Wharton FinTech
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Daniel Vogel, Co-Founder and CEO of Bisto — Fundamentally Changing Financial Services via Crypto

In this episode, I’m joined by Daniel Vogel, Co-Founder and CEO of Bitso, the leading crypto-services provider in Latin America.

Daniel and I cover a range of topics, including:

Daniel’s Background:
Since he was a child, Daniel has always loved tinkering with and building things on the internet. When his childhood home first got internet access, Daniel built the largest website for videos of remote-controlled cars. He started getting checks in the mail for his work on the website and, since he wasn’t old enough to cash them, gave them to his father to cash (who in turn was very confused about his son’s hobbies).

Daniel started his professional career working in tech in San Francisco. It was here, roughly 10 years ago, when he was introduced to bitcoin as “an economic experiment to build a peer-to-peer decentralized digital currency.” Daniel remembers thinking, “I don’t know what most of these words mean in isolation let alone all of these things put together.” However, he was hooked on the technology and has been thinking about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies ever since.

Founding Bitso:
As Daniel learned more about Bitcoin, he found the idea of freedom in money incredibly interesting. He also believed that the internet missed a “native value transfer” component. He went on to start a company that tried to replace Moneygram and Western Union with bitcoin payments. While the company was not a success, it helped Daniel realize that people in Latin America needed an easy way to connect bitcoin with their “financial reality”. This idea, of connecting current financial realities with cryptocurrencies, is what led to Bitso.

For Dan and Bitso, step 1 was creating on and off-ramps (i.e. the ability to transfer fiat money into cryptocurrencies, and back). Building on-ramps has three components: building pipes to connect with local payment rails, conversion between local fiat and crypto, and a seamless customer experience. Daniel still believes that this base layer of on-ramps has significant room for growth in several Latin American countries.

Since building these on and off-ramps, Bitso has evolved to include several other products. Bitso’s main product is for retail investors, which provides a simple interface to buy, sell, transfer, and save using cryptocurrencies. Bitso Alpha is a professional-grade crypto trading platform used by several institutional and government customers. Finally, Bitso Shift allows cross-border payments for Mexican residents and companies between the U.S. and Mexico.

Customer Education:
Daniel believes that education is a key component of everything Bitso does. The company has sponsored programs like the blockchain academy, sponsored podcasts, built its own education platform, and more. This education, accompanied with an easy-to-use product, has helped Bitso generate substantial organic growth.

International Expansion:
Bitso started off in Mexico and has since expanded into Brazil and Argentina, with future plans to expand into Colombia. Bitso was the first cryptocurrency provider in Mexico and has over 90% of the market share in the country. The team later expanded into Argentina, where there were incumbents already present, but has still managed to capture 75% of exchange volume. The team is currently focused heavily on expanding in Brazil, which Daniel initially found more challenging than other countries. He tells a compelling story about when Bitso first launched in Brazil:

“In Mexico, most forms ask you for your name, and most of the time that includes your first name and middle name, and a segregation of your last names, maternal last name and paternal last name… In Brazil, people don’t really think about the concept like that… when we started asking customers for their first name and last name, they got sort of confused. We made the mistake of asking them for their first last name and second last name like in Mexico.”

Daniel went on to highlight key regulatory differences between the countries. For him, while the opportunity for international expansion is huge, it’s also deeply complex and “a lot of fun.”

The Future of Crypto:
Moving forward, Daniel believes that crypto is “going to be a requirement and not a novelty.” In particular, he finds three principles of crypto to be incredibly compelling: disintermediation, transparency, and the concept of open innovation. He believes that over the next decade crypto will continue to be a compelling asset class, will see increased tokenization, and will build out more liquid markets all around the world.

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Daniel Vogel:
Daniel is co-founder and CEO of Bitso, the leading crypto-services provider in Latin America. Bitso is committed to the development of efficient, competitive, accessible and inclusive financial services in Latin America, and Daniel is among the youngest entrepreneurs and leaders in the region. Daniel holds two degrees from Stanford University (BA in Economics, BS in Computer Systems Engineering) and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. During his academic career, he presided various student societies such as the Society for Entrepreneurship in Latin America, the Bitcoin Club, the LatAm Club, the Aviation and Aerospace Club, among others. At Stanford he was elected by his colleagues to be a member of the Class Cabinet. Prior to co-founding Bitso, Daniel worked for Silicon Valley’s Quantcast, where he developed a real-time bidding system, a product that would later go on to become the company’s main source of income. In 2016, he was included in the MIT Technology Review’s “Innovators under 35 Mexico 2016” award. His work at Bitso has been recognized by Endeavor (Global Endeavor Entrepreneur), MassChallenge (2016 Gold Winner), and the President of Mexico (Digital Leader Mexico), among others.

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About the Author:

Anirudh Singh is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton School, where he is part of the Wharton FinTech Podcast team. He has a passion for economic development, venture capital, financial services, and all things FinTech. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, feedback, and opportunities at singhan@wharton.upenn.edu.

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Anirudh Singh

Anirudh Singh

Wharton MBA Candidate, Fintech Enthusiast, Early Stage Investing