The Lightning network might be the greatest payment network you’ve never heard of. It is a second-layer network built on top of Bitcoin that facilitates instant and cheap bitcoin payments without the need for intermediaries. Lightning is being leveraged to send money across the world faster, better, and cheaper than with traditional financial rails.
“The Lightning Network is a payments technology that democratizes access to the global economy, making it quicker and cheaper to reliably transact on or offline,” says Alyse Killeen, founder and managing partner of Stillmark VC. Stillmark was founded in 2019 as the first bitcoin-focused venture capital firm.
Killeen is bullish on the Lighting network in a number of different ways. With lightning, businesses can expand their total addressable markets to the unbanked. Money can also be sent in smaller payments, de-risking and reducing costs in the remittance market.
As bitcoin use expands, so too does its impact. The following two founders are creating opportunity in South America in the payments and remittance space, expanding financial services into areas where traditional means are unavailable.
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“Latin America and the Caribbean received more than $140 billion in cross-border payments. If we are to achieve wide adoption, we need to simplify the process,” Piero Coen explained about the inspiration behind his company Osmo.
Osmo is a mobile payment company that leverages the Lightning network to help people in Latin America send and receive money using a mobile app. It’s goal is to make digital payments faster, cheaper, and more accessible, particularly in countries with a high number of unbanked individuals.
The bitcoin received is immediately and automatically converted to the local currency of the user. “They don’t need to understand bitcoin; they just need to know it’s as easy as sending a WhatsApp message or an email,” Coen told me in our interview.
“We believe that universal participation in the financial system is a human right,” he concluded in our interview. Applications like Osmo are helping to bank the unbanked in locations where people might not be able to participate in the legacy system. A feat made possible by leveraging bitcoin and Lightning as payment rails, rather than holding the asset.
Ibex is a bitcoin infrastructure company that specializes in providing enterprise solutions for Bitcoin’s Lightning network. They offer their clients Lightning-as-a-service infrastructure for quick, scalable deployment, which is essential in helping them leverage the Lightning network to send value globally, instantly and at any scale.
“Imagine a world where transactions are processed instantly, disrupting existing norms and paving the way for a more efficient future,” Ibex CEO Jose Lemus told me. The instant nature of the Lightning network is especially pertinent in South America, reducing settlement risk and transaction fees for small businesses.
Headquartered in the USA, IBEX also has offices in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, enabling them to provide their services to clients worldwide. Most recently, the company secured a partnership with Grupo Salinas to adopt Lightning in its conglomerate, adding to their growing list of strategic alliances with businesses looking to expand globally by embracing emerging technologies.
“This transformative technology defies tradition and opens up new possibilities, creating a future where real-time payments reshape the foundations of commerce,” Lemus concluded — an optimistic tone.
Both companies facilitate instant value transfer over Bitcoin’s Lightning network. Payment recipients either don’t, or don’t have to receive bitcoin. It is simply the tool that facilitates the transaction.
Leveraging bitcoin and Lightning as payment rails will become increasingly common as people begin to realize the power and efficiency of these methods. As bitcoin continues to permeate underdeveloped economies, the next wave of adoption might just come from people who don’t even realize they’re using Bitcoin.