Em Conversa looks to uncover the secrets in Latin America (Latam) that have caused the fintech market to boom, from being worth less than $50million in 2016, to $2.1billion in 2022. This week we spoke to Manuel Beaudroit, the CEO and Belo’s co-founder, to understand how cryptocurrency is evolving in Argentina.
As with much of Latin America, Argentina is rife with an unbanked populace. As financial inclusion rapidly increases in the region, the growth of cryptocurrency has been notable. Speaking on this, we heard from Beudroit and Belo, the crypto startup looking to decentralise fiat money, on how the company is set to increase inclusivity via the digital currency.
Can you tell me about the company and your role within it?
My name is Manuel Beaudroit, the CEO and Belo’s co-Founder.
Launched in the midst of the pandemic in 2021, Belo is a digital wallet that allows exchange between Argentine pesos and crypto. In February 2022, it was the first company in Argentina to join Mastercard‘s “Crypto Card Program” and roll out its crypto card to the market.
This made it possible for its users to pay in stores directly with cryptocurrencies and offers refunds in crypto (cashback) between a minimum of two per cent and 21 per cent of the amount spent. Belo was designed to be fully interoperable between fiat currencies and crypto, in a simple and intuitive way.
Belo is available for anyone over 13 years of age, through iOS and Android.
What have been the latest fintech trends in Argentina?
Since the beginning of covid digital wallets use has been booming, surpassing more than 30 per cent of penetration in the market.
The adoption of “digital money solutions” has paved the way for other solutions to emerge in the market.
Apple pay is becoming a player in the market for example, although there is still space to grow significantly. Argentina is characterised for being a country with high use of instalments in credit card payment, it’s a habit well internalised, that’s why we are seeing the proliferation of solutions around Buy Now Pay Later.
Lastly, the solution like the one we offer at Belo, allowing people to have a crypto prepaid card has been a hit, and the adoption curves for this solution is quite impressive.
How have these trends compared to the rest of the LatAm region, and in turn, the world?
Argentina is one of the LatAm countries at the top of fintech trends. The adoption of various types of technology, alongside with the launch of payment interoperable infrastructure which dramatically changed the landscape and solution for the users. On a more niche specific, Argentina has one of the largest crypto communities in the region, as well as a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
On the other hand, the fintech sector leads the creation of employment in Argentina: More than 23,000 people work (four plus times than in 2017). Argentina is a leader in the region in digital payments, as well.
How is Belo helping Argentinians and improving the fintech sector in the country?
From the beginning, our goal from Belo is to improve and accelerate financial inclusion. We want people to be able to “live” with crypto every day, in a simple way. And, most importantly: that they can have control of their own money. That’s how we started and that will always be our goal. We want people to learn to use this technology for their own benefit. An important characteristic is that anyone over the age of 13 can download the app and also have access to the Belo Mastercard.
What is Argentina’s attitude to cryptocurrencies? How is Belo helping improve this?
Argentina is one of the main countries in LatAm in terms of cryptocurrency adoption.
Argentina shows a great predisposition to buy cryptocurrencies, especially after the pandemic. One of the main reasons is that people take refuge in cryptocurrencies to guard against inflation (Argentina registers high annual inflation rates).
That’s why Belo was launched with the goal of “creating a bridge” between the crypto world and life in pesos (ARS). Belo has a very simple interface. Through a mobile app and a Mastercard prepaid card, it offers people a simple and safe way to access cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ether, or stablecoins, exchange them for Argentine pesos, and pay in any physical and virtual store that accepts Mastercard.
What have been some challenges faced due to Belo’s geographical location (Argentina)?
Although Argentina has a fertile ground for developing a crypto app, there are a list of challenges that we face once we start working in this industry: from setting up a business which can take up to 100 days of red tape, dealing with constant change in the regulatory landscape which push you to reassess your strategy, team and go to market, turbulent economic conditions. Obviously this is also an opportunity for creating a product that can be life changing for people who have significant problems.
What are Belo’s plans for the future?
This year, Belo raised a $3million investment round to accelerate the growth of its digital wallet and strengthen its expansion strategy to other Latin American countries. Regarding the next steps, Belo plans to launch operations in the Mexican market at the end of this year and strengthen its expansion strategy to other LatAm countries by 2023. It will continue hiring talents in different areas, and is preparing to launch specific solutions for businesses.
We are interested in people, traditionally excluded from quality financial services, to benefit from what DeFi has to offer, as well as the impact that cryptocurrencies can have on their daily lives. The use of crypto is rapidly expanding, especially in users who are excluded from the traditional financial system. Since Belo launched, we have been committed to being able to create solutions that put the people at the centre of attention.