In the one-month period from November 11 to December 10, the price of 1 Bitcoin rose 133 percent from $6,334 to $14,774, according to data from CoinDesk.com. The high volatility of the cryptocurrency has sparked a surge in interest from Filipino investors, which has translated into more users buying and selling Bitcoin in the past few weeks.
Indeed, data from Google revealed that searches for the term “Bitcoin” in the Philippines has grown in the past few months, with interest over time reaching an all-time high this December.
Rising interest in Bitcoin in the Philippines has translated into increased demand for the virtual currency that is straining the capacity of two of the country’s most prominent Bitcoin startups, Coins.ph and Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI). Both run Bitcoin exchanges where users can buy or sell Bitcoins with Philippine peso, and both have revealed increased activity in their respective platforms.
“We have seen an explosion of activity,” Miguel Cuneta, cofounder and chief community officer of SCI, told Entrepreneur Philippines via email. “We are seeing double-digit percentage growth in both user acquisitions and trading volume on our platform. The last couple of months alone have been our biggest months in terms of revenue and transaction volume.”
The surge in transactions is testing the limits of the Bitcoin startups’ capacity. In a notice sent last Monday, December 11, Coins.ph informed its users that the growth in activity may cause some delays and downtimes in their transactions with the company.
“The last few weeks have been very exciting for everyone involved with Bitcoin as more and more people learn about digital currency,” the company said in the notice issued December 11. “At the same time, the increased interest, volume and volatility [of Bitcoin] have resulted in some growing pains, both for the Bitcoin network and for Coins.ph.”
Coins.ph warned that its guaranteed bank cash-out time will lengthen from at most one business day to around three business days for the next few weeks. It also cautioned its users that they may experience short downtimes when using its platform “at times of significant volatility or volume.”
For its part, SCI operations “have been trying to keep up with the pace of growth as much as possible,” said Cuneta. Both SCI and Coins.ph mentioned that they are working hard to expand their respective teams in order to meet the increased demand.
The two startups have also issued reminders about the risks of holding Bitcoins for investment purposes. In the notice, Coins.ph advised its users to “act responsibly” with regards to investing in the cryptocurrency.
“The price of Bitcoin is driven by market demand, and it is very volatile,” wrote Coins.ph. “If you choose to buy and hold Bitcoin, you should be aware that the price may rise or fall at any time.”
As well, Cuneta published a post on Medium last December 4 that urged interested investors to be more knowledgeable about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies before investing in them. In the post, Cuneta revealed that whenever he receives questions along the lines of, “Is it too late to invest in Bitcoin?” or “How much do I need to invest in Bitcoin?”, he has always replied with: “If you have to ask these questions, maybe you shouldn’t.”
While it remains to be seen where Bitcoin will go after the recent surges in price, both Coins.ph and SCI are optimistic about the potential of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to revolutionize the financial services industry.
“I think Bitcoin opened up a new world of financial technology that will have an impact as powerful as the internet did for media, publishing and telecommunication,” Cuneta told Entrepreneur Philippines. “Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies will change the world for the better, allowing billions excluded from the financial world to access it without permission and at a very low cost.”
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH