In this episode, Mike Townsend chats with Rubén Galindo Steckel the visionary CEO behind AirTM, a leading online platform that provides financial services to users around the world.
His commitment to promoting financial freedom and reducing economic restrictions has helped hundreds of thousands of people save money, make local payments, and transfer funds quickly and affordably.
Mike:Today on Around The Coin podcast, my guest is Ruben Galindo Steckel, and he isthe CEO of AirTM. AirTM is a leading online platform that provides financialservices to users across the world, really focused on freelancers andenterprises using Web3 technology to facilitate payments to make them cheaper,faster, and easier. I talked to Ruben about the landscape of payments in theglobal south, what the global south is, what the future of the USD looks like,how cryptocurrency and USDC start to present emerging opportunities. For cryptoto be more competitive with USD and some of the psychological decisions forproduct managers who are thinking about building in different payment systemsinto their gateways or into their services like Twitter. So for all that andmore, please check out Around The Coin podcast, aroundthecoin.Com. Give us athumbs up, like share, subscribe wherever you listen. And here is Ruben.
Mike:All right, Ruben. I'm really excited to be chatting with you. Thanks forhopping on. I know you had an adventurous route to get to this podcast now, soI appreciate it.
Why don't we kickit off with just a brief overview of what you're working on and how you sort ofsee the landscape of financial technology internationally today, what the mosttopical parts of that are.
Ruben:That's a big question. First, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. SoI guess I'll, I'll start with what we do at AirTM. We help people participatein the global economy throughout the developing world. And I guess even if it'snot so developing, it's a challenge for people to understand that they can gomake money online.
It's not The mainthing that we do we try to go find a job and we go do that in the street. Andeven though that's changing rapidly, and you already have more than I think 400million freelancers around the world there's still a lot of people in the needof, of a job for whatever reason.
Maybe there's not ajob locally or maybe they hate what's available locally. And we, we try tobring that global economy closer to the people that we think need it the most,these people throughout the global south in Latin America and South Asia,wherever they might be Africa. And the way that we do that is that we give themthis dollar account, which is like your base retail product.
It's called theAirTM dollar account, and you can use it to collect payments from abroad. Notjust that. Whenever you do receive a payment from abroad, TAMA is a very uniqueway of allowing you to withdraw money locally. And so in essence, you think ofT'S retail wallet as the best way to receive a payment internationally if youlive in the global south and you need to cash out cuz you need to eat with themoney that you make.
Mm. And so bestI'll describe as the cost, the speed, and the diversity of payment methods thatyou can cash out to. So AirTM is, we believe the most diverse, the cheapest,and the quickest. And so that's why I think it's the best. It'll take you sixminutes and you can cash out for 40 cents and 2% to basically any local paymentmethod throughout the global south, which is not something that's very common.
And so that's,that's one part. The other part which kind of ties this or it brings the, the,the constant home about helping people join the global economy. Is that we alsoactually help enterprises that provide online jobs, any type of online jobs,access to paying these people through our mass payment products.
And so if you arefamiliar with PayPal, mass Cross-Border Payment Services, you know that theyhave a variety of, of ways for you as an enterprise or as an individual todistribute payments to people throughout the world or to their PayPal accounts.And then the reason why, again, their TM has this claim at being better thanPayPal in this case, is because we can allow retail users that receive apayment to cash out cheaper, quicker, and to more payment methods.
As far as the, theenterprise side, well, it's a challenge convincing these enterprises, Hey oursolution is better for the people that you're paying. And so that, that's kindof where we are. However, air QM is. It is a Web3 company, and as a Web3company, we, we are kind of caught in between the old financial system and thenew one.
And I know you're,you're asking or wanting to ask me questions, but I just wanna bring it homeand then, then not all shut up. The reason why I say we're, we're caught isthat PayPal tellers, real pioneer, big mass cross-border payment incumbents ordigital wallet incumbents, all multi-billion dollar businesses, they, they havepriced cross-border payments.
So in the industry,you know that a cross border payment for an enterprise, you can charge 2% forit. Why would you not charge 2% for a cross-border payment? However we as aWeb3 company know that payments happen peer to peer, so directly betweenenterprises and retail consumers. And so why, why should we not charge that 2%?
Yeah. It's, it'sfree just happening peer to peer, but it, it's valued at 2%. So are we gonnaleave that money on the table? So that's where we're caught. And so we'reconstantly grappling with is dichotomy of, of web two versus Web3 and thebenefits of each. And so I think that where we're headed is finally acceptingthat AirTM is a Web3 payments company and, and acting a bit more like, so,which means, okay.
Payments are gonnahappen peer to peer. Let's give enterprises the software they need to deliverpeer to peer payment methods. Let's give them a great way to receive thatpayment or to, to refer that payment to and we could generate value therebecause we are actually generating value to the consumer when they're cashingout and our rails are better but truly to the enterprise.
Well, I, I think wegot a, and it, it'll be important for us because I think that that is an nextfrontier in cross border payments is that they happen peer to peer. And so Ithink we, we will be pushing more on that direction. And then the last piece,which I'll talk about, about helping people, Join the digital economy is thatwe, we bring our digital entrepreneurs is what we call people that work onlineand their places of online work together in this community where they interactwith each other.
They offer jobswhere they take jobs from the other. And we, we also offer a wide variety ofservices for the digital entrepreneur. So it's kind of very PM in anutshell.
And so you're splitacross business and individual or retail. Yeah. So it sounds like you'retargeting an enterprise or larger customers, and then smaller is the underlyinginfrastructure that allows you to make these claims of being better, faster,cheaper.
Is that due to theblockchain technology compared to the typical banking rails? I mean, ultimatelythat's the technological innovation that you're exploring and putting a layeron top of. Is that, is that the right way to think about it?
Ruben:Sure. So, I guess in my mind there is like four main pieces to to our crossborder payment solution.
And you maybe cangeneralize it and say to others in the crypto space, you have your liquidityproviders that allow you to onboard an offboard from the asset. In our
Mike:case, that would be like banks.
Ruben:It depends. It depends on the country. It might be an exchange, it might beliterally a crypto liquidity provider.
It might like itmight be a bank. It's banking. You as a company, it might be circle mm-hmm. OrCoinbase institutional anyway, you need to, to give your, your users theability to deposit and withdraw. So we call that just providing liquidity.Because you give them dollars, they give you some sort of crypto asset.
Then, then there'sa crypto asset layer, which is like the, the asset that's used as a store ofvalue, as an, as a way of transferring value amongst your, your community. Sothen, then there's the, the wallet where the asset's kept and then there's theblockchain. So those are AirTMS four main layers, if you will.
And we kind of havedecided to focus on this one and this one, we, we focus on the, on theliquidity. Providing liquidity because we believe that. Having the best railswill be a key differentiator in the future. A and is a great way for us toderive value from what we do, which is delivering cross-border payments.
We, we delegatethe, the asset side of this to, to circle and Coinbase and center because weleverage this thing called u s tc, which everyone knows that is the asset thatpeople have in their wallets and that moves around. We, we own the wallet,obviously. That's the other, I guess the, the two things that we own.
The liquidity andthe wallet. The wallet because we want to be consumer facing. We want to bepeople's place of international business. We, we want to be your account to dobusiness online, to receive payments, to pay things, to buy things to, to. Todo all, to solve all of your I guess, global economy, financial needs, if youwill.
And then lastly,the blockchain, which we decided not to, to, to build ourselves. We useStellars because they, they allow for very cheap TC transfers essentially. Welike their team and they also are very well connected to a lot of liquidityproviders. So that allows their team not to have to develop relationshipsbecause land has been grabbed uh mm-hmm.
Or the, thefrontier has been pushed forward by the stellar community and the USD Ccommunity organically, or not organically, but from our perspective without ushaving to have an active effort to expand into a country. And so that's why we,that's how we break it down. And so, going back to your question, it's like,well, what's the stack or, or how do we make these payments?
And Web3 happen isthat we give enterprises and retail consumers a wallet where they can holdtheir own u s TC and send u s TC to each other's wallets on the stellarblockchain. And then on the end of this, we either are ourselves liquidityproviders or work with other liquidity providers to allow our enterprises toonboard or offboard or our retail consumers to onboard and offboard.
When you say global south, what are youreferring to?
Ruben: Iguess countries that are below the equator they, they tend to be moredistressed than the countries that are north of it. Mm-hmm. I guess Mexico isnot necessarily south of the equator and it still struggles, so that's notalways true.
And there's a wholebunch of countries in the Middle East that, that are in the same situation. Butanyway sometimes I, I saw in developing world, emerging world
Mike:Got it. Global, south, any, any, would it be fair to say any, any location thatstruggles with an efficient trustworthy banking system?
Ruben:No, no, no.
Don't make it aboutthe banking system. Come on. It's about, it's about access to jobs. It's aboutgiving people the opportunity to work online. It's about helping the peoplethat need alternatives, access to them, access to opportunity. And well, forone reason or another, happy to talk about that. If you live in the EU andyou're a freelancer, it's very easy for you to receive a payment.
There's noinnovation there, there's no issue there. Your payment system, the world'spayment system works for you, but if you live in, in Takistan, that's not thecase. It's not very easy for you to receive a payment or if you live in thePhilippines or if you live in Mexico or Venezuela or Argentina or Colombia orBangladesh.
And so in thesecountries, there's a lot of people that work online and still they use paymentmethods that were not meant for them. They're meant for that European personthat we, we talked about before. And so what that means is that you have to payvery high fees. It's very slow to withdraw, and you can kind of only withdrawto your bank or sometimes even receive a, a, a check.
Mm-hmm. A papercheck.
Mike:And why would you say that that's not a, a payment or banking? System flaw.Cause that's not sort of how you, it seems like you described,
Ruben:I'd say it's not, it's not the unbanked it's the people, because that's acategory of people. Mm-hmm. There's a category of people in the world thatdon't have a bank.
Right. We're nottrying to service these people in particular, we're trying to service peoplewho want
Mike:to work online.
Okay. And peoplewanna work online and don't have access to like PayPal or Pioneer or to,to,
Ruben:Exactly. To a, an online payment service provider that, that works for them. Ismeant for them specifically.
Mike:And the reason why is there a limited, like why would some of these largerpayment companies like PayPal, et cetera, when they're not in a country, oreven if they are in a country, but they're very slow or expensive, is thattypically due to regulatory blockades that are in place that make it reallychallenging for these larger payment companies?
Or is there more ofa tactical challenge where it's like the technology's not there? Like what doyou see as the reason why we don't have a more efficient payment systemglobally today from some of the larger providers that have been in the space?
Ruben:Well, because everything costs money. Building rails costs money, and there'smarkets that are not worth the money that they cost.
Okay. Because atthe end of the day, regulation compliance banking relationships, FX exposure,it comes down to cost. Like, how much is it going to cost me to allow Mike inSudan to withdraw 10 bucks? It's gonna cost me 15, or do I want to allow Mikein Sudan to offboard 10 bucks? No. So, why would I as PayPal work to, to buildthe very costly infrastructure that we would need as PayPal company to be ableto allow Mike to withdraw 10 bucks in Sudan?
It's like, no,screw that. We'll work with partners or we'll send them checks and Sudan. I, Idon't know exactly what their rails look like in Sudan, but I'm willing to betthey're, they're not looking amazing. And so that's it. That's it. At the sametime, we believe, and we're talking about the future here.
We believe that.That the global economy is going to flourish that the global digital economy isgoing to flourish in a lot of these countries that have not been able tosucceed in the past because we're all just waiting around and, and I'mincluding myself as a Mexican person. We're all always just waiting around fora government to like figure shit out.
Now we're waitingfor them to be like, okay, well here's, here's your job or here's your healthyour healthcare, here's your education or here's your food stamp. All theseentitlement programs, they kind of keep us there. At the same time we have inMexico about 12 million migrants in the us so that shows you like, yeah, a lotof people are like waiting or sitting around, but a whole bunch of other peopleare like willing to do whatever it takes.
And so we believethat when the next, or actually it's not even when the next, it is alreadyhere. There's people that have different alternatives. I need to eat. I need tofind a job. How am I gonna find it? I'll leave my country. I'll go for what'savailable here, or I'll go online. And we want to help that, that third versionof the person to, to succeed online.
And we believe thatthat's gonna play a huge part in the future. And, and, you have examples of howmuch the global economy is going to, to be growing. Just if in your Twitterfeed last week you saw how Twitter decided to start paying people who tweet andwho generate revenue for Twitter, right?
It's a new onlinejob. How many people are gonna receive money? Millions. It's a lot of peoplebecause it's not, and there's another misconception that you need to make a lotof money. To earn money online. That's not true. Right? Throughout, throughoutLatin America. For instance, I think to belong to the middle class, the medianincome is I think $14.
Mike:$14 for what?
Ruben:Per hour per day. $14 per day. And you'll be considered a part of the middleclass in your country, in your median LA country, which is crazy. There's a tonof ways to make 14 bucks every day online, right? Like, I don't know, the microinfluencer and Twitter, and I don't know there parameters, but plenty.
If they wanted to,they could pay and there could be this person that be very happily tweeting allday for 14 bucks a day, and, and then you also saw that very weird new onlinegig of people kind of talking to their emoji or. Like, yeah,
Mike:yeah, yeah. So, so let me ask you, so if somebody get another one.
Yeah. I saw a memeof it. If somebody is
on, if somebody ison Twitter in Venezuela, some company country that has a more difficult bankingrails and they're using PayPal, I believe, to do payouts, Twitter is, is that,is that, is Twitter sitting around behind the scenes and saying, oh, we wouldlove to be able to pay all these people in these 50 other countries, but thepayment rails are so challenging that it makes it difficult.
So there's all thisunrealized value creation and extraction from the ability to pay the creatorson Twitter. Is that, is that the reality of it today? Or do you see, like, doyou see that as a recognized problem that, that these companies, like Iimagine, Twitter is just one of many or fibers in that category or
Ruben:ods, you would definitely think that that's a big problem for them, like beingable to.
I guess goingthrough the platform context. Yeah. That you have platform slash marketplace.You have supply and you have demand, and you, you want to pay your supply. Youwant to, because mm-hmm. That's how you incentivize them to generate value forthe demand of your platform. And so, I'd imagine that paying them is likecrucial.
And in fact, mostbig companies from Toptal to Fiverr to Twitch, they kind of solved that, thatproblem very early on. PayPal helped them solve it. And PayPal, in theory doeshave global coverage. Like you can deliver money via PayPal. It's just, is itamazing? I don't think so. But they can do their job.
And so I, I don'tthink it's, it's an interesting situation. The market's in, because in one sideyou have. Rails that are providing coverage, that's body for places where theseplatforms I believe aspire to growing. Obviously the US is like everyone'sbiggest market and the rest are like the 80% that generate the 20% of the valuetype of thing, but they're growing a lot. Mm-hmm. All these emerging economiesare emerging for a reason and they're coming online and they are online throughthe, they're coming online. They are online, and they are the platforms andthey are generating content and they, they are on the supply. And so I wouldimagine that paying them is a very important thing.
And I guess we, ourjob, literally, my job is to be having conversations with the people that workat these platforms. It's usually. A product manager that's in charge ofpayments and they, they understand payments A to Z. But it's basically theincumbents, PayPal and the teller scroll p cuz they've been around for, forquite some time.
And we're, we'rejust having these conversations and we're, we're thinking about how to price itand we're, we're iterating on that and we're thinking about how to per se,present it and iterating on that. And and it's a challenge for sure. I will saythat, and I guess going back to, to the second little point that I was makingabout the future of, of Web3 payments we, we are incentivized ordisincentivized to sell our rails as peer to peer because there's a fee that,that, that's commoditized and it's standard and.
Priced in by themarket that they will pay. It's like 2%. And who doesn't want 2% of a hundredmillion bucks? Mm-hmm. That you're paying out cuz these payments are, you'repaying out a lot of money. It's a transactional business. But the other side, Ibelieve the new frontier in cross-border payments is when they happen peer topeer.
Mm-hmm. Whenenterprises don't need to go through a rent seeking middleman to, to pay peoplewhere they can just do it as, I guess it's easy as sending an email.
Mike:Let me just clarify something.
So when you arehaving these conversations with product managers that are focused on thepayment aspect of the marketplace, companies like Twitter, fiber, et cetera, isI imagine there's multiple considerations that they have.
The number ofcountries that the network reaches, the price, the le the lag time fraud,whatever, their considerations are. Is it a. Recognition that they want tomove. Is Web3 part of the desirable feature set or is that just a, is that justa like, okay, no big deal? Like why, why does that matter to me?
Type conversation?Mm-hmm. I mean, I can't imagine Twitter or anybody thinking I want to move to aWeb3 payment transfer network because it's cool, right? It's, it's always boilsback down to the features and why that's useful. Like do, and what I ask, why Iask that question is, do you see the way it is now, PayPal, skrill, et cetera,are they just gonna kind of keep growing and sort of, it'll just be this way 10years from now?
Or do you sort ofsee the inevitability of an underlying infrastructure blockchain becoming theglobal payments? Maybe there's more than one, but the global paymentstechnology infrastructure.
Ruben: Iguess go, going back to the first point
it is not peoplethat are these product managers saying, oh, I'm dying to, to have blockchainpayments. Mm-hmm. And, and if so, which there is the case, there is that caseof people wanting to deliver cash outs in like, say Bitcoin, like, oh, we'repaying out in Bitcoin. They're kind of missing the point. Because the coolthing about blockchain is not the crypto assets is it's the idea of disintermediatingthe middleman of being able to do the payment yourself business to consumerwithout PayPal.
And that is trulytransformational. If you think about it, every single payment that you've madeor that you've received travels through PayPal's rails. And so PayPal gets totake a little bit here, a little bit there, a little bit there, and
Mike:they could cut it let's, and they stop it.
Ruben:Kind of right. Yeah.
But now, now theyhave this infrastructure. And so the way I see it is that we are in a point intime where there's gonna be like two diverging paths. We're gonna have, well,blockchain opened up a new path, a fork in the road, if you will. But I think onone side you have payment companies that have built very costly infrastructureand like they built highways for money to take money from here or from the USto Brazil.
And, and PayPal hasa huge operation in Brazil and a huge operation in Mexico. Why would they notcharge for the highway that they built? They're gonna squeeze cent. They can,cuz why wouldn't they? I would do the same thing. And yeah, if it's a pricething, the big player can always drive prices down. Cause to them it's probablyall margin.
Right? But at thesame time, w the, the fork on the road is, Okay, well what happens when youcould do your own payments and the highway from money is free. It's likedecentralized democratic, and you can just participate on it. If you have the,the technology, it could just be a, a thing that you do in house, likedistribute payments.
And so I, I thinkthat that's a radically different way of thinking about your payment problem.And it does present this fork. And, and when I think about this, I'm like, Idon't think that PayPal will want to say, Hey, let me, it's the innovativedilemma. I don't think they're gonna want to disrupt themselves.
I don't thinkthey're gonna want to go back on all the investment they already made, cuzthey're so bullish on it. Right? They spent billions of dollars building it.And so for us, then we'll come. It's like, hell yeah. I, I want to build onthat next frontier. However, we are selling products to the same client.
And so I have, wehave the challenge of presenting our version of how we believe cross-borderpayments should happen. And so the way that these product managers should bethinking about it is I first of all let go of all the money you lost. For what?Trading Crypto. Trading crypto. Oh, okay.
Sure, sure, sure.You're not taking crypto risk. This is something else, because we get thatquestion, are we exposing ourselves to crypto risk? And I'm like, no. Separatething. But equal, it is a crypto asset, but we will use it, we'll help you useit to deliver a payment to someone directly. And so it's like, well, how can Ileverage this to, to, to have to stop paying a middleman for doing somethingthat's.
Now free. And, andlook, some, some of our clients might hear this, this conversation we're havingand they'll be like, damn, you're charging me. And yeah, because we were caughtin the middle because the market charges for this and we are cheaper thanPayPal cuz we're like, okay, they charge you two, we'll charge you 1.5 or we'llcharge you 1%.
But that is, isdisincentivizing us from doing the other thing, which is what we are trulyexcited about doing, which is building Web3 rails Web3, PayPal. You get whereI'm caught in the middle.
I wanna understandpricing a little bit more. So when we talk about pricing, the differencebetween web two and Web3, what we're saying is the cost between the bankingrails and the banking rails being the number of network connections betweenpayment providers and there may be 2, 3, 4 different banks that are intermediariesbetween a recipient and ascending bank, and each one takes a fee when weaggregate all that price up.
Maybe it's one anda half or 2%. If you look at the comparative costs of making a direct networktransaction on like, stellar or Bitcoin, are we talking about a five x or a 10x? Like what's the order of magnitude pricing differential? And do you see theprice being the primary driver of adoption to Web3?
Like, the productmanager's gonna get pressure from the, head of finance, like, Hey, we reallywanna reduce costs here. And so they're gonna start shifting over. Like, doesprice drive innovation effectively at the, at the enterprise level?
Ruben: Ithink innovation is what drives consumer choice. And there might be a bunch ofdifferent reasons why the innovation's better price definitely being one ofthose things. And I guess something I, I did forget to mention is that allthese enterprises are big companies. A lot of 'em mm-hmm. Are big companies andthey have a very sophisticated like need, which our enterprise solution mightnot entirely meet just yet. And so we are committing to enterprise to buildthat product features that they need to feel comfortable using our solution.
Cause it's kind ofbare bones what we have. Mm-hmm. And if you see PayPal's enterprise dashboard,it has all the bells and whistles. Yeah. And so we're, we're also having tocompete against that. So that's also a barrier of, of adoption for thisproduct. So we're constantly building on that precise thing because you gottabe able to peel the orange to get to, to the juicy part, but the, the peel isalso very important.
Sure. Sure. And,and so I guess in terms of the pricing difference, I guess first it's importantto note in a digital payment, there's not like five middlemen. PayPal is fullyintegrated from the US to Brazil. Mm. Okay. Like they use their owninfrastructure end to end and same from, from the US to Mexico. And they have alot of countries where they are fully vertically integrated and they own the wholecorridor.
There's not fivemiddlemen. It's not like a bag transfer or a swift, where you have banksproviding liquidity for each other around the world. And they're having toborrow money from the others so they can pay out a payment. And that doesn'tnecessarily happen with electronic payments. It's more like either a paymentcompany at PayPal.
Has is, is buildend to end, and they leverage, they're able to kind of deliver, take money fromthe us, deliver in Mexico or cash it out when the person wants to withdraw. Ormaybe they don't have a present in the, a presence in the country where the,where the money is being delivered and they need to work with a partner.
So for instance, wework with our dear partner Pioneer, which is a big wallet to deliver paymentsfor them throughout last time because we have very good coverage throughoutlast time. They want to expand throughout lifetime. So we're like, we'll, we'llhelp you deliver those payments to the people that you need to so that you canexpand throughout that time.
Mm-hmm. And sothat's the other way it happens. They insert a middle man so they can fulfill apayment. And so I guess, And these might vary but when I'm explaining PayPal'sfees at a high level, I, I kind of talk about three different sixes. It's,yeah, it's, it takes, it usually costs $6, six fee charges.
You lose 6% of yourmoney, and it takes six days to arrive
Mike:6% on PayPal. That's crazy.
Ruben:That's, it's crazy because you're you're getting charged a variable fee whenyou're, when you're withdrawing from say, your freelancer.com wallet or whenfreelancers paying you then you get charged when you're, and, and there's alsoa fixed fee there, but it's smaller.
Yesterday I waslooking at pay fees. It was something like for payouts to the rest of theworld, it was 2% up to $20. Plus 50 cents to withdraw from your Twitch account.Got it. To your PayPal account. And then, then assuming that you're inArgentina and you want to cash out PayPal, then you have to pay out pay.
Got it. The localexchange rate.
Mike:So really anytime it ends up being that, yeah. Anytime you move betweennetworks,
Ruben:anytime between, you move between countries. Countries. Okay. Between, I guessmoney pools. Money pools, yeah. You're going from the American money pool tothe Argentinian money pool, like costs, cuz you need to source liquidity inboth places.
Mike:So this would be true to say that the, the pricing efficiency of staying in thesame payment network is going to drive like a consolidation. Like this is whywe have a global currency in the first place is that it's just simpler tomaintain fixed pricing, easier to move money around, cheaper to move moneyaround.
Ruben:Well, yeah, the US dollar builds something super cool now, which is everyone'swilling to settle with dollars, right? Like everyone everywhere and pricethemselves in dollars. So you could basically buy anything in dollars anywhere,which is super cool. Just so happens that it's, it's not so simple and I thinkthat the, the, to actually send dollars to someone else, cause it's like unlessthey have a bank account in your banking system, then you can't send themdollars.
And if the case isthat you can send them dollars, cause there's they have the HSBC Multicurrencyaccount in Hong Kong, sure, maybe you can send them dollars, but it's not, nota straightforward thing. However, USD C makes that quite easy. They are an opendollar standard that is democratic and accessible by anyone, and it doesn'ttake a very sophisticated and expensive HSBC multicurrency account to have.
Mm-hmm. You inNigeria could receive a dollar payment without having to have the veryexpensive HSBC account. Right. And also the u s TC ecosystem is like, oh myGod. It is being, the frontiers of u s TC are being pushed by every singleexchange in every single country, which is so powerful that that means thatthere is aruban basically in 196 countries that is working very hard to make suchthat U S T C is compatible with their local currency and vice versa.
And that a goodexchange rate. I with, with small spreads. And so that makes it such that everyother entrepreneur, every other Ruben is like more incentivized of being on theu SDC network because it's connected everywhere or will be connectedeverywhere. Make there is one company.
Mike:Yeah. Just wanna make sure I understand that.
So you're sayingthat countries across the world are incentivized and working towards, actively workingtowards building an efficient, call it transfer network from their localcurrency to USD C, so their citizenry can move from their local currency to USDC. Is that the right way to recap it?
Ruben:Just no, I, I'm saying, I'm saying almost, but, but the difference is not thecountry that's trying to do this.
In fact, it'sprobably the country trying not to do this very hard. Right. Try to stop it.Okay. Well, in some cases it's trying very hard to stop it, but in, in mostcases, there's an entrepreneur locally that wants to make their money morecompatible with the world. I see. To give people access to crypto or whatever.
Right. Okay. And USDC is like the, the, the one, the gateway drug, it's like a, it, it's the veryregulated mm-hmm. Very user-friendly because people are familiar with a dollarand they all love the dollar. It, it is the asset in my mind. Yeah. It is thestable Coin. Mm-hmm. And so for me, another entrepreneur all the way aroundthe, the world, it's more likely for me to adopt that U SDC standard.
Right. The cryptodollar standard than any other. Cause I know there's entrepreneurs everywherefighting to get the U SDC connected everywhere. Right. And so our wallet users,because all the other entrepreneurs are gonna be able to withdraw very quickly.Like for instance, I'll give you an example. I get paid an air PM.
We, we lost our,our ACH rails like a month ago because a partner that we used, they ceased toexist and we're, we're integrating a new one, but we have this gap for twomonths. We're not gonna be able to process withdrawal to the us. It's not a bigmarket for us, cuz we're paying out people throughout Latin America and theemerging worlds.
Mm-hmm. But for me,an American dude lives in New York, I need to eat. And I went to withdraw. Sowhat I did is I withdrew from U TC from my team. I withdrew U SST C and I sentit to my Coinbase account. That was immediate, literally immediate. And thenCoinbase for a price has immediate withdrawals to your bank.
Mm-hmm. BecauseBryant Armstrong worked, worked really hard. I see. Yeah. To make U SDC supercompatible to the American banking system. Yeah. So that way me, the, theMexican dude living in the US that got paid in USD C could withdraw to hisbank, literally as I was waiting to take off in like three minutes and I paidmy credit card.
Mike:Yeah. I love it. I, so I have a couple, couple of yes or no questions foryou.
Do you, do youagree that the US three letter agencies in particular, the s sec, maybe the,yeah, we'll start with that one. The, the, the monetary, governmentalregulatory agencies in the US are actively trying to disallow the flourishingof cryptocurrency related technology products in the us.
Ruben:Yes or no? Come on.
Mike:And or it be, I think it's,
Ruben:yeah. Maybe, maybe, I think it's more nuanced. I don't think that the us I, Ithink that this operation choke point is very I wouldn't even say it's likevery conservational, uh uh, but I'd say it's like, it's kind of naive. Mm-hmm.To say that the bank, the central bank wants to make the US dollar just by thepush of a button worse than something else.
Think the US dollarwants to remain the, the most. Accepted the best currency ever. Sure. To dothat you kind of by default cannot restrict it cuz by default and everyeconomist knows if there's a better currency. Well you don't want there to be amarket where there's a better currency that yours that creates, well it drivesthe price of your currency down.
Right. Cuz there'speople wanting the other currency. Mm-hmm. Sometimes markets get so crazy. Thislittle preference and the belief that because there's so many more peoplewanting the, the, the better currency over the worst currency, it pusheshyperinflationary spirals and it's like a very known thing.
And I don't thinkthat the US is looking at crypto if they are thinking, oh, crypto is a betteralternative or, or a stable Coin is a better alternative to the dollar. Andthinking, oh, we definitely want to make the US dollar worse than this. I, Idon't think they want to push the US into a country where there's black marketsof, of other currencies.
And so I, I thinkit's Sure they're trying to control it. And let me tell you, we lost SiliconValley Bank. We lost, lost Devolve Bank. We lost signal Signature Bank. I thinkwhen, when the big Silicon Valley Bank thing happened, all crypto bankscompletely, they died like in one weekend. And AirTM was super effectivebecause what?
That was our way toget Yeah. Offboarding and onboarding. I, and I still don't think that, that itwas a very deliberate action to like shut the, the US economy out of crypto. DoI, is there a part of me that wants to believe that? Yeah, for sure. Because myGod, the US dollar is the. In this inflation path and they can't restrain itand the interest rate is going way up.
And of course, theydon't want to allow people to have an easy way out of the dollar, but even thatis like silly because the, the crypto market is not that big. It's like we kindof get lost in that in our eco chamber and Twitter, I think so.
Mike:So that maybe the idea that crypto is the alternative to USD and that thegovernment may look at crypto as being the exit, the exit ramp, maybe that'soverblown you're saying, and it's not that hard to move outta USD if peoplewanted to.
So do you see someother incentive or do you see some, like how do you ex rationalize the apparentdesire to extinguish or diminish at least innovation in the us. I mean,certainly to your first point, to preserve the power of the USD, you have to,or you'd be incentivized to diminish the power of competitors, just like in anymarketplace, right?
Ruben:And so logic there, well, I said something different, logic. Mm-hmm. I saidsomething different. I, I'd say you want your currency to be second to none.Mm-hmm. And in my mind, what makes your currency second to none is if yourestrict it. Cuz if you restrict it, you create parallel markets. Mm-hmm. Likefor instance, in Venezuela, they restricted people from buying dollars.
And so guess what?People didn't stop buying dollars, they just did it like black market away fromthe government's purview. Yeah. You don't want that. And so I don't think thatthe US is going to push consumers to, to, to have to buy crypto in a parallelmarket. Right. So I, I don't think that, I think that's.
Disincentive to, todo the, the thing that you're saying, which is to if they actually were worriedthat crypto was better, then, then the last thing you'd want to do is restrictpeople from buying it. Mm-hmm. Because all people would do is to abstract themselvesfrom the regular economy and mm-hmm.
Get access tocrypto and parallel markets. So that's kinda what I'm saying. And also, I guessthere's, and I'm not an American guy. I did live in New York and I do have mygreen card, which I love dearly. But I, I am a Mexican guy and so I'm, I'm notsuper up to speed with what Senator Warren and Gary Gensler are doing to like,kind of kill crypto.
And I hear all inpodcasts like religiously. So I kind of, I'm aware of what's supposedly goingon, and I don't know. I, I think that definitely, if. There's probably peoplethat could say that these two are conspiring against it. Sure. Okay, fine. Isthe US Central Bank going to, to push American consumers to a black market sothey can fulfill their, their consumer desire?
For crypto? I don'tthink so.
Mike:Do you think the USD is the global reserve currency 10 years from now?
Ruben:Yeah. Largest. I do think so. I do think so. Well, we're super bullish on thedollar. Yeah. We, as an AirTM, we're super bullish on the dollar in AirTM.Yeah. And is that because of U Ustc even? No, it's because the dollar.
Okay. The u s TC isbecause the dollar. Mm-hmm. That's why U TC is so important. It's because thedollar there's. My God,
for way too long.Has the dollar been around building or branding itself as the currency in theworld? You go everywhere and the dollar is king. And yeah, I know that empireis too fall. And I know that reserve or World Reserve currencies have kind ofchanged from, from in cycles, but I do not believe that there's any competitor.
Like I, I'd seemyself as an individual more likely to
save in dollarsthan in Bitcoin, like, Even being a crypto enthusiast, I have a daughter. Itruly want to be able to count on my savings to pay for things if things gobad, I, I don't want to, maybe, I don't want to gamble with that. Mm-hmm. Causeit's like, I want dollars. Or, or maybe gold. But gold is not so liquid andit's not safe to have gold around.
And so dollars inmy bank account I think are my best bet. Chinese currency, well, I don't know.It's Yeah. Far away China. How, how do you get that? It's like, yeah. A lot ofthings would have to happen. I think it's like we, we simplify the, the. The,how we would get their part.
Mike:And is your, the calculus you're running in your mind when you think about therisks of the two different currencies of BTC and USD, do you think USD, therisks are inflation through runaway printing, specifically the federal Reserveprinting to pay off the debts that it has.
And then maybe downthe BTC side, the risk is federal level or even state level USD banning orsanctioning under the threat of a military force. I mean, is that, is that thetwo or are there other levers that weigh into your calculus when you say thisis what you're placing your bets on now?
Ruben:Well, I'd say the dollar is less of a bet than than Bitcoin. I'd say Bitcoin isa bet, like it's a huge bet. I, I love that bet it'll taken any day, but it's abet like one cannot live comfortably
Mike:with It's a higher risk as glass. Yeah. Bitcoin savings, Bitcoin.
Ruben:Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, it's like super volatile.
Like it would notsurprise me, it, for in a second it not be like, oh wow, if Bitcoin dropped at$15,000 tomorrow, so would I want to have my savings in Bitcoin? No. Mm-hmm. Ihave an investment in Bitcoin for sure. I invest a lot of money in Bitcoin.That's not my savings. And, and look, all the things that restrict Bitcoin, Ithink make it more powerful cuz they just prove it's reason for existence.
And so I'm notworried that that's the risk for crypto. I think that encourages the Tohismission, and as far as the US dollar runaway inflation Look, I, I think thisguy, Jerome Powell, is doing a great job of managing inflation. Little bylittle it seems like inflation's decreasing.
Americans have notstopped buying anything. There's also record low unemployment rates. So itseems to be doing fine. What I think is crazy for Americans, and this is justcriticism, friendly criticism, that Americans will buy anything there, there'sliterally no stopping the consumer desire that an American has, like I I livedin, in New York, throughout this process, my coffee got to cost.
Coffee and and achocolate, chocolate croissant got cost $11. Like, why? How the fuck am I gonnapay 11 bucks for a chocolate cro, something on coffee? And on top of that, theyask you for a 20% tip. Yeah. Like, who in their right mind buys that and say,you did buy that?
Mike:Americans buy that?
Ruben:Sometimes no. Sometimes I would say, no, I don't wanna buy this. Yeah. It's tooexpensive.
Well, I'm alwaysfascinated by like, it piss me off the things that seem the most. The easiestto take for granted are the ones that are the highest risk for flipping. It'slike, like, like you'd almost have the assumption, well, New York is, maybe theNew York is the, the, the best place to live because it has the highest earningpotential.
But then when youmove there, you realize, well, the taxes are the highest out of any state inthe country and it's most competitive. And then, then all of a sudden it loses.San Francisco's probably a better example because you, you move there for the,the opportunity and then it flips. And like the flip ITing is, can be reallyquick and can, can make something that you take for granted all of a suddenseem like a really high risk classification.
So, like, realestate in San Francisco, oh, it's boo. It's the absolute best. So whensomething seems like a, like you take it for granted, like the price of acryptocurrency or the price of real estate, or the price of, the stability ofUSD that I have this like, Intuition that I've seen now where maybe that's thepoint at which it's the highest risk.
And I don't know, Imean poot or thought, but it does to me seem like a bet. Like you, it'scertainly a bet to hold sd, it's a bet to hold anything. When I say a bet, itjust mean it's a decision that you're weighing the risk portfolio of thatdecision. And explaining it is the risk of btc, particularly the volatility,which seems to be definitely true today.
But then likethere's a certain, there's a certain risk in USD, right? We're, we'rerecognizing that, talking about it, trying to figure it out. Yeah.
Ruben:But don't you think that, that, do you see that risk? That it's like, the riskis that there's people that are just businesses, Have, have this very positivereinforcement that if they increase their price, people will pay the increasedprice. Like at some point the market has to say no and that's when they'll say,oh, inflation's not going down. But I know because the pandemic Americans havea lot of savings and, and it's very easy to get credit and it's very easy tobuy things.
But at some point Americansare gonna have to be the ones to say, stop, I I don't want to buy this. Andthat is what will eventually make inflation go down. Literally that is it likepeople deciding, no, this is too expensive for me, but I, I don't see, I don'tsee that, that happening or, or, or it's, I can't afford it because I now nolonger have any money.
But there's not, Iurge Americans to, to be thinking before that they ran out, run outta money.It's like, Hey, this is too much businesses services. Please, I won't buy yourservice at this price cuz it is not worth that. But if we don't value money,and I guess it goes to it is probably reinforced with how cheap and how easycredit is in the us.
Mm-hmm. How much amortgage, an average mortgage rate here in Mexico is for years and years.
Mike:Tell me, is it mostly variable or fixed? Like I know in Argentina you can't geta fixed, fixed mortgage.
Ruben: Iguess it depends. You're probably negotiate.
Mike:Yeah, sure. Tell me.
But, but it's like13%. 13% now.
Right now. Yeah.With a, yeah. Yeah.
Ruben:But, but that's like, that's high. It's common. You, you, that's your mortgageon your house. 13% and 10 years max. That's, yeah, we're in the US 30 years and5%. Wow. Crazy.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. It's so cheap. Yeah. Yeah. Or even less than that. Yeah. So I, I, Isort of see it as like, the primary consideration that I think about is the, isthe debt liability.
So all the unpaidsocial security payments, the pension plans, the education, the credit card,the insurance, the commercial real estate, the military, the on and on and on,sovereign debt, all all that stuff aggregated together to me is unprinteddollars that will be printed. And if they, if they're not printed yet, we don'tsee the inflation and the prices and the, the CPI data, but that, that doesn'tmean the debt's going away.
In fact, it goes upcuz you have interest on that debt. So, Sooner or later, like that's gonna comedue. I think of this like one, one corollary I see that's very infrequentlydescribed. Is it, it can be very complicated to think about debt on a federallevel or a national level. Country level is all these complicated terms thatget thrown around central banking.
But if you thinkabout it on an individual level, if you're in debt, you earn 50,000 a year andyou're a hundred K in debt, you kind of can feel what that's like. It's like,okay, that's a really, really tough hill to climb out of, but it's possible, Icould do it, but if I'm 200,000, even when you're one year annual salary indebt, like you're talking about a five to 10 year timeframe of living prettyfrugally to get out of it.
Now, if you livethe other way, if you're like spending more, then you can see clearly likethat's gonna end in bankruptcy. Like there's, there's, there's no other way itcan end If you're one year personal salary in debt and you're increasing yourspending with no projection to increase your earning and so, I I, we've neverseen that happen.
We've never seenlike a, a large, in my lifetime, like a, a large company just completelydefault. The closest thing I can even remember is Greece. Maybe that was like10 years ago, is like they had to sell off some land to basically pay off theirdebts. So, I don't know.
Ruben:I, I've seen it. It's cause I get your point, but it's, America is not in avoid.
America lives in,in this place in space and time. Mm-hmm. And in this place in space and time,there's also other countries with equally shitty situations, not shittier and Idon't know them all. But you as a consumer of the dollar are probably morelikely to, to decide to buy a dollar than any other currency.
And just think oflike, Even the Mexican pesto and the high country risk, and it's appreciatedagainst the dollar, like 20% in the last eight months. But still, it's likeMexican pesto is risky. There's, there's there's a whole political situationhere and there's elections coming up and I don't know what's gonna happen andOkay, well, but that's Mexico, right?
Then look at China.There's a dictatorship there.
Mike:Dude, can I, can I ask you a little bit more on that? Yeah. You're,you're,
you're from Mexico,living in Mexico. Mexico I think it's 130 million people, like it's a verylarge country. What do you see as the, both, the most positive thing going forMexico and then the most challenging negative part, and it's maybe specificallyon its economic projection over the next five to 10?
Ruben:Well, my, I'm gonna venture into an non territory. As I have, so I'm not anexpert in anything. But like in the short term, the thing is very cool aboutMexico, which I don't know, but I am, I will tip my hat to the president of howhe managed the whole covid situation. But the price of the peso, or the pesohas gotten stronger, like incredibly stronger for the first time in like everlike 20% stronger against the dollar, which I think is incredible.
Especially,especially now where most countries are facing exactly the opposite problembecause they all have the resort of printing money to, to finance the lockdown,mm-hmm. So I think that's incredible. I guess by same token and the other sideof that, that Coin, there's the, the president.
Who's presumablygoing to, to try to, I don't think he, he's going to try to get reelected, butthe risk of election meddling is like high right now. And there is, there'spresent president for very bad economic decisions where a lot of progress thathad been made in fiscal reforms electrical infrastructure reforms has been justdestroyed.
Mm-hmm. And everyinvestor is second guessing their decision to bet in Mexico. So that, that'sgonna be a big challenge. And in a more cultural level. What I'm very excitedabout is it seems like Mexico is happening, isn't the zeitgeist, mm. It issomething that we humans are doing right now.
We're doing Mexico,and so I'm gonna live in this part of town called esa, which is, ah, this iswhat you imagine every cultural melting pot looked like at any other point inhistory, whichever it was. It's, everyone is moving here, everyone is here, therestaurants are here, the artists are here, the entrepreneurs are here.
Cut you, but you'regonna be here case, right? I'm here. Yeah. Yeah. And so that's veryexciting.
Mike:Yeah. Fascinating. Well, I promised I would get you outta here in an hour. Ireally appreciate your time, Ruben. This has been a blast. Congrats on all theprogress. Are you writing online? Are you tweeting?
Personally? We'llhave all the links to the company in the show notes.
Ruben:Ah, man, I, I wish I, I wrote more. I'm always so, so invested in my writingthat oftentimes I'm like, Ugh, it's too much time. I'm like, to something else.I, and I write a lot internally. Like, I spend a good time in my day writing amemo or a reason why we should do this or, or this other thing.
But, but I, Iseldom go on Twitter cuz it's like, man, so daunting. Daunting. Yeah. But
Mike:yeah. Well, I encourage you to put more thoughts out there. You have great ideasand you guys are working on really innovative stuff that affects a lot ofpeople, so, well, thank you Mike. Come ba man. Really appreciate you.
Ruben:Well, you can follow me, Ruben gsp. All right. I'll maybe put something funny.Bam.
Mike:There it is. All right, buddy.
Ruben:Bam. Thank you, Mike, for having me. Take care. Have a great conversation.Sweet. Mexico's Prospects: Bright & ChallengingMexico's Prospects: Bright& Challenging