In this episode I talk with Chris Maurice, the CEO and Founder of Yellow Card Financial, a Nigeria based bitcoin and crypto exchange. Chris started his entrepreneurial endeavors as a SEO consultant at the age of 16 after that he sold bitcoin on eBay and in the backrooms of Taco Bell restaurants. Chris tells us how he came up with founding an exchange and why he did that in Africa.
“Dollar can be extremely difficult to access in most countries, Dollar is a complete pain to handle whether you’re in the US or in any other country in the world. Dollar accounts are no fun. Bitcoin just really makes it so much easier to move value across the world.” – Chris Maurice
- How he found out about Bitcoin while managing his business in Pakistan
- Selling bitcoin on eBay with a 200% markup
- Selling bitcoin as college students at Taco Bell
- Why he went to Nigeria
- Starting a cryptoexchange
- Bitcoin in Zimbabwe
- Working with Alakanani Itireleng in Botswana
- Meeting Jack Dorsey the CEO of Twitter
- Bitcoins ability to move money across borders
- Challenges for using bitcoin in Africa
- High fees on the blockchain
- User experience of the Lightning Network
- Bitcoin as a store of value in Africa
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ShownotesRecording Date: May 19, 2020
Anita Posch [00:03:51] Hello everybody. Today's guest is Chris Maurice. He's the founder and CEO of Yellowcard a Nigeria based Bitcoin exchange. Hello, Chris.
Chris Maurice [00:04:01] Hey, Anita, thank you so much for having me on.
Anita Posch [00:04:04] Thanks for your time to do this interview. Can you please start with a short introduction to what Yellowcard is doing for our listeners? And then we dive into, more about you and about Yellowcard later on.
Chris Maurice [00:04:19] Sure. Yeah. so yellow card, essentially what we do with yellow card is we enable anyone to buy and sell cryptocurrency. Very easily over the counter in Africa. And right now, like you said, we have our main operations in Nigeria, and then we're also active in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. And, yeah, I mean, just, you know, the goal is to make this technology accessible to anybody across the continent, whether they need to buy it, whether they need to sell it, whatever they need to do to on and off ramp from their local currency.
Anita Posch [00:04:53] Okay understand. So, in which countries are you already operating and how many people are you serving an estimate?
Chris Maurice [00:05:02] Yeah. So right now we, we operate, actively in Nigeria, which is our, our, certainly our main, operations. And then we have, operations getting started in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe as well.
Anita Posch [00:05:17] Okay. We got to talk about the Zimbabwe and Botswana thing afterwards because I've been there in February and that's very interesting. So, please, what did you do before, before you founded yellow card.
Chris Maurice [00:05:30] Yeah. So, I, I am a Southern boy, a U S Southern boy. So I grew up in. In new Orleans, new Orleans, Louisiana, one of the best cities in the world, if you've never been highly recommended. And, yeah. you know, before, before starting yellow card. you know, my entire worldview was pretty much shaped by the city of new Orleans.
Right. And, you know, fortunately I grew up in a very diverse city, very, you know, cultural city. but I had actually, I had been on a plane about four times before starting this company. So, I had not had not traveled much at all. Yet, somehow in college while I was in college in, Auburn, Alabama, I ended up, working with, working with a friend and, running a network of factories in Pakistan.
Anita Posch [00:06:17] you were running a network of factories in Pakistan, out of the USA.
Chris Maurice [00:06:22] yes. Yeah. So, so I had, I had a good friend, Who, was, was, helping from, from that side. So, he was originally from Pakistan, moved to New York, moved back to take care of things there. And, yeah, we were doing, clothing shoes. And then, just general logistics of, you know, getting product in and around Pakistan.
And, you know, that, that gave me really my first, my first experience and my first foray into international business. and it also accidentally got me interested involved in foreign exchange, just cause you know, the Pakistani rupees, not exactly the strongest currency in the world and, just having to deal with that for our normal business operations.
started me originally looking at more, you know, Forex markets and currency exchange.
Anita Posch [00:07:08] and what did you do afterwards? I read something you worked for taco bell.
Chris Maurice [00:07:17] Yeah. So, so basically, you know, after, well, while I was running this, I was, I was still in school and, you know, in, in 20, in 2013, my now cofounder, Justin taught me about Bitcoin, right? And Bitcoin Bitcoin made a lot of sense to me immediately because of, like I said, because you know, the, the, the, the Pakistani, Rupee is not the strongest currency in the world.
you know, Bitcoin solves a lot of the problems that we were facing there with moving money in the country, moving money out of the country and moving money around the country. And so, you know, definitely from, from the beginning had a lot of interest in crypto. but you know, I was not, I was not about to switch my entire company over to magic internet money.
So, you know, I had to, I had to learn a little bit more. Right. And so, for the next about year and a half, you know, I was just reading about it. I was, I was reading articles. I was reading, you know, the white paper and, you know, more information and everything. just to, just to try to understand this technology and this space better and yeah.
With, what ended up happening is in, 2015, after, you know, getting a really good idea of, the space and, you know, what, all of that, what all that looks like. I saw Bitcoin being sold on eBay for a 200% markup. So Bitcoin at the time was about a hundred dollars. And people were selling it on eBay for 300.
And so I sent the link over to Justin and I said, you know, Hey man, we're two relatively smart individuals. We can figure this out. And so we started selling Bitcoin on eBay and, that, that first week. We did over $40,000 in sales at a, at a 2% markup. And so, I mean, you know, I'm, I'm seeing stars at this point, right?
I mean, I'm about ready to drop out of college, and you know, just sell Bitcoin on eBay for the rest of my life. And, that was, that was what I learned when a credit card charge back is.
Anita Posch [00:09:15] because people, wanted, chargebacks.
Chris Maurice [00:09:18] Yeah, exactly. So, What was, what was actually happening is, people were stealing credit cards online, and then we're using those stolen credit cards to buy Bitcoin from us. And, what happens is when you send the Bitcoin Bitcoin of course, is irreversible, credit cards are not. And so what happens is, is we send the Bitcoin and then the bank pulls back the money.
So we actually lose out on both sides of the transaction. it was, yeah, I mean, it was, it was rough. It was rough. Right. yeah, I mean, after, after that fiasco, You know, for, for whatever reason, we had already fallen in love with this technology. We had already fallen in love with the crypto space.
And so what, what we decided to do was to continue to evangelize and to continue to, you know, spread the good word of Bitcoin and this technology. and the way that we decided to do that was by accepting the only irreversible payment method known to man, which is cold, hard cash. And so we posted ads on Craigslist and other ad platforms.
And, basically these ads said, Hey, we have Bitcoin, come meet up with us and give us cash. And we'll give you the Bitcoin. And so, you know, we, we go to sleep and we wake up the next day and people have started responding to this ad. And so, yeah, basically we did the only thing that two reasonable college students in our position would do, which is every Wednesday at 7:00 PM, you could come to the taco bell on gay street in Auburn, Alabama.
You could find Justin and I in the back corner table eating our Doritos Locos, taco 12 pack, and you could come up to us slap a couple hundred dollars cash on the table and we would scan your QR code and give you Bitcoin.
Anita Posch [00:11:09] so the local, the local Bitcoin dealers in the back room.
Chris Maurice [00:11:13] Exactly, exactly. And, and, you know, if anybody, if anybody is familiar with talking about, I don't know, have you, have you ever been to a taco bell?
Anita Posch [00:11:21] Yeah, I think in the U S I definitely have been to a taco bell.
Chris Maurice [00:11:24] You have it and you're not missing out on much, but, I shouldn't say that I, my, my, my dream is to have taco bell sponsor me one day based on this story. But, so if you've, if you've ever been to taco bell though, it's you know, it's, it's the perfect amount of apathy, right? The, the employees there really don't care about their job.
And so they don't really care what we're doing in the store. So it, it, it worked out well, so. Yeah, but, so actually funny enough. So we did that for about three weeks and, you know, we, we were talking and we were like, you know, man, this is, this is working. And so, we, we called up our friends at LSU, Yale, Georgia tech, and several other universities in the U S and within, within another two weeks we had seven taco bells on the Eastern United States where you could walk in and buy Bitcoins.
Anita Posch [00:12:13] And how, and how did people get to know about you? Did you have a website for it or was it just like a communications on, on Facebook or something like that?
Chris Maurice [00:12:23] Oh, yeah, no, this was, this was all over Craigslist and other, other, like, Ah, ad posting platforms, local Bitcoins. It was all, it was, it was extremely sketchy. So it was all all over Craigslist and everything again. So, yeah, I mean, basically the, you know, the end of that network was, about two and a half months afterwards.
Justin and I were talking and we said, you know, man, we should probably do something less sketchy with our lives. So that was, that was when we started to build yellow card for scale, instead of, you know, selling Bitcoin out of, you know, Mexican fast food restaurants.
Anita Posch [00:12:56] did you do something else in between, because I also read that you were doing SEO consulting or something like that.
Chris Maurice [00:13:05] Yeah. I did SEO consulting and, also I did quite a bit of writing. I love writing. I did, I did quite a bit of that. So I actually, I started that in high school. I started a, an online. A quote unquote, a consulting company, in high school doing, SEO.
Anita Posch [00:13:24] How old were you?
Chris Maurice [00:13:26] I was, I was 15 or 16.
I was 16, 16 when that one started. and you know, the beauty of the internet is you don't have to tell anybody your age. So, you know, they don't know that they're paying a 16 year old to, you know, optimize their website. so yeah, I mean, I did that. I did that, all throughout pretty much all throughout high school and college as well.
I mean, even while I was, you know, running the, the factory network and everything, I was still doing some of the SEO and all on the side. but yeah, I did, that for a number of years. And then I also, I was writing for a, for a number of years as well. Mainly around sports, and, you know, sort of, that international and American sports.
But, yeah, I mean, that's a, that's, that's pretty much, I think that's pretty much everything that I've done.
Anita Posch [00:14:09] Yeah, but it's great. It sounds like you have all the skills someone needs to set up an online platform for international payments with cryptocurrencies writing, talking, making deals. yeah. And SEO.
Chris Maurice [00:14:24] Yeah. You know, I'm, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that there's anything that can prepare you for doing business in Africa
Anita Posch [00:14:29] Yeah, that's true.
Chris Maurice [00:14:30] I guess, I guess I was, I was as close to prepared as possible.
Anita Posch [00:14:36] Yeah. But why did you start it in Africa? I mean, what, made you decide, let's go to Africa. You could have concentrated on the U S market too. There are so many unbanked people in the U S.
Chris Maurice [00:14:48] Yeah. You know, they're definitely are. Right. and, you know, when we were, originally starting yellow card, the goal was to work in the U S market. And our initial idea was to essentially put gift cards in Walmart or, you know, any other, any other store like that.
Very similar to what we're doing now. just in more, you know, big box retail in the U S type, angle. And, you know, while, while we were building that out, what actually happened is, one day, this is now, about late 2017, mid to late 2017. one day we met a man at a Wells Fargo who was sending $200 to his family in Nigeria and Wells Fargo charged him $90 to send 200 over to his family.
And, so, you know, we, we pulled the guy aside and we said, you know, Hey, have you heard of Bitcoin? It's free. It's instant, all that fun stuff. and well, at least it was free at the time, but, and, you know, we, we, yeah, we talked to him about that and everything. And then, you know, we went home and we started making, what would his family in Nigeria do with $200 worth of Bitcoin?
Right. It solves the middle of the problem where I can send you money, whether you're in Austria or in Nigeria or Zimbabwe or wherever you are in the world, I can send you money. But. If you're in, you know, Lagos, Nigeria, what can you practically do with that? You know, you can't buy food with it. It's not going to keep the lights on.
Even in San Francisco, you'd have a hard time paying rent with Bitcoin. Right. And so, you know, we started bringing these questions, to Munachi who's our, you know, CBO and partner on, the, Africa side. And we just essentially started asking him, you know, what is there to do with Bitcoin in Nigeria?
What, what, how do people buy it? How do people sell it? What, what's the community like all of this, right. And, you know, Muna answered a lot of our questions. And then I think eventually he just got tired of answering our questions and he said, look, if you really want to build for this market, you need to come here.
And so two weeks notice I bought two, one way tickets to Lagos, Nigeria. The first time I'd ever left the United States and to go start a company. So.
Anita Posch [00:16:59] that's great. I think it's great that he said come, to see how it is. Really on the ground because, everyone can tell you stories about how it is and what the challenges are and the opportunities. But if you're not there, if you're not on the ground, it's not the same.
Chris Maurice [00:17:15] Yeah. Oh 100%. And, you know, I mean, I think, I think that that's something that, that really cannot be understated is, I mean, you know, a lot of people. a lot of people get sort of a lot of their worldview from the news. And, you know, the news tells a very one sided angle of the story. And I mean, to be perfectly honest, even if you're talking to somebody.
In another country actively and, you know, asking them a lot of questions and everything. There's still a lot that you will not understand. And there's a lot that you won't really know until you go there and visit. And, I mean, I'm sure, you know, I know, I know you mentioned, you know, being in Zimbabwe in February and everything, I'm sure you had.
you know, several experiences like that, where I'm sure you did a ton of homework on Zimbabwe. I'm sure you talked to a ton of people from there and you were still shocked when you got there. I know. I know. I was when I got to Harare.
Anita Posch [00:18:07] Oh, have you also been to Harare? Yeah.
Chris Maurice [00:18:10] Yeah. Yeah. I spent, I spent quite a bit of time in Harare, back in, November and December.
and, yeah. Oh no. I, I mean, I absolutely loved it. It was a, he doesn't, by the way is, Zimbabwe is a hell of a country. Oh, it's crazy. It's crazy.
Anita Posch [00:18:23] It's such a mix of different, things like on the one hand, you have the beautiful land, you have the open and nice people, and then you see what the last 30 years have done to this country. And also the human rights situation is disastrous. And the way, you know, the exchange rate at the moment is 1 to 50.
So the Zimbabwean dollar to the U S dollar has lost, because in February it was one to 25. Now it's one to 50 and yesterday I heard that they are introducing new bond notes now. So the hyperinflation is already a fully running again.
Chris Maurice [00:19:02] Oh, fantastic. Yeah, that'll solve the problem.
Anita Posch [00:19:04] Yeah, exactly, exactly. And, so you said before, you're already operating in Zimbabwe.
How is this possible? Because I think Bitcoin is outlawed there.
Chris Maurice [00:19:15] Yeah. So, Bitcoin is not outlawed in Zimbabwe. So, I mean, you know, we're, Zimbabwe, we're very actively trying to set up operations. So it's, one of those countries where, you know, we're extremely interested in working there. we have some really great partners on the ground we're able to do, you know, manual transactions.
And then we're trying to figure out a way to essentially automate the process so that we can scale it within the country. So, you know, we're able to serve customers in. Harare, but really outside of there and outside of, you know, only certain districts in Harare, it's, it's tough because everything has to be done manually right now.
And as you know, cash is so important in Zimbabwe. But yeah, I mean, it definitely, you know, the landscape there is interesting, right? I mean, there were, there was obviously there was Golix and I, you know, some, some great guys there that were, that were running Golix in Zimbabwe. And then, you know Golix was legal Golix was fine and everything.
The only issue is the central bank didn't like it. Right. And the central bank shut down their bank accounts, a court overturned the central banks ruling. So Golix went to court against the government and won. The issue is that commercial banks in the country still will not open an account for them because even though they won the case, you know, the, the banks are not going to go against what the central bank wants, right?
Anita Posch [00:20:38] that's very interesting. I wanted to meet with one of the founders of Golix but it didn't work out, so I couldn't talk to them in person. So it's very interesting what you're telling me. Yeah.
Chris Maurice [00:20:51] You know, the story and everything is definitely out there. And it's, I mean, it's, it's pretty incredible, you know, what they did.
Anita Posch [00:20:56] they even had a Bitcoin ATM for that in exchange for us dollars. I heard.
Chris Maurice [00:21:02] yes. Yeah, that, that is, that is my understanding is that, you know, they had a, they had an ATM and everything in Zimbabwe as well. But, yeah, I mean, you know, it sounds, it sounds like, it sounds like it's, I mean, you know, even, even winning the, winning the court battle, it's going to be tough, to, you know, get banking and everything set up in Zimbabwe when the central bank obviously does not like it.
Even if it's legal, it's going to be tough to, you know, get banks to go against the central bank.
Anita Posch [00:21:28] But how are you going to do it then do you need a local bank account.
Chris Maurice [00:21:32] Who knows that it's not, that we're constantly working on. Right. And so, I mean, you know, cash cash is King cash is also difficult. So, you know, but, you know, like I said, you know, Zimbabwe is a buck was one of those countries that were extremely interested in. And so I, you know, we're, we're gonna keep, you know, keep working at it and, you know, keep trying to.
you better understand the, the landscape there and everything and, see what we can make happen.
Anita Posch [00:21:55] Yeah, I think it's definitely the one place where Bitcoin is needed the most. I mean, in general Africa, but Zimbabwe the most, I think.
Chris Maurice [00:22:04] Yeah. Yeah. You know, I mean, like, like you mentioned, I mean, you know, the currency now is about 50 to a dollar and, I was there, it was trading from about 16 to 22. Per dollar. And so, yeah, I mean, not even, not even a year ago, right? Like six months ago. And it's already up a hundred percent
Anita Posch [00:22:23] Yeah. And I see you've also been to Botswana and met with Alakanani Itireleng
Chris Maurice [00:22:29] Alakanani is a fantastic woman. I was talking to her this morning.
Anita Posch [00:22:35] Oh, Oh, did you? Okay.
Chris Maurice [00:22:37] We work, we work closely with Alakanani in a, in Botswana. So yeah, well, I was on a. Well, I was, you know, on my, my tour of Southern Africa, again, end of last year, business tour, yeah, Botswana, Botswana was a, was a great time. I really enjoyed, have our own a and, yeah, getting, getting to, you know, stay with, Alakanani and everything.
Anita Posch [00:22:58] You stayed with her. That's great. I also have been to Botswana and met with her and we made a Bitcoin meetup together and it's a really impressive, she's the center of like the Bitcoin hub of Botswana. And I think also of all the Southern African regions, I mean, what she did is amazing. Really. She built this all single handedly.
Chris Maurice [00:23:21] Yeah, she, she is definitely the reason that Bitcoin is as popular as it is in Southern Africa. For sure. yeah, it's, I mean, it's, it's really incredible what she's done. just, you know, just a woman with a dream. So just to try to get this technology out to everybody.
Anita Posch [00:23:38] And you, you started, your services in Botswana now.
Chris Maurice [00:23:41] Yes. Yes. So, yes. So we are, we are working in Botswana and so, you know, customers are able to, deposit Pula and, you know, buy Bitcoin and then, so Bitcoin for Pula as well.
Anita Posch [00:23:54] and what's the difference between a yellow card and other exchanges, like for instance, peer to peer, peer to peer exchanges that are working also in Africa.
Chris Maurice [00:24:05] Yeah. So, I mean, one of the, one of the main differences and one of the things that really sets us apart from a, you know, a, from any, any general peer to peer exchange is that we. Are always taking the other side of the trade. Right. And so we, we manage the liquidity, we manage the pricing and we make sure that we're always giving, the best pricing with as much liquidity as needed.
And so, you know, there, it's, it's, it's a lot, it's a lot smoother of a process. It's very fast. in Nigeria, you can, buy yourself a Bitcoin within the course of about five minutes. and so it's, it's a, it's an extremely quick process, that, you know, allows anybody to really access this technology whenever they need it.
And, yeah, that's, that's what, that's what we're bringing to Botswana and that's, you know, that's what we're trying to bring across, across the rest of the continent, as well as just a, you know, an extremely simple. Extremely quick process, you know, load up a hundred Pula, load up a hundred Niara, you know, say, Hey, I need a hundred Niara worth of Bitcoin.
We tell you, this is how much you'll receive and then it's in your wallet. So it's a, it's a very, very quick, very easy process.
Anita Posch [00:25:12] I read that that one doesn't need a bank account for it. So how does this work then?
Chris Maurice [00:25:17] Yeah, no, no, no bank account required. So, so, you know, bank, bank transfer and everything obviously is accepted and we do work with, you know, banks in, you know, Nigeria and other countries. but we also have a network of stores where you're able to walk in and deposit cash. Or pick up cash.
Right. And so, you know, we have customers, mainly in Nigeria right now, where you're able to visit one of these locations that we have, and pay in cash to load your account. You can buy Bitcoin, et cetera. and then if you need to sell Bitcoin, you can sell Bitcoin and go pick up cash at one of these stores.
Anita Posch [00:25:53] Oh, okay. It's this like it's working like Econet or M-Pesa.
Chris Maurice [00:25:57] Yeah, the agent network would be, would be similar to something like that. So we're, doing cryptoexchange, right. You know, it's, it's not, it's not mobile money in the same way. Definitely. From, from the agent network perspective, it works very similar.
Anita Posch [00:26:10] So you just said before you did a tour, the Africa, and I think you also met someone very famous.
Chris Maurice [00:26:18] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, so I guess for, for context, I, I stay in, I stay in Lagos normally, in terms of Africa and then, yeah, so the end of this past year, so from September til. December. I was traveling quite a bit across the continent and, you know, well I was, while I was still in Lagos, I had a, I had a friend from Google reach out and said, Hey, are you, are you in Nigeria?
Right now? I have a friend from square. Who wants to, wants to meet up and, you know, you understand, you know, Nigeria and ecosystem and all of that. And I was like, Oh yeah, sure. That'd be great. you know, can you just do an email intro? And he said, okay. Yeah, I'll do it now. And, I, I get on and I check my email and.
The, the intro was to Jack Dorsey and I, I called him up and I said, man, this is not a friend at square. You have to warn him from me to Jack. So, yeah, so, ended up, you know, ended up, ended up getting to meet up with, with Jack in. Nigeria. and, had a, yeah, we had a great conversation and, you know, great time they're talking about just sort of the, the ecosystem and all in Nigeria, Bitcoin in Nigeria is sort of the, the broader outlook of the country and everything from, from an economic standpoint.
And, then, Jack and I happened to be in Ethiopia at the same time as well. a few weeks later. And, so I got to meet up with them again in Ethiopia and do the same thing focused on that country. So, yeah. So, yeah, I got to, got to spend a good about a time with, with Jack in, in, during his tour across Africa.
So, it was, yeah, it was a, you know, it was a great time. So,
Anita Posch [00:28:03] Yeah, it's funny. And it's a cool story and it shows how the Bitcoin space actually works because. you can get into contact with so many different people. And it's like also without borders, like in between people, you know, there is no hierarchy. I mean, you meet Jack Dorsey and he's just a friend from square.
Chris Maurice [00:28:24] Yeah. You know, that's that, that is my favorite part about, crypto people is, you know, even up to the highest levels, it's, it's still very accessible, more accessible, the community's accessible. and yeah, that's.
Anita Posch [00:28:39] I mean, I fear that in five years or in 10 years time that this might not be the same, but we will see
Chris Maurice [00:28:46] Well, you know, we just got to enjoy it while it lasts then. So actually you can, while you're a, you know, while it's small, it's young and then, hold onto them.
Anita Posch [00:28:56] it's really true because, you know, I thought about last year, last year was actually my, my travel year where I went to many Bitcoin conferences around the world and I met with all those people. And like some weeks ago, I thought to myself how great it has been, that I did that last year, because this year, you know, Yeah.
We never know when we can travel again. So without having this personal connections, it's rather difficult to talk with people or to, to get, closer to, to the people in the space.
Chris Maurice [00:29:29] Yeah. Yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure. And, you know, I mean, I think that's one of the beautiful things about, you know, conferences and all. And so, I mean, I'm sure I know, you know, you and I did a virtual conference together. And, you know, I'm sure you've done a few others and, it's, it's not quite the same.
Anita Posch [00:29:44] No, it's, it's also nice. I mean, the idea to travel less and to fly less is, is a good idea. So maybe we could have like a 50:50, you know, more, more online conferences, and less traveling, but still meeting people. And I think that might be the way to go in the next years.
Chris Maurice [00:30:04] It, it, it looks like, it looks like we're all going to be forced into that, unfortunately. But, you know, I, I definitely, you know, like, like you said though, I, I, you know, I don't think, I don't think that there's a, you know, a price that can be put on actually getting to go and I, you know, shake hands and meet people, in person at, at, these events and everything.
It's definitely, definitely a lot different than, you know, talking, talking over WhatsApp.
Anita Posch [00:30:27] Yeah, that's true. let's get back a little bit to the philosophy of Bitcoin. what is in your opinion, the most important feature or characteristic of Bitcoin?
Chris Maurice [00:30:39] Man, you know,
Anita Posch [00:30:39] a Difficult question.
Chris Maurice [00:30:41] Yeah, that is a difficult one. so I mean, I would say, I would say that, you know, for, you know, the way that I see it, that one of the most important things about Bitcoin and one of the, really one of the defining characteristics of the technology.
Is its ability to exist outside of the banking system and its ability to, you know, ideally one day, act as a neutral decentralized reserve for, for value. Right. and, you know, I mean, I think, I think that, for, for a lot of people. Especially in Africa, that's already been, almost the, you know, the reality, right?
Dollar can be extremely difficult to access in most countries, Dollar is a complete pain to handle whether you're in the US or in any other country in the world. Dollar accounts are no fun. Bitcoin just really makes it so much easier to move value across the world.
And, you know, from there, it's just a matter of being able to on and off ramp. Right. And so, you know, that, that to us, and that to me is, you know, one of, one of the, the really defining characteristics is this, this ability to, you know, move fluidly, without the restrictions that, you know, banks put on dollar accounts.
So without the restrictions that banks put on, You know, movement of money. and so, you know, that's, that's where I think it becomes the job of the community to, you know, really develop those, you know, secure on and off ramps for, for this technology.
Anita Posch [00:32:08] Hmm. what other challenges do you see for people in Africa to use Bitcoin?
Chris Maurice [00:32:15] Yeah. I mean, I would say one of the big ones right now is, just the, the, the, the, the network fees. I mean, it's been it's. I mean, since, since the halving it's just been, it's been pretty bad. I mean, I paid, you know, 200 and something dollars the other day to send Bitcoin, So, yeah, I mean the network fees have been, I mean, ridiculously high and, the problem is, I mean, you know, we have customers that will move.
I, you know, a couple of dollars, I mean like a dollar worth of Bitcoin. Right. And the issue is, is that when they're moving a dollar worth of Bitcoin, they really can't afford to pay these, these higher fees. And so, I mean, we have Bitcoin that's been pending on our system. Going out of the system, for several days because people have no very low priority when they're sending out of their wallet.
And I totally understand why the issue is that when you put very low priority, especially right now, it's, I mean, it's just essentially never going to confirm, right. I mean, I, I, I think that, I mean, you know, some of these transactions at, you know, low ish priority, it could take several more weeks to confirm.
and so, yeah, I mean, it's been, that's, that's definitely been, been a hindrance that we've experienced and I mean, you know, there's a lot of concern with that. that being said, you know, I think, I think people are resilient. People are smart and they will figure out a way around that. I mean, so right now, you know, on our platform, you can do free and instant transfers between users of yellow card.
And so, you know, that's one way to, you know, instantly and, you know, get that Bitcoin over to somebody else. But, yeah, I mean, you know, in terms of, in terms of the network fees, that's, that's definitely something that I would, I would like to see solved, not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world.
Anita Posch [00:33:59] Yeah, I guess, I guess this won't be solved in a way other than when we have the lightning network. I mean, I think the, mining difficulty has been reset today. So, the Mempool should be like clearer in the next days, but you're right. I mean, we will have these, like many unconfirmed transactions, always like it will, it will be more in the future.
So I guess you also counting on the lightning network for that.
Chris Maurice [00:34:29] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think, I think that, you know, innovations that everything like lightning have a lot of potential. the, I mean, certainly, you know, the big, the big thing with lightning is, and I mean, you know, I know that this is, this is sort of what everybody says, but the big thing with lightning really is the user experience.
And, I, you know, I really don't think that that can be taken for granted. user experience is so incredibly important. I mean, you know, with, you know, with, with yellow card, I mean, we deal with a lot of people who are buying their first Bitcoin, right. Or, you know, selling their for Bitcoin, or you don't have no experience in this industry before.
And so it's, it's very tough for someone. To, you know, use something like lightning with no previous experience. Right? I mean, I have a difficult time, you know, figuring out lightning and I, you know, I've been in Bitcoin for years now, so definitely, definitely, you know, once, once we can get that user experience down to, down to the level where people are really able to, utilize it and really able to, you know, make that, make that work.
Then, yeah, I agree. A hundred percent. I mean, lightning lightning will definitely, you know, definitely solve that.
Anita Posch [00:35:44] Hmm. And, how do you see the future of, Yellowcard and also the future of, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in Africa? I mean, just today, Matt Aalborg has released new numbers, the usefultulips, website about the transaction volume, on peer to peer exchanges in Africa or in the world. And for the first time sub Saharan African trading volume has exceeded Latin American volume.
Do you see this trend at a yellow card too, do you have higher volumes and what is the future going to bring? What do you think.
Chris Maurice [00:36:21] Yeah, yeah. One, 100%. We do. And, you know, it's, it's really, it's really not. Surprising. If you look at what's going on in Africa, right? I mean, you know, crypto solves so many real problems that people face on the ground every day. And, you know, I think one of the main reasons that, these platforms have seen such a spike over the past, just several months is with COVID.
I mean, multiple African currencies. I can name several off the top of my head have lost over 30% of their value in the course of just a couple of months. I mean, Zimbabwe of course is just, you know, it's Zimbabwe of course is a overachiever in terms of inflation and yeah in Zimbabwe it is definitely a lot higher, but, yeah, I mean, you know, these, these other countries and everything, I mean, South Africa, you know, the, the Rand has devalued some 25, 30% against the dollar just since the start of coronavirus.
And so, in terms of you know, the continent moving towards Bitcoin and moving towards crypto, it just, it makes perfect sense. People need something to be able to store value in. And again, dollar can be very difficult to access in, in Africa. And so, you know, Bitcoin is a way where everybody wins, right?
I mean, you know, from, from the people's perspective, they get to store their value in something that's more secure. They get to, you know, have more confidence that their money and their value is going to be protected over the course of time. And from, I mean, you know, from the government's perspective puts less pressure on their dollar reserves, right.
you know, if, if everybody's going to Bitcoin for savings or if everybody's going to Bitcoin for making payments or anything like that, then that's, that's more dollars that the government actually gets to keep in the central bank. and so. Yeah. I mean, you know, I think, I think Bitcoin, Bitcoin is a, you know, it's a net positive, it's a it's it's, you know, it's, it's really a, you know, a beneficial technology.
when you look at it from the perspective of the economy in, in these countries and, you know, ideally, goes towards bolstering, the, the value of some of these currencies over time.
Anita Posch [00:38:29] Hmm. And I guess there's very, very much room for, from what people coming into the crypto space.
Chris Maurice [00:38:38] Yeah. Oh yeah. Hey, there's there is always room for, for people in the crypto space. So,
Anita Posch [00:38:43] Yeah. I mean, in Africa, even more than in Europe and in the U S but there's a lot of room. Yeah.
Chris Maurice [00:38:49] it's 2020 is still the early days I'm telling you. So.
Anita Posch [00:38:54] It's an interesting ride and it will be interesting for a long time, I think. Yes. Hmm. So thank you very much. I think this was a great wrap up, for this interview. please tell our listeners where they can find you and follow your work.
Chris Maurice [00:39:10] Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you, Anita. I really appreciate your time. And, yeah, definitely. you know, please check out www.yellowcard.io. and then, you can follow me on Twitter as well at, Chris Maurice, so,
Anita Posch [00:39:23] I will put that in the show notes. Thank you very much and have a good day.
Chris Maurice [00:39:28] Well, thank you so much, Anita I really appreciate it.