Matt Ahlborg ( – Bitcoin as a Bridge Currency

We’ve talked about the influence of Bitcoin in Venezuela and the impact of p2p markets like LocalBitcoins before in our show with Alejandro Machado, but I wanted to dive deeper into these markets. Peer to peer marketplaces are a wealth of data on genuine demand for Bitcoin – but not in the way you might think. As it turns out, a large fraction of the volume in these markets relates to complex, multi-step trades designed to use Bitcoin as a bridge currency to move fiat-denominated remittances, especially into countries like Venezuela.

Matt Ahlborg, data scientist and creator of, has done amazing work compiling this data and engaging with these traders to determine what exactly is happening on these opaque marketplaces, and what Bitcoin is being used for. In this episode we cover:

  • How Matt went from working in the Navy to pursuing a career in Bitcoin data science
  • What differentiates p2p exchanges from exchanges like Coinbase
  • Why p2p exchanges are popular outside the US
  • Why p2p exchange volume is more reliable
  • What a massive blackout in Venezuela tells us about foreign exchange flows in Latin America
  • Why Bitcoin specifically is used as a bridge currency in Latin America
  • The under-reported role of Chinese exporters in Venezuela on LocalBitcoins
  • How Matt carried out his investigations to determine how people were using LocalBitcoins
  • Matt’s investigation into how Argentine capital controls are driving p2p Bitcoin volumes
  • How ignorance of Bitcoin’s usage is often grounded in anglocentrism
  • Why Bitcoin still dominates in p2p markets rather than stablecoins
  • Why p2p volumes are likely significantly larger than the reported numbers

In this episode, we discussed two of his investigative articles, both of which we strongly recommend:

Follow Matt on Twitter and on Medium, and check out his data aggregates at