UPDATE (15, August 12:55 UTC): A previous version of this article suggested that 80% of Venezuela's merchants used dash in 2018. Instead, we now understand that the Dash Merchant project signed up 80% of the businesses that accepted dash in Venezuela.
Further, Ryan Taylor's position is CEO of Dash Core Group, not of Dashpay
“Dash is the most used cryptocurrency in Venezuela,” said Ryan Taylor, CEO of Dash Core Group, as he stood on stage last May during CoinDesk's Consensus event.
But after investigating the true uptake of the crypto in Venezuela, this statement - while bold - isn't quite true.
Nowadays, the usage is expected to fall following its first audit by Discover Dash, according to Ernesto Contreras, Business Development Manager for Dash Latin America.
“They will complete their first audit to registered businesses this week and the total of retailers affiliated to Dash is going to fall,” Contreras said.
Indeed, local sources told CoinDesk that only a small number of projects and merchants are actually using dash. For example, Fabiana Arreaza, owner of the startup Chiringuitos, told CoinDesk that customers rarely use the crypto payments option.
“We’ve been accepting dash for two years. We currently haven’t received any clients using dash to pay for their events. They'd rather use bolivares or dollars," she said.
This is true for the wider crypto industry in the country. There are approximately 488 businesses, including many small food startups, that accept cryptocurrency payments in Venezuela, though few businesses actually see traction.
Los Costilla, a popular, dash-friendly restaurant, is one example. A representative told CoinDesk they haven't accepted any type of cryptocurrency for over a year.
"The photo was taken over a year ago, when we did accept the payments with the cryptocurrency. Since then we haven't accepted dash. We don't accept any kind of bitcoin," said the restaurant.
Huge Dash billboards can be seen in the main streets of Caracas, and Dash has even given out cellphones with integrated wallets to boost adoption in the country as part of their well-known marketing scheme.
“We are surrounded by Dash publicity,” said Venezuelan bitcoin user Isabel Pérez.
In one marketing push, the Dash Merchant project collaborated with Dash Venezuela’s “Ciudad Dash” event to recruit affiliated merchants and give $10 worth of dash to attendees.
The results fell flat.
“I’ve asked a couple retailers that accept dash if they accept crypto, but they don’t,” Perez said.
This creates a scenario where users who want to experiment with dash rarely move beyond the first few transactions.
“I think that working with so many businesses was too complex. I know that in this last months there have been quality campaigns and updated the training.”
“Dash Merchant made the majority of business connections so far”, he said.
But he also said the growth of the dash community in-country happens mostly outside of the official network. According to Contreras, only 4 out of 27 Dash related projects in Venezuela are financed by the Dash DAO.
So far, CoinDesk have found scant evidence to support claims that dash is the most widely used cryptocurrency in Venezuela.
"We only work with approximate figures. Those numbers are taken from payment processors of different Dash projects, along with its use in events. Our data is mainly from daily interactions with businesses and startups," Marinetti said.
The real growth statistics for the dash market in Venezuela remains an enigma for the Dash team on the ground, making it impossible to compare with other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
"We can only calculate an approximate number of transactions in the country. We don't have a central point of data, so we have to collect it ourselves," Marinetti said.
Dash graphic via CoinDesk archives