Company Name: Azteco

Founders: Alexander Fernandez and Paul Ferguson

Date Founded: 2014

Location of Headquarters: Santa Monica, CA

Amount of Bitcoin in Treasury: Not disclosed

Number of Employees: 12


Public or Private? Private

When Alexander “Akin” Fernandez first conceptualized Azteco over a decade ago, he simply wanted to make bitcoin easier to obtain. He wanted people to be able to purchase bitcoin as seamlessly as they were able to buy a gift card, and so he developed a system in which people can purchase prepaid bitcoin vouchers for as little as $10, redeemable in a minute.

Azteco vouchers are now available in over 190 countries, purchasable online or with cash with in-person vendors. The main advantage to buying BTC via Azteco vouchers is the fact that you don’t have to disclose your identity to do so, not to mention the process of buying a voucher is quick and easy. Azteco offers both on-chain and Lightning capabilities, giving users the choice to redeem their BTC on either the Bitcoin base chain or the Lightning Network, a Layer 2 payments network built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain.

According to an estimate from Fernandez, over one million people have already purchased Azteco vouchers. But his aspirations are far beyond the already-impressive number of vouchers thus sold: he has his sights set on Azteco servicing a customer base of over 30 times that, as Azteco does its part in “normalizing” Bitcoin.

A transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows below.

Frank Corva: Where did the inspiration for Azteco come from?

Akin Fernandez: It came from my own experience of finding out that getting bitcoin is very difficult. I realized it doesn’t have to be like this. We could use a familiar system like a top-up voucher, which billions of people use to top up their mobile phones, and apply that process to getting bitcoin. All we have to do is build a software, put distribution in place, and then it should just work. And lo and behold, it does.

Corva: Did you have a particular customer base in mind when you designed Azteco?

Fernandez: Yes, I had myself in mind. I wanted to be able to get bitcoin without having to make any kind of fuss or effort to do it. I wanted to be able to go to the supermarket, buy $20 worth of bitcoin and put it straight onto my wallet. And I’m not unique. I could assume that there were other people who were like me who could understand the proposition and the ease of use and who would take to it like a duck to water.

You find that with inventions, many times they come about because people are solving problems for themselves, not as a means to get rich or for any reason other than to solve their own problems. And because people are similar, they solve other people’s problems, too.

Corva: Speaking of your own experience. I’ve read that you were unbanked for a period of time. Is this true and could you expand on it, if so?

Fernandez: Well, I became unbanked for a reason that…

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