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An ibex is any of several species of wild goat, distinguished by the male’s large recurved horns, which are transversely ridged in front. This wonderful animal is always searching for new heights. Did you choose this name for your company because bitcoin is searching for new heights too? YES!
Jose Lemus and the team at IBEX are constantly helping to onboard merchants, using their payment service. They really think education is needed to get to the next phase of adoption.
This is why they also teamed up with MyFirstBitcoin.io and provided the first 10 week bitcoin diploma program for public high schools in El Salvador. But also provide a service for high net worth individuals and institutions under the name of IBEX DWM (Digital Wealth Manager).
What was your first experience with the lightning network and do you still know what you did/saw at that moment?
First experience was wallet of satoshi. I thought it was magic. Still remember it was a test transaction with my brother.
What is the biggest difference between seeing Bitcoin as an asset and when it’s legal tender, like in El Salvador?
The biggest difference honestly is how it gets treated for tax and accounting purposes.
In an IBEX podcast you had (with Esteban de la Peña and Alvaro Sol) a year ago you said, and I quote: “Without money, you can not envision the future. You need an incentive to not only live for today, but for the future. If we attack money, or the properties of money: scarcity, durability, fungibility, divisibility, and transportability, then we are attacking the bedrock on which our society is built!”
You made an appeal to international regulators to stop attacking money. Is this still a huge problem?
It is, and what’s even more worrisome is that the attacks are more frequent and more aggressive. We as a people have to really stand up to the politicians and let them know that it’s not ok and that we do not agree with the policies that are being pushed.
The developments on the Lightning Network go at an immense rapid pace. Do you think Lightning is the key to banking the unbanked or do we need something else for this?
I believe it’s half of the answer: lightning is definitely the tech to do so. But fundamentally we have to understand that the reason we’re not banking the unbanked is not because of technology it’s because of regulation. There are already tremendous efficiencies out there that could be leveraged to bank the unbanked but are not being used because regulators do not permit it. The other half of the equation is the will to bank the unbanked. This means political will but if this is not available we need the human/humane will to do it. This may be where lightning has to shine.
Your Chief Strategy Officer, Alvaro Sol is from El Salvador and I heard him say once that Bitcoin/Lightning is the reason to come back, and that there’s an opportunity of a generation! So thanks to Bitcoin there now is an incentive to come back or to stay.
If more developing countries are embracing Bitcoin and Lightning, what will this mean for those countries, their people, and their economical states?
Lightning and bitcoin are the great levelers. Every once in a while (not often) a technology comes along that is so transformational that it basically cleans the slate and nobody has any a priori competitive advantage. We believe that bitcoin and lightning are such technologies. What this means is that those states and people that adopt them have a chance to significantly improve their quality of life and their socio economic standing in the world.
Will the more wealthy western countries fall behind on technological developments that they can no longer catch up with?
Maybe. I wouldn’t expect all of them to do so. These are at their core decentralized technologies so I no longer think it’s helpful to think in terms of whole countries specially in freer societies like the USA where you can adopt these technologies at a community level. So I dont think its about countries anymore, it really is about people and communities and the willingness they have to opt into a global decentralized monetary system.
What is the biggest problem with the Lightning Network that needs to be solved in the short term?
We still have a lot of work to be done in terms of usability, scalability, security and reliability. So you can take your pick.
Seeing Lightning as a working capital asset and earning yield could also be very important for increasing adoption. It could also make Lightning beneficial for bigger companies.
Do you think there will be more possibilities for yield generation in the future?
It depends how far into the future you want to go. I believe in the short term there might be opportunity for yield generation by funding channels/nodes but longer term I think this will not be tremendously significant. I believe longer term it’ll be more about the microservices you’re able to run on your infrastructure and what value add can you deliver to the end customer. Very similar to email.
Do you think it’s possible that Bitcoin and Lightning can fix the money and the world without being the only medium of exchange?
Absolutely. In fact I don’t believe they’ll ever become the only medium of exchange strictly speaking. However I do believe that they’ll be the settlement layer for all mediums of exchange. Just by providing that final judge that every other medium of exchange has to measure itself against is enough.
How important is self-custody in the future when more people are being banked with Lightning? And do you think there will be an easy way for people in the future to still be able to choose for self-custody?
Self custody will always be important and it’ll become increasingly more used. That is not to say that more centralized solutions won’t be needed/available. Centralized systems can deliver a level of convenience / functionality that self custody just cannot match. So I see a future where this is a spectrum where your savings and long term holdings will be self custodied but day to day spending funds will probably be held at custodied platforms/solutions.
You talked about the problem with brain drain, meaning losing talented people to other countries with more possibilities. In what way are Bitcoin and Lightning the solution to this problem?
I don’t think they necessarily offer a solution to countries. In fact, I believe that some countries that have never faced this issue they’ll have to contend with it. What happens is that there is now this supranational organization called the internet that is able to attract the most talented/creative/inspired/inspiring people because it can now pay them. So what happens when people start moving their creative/productive efforts into this space that current jurisdictions and jurisprudence can’t touch? It’s still to be seen. BTW this is also why I believe Bitcoin has already won. Its market cap is nothing compared to the amount of brain power that’s moving in.
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Back to the beginning, sometime in 2019 a man gave a scholarship of x BTC to a surf dude in El Zonte, we all know that story, but can you tell us how and when IBEX Mercado first joined this project and what exactly you guys did?
I believe our relationship with bitcoin beach actually started in 2017 around march if I’m not mistaken when Alvaro and Carliño, who is another partner, traveled to El Zonte because Carliño heard that Peter McCormack was there. The truth is we can’t take any credit for the great work any of those guys did or are doing. We just like to help when we can.
Bitcoinbeach is a wallet from Galoy Money and is a great success. Can you give us some insights into the relationship IBEX mercado has with Galoy Money to start this project?
Bitcoin Beach is a great project but to be 100% honest besides us both working in lightning we don’t have much insight into their workings. They were very advanced in their wallet implementation by the time we came along. We just shared some concerns and also some ideas on how to work with lightning. I do believe that they are running their own custom implementation while we at IBEX leverage LND from Lightning Labs. Speaking to bitcoin beach made us realize that we really needed to focus our efforts on merchants and we were comfortable that they would pick up the slack regarding the individual’s adoption of lightning.
Do you see/feel more improvement in El Salvador on Tech infrastructure/education of people since BTC is legal tender?
We see improvement specifically in the curiosity regarding the technology that has not disappeared now after the $30 handout by the government has run out. Having said that, education/adoption is not as fast or as widespread as we’d hoped. But then that’s always the case.
What LN implementation do you use at IBEX Mercado? Do you run your node on physical computers or also with virtual servers or in the cloud?
Like I mentioned earlier we use LND by lightning labs and currently we run all of our infrastructure on AWS, however we understand how this poses a security risk and we have on our roadmap migration to a multicloud solution for 2023.
IBEX partnered with MyFirstBitcoin.io, a Bitcoin education non-profit whose mission is to provide quality, impartial Bitcoin education in El Salvador.
They make it possible together with IBEX for students from public high schools to graduate from a 10-week Bitcoin Diploma program. This really sounds amazing! Can you explain more about this program and how IBEX helped with it?
Absolutely. This program is very dear and near to all of our hearts but none more than Carliño. He has really been the champion of it at IBEX. He was the one that first brought it to our attention and pushed for the sponsorship which he secured for them. He also has been very hands-on with the coordination of the program all the way up to coordinating the visit of a lot of bitcoiners to go to El Salvador for the graduation of the first class which just happened last month.
With Hermann Vivier (EP12) from Bitcoin Ekasi and Patrick Melder (32) from Lago Bitcoin we talked about how important Bitcoin and Lightning education is when pursuing more adoption.
How does it work when IBEX onboards new merchants: How do you help them to understand the benefits of accepting Lightning?
This is one of the toughest things to do. Usually the fact that we can do instant FIAT convertibility helps a lot but then they don’t know if it’s worth it to train their staff because they rightly don’t expect a lot of volumes to come through. So it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation so far because the merchants don’t see the benefit because there’s so few people using it and the users don’t see the benefit because they don’t have places where they can spend. We are looking into creative ways to incentivize the use but so far they haven’t made it to production yet. Expect them soon though.
When comparing the Bitcoin and Lightning adoption in El Salvador to Bitcoin Lake in Guatemala, what are the biggest differences?
I think the biggest difference is that the adoption in El Salvador was semi-forced while in Bitcoin Lake it’s a lot more organic.
IBEX DWM (Digital Wealth Manager) is a service for ultra-high net worth individuals and institutions. Unfortunately, we can NOT find any info about this service. What do you provide? cold storage, yield,…
Can you explain a bit what services we can expect? How much BTC do you need at minimum in order to apply?
Digital Wealth Management is our service geared towards High Net Worth and Ultra High Networth individuals at its core we offer education so that first they feel comfortable investing in bitcoin as an asset class. Once we have educated them we offer solutions to purchase bitcoin as well as advisory and access to custody solutions and hedging strategies. In order to apply you need a net worth of $ 50 Million +. Sorry to still be using dollars but that’s the denomination everyone is comfortable with so far. There is not a lot of information out there on purpose this is a white glove service we provide that is offered in a person-to-person manner.
In what countries/cities do you provide more the IBEXhub? Can LN people find these locations on a map?
IBEXHUB currently is available to all countries where Bitcoin is Legal and is not sanctioned by OFAC. At this moment we do not have a map regarding where we offer IBEX HUB.
El Salvador bet its economic salvation on bitcoin, but so far the gamble isn’t paying off like President Nayib Bukele hoped it would. Do you think bitcoin is in danger?
I don’t think Bitcoin is in danger even if the gamble doesn’t pay off for El Salvador. I believe BTC was in greater danger during the Block Size Wars.
Do people understand BTC better in El Salvador than in Guatemala? Is education now better in El Salvador?
Absolutely not only is education better. Awareness is just so much more that Guatemala at this point is not even in the same ballpark.
On the IBEX website I see 600 daily transactions with over 1086 customers. What is your projection for next year?
Without going into specifics we expect to at least double those numbers.
Do you have more on-chain transactions than LN tx on a daily/monthly basis?
We have more lightning transactions by far.
What is the long-term vision for IBEX Mercado: Where will IBEX stand in 5 years? Onboarding 10%, 20% or even more of all merchants in the area where you operate?
While right now the most visible part of our business is IBEX PAY the merchant solution we provide. Our core focus and our core product is IBEX HUB which is our Lightning infrastructure service geared towards enterprises and institutions who wish to incorporate lightning capabilities into their products or services. In 5 years we expect to be providing services across the globe to world class companies that are offering lightning solutions to their customers. Right now it’s a little bit hard to put a percentage to this penetration.
Christian Keroles from Bitcoin Magazine was telling us that you will be present at BTC conf Amsterdam 2022. Providing LN infrastructure to the conference with Ibex HUB? Can you explain how IBEX hub works?
IBEX HUB is our lightning as a Service offering which consists of a comprehensive set of APIs that allow our customers to interact with the lightning network in a very fast, easy, and efficient manner.
At the moment you are more concentrated on the American continent with IBEX Mercado. (Miami, Guatemala & El salvador)
Will this conference be ideal to enter the European market?
The Amsterdam conference presents a huge opportunity for us to get exposure to potential European clients. Whether this results in a partnership to enter the European market is still to be seen but we don’t discount the possibility and are very excited about what the future can bring.
Will you do something special for the event or on the event with IBEX?
We will definitely do something special 😉
Do you think BTC conferences are too expensive? Would it be better to lower the costs to get regular Joe and Jane (pre-coiners) also at the conference?
Cost is always a relative measure, right? What is expensive to some might be cheap to some others. There is always a cost to put together these types of events that you want to cover and you ideally want to turn a profit so that you can continue putting them on. Plus I personally find that you always take more advantage of those events you go to that cost you something. So what is the correct price? Honestly, we should let the market decide. That being said, it would be great to have some special offers for newbies. Maybe some raffles and such that they can participate in that allow them to get in at a discounted price.
When is IBEX expanding to other regions in the world and then, especially Amsterdam? Can we work together on something to onboard merchants in Amsterdam?
We like to say that IBEX’s native region is the internet. As such technologically we are global. Legally there are some countries that present an enormous challenge and that’s why shy away from them. With the right partnerships in place, we should be able to go anywhere. In regards to other regions we are going to be opening operations in Mexico soon and we can definitely work on something together to onboard merchants to IBEX in Amsterdam.