Mexican bitcoin exchange Bitso was the first exchange to enable pesos/bitcoin trading in the country. Today, they support bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Bitcoin is a limited order book and doesn’t buy or sell bitcoin directly.
Bitso since day one has targeted both retail and institutional investors since it came on the scene 2014. It was launched by a trio of blockchain pioneers -- Pablo Gonzalez, who is CEO and co-founder, Ben Peters, another co-founder and CTO and Daniel Vogel, who is co-founder and President. They’ve raised millions of dollars in fundraising, including a $2.5 million round in 2016 at which time Vogel revealed the exchange was interested in other countries in the Latin American market.
In the three-month period leading up to April 2017, Bitso more than doubled its user base from 25,000 to 60,000-plus at that time (the most recent figures available.) In March 2017, Bitso’s trading volume was higher than all of the transactions it processed in 2016 combined.
While you may not have heard of Bitso, they have inked some pretty impressive partnerships along the way, including Ripple through which the exchange operated Mexico’s maiden Ripple Gatway. Though that specific agreement has since been shuttered, the relationship appears to be solid. In addition to supporting XRP on its platform, Bitso recently played host to Ripple at a Mexico City event touting the payment company’s xRapid product and XRP for cross-border payments.
Bitso’s management team appears as focused on advancing the trading platform as they are having a positive societal impact, as evidenced by recent cryptocurrency-fueled fundraising initiatives to provide relief in the wake of devastating earthquakes that rocked Mexico.
On the other end of the spectrum, users in some circles have accused Bitso of bait and switch tactics in which it allegedly advertises one fee and charges another. But this may have something to do with the fact that the exchange is known for running promotions on certain digital for limited periods of time.
The Mexican bitcoin exchange is looking to capitalize on the momentum in the country, which according to a Bitso report boasts the highest cryptocurrency trading volume in the Latin American region. Bitso trading volume over a 24-hour period in March 2018 averaged approximately $3.5 million, which is low comparatively speaking to US bitcoin exchanges.
Meanwhile, as several exchanges suffered major hacks in 2017, Bitso was not left unscathed, having experienced technological infrastructure setbacks that triggered an apology from one of the co-founders (more on that below.)
The Mexican bitcoin exchange was also the unfortunate recipient of a tweet from a local You Tube star, who allegedly kidnapped a lawyer and demanded a ransom be paid in bitcoin. Somewhere along this individual’s sordid trail he sent a tweet to Bitso, saying: “I’d like to speak to you. We are the heads of marketing for the biggest bitcoin casinos in the world.”
· Variable fees from a maximum of 1% to a minimum of 0.1% (pro for users with high trade volume)
· The company hinted toward “limited orders” becoming available in the “coming months,” as of March 2018
· SPEI transfers are instant and no fees from the exchange (banks might charge fees, however)
· Fund account from retail locations including Walmart and 7-11 throughout Mexico
· Send money from bank account
· Multi-signature wallets for top security
· Cold storage to keep bitcoin offline
· Open to international users (though to fund the digital wallet in fiat money, users must convert their currency to the Mexican peso)
· Bitso mobile is available on Android and iOS
· Referral program (both users must have passed Level 2 verification to qualify)
· Good relationship with Ripple
· Partnership with BitGo for multi-sig wallets
· Site is available in English and Spanish languages
· Educational resources including videos available on the site for novice investors
· Variable fees from a maximum of 1% to a minimum of 0.1% (con for users with low trade volume)
· In May 2017, Bitso implemented a flat withdrawal fee of 0.0005 BTC and in June 2017 raised it to 0.001 BTC (not for the exchange but for the mining commission; the sting is because Bitso once subsidized those costs for users.)
· Users want more tools for graphics, charting, technical analysis, etc. There’s no option to change time periods or to add visual indicators, tools that a trader would use.
· Only basic trading functions. No stop limits, stop loss, etc.
· Caters to local Mexican market. Cryptocurrency prices are only displayed in Mexican peso. The exchange is limited to receiving and sending funds to banks in Mexican peso.
· No margin trading
· Users want more coins
Bitso charges a variable fee for cryptocurrency exchanges that is based on the number of transactions that a user completes over a 30-day period. The range is a 0.1% minimum to a 1% maximum. The more trades that a user completes, the lower the fee they are charged.
The exchange charges zero fees for SPEI transfers in MXN.
Bitso charges zero fee for BTC deposits, and once confirmed, funds can become accessible in less than an hour.
Bitso enforces Know Your Customer (KYC) standards. This is a protocol that’s used to protect the exchange against fraudulent activity such as money laundering. The KYC process involves three levels of verification, which determine the limits on a trading account.
· Level 1 involves verifying a mobile phone number via an SMS text message and receiving an email containing a user ID number.
· Level 2 requires a passport and proof of residence, documents that must be uploaded to Bitso’s verification system. The exchange recommends traders at this level have performed trades for a minimum of MXN 5,000 and have funded an account via SPEI transfer (Mexico’s banking system)
· Level 3 involves accessing a ticket from the exchange’s Help Center and selecting Account Verification/Level 3. The remaining steps will be emailed to the user.
Meanwhile, Bitso’s director of public and regulator policy, Felipe Vallejo, said in March 2018 that the exchange “felt great” about a fintech bill that extends to cryptocurrencies and would provide some regulatory framework in which companies could operate.
To open an account on Bisto, first choose from a drop-down menu to select personal or business use. Bitso requires that users have a valid email address and a mobile phone number to verify the account.
Bitso has outlined three steps for purchasing bitcoin:
1. Sign into your Bitso account
2. Fund the account with Mexican pesos
3. Place the order for either the transaction to occur immediately or to purchase at a certain BTC price, the latter of which takes longer to complete.
Bitso’s Ben Peters took to the company’s blog on Medium in November 2017 to apologize to users for inadequate performance on the site. The apology appeared to be in response to technical problems on the site on a day in October 2017. The company maintains that funds were never at risk and there was no hack attempt.
He pointed to “bouts of downtime” and “impaired service.” He attributed it to “periods of extremely heavy load, and some fundamental issues with our architecture — problems that naturally become exacerbated at times of high market volatility.” It was during this period that the BTC price was exhibiting dramatic price swings of 1,000 points in a day. Upon apologizing, Peters vowed to overhaul the underlying architecture in a series of upgrades.
The exchange admitted: “We still have a lot to improve in communication with our customers.”
Meanwhile, Bitso’s open to hearing from users, as evidenced by this post on the exchange’s Facebook page –
The help ticket and help center support center promises a 24-48-hour reply. Some users, however, have complained on social media of lengthy response times for tickets for issues surrounding account verification. Bitso appears to be responsive to those concerns.
After many months in development, Bitso rolled out its mobile app for iOS and Android to the public in February 2018. The apps, which the company says offer the same functionality as the website, can be downloaded for free on both platforms. Users mostly cheered the app on social media, but one user expressed reservations about downloading the app amid security concerns.
Key features of the app include – (as per the company’s blog post)
· “Create your Bitso account”
· “Buy and sell Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple and other cryptos quickly”
· “Check your Bitso balances instantly and in one place”
· “Anchor your Bitso account with pesos and any other crypto available at bitso.com”
· “Withdraw funds to any bank account in Mexico or debit card via SPEI”
· “Send cryptos quickly using QR codes and your mobile's camera”
Bitso Transfer is a feature that lets users send and receive cryptocurrencies instantaneously without the typical wait times associated with blockchain transactions or the bitcoin mining fees. Cryptocurrencies can be sent via a Mexico-based email address or mobile phone. It works both on the mobile app and on the website.
With the app, users can create a Bitso account, trade cryptocurrencies, check their account balance, withdraw funds to a Mexico-based bank account or SPEI transfer via debit card and send QR-code fueled cryptocurrency transfers.
Bitso said in a statement that it had further new developments that it planned to unveil in the coming months, with the Bitso app being the platform for these new products. They also warned users in a blog post -
While Bitso offers an order book, it’s not just a bitcoin exchange and has its sights set on the remittance market for the long term. The problem in this market has been a lack of liquidity in Mexico to support cryptocurrency remittances, which isn’t surprising given the high percentage of residents there that remain unbanked. The liquidity problem is something that Bitso’s founders are hoping to fix with the exchange platform.
The co-founders said in an interview leading up to the 2014 launch that they were looking to improve cross-border remittances, particularly between the United States and Mexico, which could fetch fees as high as 15% then, so that the workers sending the wages and families receiving the funds could keep more for themselves. They said they could “afford to have low fees.”
You won’t see much speculative trading on the Bitso platform. Instead, users are more interested in using their bitcoin to pay for services ranging from gaming to peer-to-peer lending or for cross-border transfers.
In Mexico, locals are increasingly turning to bitcoin as both a payment method and a store of value. This is a function of the MXN/USD exchange rate, which as Bitso co-founder Daniel Vogel explained was “negatively impacted” by the US presidential election in 2016. As a result, Bitso observed a number of their users turning to bitcoin as a store of value “to protect themselves from the devaluation.”
But locals also use bitcoin for payments, and as transaction costs on the network have skyrocketed, the exchange could no longer subsidize mining fees for its users. As a result, there’s a trend of users shifting from BTC to ETH for cross-border payments amid lower transfer fees.
Video link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc3fj_IidlQ
To get to know Pablo Gonzalez and Ben Peters, Bitso’s co-founders, check out this video from the early days before the exchange was operational (in English) –
This video from 2017 with Bitso’s Gonzalez is more recent (in Spanish) –
And this one also from 2017 with Bitso’s co-founder and president Daniel Vogel (in Spanish) -
Bitso is the exchange to use for transacting with the Mexican peso. It’s more than a trading platform but it has ambitious plans for the exchange nonetheless. It’s focus on the remittance market is an interesting layer to this company that only stands to increase its profile down the road. With no major hacks to speak of and a swift response to engineering issues, security has proven to be air-tight.
The trading-volume-based fee structure is unique and seems to penalize the infrequent trader. But at the same time Bitso offers a great deal of support in the way of educational materials for the novice investor, which makes it a compelling choice. And with more trading options seemingly in the pipeline, more specifically limited orders, Bitso is becoming an increasingly viable option for sophisticated bitcoin traders as well.