Technology and Society

The current state of Bitcoin remittances

Originally posted at Written by Luis Buenaventura, who is the Head of Product at Satoshi Citadel Industries, a Bitcoin startup out of the Philippines. 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–Remittance is often cited as the one of the primary ways that Bitcoin would change the global financial landscape, by virtue of the cryptocurrency’s microscopic transfer fees and region-agnostic transmission. Advocates and enthusiasts (myself included) often point to exorbitant remittance fees as a sign of an established industry that is ripe for disruption. This recent Business Insider study projects a global savings of 90% (US$42B) if we were to adopt Bitcoin remittances on an worldwide scale.

But what does it take for this paradise of free-flowing bytes and money to actually become a reality? The road ahead, initially paved with libertarian dreams and well-meaning naiveté, has some missing segments that have yet to be filled in.

Bitcoin remittance with code(love)

Bitcoin remittance with code(love)

Half a business

In a recent interview at Let’s Talk Bitcoin, crypto-evangelist Richard Boase refers to Bitpesa, a well-known Bitcoin remittance service based in Kenya, as a great business that’s also “half a business.” Boase doesn’t go into specifics, but it’s easy enough to take a stab at his larger meaning.

Let’s review how the average Bitcoin remittance business in the developing world works.

An overseas customer wants to send money to your home country, so they visit your website and dial in the necessary figures. You respond with a BTC invoice. They whip out their smartphone, scan and confirm the transfer, and bitcoins come flying out of their virtual wallet and into yours. On the local side of the process, you raise the equivalent amount in fiat and deliver it to your customer’s nominated recipient.

Every Bitcoin remittance service is, at its core, just a company that buys up bitcoins, as all you are doing is taking your customers’ BTC and then paying their nominated recipients for it in fiat. This is why it’s only “half a business.” Inevitably, the company will amass more BTC than it needs and run out of fiat to make payouts with, that is, unless it also has a related service that can flip the extra coins.

In order to sustain this constant stream of incoming BTC and outgoing fiat, a remittance provider needs to either be very liquid or be very spry on the trading desks. This is easier when Bitcoin’s market value is rising, but these past few weeks of tepid ups-and-downs have not been kind to the latter strategy.

The Cost of Compliance

Regulatory compliance, as vividly described in an earlier Coindesk piece, is one of the root causes of expensive remittance fees. The United States, as a prime example, blurs the line between customer protection and outright protectionism by requiring money service businesses to obtain licenses in 43 separate states. (In California, for instance, the surety bond starts at $250,000.)

Obtaining a license in the US is the single largest barrier to entry into the remittance industry, and explains at least partially why there has been so little innovation in the space. Bitpesa tellingly opts to avoid the issue altogether, and doesn’t accept customers from the US at all.

The Sneaker API

But getting the bitcoins from your sender over to your home country isn’t the end of the story. Once the BTC has made its trans-oceanic leap, the final challenge is in bridging the last mile, i.e., getting the local currency from your company headquarters into the hands of the waiting recipient.

In the Philippines, as in most Asian countries with substantial diaspora, there are dozens of options: over-the-counter bank deposits, pawnshop cumcash pickup centers, telco-backed mobile wallets, door-to-door delivery.

There are two problems, however. The first is that there’s no clear market leader, so instead of specialising in one fulfilment method, a money transfer business instead needs to somehow integrate with all of them. Second, none of these methods have any kind of web-service automation, so the act of taking funds from the company’s accounts and delivering them to a given fulfilment provider’s branch office must be done by physically visiting the establishment.

The good news is that labor is cheap in the developing world, and the sneakernet is alive and well. There is a substantially larger overhead to managing full-time manpower than a handful of JSON-RPC connections, but given the absence of the latter, we must subsist via the former.

The Final Calculation

Although it is true that Bitcoin reduces the cost of transmission to next to nothing, the network isn’t the most expensive part of the money-transfer value chain. It’s actually compliance and logistics, both of which are sectors that Bitcoin can only address tangentially.

In the short-term, a Bitcoin-powered remittance service will be severely hobbled by these realities and thus can only mount a mildly competitive alternative to traditional providers, and not the mind-blowing sea change that evangelists envision.

In a world where cryptocurrencies were ubiquitous, regulatory compliance could be rendered obsolete and logistics costs could disappear. That paradise might be just down the road, but we’re not quite there yet.


Good food for thought? Check out our Technology and Society section for more! 

If you want your reflection on the cutting-edge of technology to get the exposure it needs, contact us at [email protected].

Open News

General Assembly is offering a free trip to Silicon Valley

I’ve often felt a little bit out of the hustle and bustle of the tech world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Montreal. Still, there’s nothing like going to the Valley—apparently.

I’ve always tried to sneak around it, and get a feel for the city by connecting with people in it. The irony is that I know more editors in San Fran then I do in Montreal—yet I have just never found the time or the money to take one proper trip down there.

General Assembly offers courses on the digital future, from branding to programming. They do a lot of good work adapting rapidly to the fury and noise of breaking-edge technology by bringing breaking-edge technologists to teach classes. You might think that this is obvious, but in the context of a slow formal education system, solutions like General Assembly play a very important role.

Now they’re offering a free trip to the Valley—and not only that, they’re offering meetings with some of the most interesting creators within with it—people like Ben Silbermann, the co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, and Garry Tan, partner at the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator, the same one that has birthed Internet titans such as Reddit, AirBnB, and Dropbox.

Check it out, and get your chance to win.

Technology and Society

Why we need programming workshops for everybody

This article is by our managing editor Abhishek Gupta.

A lot of articles about the ‘Girls who Code‘ initiative begin by describing an inspiring story of a woman who would have never ventured into the largely male-populated domain of computer science without the program.

‘Girls who Code’ has taken the world by storm . There are statistics that show that women are grossly under-represented in computer science and that this would help bridge that gap. (57% of Bachelor degrees are awarded to women yet only 18% of Computer Science degrees go to women)

‘Girls who Code’ is a great initiative that is helping to bring about positive change. But what is often not given a second look is that a profound change can be triggered in society if more and more people could learn the skills that result from working in this field. Workshops should not only expand reach not to cover more women—they should expand for people from all walks of life.

Programming Workshop with code(love)

Simon Peyton Jones, a British computer scientist makes a very relevant point when he equates computer science as being one of the basic skills that should be taught in school alongside Physics, History among other things in today’s world. He goes on to explain his thought process saying that when we are all taught Physics at a young age, it helps to demystify things like how a bulb is turned on when you flick a switch – its because of electron movement in the wire connecting the switch and the bulb.

Similarly, a study of computer science can help decipher many of the technological wonders that surround us.

‘Girls who code’ is a dedicated channel that is making efforts to achieve that specific goal, a programming workshop that helps girls achieve their potential in programming.

For everyone who has started on the path to learning more about computer science and learning how to program – there are several problems that one encounters along the way even in the presence of an ever-growing number of online tools and learning platforms.

Many offer courses geared towards making you an expert in a particular programming language or framework. There are even MOOCs that come a bit closer in terms of emulating the real learning experience yet all of them fall short in one respect or another. More often than not, you run into errors and bugs, sometimes things that conceptually don’t make sense and at that point having a teacher who can answer your specific question makes the learning experience much more accessible to everyone. Programming workshops are a boon for direct human interaction and teaching.

Not all beginners have the patience to pore through programming forums such as Stack Overflow to find answers to their questions and this becomes a barrier that pushes them away from pursuing their curiosity further. What ‘Girls who code’ has done is not only to provide women with a conducive environment to learn but more importantly have someone to teach them the ropes in the early part of this learning process and lower the barrier to pursue an interest in computer science.

As a field, computer science is gaining in popularity and is sparking the interest of many people who want to at least try it out if not pursue a career in technology. The growing enrolment in CS50 at Harvard University stands as a testament to this fact.

So maybe we should start looking into setting up camps / offer workshops at major tech companies for people who are interested in learning what computer science is all about, and not only offer them by gender. “Girls who Code” do very good work for girls, and that should thrive and continue—why not have a similar “Everybody who Codes” movement?

Photo credit:

If this inspires you to code, check out our learning lists 🙂


Meaningful Multimedia

Why I really like the Snowden Wired cover picture.

I like this picture a lot.

snowden with code(love)

snowden with code(love)


If you’ve missed Wired’s profile on Edward Snowden, go check it out. For some balance, there’s the New Republic’s piece on what went unasked in that interview.

It’s a fascinating look at two NSA whistle-blowers talking about what makes them tick. The writer, James Bamford, writes extensively about security agencies and was himself a whistle-blower of sorts, publishing the first book on the NSA—something that earned him threats of prosecution.

It gets to the larger point of what motivates different individual actors, a fascinating look at the dynamics of the open web.

It has really been new media and the blogosphere that has picked up Snowden’s torch. Mainstream media have often been accommodating. Mainstream politicians have not.

With more Americans now concerned about civil liberties abuses than terrorism, you could say that Snowden’s story is a victory for the open web discussing, and spreading ideas.

The fact that this picture could have been taken owes a lot to how we have come together to discuss the complex issue of security vs privacy.

It is a victory of engineers, teachers, and learners—all of us on the open web faced with the conventional power of talking heads.

So hats off to him. And hats off to all of us for keeping the discussion alive, and reinforcing the importance of an open web.

Learning Lists

Ten curated resources for you to learn code and entrepreneurship.

Imagine a world where you could access information as easily as you could breathe.

You can stop imagining: this is the world we live in.

With Google, almost everything can be a finger tap away. With the right keywords, you can access the right information.

The challenge now isn’t a lack of information—it’s how to access that information in a curated fashion.

In that sense, Github, the hub for open source software has become a good way to organize information. By modifying the README files typically used to document how software is used into a list or a resource itself, the open source movement is applying yet another twist to how it can leverage existing resources in new ways to solve old problems.

It is innovation in action. The best part of it is that you can contribute even if you’re non-technical by getting an account, and making pull requests that change the text: you update the text how you will, and then you can push the changes to moderators who will look over your proposed changes, or reject them.

Here’s a guide on how to go about doing that:

Now to take a look at the resources that have been assembled for you to learn code and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship A list of startup resources that’ll help you get your feet set to build something. A list of digital business models, along with a comparision to a company or startup known to be using that strategy.

Code An overarching framework of most of the coding resources on Github, including a bunch of resources on technical topics. A special list for HTML/CSS/JS resources. A comprehensive overview of all things Javascript. A list of the Python frameworks you can use. A similar list as awesome-python, this time for Java frameworks. An awesome curated list of free programming books. A list of the videos you have to watch to really get Javascript. A list of resources a front-end developer has bookmarked over many years.

What are some awesome resources you’ve seen on Github? If I’m missing any, let me know in the comments below 🙂

If learning lists are your thing, check out the rest of them on code(love)!

Open News

Advancing Food Technology for a Sustainable Future

I’ve written often on the intersection between food and technology.

To me, it’s a fascinating view on how technology can better the most fundamental need of our human existence: the lowest of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need for subsistence on a material level.

The World Health Organization has consistently maintained that there is enough food for the entire human population—we just suffer from an uneven distribution of food. While the common refrain about a child dying from hunger every x seconds can be a bit misleading, the reality is that there are millions of children who suffer from malnutrition, and who will die because of it.

It’s clear that in an age where climate change threatens to unsettle the delicate balance between farmer and field, one area of concern will be how to feed ourselves, given the struggles we currently have to do just that for an unfortunate many.

Will we create a more sustainable future through the increase of the use of chemicals, the altering of the genetic code of foodstuffs, or a return to organic farming?

These are open questions. I recently wrote a profile on Montreal’s Provender for Techvibes, a network that connects farmers with restaurants, and one of their founders, Cai certainly has interesting thoughts on the matter of food technology.

Their solution aims to make it easier to reduce food waste by communicating from farm-to-fork, allowing for restaurants to “claim” crops, shortening the sales cycle, and creating value by providing fresher crops, and reducing food waste along the entire cycle.

By collecting data from farmers in the area about their crops and the conditions they are undergoing, they are aiming to create an API that will allow for data-driven decisions across entire areas. It is food technology at its best, better defining the data around the world to create a more sustainable future.

food technology with code(love)

food technology with code(love)

Cai has recently come up with the Grow Food Tech initiative—trying to spark a conversation about exactly how technology can help grow food sustainability. I hope it succeeds, and that you’ll be a part of the discussion.

Open Stories

Why the early adopter user is essential to your startup success.

This is the open story of Rapheal Costa from Hashtag Consulting. If you want your story to be highlighted, and given the views you need, contact us at [email protected] 🙂


I think that a solid “early adoption” base is as important to a startup as a solid team of developers.

Often, and that keeps on happening to me, we overlook everything else and we focus on three conceptual things: our idea on how to solve the problem, how to develop our innovation and how to go to market.

However, what I kept on forgetting was that in order to cross the chasm and hit our target market we have to meet the consumer where they are and then walk them through our so-called “new thing” so that they can mature to be the users we built our app for.

I have learned that there’s no prototyping routine/process that can substitute for the feedback of a group of engaged early adopter users.

With a poor early adopter user base you can end up investing your time and money on something that is irrelevant to the industry and to the future of your startup. I have done that several times!

I have failed several startups. Not 1, not 2 and not even 3 – several. When I sit back to reflect, I realise that the only thing they all had in common was our focus and processes.

Here’s how we approached the ideation process through to deployment.

1 – Market Research

2 – Prototyping

3 – Feedback

4 – Development

5 – Go to Market

6 – Funding

A huge gap was left between point 4 and 5. I assumed that the feedback over a prototype would shape my product and bullet proof it for the market. Silly me.

I’m no startup expert – you can see by the number of failures. I’m a developer by trade, I like to build things and I like to solve problems.

After building building several failed “apps” and some successful apps I realised that as far as startups go, it doesn’t really matter how well built your app/innovation is. If that doesn’t fit the “consumer’s way of doing things” within that specific niche you will be out. Humans are creatures of habit and often startups bring innovation by streamlining processes, yielding better and faster processes. I’m not saying that startups should not bring on drastic innovations. I advocate that often, you have to allow your consumer base to mature in order to engage with your innovation. A strong early adopter user base will guide the startup on what is important to cross the chasm and how to present an innovation. That’s key.

Do you like learning from genuine stories about entrepreneurship and coding from those living thorough building new ventures? We have more!

Learning Lists

Seven Free Resources You Need to Learn Javascript

Last time I wrote about learning code, I talked at length about what the best coding language to learn for you was, going through the pros and cons of a few languages, and giving use cases of each one. Without delving into too many spoilers—you should read the piece for all of the insights—Javascript was mentioned heavily.

Javascript has been really big, especially because of the evolution of the MEAN stack, which has allowed for Javascript to control how users view your site’s information (Angular), how you host your site (Node), how your site communicates information (Express) and how it stores it (Mongo). It’s become really popular with startups—in fact as you can see from CB Insights, 81% of billion-dollar startups use Javascript in their technology. It is the top coding language used by successful startups.

Learn Javascript with code(love)

It’s a language that can get you hired, and help you build great new ventures.

I’ve recently been really big on wanting to learn Javascript, so I’ve unleashed these resources. They’re a diverse group, suited to all types of people who want to learn Javascript in different ways.

One cautionary note: as useful as Javascript can be, it may not be the best first programming language to learn. It has a lot of little traps in it that can trip even veteran programmers. If you are an absolute beginner, you may want to check out some more general resources oriented around other languages rather than trying to learn Javascript, such as these.

1- Codecadamy Javascript Track (type: interactive, level: beginner)

What’s not to like about learning by doing? By following the Javascript track of Codecadamy’s interactive courses, you can get the basics of Javascript by working out how to create functions, and build things with it. It’s a great sandbox to learn in—in fact, it was how I first picked up coding.

2-Eloquent Javascript (Type: book, level: beginner)

Still can’t get over learning through books? I can’t blame you. I was never the biggest fan of school, but there is something comforting about having a lot of pages devoted to something.

Eloquent Javascript is a free book that has been converted into HTML format for easy reading. It goes through everything you need to learn Javascript from beginning to end. It’s quite well-written, and has a lot of relevant examples and images to break the text up—it’s a book that really gets at you and challenges you to learn Javascript.

3-LearnJS (type: interactive, level: intermediate)

More learning by doing. I really like resources like this that get at you and challenge you to do stuff. In this case, LearnJS features interactive modules where you are challenged to finish incomplete code so that it matches a desired output. In doing so, you can learn how to use Javascript to do what you want it to do. (type: blog, level: advanced)

I picked up on when I was looking for resources on how to build single-page web applications. The place is a hive of how-tos and resources on how to build with Javascript and its frameworks. (type: video, level: advanced)

I’ve been following the Egghead video series on Angular to learn the framework: they’ve been a breath of fresh air for my learning. Angular.JS is a Javascript framework that allows you to control a lot of what a website visitor would see, from filtering information, to allowing buttons to toggle settings on and off. It’s the framework I’ve been focused on learning. Having so much content organized about it in a coherent and sequential fashion warms my heart—and it will warm yours as well.

6-JSFiddle (type: sandbox, level: beginner)

Whenever you feel the need to play around to learn Javascript, JSFiddle is the easiest way. Plug your code into the module, and watch it come to life with no limits!  I use it to test what some websites will look and feel like without the need of hosting and uploading changes. It’s a great experimental space to see what your code would look like live.

7-Plunker (type: sandbox, level: intermediate)

Similar to JSFiddle, except now you can manage separate pages, which has made it really useful for testing more complex frameworks for Javascript such as Angular.JS. My go-to learning tool these days as I combine that with Egghead for maximum learning.

There you go. The choice is in your hands to build something great now with Javascript. These resources will help along the way.

If you want more resources to learn, check out our other learning lists!


Open Stories

An essential entrepreneurial trait you must know.

I believe entrepreneurs have a slightly different worldview than the average fellow. They wake up excited every day, but also a bit scared because the day’s event can always be unpredictable.

Their mentality is different and their entrepreneurial quest to achieve something great allows them to overcome arduous, draining, and never-ending stumbling blocks that come with the journey. Many of these individuals possess the same entrepreneurial character, which derives from nourishment or circumstances in their lives that push them to find an answer to a lingering problem.

Entrepreneurs don’t believe in the status quo.

The Entrepreneur Path with code(love)

The Entrepreneur Path with code(love)

Entrepreneurs don’t believe in the status quo.

That term doesn’t hold truth and more often than not, a courageous individual from a different background will create something that shatters the notion that status is just as valuable as one’s product.

Some entrepreneurs have a special trait that society, for the most part, considers a flaw.

However, they flip it and use that flaw in a manner that drives them to great lengths. Insecurity is that characteristic and that trait can be the catalyst to one’s success if they use it to their advantage.

Insecurity can lead individuals to work so much harder than their competitors because of the fear of failing that looms constantly in their mind. It leads some entrepreneurs to stay up all night, perfecting their craft because of the fear that someone else will get the better of them.

The drive to never settle can drive a person to great heights. Farrah Gray, a noted entrepreneur, put it best: “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” If you’re constantly looking to challenge yourself,  you will grow stronger. Pain can be good. 

This trait explains why so many entrepreneurs are dyslexic, or come from difficult entrepreneurial backgrounds. This is what Malcolm Gladwell was alluding to in his novel “Outliers”; using a pre-conceived flaw and turning it into a strength. This entrepreneurial trait is rarely talked about, but its importance cannot be understated.


This is the story of Joel Musambi. He is one of the founders behind Flexsports. They want to create a platform that links great college sporting prospects with coaches across North America, helping them to realize their goal of achievement in sports. They’re raising money, check it out. If you have a similar story you want to get the views it deserves, email us at [email protected]


Technology and Society

Canadian incorporation: what, why, and how.

Sooner or later the question will come up: what should a startup, or any new venture do in Canada with regard to its legal status?

While entrepreneurs should focus on building, there needs to be some strategic thought placed into how the company interacts with stakeholders around it, from investors, to customers. A consideration of legal options is always something that is worth examining.

Incorporation with code(love)

Incorporation with code(love)

There are three distinct legal forms in Canada that are the most likely to pop up: the sole proprietorship, the partnership or Corporation. Incorporation is the process of taking an organization to a corporate legal form, with all of its pros and cons.

A corporation does have three distinct advantages over the other two legal forms.

First, incorporating your business limits the liability of individual shareholders in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy, except in the case of fraud. This means that shareholders can lose only the amount that they had invested in the Corporation. For risky startups, this can be a key consideration for those who are not willing to risk all of their individual assets—however, be aware of the fact that banks will often ask you for personal guarantees even if you are incorporated. Still, incorporation does act as a shield between your personal life and the idea you are creating.

Secondly, a Corporation may allow a business to more easily raise and attract investment capital, in particular through the sale of shares, which also allows for greater ease during a change of ownership. For startups looking for venture capital, being incorporated is often a must—and it conveys a certain sense of legitimacy, and ease with which you can add on more investors.

Finally, the Corporation may offer fiscal advantages, as the business may implement effective tax strategies with their financial advisors to lower tax rates, an option not available to their unincorporated counterparts. They can claim losses for example, and perhaps even pay a lower corporate income tax.

Now that we’re done with incorporation in general, there are two specific incorporation types startups have to decide between in Canada.

Federal or Provincial?

In Canada, a Corporation can exist under either a Federal or Provincial Charter. Both offer the same advantages mentioned above, in addition to the possibility of doing business anywhere in the world. Your decision whether to opt for a Provincial or Federal Corporation will, in part, be motivated by the following factors:

1) Industry: Industries, such as telecommunications, are subject to Federal jurisdiction, which would favour a Federal Corporation;

2) Cost: Federal Corporations must register with and pay for registration at both the Federal and Quebec registrars, unlike Quebec Corporations;

3) Director’s Nationality: At least one-third of the board of directors of Federal Corporations must consist of Canadian residents, whereas certain provincial corporations do not have this requirement.

Sometimes when you build, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and forget that your startup, no matter how exciting it is, has to operate within the law, and hew to certain principles.

You can choose to incorporate yourself, but that could be messy. Many law firms now offer free incorporations or very good packages in order to entice startups to stay with them through financing rounds. One such example is Quebec-based Legal Logik, which offers incorporation for free—you just have to pay for the fees themselves, but they’ll handle all of the legal paperwork free of charge.

It’s this sort of program that will enable builders to create faster, without having to worry so much about the gritty and sometimes messy details creation leaves behind. Digital entrepreneurship, and building out ventures are great ambitions to have—but you’ll need experienced advisors to thrive. Seek them out if you want to go through incorporation, and be sure that you use your skills to create something meaningful—and sustainable.


This is a sponsored article from Legal Logik, and it is purely informational in nature and does not constitute legal advice. This article neither constitutes nor creates an attorney-client relationship. 

Photo credit: qwrrty via photopin cc