A startup called Palarin officially launched its service this week, bringing easy bitcoin access to the Philippines market.
The company offers a wallet it says is extremely easy to use, taking Coinbase’s wallet model to the Southeast Asian country.
Brian Gamido is co-founder of the Boost VC-backed company, which focuses on providing better access to digital currency for Filipinos, as well as encouraging bitcoin-based remittance services.
Gamido told CoinDesk:
“The overarching idea of Palarin is to allow people to prosper with new financial tools and technologies.”
The brokerage model
So, unlike a bitcoin exchange, there’s isn’t a market-based price when buying bitcoin. Instead, users select how much bitcoin they want to buy at a price set by the firm and then make a fiat currency deposit.
Because the Philippines is a very cash-focused society, Palarin users must go to a bank branch to deposit the national currency, pesos, for bitcoin.
Gamido said this banking process is standard in the Philippines, so Palarin is catering to this paper money infrastructure, ultimately hoping to facilitate remittances using bitcoin’s cheap fee structure and overall efficiency.
“The roadmap is leveraging existing behaviors dealing with fiat currencies. Part of the motivation is really to enable low-cost remittances.”
The company already has a banking relationship and the country’s authorities are taking a relaxed approach to digital currencies, according to Gamido.
“Regulation so far has been relatively conducive. They’ve taken a hands-off approach. Nothing to the degree of a BitLicense is being applied to bitcoin,” he explained.
Digital money sweet spot
The three-person team at Palarin – Gamido, along with technical lead Lester Forteza and Marciano Aguila, who is on the ground in the Philippines – believe there is a sweet spot in the country for bitcoin as a form of money.
Since the Philippines government seems open to digital currencies, there are already few e-cash options available via the country’s mobile phone operators.
However, when the Palarin team looked into these mobile-based systems and the fees they levy on users, they realized bitcoin could be a competitive alternative.
“As we dove deep into the cost structure, we found that it is pretty cost prohibitive. Once you apply bitcoin, you can start to break those barriers these companies have.”
That, they say, is one of the reasons Boost VC was interested in the young firm when it applied to join the Silicon Valley-based bitcoin accelerator.
Adam Draper, Boost VC founder, said: “The Philippines is a great place for bitcoin to flourish, since tech adoption is generally high in the country and there are real-world pain points that bitcoin can solve.”
Appealing with simplicity
While Palarin is trying to build up an easy, yet secure, wallet solution for the Philippines, it is not the only one trying to break into the market.
One competitor is Coins.ph, which offers a bitcoin brokerage and payroll services in the Philippines. 37Coins, which offers SMS-based wallets for basic cellphones, also is working with local partners in the country.
Gamido said that Palarin is hoping to break into the consumer market in the Philippines with simplicity and powerful security features, using the back-end services of fellow Boost VC startup BlockCypher.
“They have a lot of features. So every time we send something to the blockchain, we package it up through BlockCypher.”
Gamido explained that Palarin hopes to partner with exchange companies such as CoinHako in Singapore and Coinmotion in Europe to provide bitcoin-based remittances to the Philippines, which he indicated was a $22bn annual market.
The company is also looking to partner with US-based exchanges as well, since remittances from America to the Philippines is estimated to be about half of that $22bn per year, a huge market for bitcoin companies.
Philippines image via Shutterstock