SurBTC, Chile’s “most compliant” – and ambitious – bitcoin exchange, launched earlier this month to an “extremely positive” reaction from Chilean bitcoin users, CEO and co-founder Guillermo Torrealba said in an exclusive CoinBuzz interview.
“We want to create the basic infrastructure for Bitcoin to exist in South America,” Torrealba told CoinBuzz, “and we want to make it as solid and liquid as possible, understanding that this is the only way for this technology to coexist with existing fiat currencies. We want to have the largest and most liquid exchange in South America by the end of 2015.”
Security is a priority for SurBTC, which holds 100 percent of its bitcoin reserves in cold storage inside Chile and performs all withdrawals manually. Torrealba claims current bitcoin reserves of more than 100 percent of all customer-owned coins in SurBTC possession but says he is unable to secure insurance for them.
SurBTC supports trading in the Chilean peso and bitcoin for now and expects to add other fiat currencies – but not altcoins – in the future. Users can trade commission-free until June 30 when a scaled fee structure comes into effect that rewards high-volume traders and takes into account Chile’s 19 percent VAT. Minimum trading amounts start at approximately USD $32 and there is no minimum for bitcoin. New user verification is guaranteed in one day or less.
SurBTC benefits from USD $40,000 in equity-free but “auditing-intensive” seed capital won in a Chilean government competition. Torrealba refused to comment on the exchange’s other financing sources.
Torrealba and co-founder Agustín Feuerhake were rejected six times before securing a banking partner. But the Chilean government’s regulatory reception has been much better.
“Chile, and its government, is very open for new companies and technologies, as long as they don’t damage people. We’re ‘libertarians’ until people get harmed,” Torrealba said.
Starting a bitcoin exchange in the post-MtGox environment “has been good for us,” Torrealba said. “It’s good to have pressure, because Bitcoin won’t stand – and doesn’t deserve – another MtGox.” His public relations strategy is simple: integrity.
“The reputation [of bitcoin] should only be cleaned with good use-examples, being professional, having extremely high standards and understanding that startups in the Bitcoin world aren’t playing with people’s messages, photos or tweets. We’re dealing with people’s money, investments and, ultimately, life savings,” Torrealba told CoinBuzz.
Torrealba, 27, is CEO and has past experience in banking and retail. Feuerhake, 32, is a systems engineer with more than 8 years of startup and programming experience. Both are natives of Chile’s capital, Santiago.
Key employees have experience in payment processing, privacy and cloud computing law, and regulatory compliance.
CoinBuzz spoke with a 26-year-old bitcoin user in Antofagasta, Chile who uses a competing service and has heard good things about SurBTC but, she added, “It’s hard for me to trust in new [bitcoin] services.”