As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s VP, Sarah Martin, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in Hong Kong on May 14-15, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Helena Margarido, a Partner at HMO Law and Co-founder of Fundação Bitcoin Brasil.
Sarah: Tell us about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
Helena: As a partner of a Law Firm who is specialized in internet & new technologies market, it is common to have access to discussions on topics that are far away from the mainstream yet, in all the legal areas.
That said, because of the work we have developed on the new regulatory framework for the payment industry in Brazil, players from that industry have required some preliminary legal analysis in more depth regarding Bitcoins’ legality in the country in the beginning of 2013. After that, we have started following the developers and enthusiasts discussions and realized that the legal gray area was far beyond what we first expected. Ever since, we became obstinate on bringing legal certainty to Bitcoin and criptocurrencies related businesses, as we personally believe that because they can be as disruptive to transfer processing in general as internet was to traditional telecommunications, a more black-and-white legal framework needs to be developed in order to allow companies to establish and grow.
Sarah: What types of legal issues do you help Bitcoin startups navigate in Brasil?
Helena: Usually the legal analysis on the business model itself is highly recommended in order to point out any eventual risks and ways to mitigate them, in all the legal areas (specially regulatory – including AML and KYC rules – and tax in most of the cases). We perform such preliminary work, as well as all the legal implementation of legal structure and documents for the company to operate. We also have strong expertise on legal structuring and financing, as well as due diligence and M&A on Bitcoin-related companies.
Sarah: Tell us a little more about the Bitcoin ecosystem in Brasil. What led you to co-found the Fundação Bitcoin Brasil?
Helena: As any serious and committed voluntary work, being a co-founder of Instituto Bitcoin Brasil (aka Fundação Bitcoin Brasil) requires more than simply networking or any type of exposure, but also some strong personal belief that we creating something to enable a technology we have faith to change the world as we know it to have all the necessary infrastructure to develop and grow. Some very active people engaged in discussions and new ventures, who are trying to prove the viability of technology and to disseminating its benefits society in general, currently form the Brazilian Bitcoin ecosystem; however, needless to say that, as in any country, bad press and lack of information are still what most people have on Bitcoin, so our mission is to turn the table on that.
Sarah: What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?
Helena: Lately I have been more and more interested on the Blockchain concept and uses. I’m not sure if people have realized the impact that a decentralized, unalterable and public transfer ledger can have if it is largely adopted – maybe neither have I. But, for instance, if we are talking about money transferring it is almost as if it “stamped” the money. Therefore, even though much is said about how Bitcoin can ease anonymous payments for illegal activities, it could be much harder if the blockchain technology was the default rule for the financial system and every user that has access it was KYC verified. Political views apart, I’m excited on the fact that the blockchain technology may have a social impact that besides being collateral can be beyond everyone’s expectations.
Sarah: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Helena: I understand many may agree that the technology itself is yet to be proved, but I do not see that as being the greatest challenge, especially for risk capital. Nonetheless, uncertainty on applicable laws and regulations, what can and can’t be done, the costs for being compliant with the regulations are preventing entrepreneurs to dedicate their resources and time entirely to business and technology development.
Sarah: What’s on the horizon for you? Where do you plan to dedicate your time and energy this year with respect to Bitcoin in Brasil?
Helena: I’ll probably stick to my Bitcoin clients at my law firm and the Instituto, as in both we have a considerable amount of work to do.
Sarah: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Helena.