panel judging the finalist projects.

While we are all familiar with high-level theories about bitcoin, here there were real life use cases in which Bitcoin and decentralized architecture were being used to solve practical, local issues that impact everyday lives. Choosing between them was a tough job!

Winners of the different award categories:

Most Visionary Concepts: Tlanetia & Chimera
Best Overall Products: BitFunding & Growr On-chain
Best Uses of Off-Chain Data: Cardinal & Blockchain Carbon Registry
Best use of Advanced Technology: PISTO.NET
Social Media Hero: JV Social Media

The winning projects on stage with the judges and Bankathon sponsors. Photo from twitter: https://twitter.com/OpenBankProject/status/1468751492572196866
The winning projects on stage with the judges and Bankathon sponsors.
Xavier Font Sole, Business Operations Manager at Qredo,  participates as a member of the judging panel for the Bitcoin Bankathon
Xavier Font Sole, Business Operations Manager at Qredo,  participates as a member of the judging panel for the Bitcoin Bankathon

Lots of use cases for Qredo!

Qredo's radical new infrastructure is designed to support builders. Here's a selection of the winning projects from the Bankathon that are using Qredo:

Cardinal — A smart virtual debit card that allows small-to-medium sized enterprises and entrepreneurs to easily integrate bitcoin into business operations. Cardinal connects with banks to provide liquidity for the virtual debit card, and funds the bank account with transactions from the client's bitcoin wallet.

Talentia – A mobile-first application using a blockchain and bitcoin to enable sef-banking and financial empowerment for women in El Salvador. Four out of five women in El Salvador don't have access to traditional financial services. Reasons include the vulnerable socio-economic status of many women which negatively impacts credit scores. Talentia addresses this by providing a collaborative framework for community bitcoin banking and micro-credit, supported by targeted financial education.

PISTO.NET – Lower income groups and those living in rural areas of El Salvador don't have reliable internet or the mobile data plans necessary for bitcoin payments. Pisto is a solution that helps merchants to receive bitcoin through selling prepaid gift cards that customers can save to their phones and which are then topped up with bitcoin by family and friends relatives in the USA.

See all the finalist projects here.

Grassroots passion

We will explore more South America crypto community projects in a later post but I'd like to mention now some of the passionate crypto folk I met at the Bankathon.

Firstly, a big shout out to Diego Villeda Abdalah (@DiegoVilledaa) who has created a website showing the places where you can spend your bitcoin.

Diego is also an educator for Mi Primer Bitcoin (My First Bitcoin), an international education project focused on El Salvador which teaches people how to use Bitcoin.

The charity was founded in September 2021 by journalist John Dennehy and was chosen by Venezuelan crypto influencer Javier Bastardo as a recipient for Galoy's seasonal giveaway to bitcoin adoption projects.

Instagram influencer Jairo Andrés Vélez Pérez was also a big presence at the event. As well as playing a winning role in publicizing the Bankathon, he ran the competition to distribute our much sought-after merch :)

The conversation continues

We're now discussing next steps with some of the winning projects from the Bankathon.

We've also had positive conversations with attendees from traditional finance and the fintech community who are exploring how to integrate and implement their own solutions for crypto payments and savings.

For Banco Hipotecario de El Salvador, the bank organizing the Bankathon, this kind of event is important because it surfaces ideas and creates a dialogue with the local development ecosystem.

President of the bank, Celina Padilla was one of the panel judges and is ahead of most bankers in her understanding of the implications of bitcoin’s wider use. We had a good conversation with her and the bank's technical team about what is possible and how Qredo can help.

Last but not least, I have to mention the co-sponsors of the Bankathon, the Open Bank Project, API3 and Tropykus. Qredo operates in a deep tech domain but the building of new relationships and collaborating on ideas will always be a critical part of reimagining the future of finance.

Conclusion? We're more excited than ever about LatAm

The government in El Salvador knows it is doing something radical, and has become a beacon on the international bitcoinization landscape.

The good news is that it's unlikely to be the last; El Salvador's neighbors, Argentina, Paraguay, Panama and Cuba are all starting to consider how they can adopt and integrate cryptocurrency as legal tender.

Maybe it's because of the large number of Spanish speakers at Qredo but our commitment to the region couldn’t be stronger. As Josh Goodbody, our half-Mexican COO has already expressed, we believe LatAm has the potential to become a global crypto hub.

The Bitcoin Bankathon was just the beginning – a new space for young seeds of innovation.

We at Qredo look forward to supporting whatever comes next.

¡¡Vaaaaamos!! (Spanish for Lesgooooooo!)