Ry Sterling is the VP of North America at IBEX Mercado. There are two parts to the IBEX business, it is a tool enabling merchants to accept Bitcoin payments, and an infrastructure platform for enabling entirely new Lightning use cases.
In our discussion, Ry explained the vision for IBEX Mercado, we explored a bunch of emerging Lightning use cases, and we discussed the adoption of Bitcoin in El Salvador.
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00:00 - Intro
02:44 - Ry Sterling Intro
15:23 - Gamifying Money on the Lightning Network
20:30 - Remittances & IBEX Cash
26:48 - Where Will Lightning Adoption Come From?
30:23 - What Lessons IBEX Learned From Pitching Merchants
42:35 - When Will Square Introduce Lightning Payments?
43:28 - Why IBEX’s Business Is Accelerating
47:36 - IBEX & El Salvador
55:55 - What Impact Will Fiat Bridges on Lightning Have on the World?
1:03:54 - The Lightning Round
Ry Sterling - 00:00:00:
When El Salvador made their big announcement last year, we were headquartered in Guatemala, and we crossed over the border, and there was all this hype about making a legal tender. But how are any of these businesses going to accept bitcoin payments? People immediately just go, oh, IBEX that's the merchant solution. But that's actually just a small piece of what we do. We're opening up a new era of global commerce with Lightning. Instead of scanning a QR code and you pay $100. Well, what if you can scan a QR code and get $10, right? So you can put something on next home run that hits the first 20 people to scan the QR code, get enough money to buy their next beer, $10 for the next ten, be the first ten people to scan after the home run. Now you're turning advertising dollars directly into your consumer's pockets. There's a whole bunch of ranchers out there that are really into this peer to peer food transfer. And what better form of money to buy beef with than Bitcoin? Because it's peer to peer money and peer to peer beef. You see it out there, and there's people that are so hardcore that they're so right about this and anti everything else. Well, how can you ever be someone that doesn't believe there could be another horse in the race? We do that. We're just ignorant, right? And I don't believe there is right now, but it doesn't mean there can never be.
Kevin Rooke - 00:01:12:
Ry Sterling is the VP of North America at IBEX Mercado. IBEX right now has two main business lines. One is a tool for any merchant to accept Bitcoin over the Lightning Network. And another is their infrastructure platform that is going to enable anyone to spin up brand new Lightning use cases. In our discussion, Ry explained the vision for IBEX Mercado as a business. We explored some of the emerging Lightning use cases that Ry is really excited about, and we discuss adoption of Lightning in El Salvador and globally. Ry is also asked to have his share of today's show splits donated to the Human Rights Foundation. So if you enjoy this show and if you learn something new, the best way you can support myself and the Human Rights Foundation is by sending in sats over the Lightning Network. Half go to me, half go to Human Rights Foundation. And anyone can use any Podcasting 2.0 app to do this. But my favorite to use to send sats is Fountain. Just a quick message before we get into the episode. Today's show is sponsored by Voltage. Voltage is the industry standard and next generation provider for Lightning Network infrastructure. Today's show is also sponsored by Stakwork. Stakwork is a Lightning powered transcription tool that takes the best of AIs and humans to create better, faster, and less expensive transcripts. We'll have more from Voltage and Stakwork later in the show. Ry, welcome to the show, and thank you for taking the time. I got a ton of questions about IBEX for you, but before we get into it, why don't we start with the background? Tell listeners a little bit more about your background in bitcoin, how you discovered Lightning and how you joined IBEX.
Ry Sterling - 00:03:02:
Yes, absolutely. Well, thanks for having me on, Kevin. I'd love to share more and tell you about my IBEX journey as well as IBEX journey. I come from eight years of enterprise software sales where I was an entrepreneur, founder of specific software for industrial suppliers. Very unsexy industry, but Tottenham kind of cut my teeth on implementation of enterprise grade solutions. And then my bitcoin journey started, like a lot of others, where back in 2017, and there was a lot of hype around it and there was a lot of altcoin, people making money quick, and you got to buy crypto. I jumped in and I put some money in bitcoin and some altcoins and got my master class at Alt Coin University, which took all my money, and the remainder was bitcoin that was left. So I kind of just left there, forgot about it. Just kind of figured at this point, I lost two thirds of the money I put in. Might as well just lose the rest or just forget about it and see what happens. I wasn't going to pull out at that point, having suffered such terrible losses. And then fast forward to last year. I was in New York City, and I met with the chief strategy officer for IBEX, Alvaro Sol, and the CEO, Jose Lemos, and they showed me a demo of their IBEX Pay Lightning solution. And I had read a lot of white papers, and all the white papers, I always like to say, did white paper things in theory and concept. Okay, sounds great, but I'd never seen an actual product in the space. So coming from a software background and seeing a tangible product there in front of me, I was very intrigued. And then I was also blown away about by the speed and simplicity of the product that they showed me. So we got to talk a little bit more and decided that I'd like to come on board and maybe help out with their expansion plans for North America. And that kind of what kicked me off. So I would say my orange pilling journey started in reverse, and it started with Lightning. And from there and seeing that tangible product, that's when I spent the time to actually learn about bitcoin and went down the rabbit hole and orange pilled myself. But had I not seen the Lightning demo and seen that tangible use case, I don't know if I would have put in that time or I'm sure I would have eventually, but it kind of fast tracked. Wow, there's something here. And then with the cross border, cross currency micropayments, which I was shown, that's when I really, really kind of perked up and said, wow, this is world changing. And so, yeah, that's how the journey began.
Kevin Rooke - 00:06:00:
So that cross border payments was that specific? Was it like a light bulb moment for you, or you said, yeah, the.
Ry Sterling - 00:06:07:
Simplicity of the tech was there. But then also. Once you start learning about the liquidity pools of bitcoin. Which allows for these worldwide transactions to go on. And then start learning about how Lightning works with a t minus zero transaction speed. Locking in the price of bitcoin. Transferring it over Lightning instantly. And then selling it for another currency on the other side. That to me with siblings that live in three different continents Japan, Norway. And I guess two different continents. But Japan. Norway. And England. I've had to send money. Or you want to buy your mama a Christmas gift and your siblings live overseas? Well, it turns out my running balance is $1,000 to the money they've sent, just because it's always all there's transfer fees and there's this and that, and it's always like, oh, don't worry about it. I'll buy it from mom, and you get me next time. But three siblings living abroad, that does add up after multiple birthdays and Christmases, and it always seems to tie back to the why would I send $40 or $50 and then spend $10, $20 on fees? So, just from a personal level, I was like, call them all up. I was like, hey, buy some bitcoin. You're sending me your money.
Kevin Rooke - 00:07:19:
Makes sense. So let's give listeners a little background now on IBEX as a company. What is the vision for the company here? Can you describe some of the products you're working on?
Ry Sterling - 00:07:29:
Sure, absolutely. So IBEX is first and foremost a lightning network enterprise grade solution. So what does that mean? That means we provide B2B Lightning infrastructure to businesses that want to develop and incorporate Lightning into their companies applications, et cetera. So we break it down into two products. We have IBEX Hub, and then we have IBEX Pay. We really have three products. We have IBEX Hub, IBEX Pay, and then DWM, digital wealth management, a bunch of financial tools. It's for ultra high net worth investors who want to buy bitcoin and have kind of a white glove service going along with it and doing things such as estate planning, et cetera. No one thinks about what happens when people pass, what happens to their bitcoin keys? How do you make sure those are handed down in a proper manner? All that kind of white glove service for high net worth individuals is done, and that's led by Rodrigo and our digital wealth management division. So then we have IBEX Hub. IBEX Hub is our B2B infrastructure product. Again, this is for developers and enterprises that want to incorporate Lightning directly into their products. And then we have IBEX Pay. And IBEX Pay is actually just a derivative of IBEX Hub. It's something that we built off of our IBEX Hub technology, and we created a product that allows any merchant to accept bitcoin at their either retail or ecommerce location. And so that was kind of where the kick off for El Salvador happened, is when El Salvador made their big announcement last year, we were headquartered in Guatemala, and we crossed over the border, and there was all this hype about making it legal tender. But how are any of these businesses going to accept bitcoin payments? They could give away $30 to every citizen, but if every citizen had the $30 in their Chivo wallet, where are they going to go to spend it? And none of these businesses had the infrastructure for that. So our CTO, who's phenomenal, he created with his team the IBEX Pay prototype, which is now on version two, which has many more features than the first day, like a tip feature, some custom branded VCTs, or ability to kind of branded toward your business and et cetera, et cetera. But that's where that kind of product came to be. So IBEX Pay is kind of our grassroots marketing, boots on the ground, merchant vendor product that we use as a use case for IBEX Hub. IBEX Hub, that's kind of the core of our business. And that's for wallets exchanges, point of sale systems, payments, companies that want to replace their kind of legacy infrastructure rails with modern Lightning rails. At the end of the day, Lightning is really just a faster, cheaper, safer way to move money. You don't necessarily have to have people knowing they're transacting and Lightning or bitcoin, it could be fiat to fiat, but using Lightning rail. So there's a ton of use cases and applications for the hub product and Lightning infrastructure.
Kevin Rooke - 00:10:38:
Right. So do you feel like over time, IBEX's vision is going to shift towards the core of the business is going to be this hub, and pay is just simply one application of which there will be many connected to that hub? Is that right?
Ry Sterling - 00:10:53:
It's funny, because we have a phenomenal Biz Dev for IBEX Pay. She is boots on the ground. She's at every bitcoin meetup. She's traveling around the country. And we started an IBEX Pay ambassador program. So if you're interested in onboarding your local communities, et cetera, you can sign up people with IBEX Pay, and there's a financial reward for doing so. And because we have such an amazing Biz Dev person on this, and because it's so grassroots, people immediately just go, oh, IBEX that's the merchant solution. But that's actually just a small piece of what we do in terms of marketing and education and presence. It makes up a lot of noise and it has great traction, and it's doing really well. But our core business is our infrastructure product for enterprise solution.
Kevin Rooke - 00:11:41:
Right. Are there any other applications you're specifically excited about that people could use your infrastructure for in addition to the merchant solution? What else comes to mind when you think about the things someone might do with IBEX Hub.
Ry Sterling - 00:11:57:
I think our most exciting next product in the pipeline is IBEX Cash or IBEX Cash. And that's going to be our remittance solution. So there's a lot of interest right now, remittance is kind of the, what do you call it, the holy grail of money movements and how do you make that better for people? And so that's the next product we'll be releasing off of IBEX Hub, and we're very excited for that. But then I think one that is missed or not even thought of, and it's something that is only capable with Lightning, right, is the ability to move money and micropayments of money so quickly you can now start gamifying money in a way. And what do I mean by that? Take sports, for instance. You're sitting at a baseball game, and we actually were partnered with the Perth Heat, which was the first baseball team in the world with a Chief Bitcoin Officer. So they've got the Bitcoin B on their jerseys and little known fact, or maybe a little known fact in the US. But Perth Heat is the leading, I guess, recruitment team for the MLB over here in the States out of Australia. So a lot of World Series players have come through the Perth Heat and headed over to the States. Or they go there for their B league first and then they move on up. So Perth, he does a lot of movement there. But think about sitting there in your baseball stadium. Baseball, it's more of an experienced game. It's not necessarily watch the game. It's a little slow. Well, now, what if you say with LN-URL technology, LN-URL withdrawal, where you can instead of scanning a QR code and you pay $100, but what if you can scan a QR code and get $10, right? So you can put something on next home run that hits the first 20 people to scan the QR code, get enough money to buy their next beer, $10 for the next ten people, or the first ten people to scan after the home run. Boom. You're engaging the fans. They want to see what's going to happen next. The next walk off homer or grand slam that happens, we're going to give away $1,000 to one person. And you can set and play with these thresholds and these voucher thresholds with Lightning in a way you can't do before. Also, you could do like micro experiences where you're bidding cents. You can say two cent, I'm going to put two cent. And all 50,000 fans in the stadium could kind of bid to which song is going to play next is going to be Sweet Carolina or Sweet Child of Mine and whoever gets the top of the meter first, boom. That's the song that plays. Or it triggers fireworks. And these are, again, micropayments that you can't do with anything else. So I think the gamifying of money and for engagement. You see what Live Golf is doing and how they're kind of taking on the PGA right now. What are they doing? They're doing more group events, more team sports, more engagement with the fans. Vote who you want to go ahead and drive next on the team. Those type of things are going to be transferred into money as well and kind of take down like the legacy structure of sports and traditional money movement. So a whole spectrum of things I'm excited for. But those would I'd say Remittance and Gamifying money would be my top two.
Kevin Rooke - 00:15:23:
That's fascinating. Yeah. I want to get into remittances in a minute, but let's focus on this gamifying money concept because I think there's some really cool applications here. The one you mentioned of a QR code pops up on the screen and all of a sudden you can bid on things and vote on things. I think that's really cool. It also made me think about what does that do to traditional out of home advertising? Like billboards everywhere are kind of like these ugly things are kind of ignored. They're not very interactive. I don't know. There's not much enthusiasm behind them. But you can start to think about the ways in which you can gamify that.
Ry Sterling - 00:16:04:
Yeah, CocaCola is the headline sponsor for the event and they're going to give away X amount. And now you're turning advertising dollars directly into your consumer's pockets, which is going to turn them down. Want to spend on your product. So it's not just, oh, I saw it and it's brand awareness. No, it's brand awareness. Plus there's an incentive behind paying attention.
Kevin Rooke - 00:16:29:
Right. And so then being able to reward the people who are paying attention directly. And that's something that I don't think has ever been possible before in advertising, at least I don't know any good examples of it. What we're seeing now, we're seeing it in the digital world with things like Fountain and Saccharine starting to reward users for listening to ads on Fountain or job postings on Stacker News, things like that. There's a new app called Slice that just came out that's basically like, you earn for the ads that you view. And I think that's happening in the digital world. But when that goes to the physical world too, then it's like anytime anyone's interacting with some advertisement, they now have skin in the game. They have like a potential upside there.
Ry Sterling - 00:17:18:
And even if they don't win, they engaged. It brought the engagement.
Kevin Rooke - 00:17:22:
Ry Sterling - 00:17:24:
I don't have an advertising background, but I can tell you people like free money.
Kevin Rooke - 00:17:30:
Ry Sterling - 00:17:31:
Especially if they're going to invest in a product or spend their time exploring whether they're going to purchase a product or not. It's definitely an incentive.
Kevin Rooke - 00:17:38:
Are there any particular campaign ideas or anything you've heard from the Perth Heat or anyone else in the industry thinking about what they could do with a QR code on a billboard or on a banner or something like that and make it physical.
Ry Sterling - 00:17:53:
The simplest is obviously the money giveaway right by your next hot dog on the Perth Heat and put an X amount on there. But there's also the idea of LNAs, which is Lightning native assets. It's kind of like an NFT with Lightning that's probably a year away, but you could auction off the game ball or not auction off, but give it away. So the grand slam is hit. First person to capture the QR code gets that game ball. And then we also have because I just said auction and I didn't mean to, but we also have auction capability, right? So you have two sides voting on something and the side that gets to the top, the person who wins the auction, obviously. And all the other sats are returned in sats escrow. So things like that will also come into play. Fundraisers, that's another one. So we're thinking for the Amsterdam Conference, and I don't think we're going to do this yet, but maybe for BTC 2023 in Miami, we'll do it that the speakers on the panels can put in their favorite charity or something. And people can donate to those speakers as they speak via online, because a lot of people are watching from around the world and the people in the audience, they can donate to whichever speaker they think is best and whoever, I guess, gets the most donations. All the speakers on the panel, all the money that they are going to go to their charities will go to the one charity. Or we can split it up to all four charities if there's four speakers. But that type of fundraising as well. And I know BTC magazine just did something recently with the Hotel Not campaign. And so there's all sorts of people now picking up these new ways to, I guess, put on these events. But activations.
Kevin Rooke - 00:19:38:
And that's fascinating to be able to make that donation, whether you're live watching an event or you're streaming it again. We've just never had that capacity.
Ry Sterling - 00:19:49:
And that's another thing. Back to the sports, right, is like Perth Heat is viewed worldwide. There's a lot of Asian countries where there's a lot of talent that goes down in place and vice versa. And there's a huge fan base within Japan for baseball. So you have a lot of people viewing the stuff online and just online video content has been booming forever. Live streams, et cetera. So to be able to broadcast one QR code for those people and then another one on the jumbotron and be able to create this engagement not just on the field but around the world, and more people tuning in because of these little activations to really grow the brand.
Kevin Rooke - 00:20:28:
Yeah, that's really incredible. You got my mind spinning with ideas, but I want to go into remittances next and discuss this IBEX cash product and I'd love to learn more about how you plan to transfer assets between different Fiat, currencies and bitcoin. How's that all work? How do you turn that into a solution that anyone can use?
Ry Sterling - 00:20:53:
Right, so there's the technical side of it. I won't dive too deep into it. One, I'm not the person to really give you the proper lesson on it, and I would leave that to our CTO. But from a very basic fundamentals, there's some buy sell, buy sells going on in there, obviously, over the Lightning Network to get it to the right place. But then it's also finding the right partners in the regions you're looking to do this with, because then you can move money anywhere right now via Lightning wallet to a Lightning wallet. Like I said, I send my siblings money, they send me money via Lightning right now, bitcoin, and I get it instantly. You owe me $50 from birthday present. Boom, I got it. But once you start talking about the off ramp right, because it's in bitcoin now in my sister's wallet in Japan. But how does she get Japanese yen? All she needs to find somewhere. Obviously, there's exchanges that she can send it through. But what if you want to take out cash somewhere? Let's say you're in Africa or Haiti or somewhere in Latin where someone sent you money, but now you don't have an exchange to go to, and you want to have a cash offer. Well, who are your partners going to be there? And then also on the reverse side, the cash in where are these, say, day workers in Miami who don't have bank accounts or addresses because they just settled and they don't have the ability to set up a bank account right yet, and they've come across this Lightning capability to do remittances. Where are they going to go to give $100 to send money home? Is it going to be the corner store? Is it a specific place? Is it an app? And then if it's just cash, they don't have a bank account, well, then they can't get the app. So they have to go somewhere physically and where's that physical location be. So finding the cash in, cash out part is kind of the hardest part. It's not just the rails of moving money. That's the easy part. It's finding the partners that are able to help you with the cash in, cash out.
Kevin Rooke - 00:22:48:
What has been the biggest challenge in finding those partners and building up enough of them to support this product?
Ry Sterling - 00:22:55:
Well, really, the product came to us because of outreach by our partners, right? So we're not really IBEX is with Lightning, anything is possible. If there's movement of money, it's possible. And now, because we have new, like I said, this game of fine money, there's now new ways to play with money, so you have even more use cases for money. But in general, money is applicable to everything, whether you're whatever industry you're in, you touch money. So that's been, I think, a challenge, and I think all companies in the space are facing it is, where do we focus our efforts? Where is the adoption going to be first? Where is the maximum value going to be given for our efforts? And just for IBEX Pay, which to tie back that away from reminds for a second, we found out after four or five months that the restaurant industry, while it's great to get a bunch of restaurants signed up on IBEX, it's a hard industry to take on for really anything, just because the turnover in the industry, the training involved, the presence that is required. It's a very simple application, but not every manager who's fired tells the next manager, hey, make you train your employees on IBEX Pay or, hey, we accept Bitcoin here. So it starts to fall off the map, and then they don't charge the device or whatever, and it's just like it's just too chaotic. But then we found via the Beef initiative, which is a great effort that we sponsor, which is peer to peer beef, that there's a whole bunch of ranchers out there that are really into this peer to peer food transfer. And what better for money to buy beef with than Bitcoin? Because it's peer to peer money and peer to peer beef. It's a no brainer. So now two of our top clients within IBEX Pay in our monthly transaction volumes are processors and ranchers, which we didn't see coming. So it's finding the niche or the market that's going to most attractive products. So with Remittance, we had those people come to us. They heard about us via the Bitcoin conference last year or from our efforts in El Salvador, and, hey, can you help us? And so we recently recently on boarded Osmo, which is they also own a lot of the Western Union, I believe in Latin, and they have 8000 cash out points in Latin America. So now you can send money from the States, and there's 8000 different locations, which you can now go with your Lightning balance, say, hey, I want $100 back. You send them your Lightning, and they give you back your cash, right?
Kevin Rooke - 00:25:29:
And so these cash out locations, these would be, like, corner shops and things like that in a bunch of different countries in Latin America.
Ry Sterling - 00:25:36:
And it's hard for us as Americans to understand, like, what a need this is. Right? We're used to our credit cards and our debit cards. And Africa, for instance, there's only 16% of the population has any card use at all. They're the lowest card use in the world, which is why it's the right market to just kind of skip over and go right to digital currency, right? Because they don't have all these entrenched systems. But for the US. Sending money home isn't something that we think of on a day to day. If you grew up here, but if you're from another country and you're supporting your family back home, it's something you have to think about every day. And with the current spread, with remittance fees, let's just say we can do a lot better for the people. There's a lot of we see everything between the ranges of 10% to 30% for some countries, depending on the amount of money that you're moving. And if you're sending Grandma $100 and she's only getting 80 on the other side, that's not very fair to Grandma, especially if she's got to get on a bus, go 2 hours, go to the cash out point, and then you're in a country where maybe it's a little bit more dangerous. So you're risking grandma's security now to get the $100 and she's got to travel all the way back home with Lightning. You can kind of remove a lot.
Kevin Rooke - 00:26:46:
Of those steps, right? Do you think Lightning adoption is going to primarily come from the examples you just mentioned where someone needs to be able to send money? They have a use case already and it's not being met right now, or is it going to come from primarily the new things you can do on Lightning that never existed before? They're not current needs, but they will be future use cases like the discussion about putting QR code codes on banners and things like that, that will be new stuff. Where does most of the adoption come from, do you think existing?
Ry Sterling - 00:27:23:
Most of the adoption will come out of necessity, but I think that's where we'll see the other stuff is cool and it's fun and it's great for us, but when you have countries that really need a better solution with large populations, I think that's where you'll see the adoption. And I think the quickest adoption is why IBEX Hub is our core product, is we're not out there to compete really with anyone other than giving them. We want them to have a better solution to how they move money. So if you are a payments company already, you're a payment stack company where you provide, hey, if you plug in with us, you get PayPal, Amazon Pay, and you can select all the different payment options you want. You can also select Pay with Bitcoin and we just add to their stack. So now any vendor out there can add Pay with Bitcoin to their site. Those giving the tools and the technology to enterprises already that already have the customer bases or customer base is really going to be where we see the adoption happening. So if you're at payments company, you might replace your legacy payment rails with Lightning, but your end users might not see any change. The UI, UX, everything will be the same. You're now just moving your money cheaper and faster on the backside, which hopefully in turn comes down to lowering fees for the end user.
Kevin Rooke - 00:28:41:
And when you think about the. Business opportunity for IBEX. Is that going to be a bigger portion of the pie where you actually are doing these behind the scenes transactions that consumers don't know about?
Ry Sterling - 00:28:53:
It, like I said, pay is very much marketing education. And you know what marketing is? It's a cost, unnecessary cost, but it's marketing and education and it gets the name out there. And we've been able to connect with an amazing group of grassroots people around the US. I mean, we targeted, we wanted to speak to every bitcoin meetup across the US. And see what they were doing. And a lot of our ambassadors came from those meet ups and it was just on board your local meetup, wherever you guys have your local meetup is on board there. And from that it kind of spread like the Lightning Network and all these nodes you see with all the lines and the kind of the electrical pulse between them. Very similar with our grassroots movement. And because of that, we've now met so many people from so many different industries that are now more knowledgeable about Lightning that want to adopt it into their businesses. And they're actually, some of them are bringing us hub clients as well, saying, hey, there's this ecommerce ERP company that does accounting software and they want to give a plug-in to their 1000 customers. And they're mainly in say anything from ammo sales to jewelry sales. I mean, it's a smaller tone down shopify, but with each client with a bigger revenue. So there's all these niche industries and now we have some of these ambassadors coming and bringing us up clients. But yes, I would say 85% of our business projection is through hub.
Kevin Rooke - 00:30:22:
Right. What were some of the big lessons you learned in this grassroots initiative? Like, if you were to go back and do it again and kind of reach out to everyone, what would you do differently?
Ry Sterling - 00:30:34:
I would not focus so much on the people that had no interest. And why would I focus on those? Begin with well, when I first started and I was pushing IBEX Pay before the Miami conference, we were trying to onboard as many merchants in Miami as possible. Now Miami is kind of an altcoin city. Unfortunately, right now they're coming around. The mayor says we're going to be a bitcoin city. But if you've walked around Miami, you see there's a lot of people there that might be making a little bit more money in these other coins and they haven't really started focusing on bitcoin yet or the seriousness of bitcoin. So there's a lot of distractions there I think, when it comes to cryptocurrencies. So when you speak to a local restaurant or merchant from there, they've heard of crypto, but they have no idea the difference between bitcoin and crypto, which I think we need to start clarifying or making at least a distinction moving forward. Yes, bitcoin and crypto, but we have to make the distinction between centralized decentralized, et cetera, et cetera. There was a lot of owners that wanted us to come in two or three times to explain to them why they should take bitcoin. And for us, it was a very simple pitch. Hey, you got 30,000 people coming in from around the world to attend this conference. They're here. They're going to spend their bitcoin. They want to go to bitcoin places, there's no chargebacks, which a lot of people in Miami deal with that people coming from all over the world, they buy, they have a dinner, they leave, and they say, hey, we never ate that dinner. And then the restaurant gets dinged, so no chargebacks. Another way to open your door to new customers was kind of a pitch, and we're bringing the customers to you. The conference is going to be here. But even with that, we found these guys were resistant, almost like we were trying to sell them something. But it's a free solution. You just sign up, so we're not even selling you. And it was difficult. So all those guys that made us go through all the hoops and the loops and jump, when they said jump, they ended up not using the system at all. One, because they didn't train their employees. They just thought that if they turned it on, people are going to come. They didn't put the sticker on their door. They didn't bother to learn about bitcoin. They didn't continue their journey after what we told them. So I'd skip over all those people right away. And then you had the business owners that were interested. They didn't know much about it, but they were willing to learn. And they put the sticker in the door, they trained their employees, and they saw some transaction volume. It wasn't mediocre or anything, but they got volume because they put in the work, and it all ties back to that proof of work. And then you had the OG bitcoiners that own the restaurants that are already bitcoiners had the stickers not just on the door, but they put them over the mastercard visa sticker. They put them behind the register. They kind of grill a warfare of the restaurant into a bitcoin. They put the bitcoin standard on the shelf behind the register, and those guys are seeing 4% of their revenue done in bitcoin because they put the presence out there. And then also they trained their staff. So I've got to give a shout out to john from takiza in Miami beach. He started a monthly book club where he made his employees read the bitcoin standard, and they meet at the end of the month and they talk about it. And he told me two things that I found very striking. One, well, obviously when a customer walks through the door and they say, hey, I want to pay with bitcoin, they knew the difference between Lightning and on chain. They say, hey, no, you can't use your Coinbase, but if you download a wall of satoshi or a Muun Wallet or whatever and his employees already knew that. And these are people at a fast casual, over the counter establishment, and they're speaking knowledgeably about bitcoin because he took the time and the effort to train his employees, but he also made them feel part of it. And another thing he said is that he never had such low employee turnover because his employees felt that he cared about their financial future. He taught them something and said, hey, you need to know this for your financial future. Whether you're going to stay here or not, you should learn about this, and I'm going to help you learn about this, and we're going to make this part of my business. And when he did that, his people stuck around because they knew that he cared about them. So it's kind of a feel good story, but things I would do different is I would lean more to Satoshi Nakamoto's words of, I don't have the time to convince you. You have to get there on your own. Same would apply with IBEX.
Kevin Rooke - 00:34:48:
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Ry Sterling - 00:35:51:
Just education. Education. Joining the group, going to your local bitcoin meet up, learning more. I know I was kind of reluctant at the start. Even though I was joining a bitcoin company, I started forcing myself to go to those events. I was never what I would consider a crypto guy or I didn't have I don't know. I kind of just looked at this as like a cult. Now I'm in the cult, and I'm heavily in the cult, and I'm very happy to be in it. But I think getting out of your comfort zone and making that leap into learning more about it and truly understanding it, it's hard to come out of the hole once you're in it, right? That's the beauty of this. But yeah, I would say education and then just try put the effort out there. People will come. Yeah.
Kevin Rooke - 00:36:40:
Now, among the merchants that have used IBEX in Miami and abroad, what are they gravitating to? Mostly because Lightning offers like a few different improvements. Right? There's improvements to privacy, there's improvements to settlement speed, there's often improvements to fees. Are there any particular verticals in which merchants are like, that's really doing it for me. That's why I need it.
Ry Sterling - 00:37:05:
There's one interesting use case tattoo shops. We saw kind of a jump in those mainly because of the no chargebacks. And I had never realized how many people get permanent and indelible ink put on their bodies and then call up their credit card processor companies and say, we never got the inked. And it happens all the time. So the no chargebacks was a big one. And then we also charge zero. 5% if you keep bitcoin, and 1% if you want take USD. So that's another selling point to all of our US. Merchants is, hey, even if you don't want the bitcoin, you just want to open up your door to a new audience. We'll take the bitcoin, we'll send you USD equivalent of what you charge, and we'll send it to you within 24 hours. So there's only thing you're doing is you're just opening a new customer base. That's it. And giving them that option and that freedom to maybe continue to learn about bitcoin and understand the volatility and why they should do it before they have to experience the volatility is very powerful. And then also some people had the eureka moment where we're going to push this more even though we're not bitcoiners. But the more people get spending bitcoin, even if we take 100% USD, we're charging 1%. Well, we get charged 2.5 or 3% for our credit card fees. So the more people we push on bitcoin, the more money we save. So even if they weren't bitcoiners, some restaurants did the math and we're like, wait, we'll make money or we'll save money or we'll add money to our bottom line, the more bitcoin we accept. And so you saw them put a few more stickers in the door. It just doesn't hurt the bottom line.
Kevin Rooke - 00:38:45:
Right. I feel like to me, it's surprising that restaurants everywhere haven't quite clued in to this.
Ry Sterling - 00:38:54:
And this is going to be a shout out to toast and clover and the rest of those aloha and the rest of the point of sale systems and restaurants. I think what's going on is people just don't realize they can spend enlightening yet or that they can spend their bitcoin. So a lot of people have coin based wallets. A lot of people just bought like I bought in 2017, it's sitting on some wallet on their phone, and they have no idea Lightning exists. Right. So that's why they're not going into their local establishments and asking, Can I spend a bitcoin? But even Bitcoiners, a solution like IBEX Pays. There's not too many of them out there. You can count on one hand or three fingers the amount of people actually doing the service for the world. And even Bitcoiners is at the local meetups, don't realize that there are places in Miami that you can go spend your bitcoin. And so these people aren't walking into these restaurants and saying, hey, can I spend a bitcoin? Because they just don't think it's a possibility. And because of that, the restaurants then aren't funneling the information to coast and Clover and these point of sale systems that say, hey, we have customers coming in requesting it, even though there was a deloitte study out that said 85% of all merchants by 2025 think they need to accept crypto. Well, I don't know who in those companies are reading these reports, but they're not really listening to consumers want. And so when we'll see it is when you go to a restaurant and within your Toast terminal, you can hit pay with Bitcoin, and the Lightning QR code pops up and you pay. And I think as people see the speed of that and how easy that is to do, and just run the credit card and go back and forth and, you know, it's kind of I think that's when we kick in. But we need the help of companies like Toast and Clover, right? We have the infrastructure, and we give the infrastructure for free. That's another thing. I think when Toast and Clover, they start looking at their Visa and credit card, I'm sure they make a cut of their payment processor as well, but they get a cut of each transaction, I think, when they realize that, hey, we can get a larger cut because the fees for Lightning are so low, they might pull it in, but there's just very little education. And those companies have tons of stuff going on. They're always looking for new, innovative ways to capture customers, order from the table, serverless ordering, and all that stuff. The last piece, I would say, is adding that Bitcoin feature to their payment stack.
Kevin Rooke - 00:41:21:
So right now, for a merchant who does accept Bitcoin or Lightning, they're using maybe Toaster Clover for Fiat Payments, and then they have a separate tablet or phone for IBEX.
Ry Sterling - 00:41:33:
We're device agnostic. So you can put an IBEX terminal on any device, android or iOS, and it's not on the App Store. That was for a reason. A lot of the countries that we are developing in don't have the App Store or don't have the full range of applications developed for So we made it a responsive web app so you can save it as an app to your home screen as if it were an app you downloaded off of the App Store, but it's not necessary that you have the App Store. So they download that and it's usually on the manager's phone. Or they can also get a separate device. Some people get a separate tablet, and they just put it in. And you just create the invoice. You put in the amount that you're going to charge, and then you also process it through on your point of sale side, and then you do your reporting at the end of the day. So it's the same thing that restaurants do with DoorDash or Uber eats, or they have the separate terminals for each one of those. They come in, they check the order, they cross it off, is picked up, and at the end of the day, they run the reporting against their toast or clover square system.
Kevin Rooke - 00:42:35:
Right now in the conversation about toast and clover and square square was one that a lot of people have thought they're going to introduce Lightning payments at some point. They had Jack Dorsey, and there was a discussion. I think he may have even said explicitly that this would happen in the future. It hasn't happened yet.
Ry Sterling - 00:42:55:
What's your thoughts on why it happened yet? I think it will. I know they're focused on a few other things like Web5 and stuff like that, and that's something that I would point out to toss and clover. Hey, guys, you can get a head start on dorsey here, take a little steal a little bit of his thunder, and just do a quick integration. But yeah, it's coming. It's inevitable. It will come. You can't make something ten times faster and better and not have it be adopted. Right? It's just a matter of time.
Kevin Rooke - 00:43:27:
Right now. In the last, let's say six or eight months, we've seen two different trends in bitcoin and Lightning. One being the price of bitcoin coming down, and another trend being Lightning adoption going up. Have you noticed at IBEX, any acceleration or deceleration in the business may be corresponding to one of those trends?
Ry Sterling - 00:43:53:
I would say we've seen acceleration. I've never been bullish on what we're doing here at IBEX. The main reason would be probably the education front. With the crash of luna and that kind of meltdown that we had a few months ago, a lot of people started to distinguish the difference between bitcoin. Even though the bitcoin price went down, they started to understand the difference between, say, altcoins and high yield protocols versus the slow and steady of bitcoin. So what I noticed was in the hub meetings I would have with a few different board members from another company or directors. And where I used to have to explain the difference. Because there's always one guy in the room like. Bitcoin. I don't want to deal with this blah blah. But he's got to show up to the meeting. Well. I don't want to deal with this crypto stuff. And you would start hearing people from their own team say, hey, it's bitcoin, it's not crypto. Let's give these guys a listen, so distinguishing that was no longer my job and it started to become more and more that way since the last few months. And then, like you said, Lightning adoption, a bear market like this is for us, we consider a time to build. We have so much on our plates that we're kind of excited that we have a little bit of a break. But again, we've seen more interest now that there has been this kind of bear mark. A lot of people want to build in this time, so a lot of enterprise clients, the Hub product is almost perfect for a bear market. That's where everyone's coming to us saying, hey, we want to incorporate Lightning into our products and everyone wants to build now because they feel there's going to be a bull market coming up in the next year or two and they want to be ready for it.
Kevin Rooke - 00:45:35:
Right. Have you seen any changes to merchants willing to keep their funds in bitcoin if they are receiving funds in bitcoin? Because you mentioned there was a different fee structure. It's zero 5% if you keep it in bitcoin, 1% if it's in US dollars. Any changes in that transition of like, who's willing to keep it in dollars and who's willing to move it to bitcoin?
Ry Sterling - 00:45:55:
Not really. I would designate two different types of clients. We got the guys that transaction volumes aren't super high, right? You might get a couple $100 a week in transactions bitcoin at your daily market and it's not going to really affect your cash flows enough to want the Fiat. But a lot of people, there's restaurants in Miami that we signed up that have investors and they're a chain and they have people to report to and just for the compliance or just not wanting to have to go through all the hoops and hurdles to ask, they just want the Fiat. But then you have the bitcoin is to say, hey, it's not that many transactions, I'm going to be able to run my business whether I take bitcoin or not. I want to stack bitcoin. And so we actually allow for anywhere between zero and 100% of bitcoin. So you can take 50% bitcoin, 50% Fiat, and at the point of transaction, half is charged 1% and half is charged zero 5%, and any split in between you can do. And we really don't see people using that meter at all. So we have this meter, it's a cool feature, but people are either 100% Fiat or 100% bitcoin. I'm sure as adoption picks up and there's more people spending in it, the idea of the meter is, say, tomorrow some crazy news comes out, bitcoin skyrockets and everyone's using Lightning and all of a sudden everyone's coming to our merchants and 90% of people are paying in Lightning, which I don't think will happen tomorrow. But if that were to happen, these people are going to go, oh, we can't pay our employees this month, they could take the meter and slide it over to we're going to take 10% in bitcoin and 90% fiat so we can cover our cash flow. That was kind of the thinking behind the meter.
Kevin Rooke - 00:47:34:
Right, that makes sense. I want to shift the conversation to El Salvador specifically and discuss some of the work you're doing there. Can you start by just describing IBEX's role in El Salvador over the last year or so?
Ry Sterling - 00:47:51:
Our role is mainly from a merchant standpoint. When they made that big announcement, like I said, we went over there and we developed out the original IBEX Pay solution, prototype 1.0. And when we did that, we onboarded a lot of large clients. We had subway or we have subway, benihana, Starbucks, pizza, a whole slew of chains that we're familiar with in the states that are down there. They on board at the IBA. And since then, our journey has been we've kind of been copying kind of the grassroots here movement as well. A lot more people obviously have heard of bitcoin and also weebly enough because of what they did, but you would expect maybe the US. Would have more knowledge base about it. But no, if you're going to roll it out as legal tender in the country, everyone's at least going to know the word bitcoin and know what we're trying to do with bitcoin. So we've also been going after the grassroots efforts in El Salvador and then another piece of our El Salvador push. And I'm going to give this all full credit to our community builder, community manager Carlinos Torrillo. He has been working with my first bitcoin bitcoin to spread Lightning education to high schoolers in El Salvador. So we've graduated our first class of 60 in August, and we just, I think it was two weeks ago, graduated the next class of 60 students. And it's very powerful when you have kids in high school from these developing countries who can open a hardware wallet, understand what their private keys are, make a Lightning transaction, understand kind of the history of money and why they need this solution. And they're from some rural village a couple of hours outside of El Salvador's capital. It's very powerful. So we're doing a lot of work on the education front there, and that is me premiere bitcoins efforts. We are just supporting them in any way we can, and Carlinos is leading that charge for us.
Kevin Rooke - 00:50:07:
Very cool. Is that like a high school course that anyone in El salvo can take right now?
Ry Sterling - 00:50:14:
It's specific to this one high school, but we are in discussions, I believe, on making it a nationwide curriculum. I don't know the status on that, but we want to be able to give that curriculum to anybody who wants it.
Kevin Rooke - 00:50:29:
Very cool. You now have two classes that have gone through this program, and now they've basically conquered the basics of bitcoin and Lightning and moving money that's the idea.
Ry Sterling - 00:50:40:
Kevin Rooke - 00:50:41:
Yeah, very cool. What's your sentiment? I remember when the bitcoin law first went into effect and the conference last year down in El Salvador, I saw a bunch of people on Twitter saying, hey, look, I just paid for Starbucks on Lightning. What's your sentiment on the usage those large clients are getting right now in El Salvador? Was that kind of like a flash in the pan kind of thing? Is it sustained? Is it growing?
Ry Sterling - 00:51:11:
There's still transaction volume. It's obviously not the same as when the government gives away $33 to every citizen. Everybody went out, I would say, and I don't have the metrics on it, but just based off of something we experienced during Miami conference last year, we partnered with Exodus Wallet, and we gave out $10 free satoshi to every attendee at the conference who wanted them. And I would guess that 80% of those people have never bought Lightning or transaction Lightning again. But they did it for their first experience. Right. Well, I think it'll stop the word similar, but it's the 20% that you do get to catch on, which is the important part. And so I know that it's still an adoption. I know that they're still receiving transaction volume, but I would say it's definitely boosted their tourism, if you will. A lot of bitcoin is from around the world are going there, and they're saying, I want to see if I can spend enlightening El Salvador. So in that sense, it's definitely done wonders for the country.
Kevin Rooke - 00:52:12:
Right. That's very cool. I want to talk about the aha moment with Lightning and where you think that is for a lot of people, because you mentioned your aha moment at the beginning of the conversation. I don't really remember what mine was. I first started studying it after Jack Muller's bitcoin speech at bitcoin 2021. But I get the sense that some people get it and some people don't. And there's a threshold at which I think you have to cross over before you go, okay, I get it. I'm going to keep using this thing rather than I use it once, and I don't really want to use it again. What do you think that is? Because we've seen it in digital products over the last couple of decades. Famously, Facebook had their get seven friends. And you're going to be hooked. Right? Uber had like once you take your second ride, you're going to be hooked. What's that moment for lightning.
Ry Sterling - 00:53:09:
What do you do to hook someone? Make your first lightning transaction and see the speed and what should happen, and kind of see how that peer to peer instant money works, I think is powerful. Again, that's what did it for me. I saw how quick and easy it was. Wow, that's it. That's what this does. So I think there's partially that, and then I think also there will be a lot of again, back to the education, a lot of infrastructure enterprise companies like Cash App, right? Most people have. Cash App don't realize that when they hit the little scanner button, that scanner will scan a Lightning invoice. So there's 80 plus million users on Cash App that can now scan any of our Lightning invoices or any Lightning invoice in the world and pay anywhere in the world. And then that's another thing, which is a big Eureka moment for me, and just a further Eureka moment, but the ability to scan an invoice, say, in Japan, and have it come up in your local currency. Right? So I've got a cash app here in the States. I fly over Japan, I scan a Lightning invoice for ¥100, and it shows me back in dollars how much I have. You know, just that instant conversion where you're conducting business in your currency and they're conducting business in their currency, and they're getting their currency value that they wanted, and you're spending what you want and having that is pretty powerful.
Kevin Rooke - 00:54:38:
Yeah. So in that sense, kind of like it's a bridge between Fiat Currencies, right? Is that fair to say?
Ry Sterling - 00:54:46:
Or at least what become it's becoming a bridge, yeah.
Kevin Rooke - 00:54:51:
Ry Sterling - 00:54:54:
You need to also look at Lightning, and it's what our CEO always uses, this use case. And it's what makes email great outside of formatting and that kind of stuff. It's the fact that if you have Gmail and I have Hotmail and somebody firstname.lastname@example.org, we can still all send each other emails. You're still going to get the email, right? You have Venmo or Apple Pay or any of these things. You have to have Venmo, Apple Pay or any of these things to send money to someone else. Well, with Lightning, it's an open pasture. It's not a walled garden. Anyone can send anything from any Lightning wallet to any other Lightning wallet. Also, for companies that incorporate Lightning into, say, their financial platforms, well, they can now accept instantaneous payments from around the world. They're opening up their ecosystems to become global financial players versus regional financial players. I think that will have major impact on the adoption.
Kevin Rooke - 00:55:54:
If you squint a little bit and think about what impact like Bridging Fiat Currencies could have to those Fiat Currencies, maybe what are those impacts? What will it do to countries in Latin America if they can now bridge into any other currency with using this Lightning protocol?
Ry Sterling - 00:56:17:
Yeah, that's a great question. I keep saying we're opening up a new era of global commerce with Lightning just because you can now get goods and services from anywhere in the world. And even if it's helping or paying for some creative work that you got in fiverr across the world. And say. The person produced micro content for you. Or somebody in Africa drew you a picture and you want to spend $4 on or whatever. That person can now instantly get that money. It's not going through this process, and it's. Kind of a confirmation or a door opener for global commerce, I would say more than anything, that's what I'm expecting. And also, with remittances and stuff, if you're taking twelve or 20% out of money remitted to a country, well, you're taking that money out of the country's GDP. So if you say $0.05 sorry, 5%, you're adding 5% back to that local region's GDP because it's money that they now have in their pocket that they can go and spend versus money that was taken out during the transfer process. So you're increasing localized or regional GDP when it comes to remittance as well.
Kevin Rooke - 00:57:28:
Right. And we've seen that, I think, a lot in El Salvador, right, where I think the quote was like, 25% of GDP was remittances. You get the sense that is meaningfully shifted in the last year or so. Have we had enough Lightning adoption in El Salvador to actually change that GDP, that percentage?
Ry Sterling - 00:57:52:
Well, I don't know the numbers on it, but if the remittance works the way we want it to work with Lightning, that 2020 5% should go to 35%, right. Because of the money that's being kept in the end consumer's pocket and not taking out within fees. So you'll still have the same I think it'll still be the same amount of money being sent, but it's what's being kept on the receiving side, which is the issue. Grandma is only getting $80 instead of the 100 that was sent to her. Well, now, what if Grandma gets $96 for the $100 that's sent to her? It's an extra $14 in Grandma's pocket.
Kevin Rooke - 00:58:34:
So I guess if 25% was GDP from remittances, then maybe 6% of GDP was being eaten up by fees. And now the goal is to shift that from six to five to 4321.
Ry Sterling - 00:58:47:
Kevin Rooke - 00:58:48:
Got it. Okay. I want to touch on one other point on IBEX on your site. Your mission is to make bitcoin easy in big bowl letters there. So I want to hear more about, like, what are some of the additional pain points that still exist today that you hope to remove in the future?
Ry Sterling - 00:59:15:
Pain points that we see today. Again, adoption and education. Those are the two big ones for me that's we have to just keep hammering home on those, which is like a heat hammering home. And when we say we make bitcoin easy, well, with the IBEX Pay side, it's just a very easy system to use. It's free. Anyone can use it. If you want to learn about it, if you want to try it for business, boom, it's there. How easy is that? On the hub side, our secret sauce is we manage all the channels in the notes, and a lot of people listening might not know what a channel or node is. And it's basically what allows for the instant bitcoin at nearly zero fees to occur. And that channel balancing and node management is complex. So where bitcoin is very easy on chain. Bitcoin is very easy to move and understand. Lightning is a little bit more complex by design. And that's kind of the heavy lifting that we take on to make sure that you're always up and running and you have 99.9% up times, et cetera, versus if you try to do it all yourself, you might have a few failed nodes and beating your head against the wall. And why are we doing this? And for a large organization or enterprise customer, they already have a business that they're doing very well in. They got to enterprise level for a reason. They already have their secret formula that makes them great. Don't need to reinvent the wheel and try to add Lightning to your services yourself, or in house, we can handle those services for you. And so that's what we mean by making Bitcoin easy. I also like to say our mission is creating a hyper efficient payment network to empower the world into a new era of global commerce. So we are doing those two things, hyper efficient payment network, which is Lightning, and empowering the world into a new era of global commerce. And that's anything from Remittances to us moving ourselves around the world.
Kevin Rooke - 01:01:14:
I like it. Do you think that it's reasonable to expect Lightning infrastructure providers to look a lot like Internet providers? Or maybe not Internet service providers, but think of what AWS is for a lot of Internet access.
Ry Sterling - 01:01:30:
So. AWS. Microsoft is your Google. I forget Google's name is Google Server. Do Google something. But yeah, it's very similar. We take the heavy lifting where you don't have to go buy a server, set it up, get it running, download the software, et cetera. We do all the heavy lifting there. You just go on, tell us what type of plan you're going to need, how much you plan on moving, and we'll set up the rest.
Kevin Rooke - 01:01:59:
Do you think the margins on that business are going to be meaningfully different or more or less the same? Because AWS for Amazon has been a big contributor to the business and to the value of the company. Is that still going to be true in Lightning, where we do have this like it's not a gated ecosystem as much as some of the Web two products are?
Ry Sterling - 01:02:23:
I'm not sure on Amazon's pricing structure, but at least for us, we want to keep things fair. We obviously have a business to run, but when it comes to the world as it is now, I think we can do a lot better in terms of fees and structure. So we don't want to make it a race to the bottom, but just off of what we can do and with our infrastructure, we can make it better.
Kevin Rooke - 01:02:54:
Makes sense. All right, I want to jump into a segment I do at the end of every show called Lightning Round. Are you ready?
Ry Sterling - 01:03:01:
All right, let's go.
Kevin Rooke - 01:03:03:
I hope you're enjoying the show so far? I just want to give a quick shout out to our sponsor, stackwork. Stackwork is a Lightning powered platform that generates high quality transcripts from all of your audio or video content. They combine AI engines and hundreds of human workers all over the world who are paid over the Lightning Network to assemble these transcripts. And that's what lets Stakwork create better, faster, and less expensive transcripts than anyone else. I've used stackwork to transcribe all of my episodes on my personal website. You can check that out. I just get the stackwork file, copy paste, and go. No additional editing required. If you want to learn more about Stakwork, you can visit stackwork.com. That is stakwork.com. First question for you. What percentage of people in El Salvador use bitcoin on a regular basis today?
Ry Sterling - 01:04:02:
I don't know, but I would say 10%.
Kevin Rooke - 01:04:06:
10%, okay, that's pretty good. If you could change one thing about bitcoin, what would you change?
Ry Sterling - 01:04:16:
Interesting. There's a few things there I would say somehow make it easier to understand. I think in the naming conventions used when bitcoin was created, when we call an address, it's really an account like little things like that that confuse people. Your private keys, your signature. There are certain things that could have just been normalized to current speak to make the adoption process faster. And then I would also say culture. Bitcoin culture is you have a lot of different communities now, and it'd be nice to kind of get back to that grassroots, like, hey, be kind, be nice to one another. We're trying to change the world here. No one's right. No one is right, but we don't have to be so put down. Everyone else is wrong. It goes against the values of bitcoin, right? I'm new to this, but I even learned the value of bitcoin early on, and there's this underlying generosity that I experienced. There was a ton of energy and a ton of generosity, and those are two things that got me to switch to this industry. Everyone was willing to help, even if it was a competitor. And then also there's this energy that made me feel like I was part of something that was world changing. But I think the bear market definitely ruffled some feathers and made everybody a little more aggressive. But you see it out there, and there are people that are so hardcore that they're so right about this and anti everything else. Well, how can you ever be someone that doesn't believe there could be another horse in the race? If we do that, we're just ignorant, right? And I don't believe there is right now, but it doesn't mean there can never be. Just like, keep to the roots, keep to the kindness, keep to help each other out. And I think we'll do amazing. And when you get to that level of just, there's no other way, well, you're violating the fundamentals of bitcoin. Which is freedom and freedom of speech and all those things that people push for within it. A switch there would be nice or just kind of come back to the middle. And I mean, that's across our entire country right now in the world, right, where all these extremes it's just like, come on, come on back to center, guys. You're just a little bit more, and let's all get along. And within the bitcoin community, I'd like to see that more than anything.
Kevin Rooke - 01:06:32:
That's a great answer.
Ry Sterling - 01:06:33:
Kevin Rooke - 01:06:33:
I think that's very thoughtful, and I agree with that. How many merchants in the world today is across all platforms accept Lightning payments?
Ry Sterling - 01:06:44:
Well, I can't speak to all the merchants in the world, but for IBEX, we have over 500 merchants currently accepting Lightning payments across Europe, Latin, and United States.
Kevin Rooke - 01:06:56:
Ry Sterling - 01:06:57:
I even believe we're in Australia, actually.
Kevin Rooke - 01:07:01:
Are there any books that have meaningfully changed your view of the world?
Ry Sterling - 01:07:06:
Bitcoin specific books?
Kevin Rooke - 01:07:09:
It doesn't have to be bitcoin specific, but any books at all?
Ry Sterling - 01:07:13:
Well, I would say the one that really got me was there was Learning Bitcoin by Anita. Forget the last name. It's a very aposha need a posh. Exactly. I was a newbie, and I needed to kind of learn from the ground up. And then obviously the bitcoin standard. Read that one. As a newbie to the industry, I went for all the basics, and each one of them was more valuable than the next. So I'm going to give a shout out to the new, I guess, the standard OG bitcoin books. I'm actually just buying now, mastering Bitcoin, which is kind of looks like one of those Linux programming books, the old school covers with the black and white bugs on them or whatever.
Kevin Rooke - 01:07:57:
Ry Sterling - 01:07:58:
So I'm buying that now via a recommendation of the team.
Kevin Rooke - 01:08:02:
Nice. If you could hold only one asset for the next decade and it could not be bitcoin, what asset would you hold?
Ry Sterling - 01:08:13:
Tough one. Probably just based off of current pricing. Gold. I like it, but I don't think any fiat currency in its current state.
Kevin Rooke - 01:08:26:
Yeah. Okay, final question. Is there anyone in the industry that you want to give a shout out to that you look up to, admire? Feel free to fire away any particular projects.
Ry Sterling - 01:08:39:
I kind of have a generic answer for this one. I've been asked before, and it's my team. I would not be the human I am today without the support of them and be where I am on my bitcoin journey without them, and I am consistently and constantly learning from them. And that's everywhere, from the marketing department all the way through to our CEO. Every day I come to work and I joined my Zoom meets. If I'm not going into the office, and I go, wow, you're really smart. Thanks for that little tidbit of knowledge that I had no idea about. And even people that work for me our head of Biz Dev for IBEX Pay. She has a work ethic that I strive to have, so I would say my team is who I look up to the most in the industry.
Kevin Rooke - 01:09:27:
Awesome. Great answers. Thank you again for taking the time for this conversation. Where can people go to learn more about you and IBEX?
Ry Sterling - 01:09:37:
IBEX Mercado on Twitter or IBEX Pay. On Twitter and on Twitter I am Sterling underscore Ry R Y.
Kevin Rooke - 01:09:47:
Awesome. Thanks again for your time and hope we can do it again soon.
Ry Sterling - 01:09:50:
I appreciate it. Have a great one.