The Crypto Company Aiding El Salvador’s Bitcoin Adoption

By April 28, 2022Bitcoin Business
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When cryptocurrency company Athena Bitcoin launched in 2015, it vowed to become a key player in the brewing industry that we now know as cryptocurrencies. The Chicago-based company began conducting transactions via over-the-counter (OTC) desks, and provided early investors a platform to trade on.

Matias A. Goldenhörn, now the company’s Latin American Director, joined the company in 2017. That same year, Athena deployed its first bitcoin ATM to Bogota, Colombia, and afterwards, took the idea to Argentina.

By 2019, the company saw interest in crypto take off, so it planted digital roots in Puerto Rico (though holding off in larger countries like Mexico, in part because of its sheer size and initial doubts as to whether a country so large, would adopt something so new).

Still in its infancy, by 2020, Athena Bitcoin had partnered with Bitcoin Beach, an initiative aimed at growing the Bitcoin ecosystem in the country’s coastal zone of El Zonte. A majority of residents there lack access to bank accounts and local businesses fall short of qualifying for merchant accounts, which are needed to accept credit cards as a form of payment.

Last year, President Nayib Bukele submitted a bill to make bitcoin legal tender. Three days later, a supermajority of the country’s legislature voted in favor of the president’s proposal, and bitcoin was formally recognized as legal tender.

At this point, Athena had been considering whether deploying more ATMs would be viable. “We decided to speed up our process,” Goldenhörn said. “It was crazy. Within a week of Bukele announcing, we were landing in El Salvador with more ATMs, essentially making a promise to support the initiative.”

It’s not all been an upward trajectory for Athena. Back in 2018, in Argentina, the platform found a problem when they launched Athena pay, a point-of-sale (PoS) payment system for charging in bitcoin. Athena quickly found that not as many people were looking to pay with bitcoin, and eventually the company “let it go dormant.”

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