Greeting from Cuba, my good people!

This is how Erich García Cruz usually presents himself on his YouTube channel, Bachecubano. In this space he shares technological news, tutorials and reviews on products and services. The channel has barely been online for a year and five months; however, it already has more than 62,000 subscribers. In addition, Erich has developed two of the most innovative and interesting projects related to cryptocurrencies in Cuba: BitRemesas and QvaPay.

PanamericanWorld spoke with this Cuban entrepreneur, a chess lover, who is not afraid of controversy, who prefers to share the “honey” – insights – with his large community of followers in a selfless way, and who has proposed to become Cuba’s ambassador for opening international business with cryptocurrencies.

The Story of Bachecubano

One of Erich García’s first projects was the Bachecubano classifieds site, which emerged in 2014. “It became a very popular site due to the design and the ease offered in terms of the registration, control and management of advertisements. Then we began to position it as a site for news, guides and tutorials”.

Later, Erich created QvaShop, “an experiment in how to set up an online store from Cuba”. he clarified. People brought electronic devices from abroad to sell and that created an informal market. “What QvaShop did was to automate that market, through a site”, he acknowledged.

In early 2020, Erich opened his own YouTube channel. He decided to use the same name as his previous project: Bachecubano. The growth has been exponential. How did he manage to become the most followed tech youtuber in the country? Erich considers that there are two elements that explain his more than 60,000 subscribers.

“Many friends have told me that the main thing is to add value and make a difference in style and ways of expressing concepts. In addition, I threw in some SEO studies I had and the fact that the content I am teaching is focused on the Cuban reality, on solving problems with technology, in an easy, simple, friendly way”.

“The key is in how you explain it, how you reach your audience in a colloquial way, with a more inclusive language. It’s my way of communicating with the audience”, he assured.

In several of his videos, Erich shares what he calls “mieles” or honeys/insights, that is, useful tips to help people. These “honeys” have been very well received by the vast majority of viewers; although others have criticized the fact that this youtuber should have remained silent on certain topics.

“I have a pedagogical background. I was an elementary school teacher. I taught children to read and write. The pedagogical need to teach people is something that I have acquired. I discover a “honey”, a “niche” and share it in a disinterested way. We are living in the 21st century. There is no use in keeping things. If everyone has access to information and everyone figures out how to achieve something and people learn to live with it, new things are going to emerge, because then competition comes. It is not about the individual, but the collective. It has been going well for me and I am going to continue sharing honeys, ”he asserted.

Related article: Cryptocurrencies in Cuba: four startups that are betting on Bitcoin

Four reasons to understand the frenzy for cryptocurrencies in Cuba

Erich is one of the Cuban entrepreneurs who has most addressed the topic of cryptocurrencies on his YouTube channel. At the same time, as a programmer, he has led the development of two startups focused on cryptocurrencies.

Erich García talks with Miguel Ernesto Gómez, journalist for PanamericanWorld in Havana. Photo: Abel Rojas / PanamericanWorld / LaHabana

How do we understand the boom that cryptocurrencies have experienced in Cuba? “Cubans are using cryptocurrencies for four reasons. The first is to store of value. They are buying cryptocurrencies with a currency that is steadily devalued, which is the Cuban peso (CUP). They prefer to guarantee their finances with a stable cryptocurrency that is not subjected to that fluctuation. They see crypto as a kind of “pseudo bank,” Erich explained.

“There is another phenomenon: trading. Cubans “trade” with other pairs (for example, between BTC-USDT) and, in this way, some win, others lose”.

“The other thing is how people manage problems that the fiat currency does not solve for them. Thanks to these cryptocurrencies, they have been able to circumvent a series of sanctions. Right now, Cubans can purchase products and services on the Internet. They can book plane tickets, buy tourist packages, add credit to their phone balance, pay for food combos and have them brought to them, buy an electric motorcycle and have it sent to them from Panama.  What is being discovered is the existence of an ecosystem with a cryptographic currency that allows you to do everything you can think of. That’s fascinating”, Erich said. “The fourth element”, Erich clarifies, “is the ponzi phenomenon, pyramid schemes”, when it comes to companies such as Trust Investing.

BitRemesas and QvaPay, two startups with cryptocurrencies in Cuba

Erich García has promoted two of the best-known and most used ventures by the cryptocurrency community in Cuba. The first was BitRemesas.

“In Cuba there is an informal market for buying and selling cryptocurrencies. People buy cryptos through groups on Telegram, WhatsApp, Revolico. Where was the opportunity? In creating a site that would become a provider of remittances for Cuba”.

Photo: Abel Rojas / PanamericanWorld / LaHabana

“BitRemesas is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network where a remittance order enters for a Cuban national. There is a buyer who needs that cryptocurrency. That buyer transfers, from his balance, the money to that client and receives the remittance in cryptocurrencies”.

“Buyers compete with each other. For example, if they send a person 100 dollars, they have to give that person 4,200 Cuban pesos, because the exchange rate at this time is 1 dollar for every 42 Cuban pesos. What happens is that several buyers will seek to complete the payment and the one who is willing to accept the least cryptocurrencies wins the transaction. That difference that existed between the total amount of money that came in and what the buyer accepted is BitRemesas’ business model”, explained Erich who assures that, although he is the software programmer, this business is served by the cryptocurrency community in Cuba.

One of the fastest-growing Cuban startups has been QvaPay. This international payment gateway with cryptocurrencies came into operation three months ago. Today it has more than 33,000 registered users, not only from Cuba.

“QvaPay is sold as a payment gateway. If you are Cuban and want to start moving your business towards cryptocurrencies, you have it very easy with QvaPay ”, said Erich. “QvaPay guarantees the gateway with three clicks. You associate your business with QvaPay and you will be able to start selling in cryptocurrencies”, he clarified.

How does it work? “The user has an account, with a balance that has been funded through cryptocurrencies. That balance allows you to do things. You can buy in other businesses, withdraw it in cryptocurrencies or in Cuban pesos, through BitRemesas, or send it to other parts of the world, because there is a worldwide P2P network to deliver cryptocurrencies in local currency. In this way, the financial management circle is assured”, he asserted.

QvaPay alliances with other companies

“As a payment gateway, the mission that I have set for myself is to become an ambassador for Cuba on the issue of opening international business for Cubans,” said Erich.

“Now when I see a company and I realize that it does not work with cryptocurrencies, I try to contact the CEO and pitch the idea of ​​starting to accept QvaPay balances as a payment method. For example, when they open an account at CoinBase and receive a payment in cryptocurrencies, the exchange immediately converts that into dollars and deposits it in their bank account. There is no reason not to use cryptocurrencies”, he explained.

“I tell them that at QvaPay they have an audience and that right now there are 30,000 people eager to consume products and services. So, they are wasting a niche. 100% of the businessmen contacted to accept have said yes”, he added.

Photo: Abel Rojas / PanamericanWorld / LaHabana

One of the alliances that QvaPay achieved was with DTOne, the provider of mobile phone recharges for the Cuban telecommunications company (Etecsa). “I contacted the owner of that company and explained that there was an option for anyone to recharge cell phones with cryptocurrencies in Cuba. We reached an agreement, and it is working. Today you can buy Etecsa recharges with QvaPay credit”, he explained.

Entrepreneurship in Cuba Today

“Doing business technologically in Cuba is wonderful. There are many niches and many possibilities”, clarified Erich. “Are there any problems? A lot. I’m not saying there aren’t any. I tell my truth, my side. Since 2015, I have been doing business in Cuba. I have done moderately well. I am not a millionaire, but I do not complain about what I have achieved, tangibly and intangibly. I try to encourage those who started last week, like me, in 2015”, he acknowledged.

“Now there are better technological conditions for undertakings. You have access to the Internet. Expensive, but you’ve got it. You have a whole culture of cryptocurrencies that makes it easier to become international and you have communities that can guide you, with experience”, he concluded.