The world’s largest Bitcoin (BTC) conference, Bitcoin 2023, in Miami, Florida, passed without major fanfare this year. Past conferences announced nation-state adoption, massive crypto integrations in the United States, and islands and territories worldwide embracing Bitcoin.
Nonetheless, at Bitcoin 2023, one partnership with a potentially significant impact on the world’s 15th-largest economy flew under the radar.
We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with Grupo Salinas. Looking forward to seeing the positive impact this collaboration will have.⚡️ #Bitcoin #bitcoiconference2023 https://t.co/rkAjWnmKsK pic.twitter.com/yWIWc6751B
— IBEX ⚡️ (@PoweredbyIBEX) May 18, 2023
José Lemus, the CEO of Ibex Mercado, closed out the Bitcoin 2023 Industry Day. He announced a partnership with Grupo Salinas, one of Mexico’s largest corporate conglomerates. In brief, the collaboration would allow millions of Mexicans to pay their internet bills at popular telecoms company Total Play using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
Crucially, the Salinas Group owns tens of businesses across Mexico. Its billionaire founder, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, is the third-richest person in the country and a well-known Bitcoin maximalist.
Not only does the Bitcoin Lightning payments integration already deliver Bitcoin adoption to millions of Mexicans, but as Lemus explained to Cointelegraph, Total Play is one small retailer that’s part of the vast Salinas conglomerate:
“Imagine if Best Buy, Bank of America, Fox News and an NFL team were all owned by the same individual. All of them will have Lightning capabilities in the future.”
Lemus explained it’s just the “tip of the iceberg of what will go on in Mexico,” as more Bitcoin and Lightning integrations, and on and off-ramps attract more Bitcoin business. Speaking via video link, Lemus explained that fiat and Bitcoin can interact more freely in Mexico:
“Let’s say you have a wallet and you want to make Mexican pesos available in Mexico, or you have an exchange and you want to make the balances for your customers in Mexico. You can do that through CoinPro or through Grupo Salinas.”
The partnership is the beginning of Lightning functionality across Grupo Salinas. There will be a Lightning app “for employees, a super app for soccer teams to do something similar to what we have with the Perth Heat where we drive fan engagement with innovative ways.”
The Australian baseball team, Perth Heat, adopted a Bitcoin standard in 2021, with players earning salaries in Bitcoin and “Sats4Stats”, where players receive Bitcoin for hitting home runs. Plus, fan engagement activities use the Lightning Network. For example, during baseball games, “When a player steals a base, a QR flashes on screen and the first people that scan it get satoshis,” Lemus explained.
Players can send satoshis to players directly during Perth Heat baseball games. Source: PerthHeat.com.au
In the first year of operation, the Perth Heat players earned an extra 1% through Bitcoin, Lemus said on stage at Bitcoin 2023. “It’s still early” for such a technology, but an extra 1% is already encouraging.
Grupo Salinas owns the Mexican football clubs, Mazatlán and Club Puebla. Fans could soon get their hands on free money — in the form of Bitcoin or satoshis — for simply scanning the QR code on the stadium screen when a player scores, just like with Perth Heat.
A snapshot of some of the Grupo Salinas brands spanning retail, banking, sports and advertising. Source: GrupoSalinas.com
Ibex Mercado understands the massive opportunity for financial inclusion offered by the Lightning Network. Lemus founded Ibex in neighboring Guatemala, and the company delivered the Lightning Network integration for El Salvador’s Chivo Wallet — which effectively banked millions of Salvadorans — two years prior.
Lemus explained that more Bitcoin adoption could improve the lives of unbanked and underserved populations. Moreover, financial inclusion goes beyond banking the unbanked:
“It’s the ability to raise funds for your company. It’s the ability to open yourself to a broader market. And that is what, for me, true financial inclusion is.”
Finally, Lemus highlighted the potential of Mexico as a Bitcoin destination: “I think that Mexico is going to be the place where this is going to take off.“ More broadly, 2022 was a promising year for Bitcoin and crypto adoption in the country, from crypto remittance companies establishing in Mexico to crypto exchange expansion.
Related: Bitcoin adoption of Guatemalan merchants grows one BTC tattoo at a time
Does this mean that crypto enthusiasts may soon be able to live on Bitcoin like they can in El Salvador? Lemus replied:
“Let’s say you conduct most of your life in Bitcoin, I think 18 months is a reasonable target where you can do most of your life. But obviously, things like taxes and maybe rent will not run on Bitcoin yet.”
Similarly, the partnership with Grupo Salinas took 18 months of work and preparation, Lemus said. More partnerships and projects are on the horizon in Mexico, although it’s too early to share details, Lemus concluded.
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