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Inside one company's plan to be Latin America's NYSE for cryptocurrencies

·3-min read
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Bitcoin (BTC-USD) just wrapped its worst week since the pandemic bear market two years ago, falling 30% and giving back all of last year's gains.

Yet, some on Wall Street remain committed to building out cryptocurrency infrastructure — adding to the billions already spent on institutionalizing crypto for the masses.

Keith Bliss, Global Head of Markets Strategy at BloxCross, recently appeared on Yahoo Finance Live (video above) to discuss the rollout of the new BloxCross cryptocurrency exchange, which is set to go live in Colombia on July 1, with a subsequent rollout in Brazil and Mexico.

"Think of us as the New York Stock Exchange for cryptocurrencies in Latin America," Bliss said. "We hold none of the balance. We're not the market maker. We simply provide the technology to allow people to enter this market."

Given the recent crypto meltdown in Celcius and Tether — and the associated industry fallout — U.S. regulators are setting their sights on customer protection.

Bliss believes his 25-year background in the highly-regulated U.S. securities agency gives BloxCross an edge in launching in a developing market like Colombia — an area that he believes will eventually see regulation similar to that in the U.S.

The BloxCross app provides know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering checks, along with ID verification — much like U.S. exchanges. "[W]e're already well ahead of the curve on that because we know [regulation] is coming. And we're going to be ready. And we want to participate in structuring that regulation when it comes down the pike," Bliss said.

Bliss and his business partner, Diego Baez, met in the late 1990s at Knight Securities. Baez most recently worked as global head of financial markets for Hortonworks, which subsequently merged with Cloudera (CLDR).

Having worked in the digital asset space since 2016, Bliss notes that being a first mover in crypto and defi — or decentralized finance — can actually be a headwind.

"I was early from the investment banking standpoint. What we call NFTs — back then [they] were utility tokens — we were trying to tokenize everything, but we were just too early. But now we've seen what can happen both in the cryptocurrency world, as well as the NFT world," he says.

Regarding the demographics and customer base in Latin America, Bliss said: "We selected a region of the world where there are low barriers to entry, a very large addressable market, a real interest and curiosity — a real sarcasm, if you will, towards the monetary policy in the region," noting the skeptical attitudes of the native population toward traditional finance.

A bitcoin ATM is seen at a stand during the Bitcoin Conference 2022 in Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello
A bitcoin ATM is seen at a stand during the Bitcoin Conference 2022 in Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Bliss also notes Latin American is an underbanked market, which opens the door to future products and services. "Bringing a cryptocurrency exchange is just the first step, but it provides the foundation for all the innovation that we're going to do inside of the digital assets company, which is BloxCross," he says.

As for whether this "crypto winter" will upset the company's plans, Bliss says the carnage induced by crashing asset prices can be a boon.

"I'm old enough to have lived through four bear markets, starting in 1987" Bliss said. "And bear markets — as painful as they can be and as changing as they can be — they're actually good for industries [as they] clear out all the weak hands — the bad business models. What you see in the crypto world, though, is that cryptocurrency prices are tied to the business models of the companies that issue those. So that's why a lot of them are being sent southward at this point in time."

Jared Blikre is a reporter focused on the markets on Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him @SPYJared.

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