Founder Spotlight: Miguel Cuneta of Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI Ventures Inc.)

By Ysa Lauta

Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonymous person that developed bitcoin, but satoshi is also the smallest unit of bitcoin, which is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. Citadel means fortress or stronghold which paints a picture of security and safety. When TechShake spoke with co-founder and Chief Community Officer of Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) Ventures Inc. Miguel Cuneta, he said that the name Satoshi Citadel entails a safe and secure way to buy and sell satoshis or bitcoin --- which is literally what they offer to people.


Turning curiosity into action

In 2013, Miguel discovered Bitcoin through a friend. At that time, he was not that interested as he thought it was a kind of some investment scheme. But months after that, bitcoin went from around $30 to $200 and that’s when he started to pay attention. Miguel said, “A lot of people had the same experience wherein they dove deeper into bitcoin and the technology behind it, and then they just get sucked into the "rabbit hole", and that’s what happened to me. So, for the next couple of months, that’s all I did and wanted to do. I was super obsessed about it.

Miguel explained that his friends John Bailon (CEO of SCI) and Jardine Gerodias (Director of SCI) who are also the co-founders of SCI, got together and discussed about building a business around bitcoin. “Bitcoin can change things and can change the way we do finance, governance, trade, and commerce. It’s exciting. It’s like a roller coaster, to be [a] part of something you think is bigger,” Miguel shared.

In 2014, they first came up with BitMarket, which was a payment processor for bitcoin. From there, they created Rebit which is one of the first bitcoin-to-fiat remittance  platforms in the world. Then they acquired BuyBitcoin in 2015, which is a brokerage for bitcoin. Through these services, their aim was to make money transactions cheaper, easier, faster, safer and more accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time.


SCI team meeting

Using action for change

It was not an easy journey to achieve their goals in this nascent industry. Miguel recalled that they also had their fair share of challenges in regulations, misinformation, and traction along the way. “Banks would close our accounts when they found out that we’re a bitcoin company. […] They didn’t want to work with us because we were unregulated [at the time] and bitcoin had a bad reputation,” Miguel shared.

But despite these challenges they still persevered. “We always have this mindset that it’s all about your ability to be resilient and, like bitcoin, anti-fragile, which means the more tests, the stronger you become,” Miguel says. With this, Rebit grew fast after its launch and this is how they got their seed investment from Kakaotalk’s investment group Kakao Investment in 2016.  Just this year they got an investment from Cebuana Lhuillier, one of their long-time commercial partners for last mile delivery and cash ins. Miguel also said that they have had steady growth ever since 2014, and they see more opportunities for them in the future.

Miguel said that they are in the final development stages of Bitbit 2.0, a wallet that allows people to store and convert bitcoin and use it to pay bills and transfer money, as well as expanding into new remittance corridors such as the Middle East. In fact, the company is looking at raising more funding from strategic investors to expand their operations in the Philippines in the near future. In addition, Miguel said that he thinks that the next two to three years will be a good market for their industry, and they plan to ride on that trend. “The goal is to make sending money as easy as sending information,” Miguel added.

Miguel’s advice for entrepreneurs who want to engage in fintech: “I think you have to be in it for more than just making money or business. It has to align with your personal ethos, your personal beliefs. For example, I believe transferring money or value should be open, permissionless and everyone should have the freedom to transact with anyone they want, and that aligns with our business. So, I think we need to really understand the bigger picture, the intersection of finance and technology.”

You can check SCI’s website to know more about their company and what they do here.