Why Bitcoin Should Succeed In the Philippines

Many of those at Geeks on a Beach, a recent tech event in the Philippines, agreed that, two years ago, there was nothing here in terms of a startup ecosystem. Today, it’s pretty clear there are several scenes: Cebu and Manila, to name the two biggest, as well as a comprehensive and very well connected tech scene.

Why are the Philippines suddenly appearing on the global map of innovation? It’s a mix of the country being a melting pot of Asian, US and Latin cultures; a fast-growing economy (second only to China in terms of growth in Asia); and a few American entrepreneurs who decided to set up in this overlooked 100 million population country.

If the emerging markets are often arguably ‘catching up’ with technology, starting by launching copycats to fill the gaps of real estate, cab sharing or e-commerce apps, they also set trends.

As for the Philippines, many agreed it was an increasingly hot scene for bitcoin, as we listened to two panels on this topic at Geeks on a Beach and met with entrepreneurs in Manila after the event.

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There are two main ingredients that have brought about this state of affairs. The first is remittances. The Philippines is the third largest recipient of money from its workers overseas, after China and India, with $22bn received in 2013.

Ron Hose, founder of bitcoin exchange Coins.ph, adds that “internal remittance, people in the Philippines sending money to family and friends in the country, probably adds $50bn to $70bn on top of that”. Both flows of money can earn the legacy money-transmitting companies up to a 10% cut on average remittances of $200 – an industry that bitcoin companies could do very well in disrupting, lowering fees and still making good profit in the process.

The second ingredient is the incredible level of social interactions of the Filipinos. It’s not a myth to say that people are over-friendly and connecting the dots, making it both the selfie capital of the world and one of the most active social media nations. Mobile penetration is already beyond the 100% milestone and, combined with the youngest population of South-East Asia and rapid growth, you have what some call the ‘perfect digital storm’.

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Even the supposed negative assets of the country can turn it in a field of opportunities. Some 75% of the population in the Philippines are unbanked, “and they won’t be banked”, said Hose.

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