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How Costa Rica is Quietly Building a Case for Cryptocurrency Development

In recent months, the hype surrounding cryptocurrency and Bitcoin has exploded on a global scale, with mainstream media trickling information into the mass market and creating a culture of FOMO (fear of missing out).

This FOMO is pushing companies to jump on the hype train and adopt any kind of crypto solution they can get their hands on, whether that be a means to accept crypto payments, or more security within their database through distributed ledger technology (DLT) and Blockchain.

As demand for crypto products and services rapidly increases, one company is Costa Rica is attempting to satiate that demand with outsourced software development services, but, as with any hype-fueled adoption, there are challenges in misinformation, education, and talent.

Adapting to Demand

Founded in September 2017, InnovaMars is a seven-person company in San Pedro that started off developing AI products, but soon realized the potential and value of cryptocurrency, so quickly shifted its primary focus to DLT, crypto, and blockchain.

Jose Zamora – “We had to do a lot of convincing to get companies to buy into artificial intelligence, but not for crypto.”

“We had to do a lot of convincing to get companies to buy into artificial intelligence, but not for crypto,” said Jose Zamora, Business Director at InnovaMars. “Clients are coming to us, eager to find a way to accept crypto as payment, but people are asking for Blockchain databases or solutions without even really knowing what they are. Thanks to the FOMO, we haven’t had to advertise or convince anyone in Costa Rica, and we are even turning clients away in some cases due to the level of demand.”

The company has been working on outsourced development projects for customers in Canada and Central America – an API for a hotel in Canada that wanted to accept Bitcoin payments, and smart contract development for a real estate firm in Guatemala. Generally, the clients are paying for the product, then taking on the liability of currency devaluations and hosting costs themselves.

Yet another Battle for Talent

Due the relative young age of the tech, there aren’t yet many developers or engineers who are experts in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, so when you throw in the current increase in demand the talent pool has very quickly started to dry up.

“Finding developers for blockchain services is extremely difficult,” said Zamora. “There are a lot of freelancers in Costa Rica who are either working for companies in the States or are working on something of their own.”

To get around this, InnovaMars is working with the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (ITCR) to generate more talent and interest in blockchain and DLTs. The company is currently assisting 60 undergraduate students in CRU and 20 in ITCR to help them learn about DLT and how to program within that sphere, focusing on the essential programming languages for the tech – Python, C++, JavaScript, and Solidity.

The program has been noticed by entrepreneurs and other larger companies who have faced the same problem, which is amplified further by the overall growth and adaptation of the services industry in Costa Rica.

Maykool Lopez – “It’s not only the big companies working on new crypto developments, but also new guys, new entrepreneurs trying to develop their own products.”

“There is a new wave of these crypto ventures, and indeed start-ups in other next-gen technologies, happening in Costa Rica,” said Maykool Lopez, Trade Commissioner & Director at PROCOMER. “This is because of the improvements in the country and the potential for developing technology, which started with the influx of contact centers. Nowadays, these contact centers are more like business process sweet spots for artificial intelligence and digital assets. It’s not only the big companies working on new developments, but also new guys, new entrepreneurs trying to develop their own products, or create viable business ventures out of these trends.”

Burgeoning Bitcoin Ecosystem

Furthermore, the cryptocurrency community in Costa Rica is expanding, with events and meetups being held regularly to discuss the legality, technicality, and potential of this revolutionary technology – for reference, the country’s cryptocurrency meetup in October attracted 200 people and grew to 800 this month.

The country seems to be jumping into the tech feet first, as there are already ten businesses in Costa Rica accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment, most of which are hotels or companies in the tourism industry. There are even a couple of Bitcoin ATMs (BTMs) in San Jose, allowing anyone to purchase the currency and add it to a wallet – think digital bank account for crypto.

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On the client side, Zamora has found that most companies in Costa Rica are far behind when it comes to technological areas of the business, some not having CIOs or CTOs, for example. “Although many companies want this tech, they aren’t usually technical enough to adopt it,” he confirmed. “For example, a retail firm came to us to help them accept Bitcoin payments, but didn’t even have any e-commerce setup, so we couldn’t help them. To address this knowledge gap, we are launching workshops and courses to introduce people to cryptocurrency, giving people info on the basics of what it is, how to buy it, and how to keep it safe.”

For InnovaMars, the biggest challenge is keeping up with the evolution of cryptocurrencies and the technology behind them, and getting clients up to speed with what is possible.

“First we had Bitcoin and the blockchain, now we also have IOTA and the Tangle, plus numerous other technologies emerging, so it’s not always easy to know which one to focus on,” said Zamora. “Almost every company that is starting with crypto is also launching an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) to raise funds, but we want to avoid the ICO route and focus on creating something that will add value.”

While it’s still early days for Nearshore crypto software development services, this clear wave of interest is expected to continue, so expect to see more vendors offering blockchain, crypto, and DLT solutions in the near future.

Matt Kendall

During his 2+ years as Chief Editor at Nearshore Americas, Matt Kendall operated at the heart of both the Nearshore BPO and IT services industries, reporting on the most impactful stories and trends in the sector.

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