Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Hispanic Startup Founders on AWS: Part 3
At AWS, we know that building a dream is best achieved by having support from people like you who want to get where you’re going as much as you do. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re recognizing the achievements and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans who have inspired others to achieve success.
This series of blog posts features Hispanic founders who share their unique challenges, aspirations, and how AWS helps them carry out their missions.
Ledn: Advancing equality through borderless banking
“Al mal tiempo, buena cara,” is a phrase familiar to many Latin American people during times of adversity: “To bad times, a good face.” Ledn co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Mauricio Di Bartolomeo embodies this sentiment well. After living through political and financial instability in his home country of Venezuela, Mauricio set out on a mission to provide people everywhere—particularly in countries with instability—a better way to control their finances. His solution is Ledn, a financial services provider that leverages the reach of digital assets to serve clients globally, providing the same rates and level of service regardless of where they are located.
“I cannot disassociate my Venezuela story from my Bitcoin journey,” explains Mauricio.
Born and raised in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Mauricio grew up as his country’s government sank into authoritarianism. At the same time, severe inflation led to financial instability. “Economics didn’t play out in Venezuela the way that the books said it should,” and Mauricio kept, “diving deeper into financial books, trying to gain a better understanding of the system’s flaws.” His interest in finance led him to attend Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in Canada, where he earned an undergraduate and a master’s degree in Business Administration.
Mauricio’s involvement with Bitcoin arose from his youngest brother, who began Bitcoin mining in 2014 and wanted to remain in Venezuela. “My father sent me the Bitcoin whitepaper and said, ‘What do you think of this?’ I saw that it had a global market and the main input was electricity, which was heavily subsidized in Venezuela.”
Upon returning to Venezuela for Christmas, Mauricio’s “aha moment” happened while watching his brother convert Bitcoin into Bolivares. Inspired, he returned to Canada to build his own mining facility with his college best friend, Adam Reeds.
One problem Mauricio and Adam immediately saw in the community was that no Bitcoin business had access to financing.
“Our revenues were in Bitcoin, but our expenses were in dollars. No one wanted to sell their Bitcoin assets for cash. Banks and private lenders would say it was not an asset, and we could not borrow against it,” says Mauricio.
This is where the opportunity arose. “We saw a way to solve our own problem: By creating a service that would provide loans backed by Bitcoin.”
It was a problem they were equipped to solve: Adam had spent the last decade working with large pension funds to finance green energy infrastructure. He knew what investors wanted. Mauricio understood the Bitcoin landscape and the financial needs of Latin American people.
Together, they began to build Ledn.
“AWS played a big role in our early days, especially your AWS Activate startup program, because it gave us credits and the ability to test and use AWS services. It allowed us to build on a world-class platform, when at the time—frankly—we couldn’t have afforded to. AWS thought a lot about how to set up the program and what we would need, so it was very easy for us to test it. It was a symbiotic relationship—if it didn’t work out, then hey, it didn’t work out. And if it does work out, our company and AWS are both going to do very well together,” says Mauricio.
Founded in 2018, Ledn issued Canada’s first Bitcoin-backed loan that same year. In addition to loans, they also offer savings accounts that allow people to gain interest on their Bitcoin or US dollar-pegged stablecoin: USDC. Today, Ledn helps clients in over 130 countries access credit and savings products and bring their digital assets to life.
Mauricio is particularly proud of how they help Latin American customers. “We were the first lender to offer these services in Spanish. We bet very heavily in Latin America, early on. Everybody was trying to bank the unbanked with iPhone 8 apps and English content. We felt that was disconnected from their needs. Many unbanked people don’t have iPhones, they don’t speak English, and they are very nervous about new financial products.”
When asked if his Latin American identity influences his mission at Ledn, he explains, “So much. I think a lot of times, hard circumstances that we can’t understand give us lessons that we don’t know will be valuable later.”
“I love speaking Spanish. I love talking to people from back home. I love helping people back home. One of the biggest pains when I left was this feeling that I could no longer help. One of the things I love about Ledn is that I get to do that.”
To other founders looking to follow in his footsteps, Mauricio advises to have conviction in your mission and stay motivated: “There was a time in my life where I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll be a customer service rep for somebody.’ That’s all I saw when I went online and looked for banking opportunities for Spanish speakers. There’s never a C-suite position that says, ‘Speaking Spanish is required.’ But I wanted to put my understanding of Latin American problems to use. I wanted to help people.”
He continues, “When you are a founder, if your idea is innovative enough, most people won’t get it. To succeed, focus on the problem you are solving, understand exactly what your client needs, and deliver on the promises you made to them,” says Mauricio. “You have to be willing to invest your time, your money, and your reputation. If you follow through on these and have conviction, you’re going to be unstoppable.”
Ledn envisions their future impact as a vehicle for bringing people the ability to fulfill their goals. Mauricio hopes, “One day, people will say that because of Ledn, they are able to regain their financial independence. Governments should not be able to take away your right to convert your local currency into other assets and protect its value. So, I hope that because of companies like Ledn, people will say that they were able to regain control and fulfill their goals.”
“In five to ten years’ time, I hope that people in places like Latin America and Africa and all over the world are able to say, ‘Thank God for Bitcoin because it lets me choose where to take my money and where I feel safe.’”
We can expect a lot from Ledn in the next few years: More products that translate digital wealth into tangible assets—Bitcoin to buy a house, a car, groceries. They are also working on a suite of wealth management products for accredited investors. Mauricio sees unlimited potential in the synergy between, “North American investor markets with interest in generating income and Latin American borrowers. They pair and complement each other quite well. That is what we plan to help with.”
Special thanks to Alex Pajiltsev, Account Manager