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South American Bitcoin Exchange SurBTC Launches with Funding from Chilean Government

Op-ed - South American Bitcoin Exchange SurBTC Launches with Funding from Chilean Government

Chile-based Bitcoin company, SurBTC, which translates to Bitcoin South, recently launched the South American country’s first Bitcoin exchange. The exchange hopes to be a safe and reliable way for Chileans to access and invest in bitcoin.

Chile is right next door to Argentina, a country well known in the Bitcoin industry. Argentina’s high inflation and strict capital controls have created conditions many believe will ignite Bitcoin adoption in the country. But unbeknownst to most, Chileans have had a growing interest in digital currency as well.

The country has been home to a small-but-growing Bitcoin community. There are more than 200 registered members in the Santiago, Chile Bitcoin Meetup, as well as numerous businesses that accept the digital currency. But Chileans have few ways to buy and sell bitcoin.

By being the country’s first Bitcoin exchange, SurBTC hopes to provide a safer and easier way for people to acquire the digital currency.

Guillermo Torrealba, CEO and co-founder of SurBTC, told Latin America tech news outletFayerWayer, “[…] for this technology to fulfill its promise to transform the way that much of global finance operates, you must first fill it with responsible companies that offer products and services that not only seek returns, but which will help to develop this emerging industry.

“We are interpreting this ‘responsibility,’ offering a very transparent, secure exchange and open to other entrepreneurs to connect and develop their own solutions,” Torrealba said. “This is the only way that people can forget the scams that have been.”

The process to launch the exchange started nearly a year ago. SurBTC wanted to make sure the exchange was fully complaint and had strong banking relations. After being rejected from 6 major banks in Chile, they finally found a banking partner willing to work with a Bitcoin company.

According to Torrealba, banking relations is the primary reason the exchange has taken so long to launch.

“These are the necessary steps that new Bitcoin companies have to go through in order to erase the bad reputation some left behind,” he said.

Along the way, the startup did find support from an unlikely source, the Chilean government. The Bitcoin startup received $40,000 from the Chilean government equity-free, as part of one the state’s startup initiatives.

According to a press release, the SurBTC team felt it was “extraordinary validation,” as it was the first time the Chilean government had given money to a Bitcoin startup.

SurBTC was co-founded by Chilean businessmen Torrealba and Augustine Feuerhake. A former business professor, Torrealba previously worked for a Latin American business consultancy firm before co-founding Baltoro, a seawater desalination startup.

Feuerhake is a four-time startup founder with more than eight years of experience in mobile development.

The company launched its exchange late last month, but according to Torrealba, SurBTC is already seeing a lot of traction. SurBTC is also looking to accommodate more traders by adding more services and adding U.S. dollars to the platform soon.

SurBTC has ambitions of expanding throughout Latin America and being the primary exchange for the whole region. Torrealba said the company will be expanding to other countries very quickly in 2015.