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INSIGHTS / MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Alberto Gómez, Spain's blockchain evangelist

Spain · Sep 03, 2019· By Emanuela Ferraro

© CompassList

Alberto Gómez Toribio has been pioneering blockchain technology in Spain since 2013. He convinced the Bank of Spain to authorize capital raising with cryptocurrency and built the world's first decentralized Bitcoin exchange

More than about cryptocurrency, Alberto Gómez Toribio is passionate about the blockchain technology behind it.

The founder of the world's first decentralized Bitcoin exchange, Coinffeine, believed in the revolution of blockchain as early as when the name of Bitcoin founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, was familiar only to a few. 

Gómez never went to university but is an influential figure in the Spanish blockchain ecosystem. Business Insider listed him as one of 23 Young Tech Leaders and he has also been included in the Choiseul List of 100 economic leaders of tomorrow. His talent and ambition have also drawn the attention of industry experts, financial institutions and investors.

In 2013, Gómez co-founded Coinffeine, a decentralized Bitcoin exchange based on the so-called "blockchain trust protocol," with three computer engineers, Alvaro Polo, Sebastián Ortega and Joaquín GuanterWithin a year of its founding, Coinffeine became the first crytpocurrency project to be backed by a bank, when Spanish bank Bankinter became a lead investor. By July 2015, Coinffeine was operating in more than 70 countries.

Gómez’s model is based around a zero-trust deposit system to facilitate Bitcoin trading in an automatic, safe and intermediary-free process. Coinffeine's users maintain full control over their digital asset and store Bitcoin safely using a completely distributed system. The platform uses P2P technology with a desktop application similar to BitTorrent. It enables users to buy and sell Bitcoin using an account in a payment processor but without a third party to support the operation.

Demystifying Bitcoin

Gómez founded Coinffeine when Bitcoin was rumored to be linked to the black market, the so-called Silk Road, in which pornography, drugs and weapons were exchanged using digital coins. It was also when memories of the 2011 Mt. Gox cryptocurrency exchange hack of over 60,000 accounts and the theft of thousands of Bitcoin were still fresh in people’s minds.

However, the value of Bitcoin did not decline and instead rose exponentially to over US$30 in 2013 from US$1 in 2011. Gómez, an early crypto-investor, spotted an opportunity. He wanted to solve the security issues plaguing traditional centralized Bitcoin exchange platforms.

After talking to many lawyers, Gómez met Pablo Fernández, a cryptocurrency expert and co-founder of Abanlex, a law firm specialized in data protection and cybersecurity. “I visited over 10 law firms before meeting Pablo Fernández. We were absolutely in synergy,” said Gómez.

Gómez convinced Fernández to be the legal representative during the formation of Coinffeine, which he wanted to use to grow social capital in the Bitcoin ecosystem and solve security issues in value transfers over the Internet through a P2P decentralized system.

According to Gómez and his co-founders, if Coinffeine’s server gets hacked or overloaded, it will neither stop working nor affect the network, therefore exchanges can continue to be performed.

This is because Coinffeine uses a mathematical model based on Game Theory, to “ensure safety in the FIAT-Bitcoin exchange without a trusted third party and offer the same experience as a traditional exchange though the transactions are really P2P.”

Gómez’s idea was endorsed by the Bank of Spain, the first central bank in the world to approve capital raising in cryptocurrency. The four co-founders bootstrapped Coinffeine with a Bitcoin capital worth €3,000 then. Not only did this change the way startups thought about raising funds, it also sparked industry interest.

“I received calls from VC funds, tech enthusiasts and companies from around the world, making me acknowledge the enormous potential of what I had proposed. This encouraged me to move forward,” said Gómez, who was Coinffeine’s CEO until last year.

Beyond crypto

According to Gómez, corporations and financial institution have started to see the intrinsic value of his idea and blockchain’s potential. “The technology serves as a perfect framework where banks can meet the future world of finance brought on by cryptocurrencies,” he added.

Bankinter backed Gómez's project since the beginning, which marked a change in the blockchain ecosystem. “Now banks in Spain see Bitcoin as something interesting. Although they still don't understand how to exploit it, expert groups have been created, especially at Bankinter and BBVA,” said Gómez.

Gómez is undoubtedly a blockchain evangelist in Spain. He believes such technology will profoundly impact lives, businesses, financial institutions and organizations worldwide.

“We might end up using Bitcoin and the technology behind it without even knowing it, like buying and reselling energy we generate autonomously. This technology can dramatically facilitate such type of operations and processes,” said Gómez

“People nowadays do not use Bitcoin daily just because it’s not needed [for daily transactions], not because they don’t understand it. Most of us don’t understand how a propulsion engine works but we continue to drive our cars,” he added.

Today, Gómez leads blockchain strategy at Bankia, identifying business opportunities for the Spanish bank and defining innovation strategy for new financial products. After the Coinffeine platform took off, he co-founded NevTrace, a training firm supporting companies in the co-creation of products that deploy blockchain technology. He is also a consultant to the Interpol and National Security Authorities.

"I spend a lot of time in strategy but also I code every day with my team to stay close to the digital products I build. I believe that being in touch with the code is the only way to manage expectations in digital projects,” he states in his LinkedIn profile.

Edited by S. Mani