Brazil, at country that boasts the largest economy in South America, is becoming increasing interested in cryptocurrencies and associated blockchain technology, with the public, the government, and the education system all hopping on the bandwagon.
Brazilians Hyped-up About Crypto
In 2016, Brazilians moved $160 million in and out of Bitcoin. Last year, 2017, that number was up to around $2.4 billion. In relation, a year ago Foxbit had roughly 100,000 registered users. Today, the cryptocurrency exchange has more than 400,000 — out of an estimated 1.4 million that have opened accounts with them and their three main competitors over the past two years. Compare that to the roughly 600,000 who have stock brokerage accounts, it’s easy to see that Brazilians have been turning to cryptocurrencies in droves.
“For the guys who used to hide dollars under their mattresses, now they are hiding it in Bitcoin,”
Says Eduardo Ferreira, head of international business development at Foxbit London, speaking with Forbes. “It’s students buying it. It’s 60-year-old bus drivers,” Ferreira adds.
As for governmental progress, Brazil’s Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) has a working group that’s discussing regulations for investing in crypto assets. Cryptocurrency experts in the country suspect that they will follow Japan’s lead at best, and, at worst, the lead of the U.S. This despite the fact that, earlier this year, CVM banned registered investment funds from trading in cryptocurrencies (though that changed shortly after when the agency altered their statement, permitting indirect ownership of the coins).
“A few months ago I would say that CVM was negative on crypto, and now if you ask me I’d say they are neutral about it,” Furlan says, “which is good.” The Central Bank of Brazil are also onboard, currently developing their own blockchain platform.
The Brazilian educational system, too, is taking steps to prepare its students for an upcoming era of cryptocurrency. Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), a higher education institution in São Paulo, has announced the first Master’s degree in Cryptofinance. The pioneer course in Brazil follows the lead of top universities in the U.S., including Duke, Cornell, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have started offering classes on the subject.
The Future: Cryptocurrency Developments in Brazil
Moving forward, at least two new cryptocurrency exchanges are in the works. São Paulo based XP Investments is set to be the biggest, brand-name player in the market and the first from the traditional securities business to enter the space. Last November, the firm created a position for an investment analyst of crypto-assets.
Then there’s newcomers CriptoHub, who are issuing their own coin and going after Foxbit by offering trading in not just Bitcoin, but altcoins too. “They can easily be the Binance of Brazil,” says Chad Anderson, one two U.S. advisors for the startup and founder of Oceanside Digital Assets in Los Angeles.
Binance issued their own coin as a utility token used for discounts on exchange fees. CriptoHub hopes to be the go-to exchange for Latin American startups that eventually hop on the initial coin offering (ICO) bandwagon.
As for the ICO market, it’s still just catching on in Brazil. But if the past is any guide, the country, which has been at the forefront of fintech initiatives for South America, will adapt quickly. “As global mass adoption [of crypto] accelerates, I want to have a foothold in Brazil,” Anderson says.
If things go as planned, this move towards crypto will inject new life into Brazil’s (currently) small startup market, where there are about 150 new companies building blockchain platforms for education and fintech projects.
“Crypto is turning everyone into an investor, “says Fred Wilson, a partner at Urban Square Ventures. “It’s easy to understand why so many are interested in it,” he says. “This is a nation of lower- and working-class-income people, and they don’t have stock brokers. They have all heard about how this thing called Bitcoin is making people rich. Crypto is introducing a whole class of people in Brazil to investing.”