What I learned from onboarding traders in Portugal to Bitcoin – Crypto News Aktuell in German
Lessons learned from a Portugal-based expat bitcoiner who decided traders in their local market needed the Lightning networks needed.
This is an opinion editorial by Holly Young, a resident of Portugal, who Bitcoin Runs Tribe Algarve meetings.
Bitcoin communities are on the rise in southern Portugal. A number of initiatives are actively trying to strengthen and expand it, including meetups, study groups, workshops, and recently a Telegram group that connects merchants who want to sell their organic goods for Bitcoin with a group of customers who want to buy them.
If you read Captain Sidd’s recent article, “Homesteader Conversations: Feeding Your Family And Building A Bitcoin Community In Southern Portugal,” then you already know the Monchique market, where the interviewed homesteader sells her wares. When I visited there a while ago, I realized that Bitcoin would be the perfect currency for the peer-to-peer trading that takes place there. I decided then and there to do my best to catch traders off guard and use this experience as a test case for the wider adoption of bitcoin education in the region.
The market emerged during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when rules in law-abiding Portugal were particularly strict: masks in public places, no gatherings, and so on and so forth.
The region’s freedom-loving expat community was appalled — and noncompliant. For the market hosts, traders and visitors, attending felt like asserting a fundamental right: the right to trade. A colorful exchange ensued between the market organizers and the local police, but the market won. Of course, cash is king in such an environment, so having plenty of spare change in your pocket was a must for merchants and shoppers alike.
The goods available at the market are mostly edible, including mountain honey, mushrooms, tinctures, meat, and eggs, but shoppers can also peruse clothing, handcrafted jewelry, biocharcoal stoves, candles, and bronze household items. I would guess that most transactions at the market were made for under €20 – five here for a pot of delicious honey, four there to paint your child’s face or buy him some colorful bracelets.
The Lightning Network payment layer is perfect for transactions of this size. I was thrilled to leave a message on the merchants’ Telegram group inviting them to a free training workshop on how to make and accept Lightning payments for goods and services sold in the market and by local small businesses sold. It was aimed at traders who are able to accumulate bitcoin on their balance sheets like an individual with a savings account would.
“Spammer” was the curt accusation from one member of the group. In my idealism, I had rather hoped that my offer would be accepted – I was a bit unprepared for the occasionally scathing reactions it actually evoked. In a group of over 1,000 members, only a handful responded at all. Of these, about half were suspicious, negative, and accused me of promoting a Ponzi scheme or making a profit. Fortunately, the other half wrote that they would like to participate and showed genuine interest. A few local bitcoiners messaged me privately to say they appreciate the initiative.
As the famous saying goes, we are so early.
In the end a few people signed up, initially around 12: a mix of merchants and local small business owners and a nice couple visiting from Eastern Europe who were considering Portugal as a possible emigration location.
We held the workshop in Monchique, a mountain town in the Algarve region and site of the now famous market. A local café in the central square, Velochique (which not only serves excellent coffee and lunch, but also rents out bikes to the more adventurous visitor – doesn’t accept bitcoin yet, but we hope for the future) accommodated us lavishly.
The best plans, as the saying goes. In the end none of the market traders showed up themselves – instead our audience consisted of local small businesses and some international visitors. Since then, however, several traders have reached out from the market to request a private meeting so we can go through the same material. I am happy to comply and will carry out this follow-up in the coming days and weeks.
I’ve thought long and hard about how to launch Bitcoin. In the end, I decided to talk briefly about bitcoin as a value proposition as opposed to our bloating fiat currency. A point that resonated particularly with our Eastern European guests who reported that in the last 12 months they had a inflation of 25% had seen for groceries.
We continued to discuss the issues faced by merchants and small businesses. First and foremost, getting rid of credit card fees was definitely popular. Mastercard paying part of the value for the beautiful fruits and vegetables we buy at the market seems deeply illogical to both buyer and seller. Second, and not insignificant for a cash economy, came the need for correct change, quite a source of stress for the market itself.
For me personally, being able to connect the vendors with the bitcoin community and the bitcoin community with people who produce goods of real value is a key driver for organizing such events. This interface will be an important aspect for the success of a Bitcoin community in the future. This translates well for vendors interested in gaining access to a new customer group. This was the final substantive point we covered in the workshop prior to a demonstration of using Lightning.
I was supported in this by a family member and I was very pleased to have his support. As a technical expert, he had let me know in advance how useful he found Coinos.io and we had explored its potential together. He gave a brief explanation of what a wallet is and how easy Coinos is to use. Attendees were particularly impressed that it is possible to add a profile picture on Coinos – a feature found in other Lightning wallets such as Blue Wallet isn’t available yet, and a feature well-suited for small business marketing.
Once everyone had created a Coinos account (everyone loved how easy it was and how little personal information they had to provide – no address or date of birth required, no proof of residence either) and in just a few minutes we were transacting. I handed one euro from my wallet to the neighbor on my left, who had billed me. We passed the euro around the table so everyone in attendance could experience creating and paying a Lightning invoice. One participant wanted to know how to do business with customers in other countries, so we also practiced sending the invoice via Telegram. In the future, we will be teaching participants to sweep their sats out of Coinos’ custody and into cold storage.
Everyone present was very impressed with how quick and easy it was to make transactions – it seems the expectation prior to the event was that the explanation of Bitcoin and Lightning would be technical and difficult to understand. Two small business owners pledged to accept bitcoin on the spot.
I had decided prior to the event to limit the number of participants to 10 as experience had taught me that more than that resulted in a less interactive experience. Several people have decided at the last minute that they cannot attend, so some follow-up events are an absolute must. In the near future I will be helping various market traders who make beautiful scented candles, natural cosmetic products that rival the best cosmetic brands (and at a quarter of the price!), crocheted blankets, clothing and accessories, leather goods and much more, using organic fruit to order Accept payments on the Lightning Network.
After the workshop there was some interest from surrounding villages with local farmers markets so we are now happily scouting for locations for our next ones. Further events are planned for February and March.
Since the workshop, I’ve had the pleasure of joining an international group of bitcoiners, all committed to promoting bitcoin adoption through education about the Lightning payment network. I don’t believe much in future predictions as life has a way of coming at you from left field, but I’m cautiously betting that 2023 will be the year of widespread adoption of lighting as more of us embrace it dedicate time and energy to lighting to help him on his natural path to success.
This is a guest post by Holly Young. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch