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Developers Rake in Million-Dollar Sweeteners Despite Slump

Despite slumping bitcoin prices in 2018, the cryptocurrency space has continued to see a huge development in a market lacking top-level expertise, according to an interview in the Wall Street Journal.

Ripple chief cryptographer David Schwartz pointed out that one developer on his team had recently received two USD 1 million signing bonus offers, one from a crypto startup and the other from a blockchain tech company headhunting for blockchain expertise, according to Business Insider.

According to Finder.au, 4,500 job openings with the terms “blockchain”, “bitcoin” or “cryptocurrency” in the title have been posted on LinkedIn this year, an increase up to May of this year of 151%  over 2017. This compared to 2016 when only 645 openings were posted.

The eye-watering signing bonuses for crypto and blockchain developers with just a few years of experience is unusual in any tech company, despite bonus schemes being the norm with top tech companies, according to recent TeamBlind figures. Its survey revealed that 67% of tech companies questioned received a bonus but only 11% received an amount over USD 100,000.

One of the reasons for the spike in bonuses was due to a surge in demand in December 2017, prompting exchanges to scale up their operations in order to meet customer demand, particularly as the funds were readily available to do so.

Cryptopia, a relatively small New Zealand exchange, started in 2017 with two staff members and finished with about 100, with plans to hire many more. Coinbase aims to double its headcount in 2018 with top talent, while Kraken plans to quintuple it from 200 to 1,000.

Juha Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, a coding school, told Business Insider he knows of developers being paid double the going rate for their blockchain experience, claiming, “It’s not just tech companies that need this talent, it’s real-estate, non-profits, and banks.”

There is a shortage of talent and it’s more of a headache than Bitcoin’s volatility, according to Miha Grcar, the head of business development for Bitstamp: “Globally, the pool of talent – people with experience in blockchain and distributed-ledger technology – is somewhat limited… This is a big challenge.”

Ripple’s David Schwartz had the last word: “The hiring packages have gotten insane.”

 

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Art Auction Sells CryptoKitty For $140,000 in Ether

A CryptoKitty was sold for USD 140,000 (203.41 Ethereum) at the first Codex Protocol art auction during the 2018 Ethereal Summit. The ‘Celestial Cyber Dimension’ CryptoKitty is the most expensive in history, outpacing one which sold for USD 117,000 in December 2017.

CryptoKitties is an online game that is built off the Ethereum blockchain, currently the second most popular cryptocurrency and the basis of many decentralized applications because of its integrated smart contract technology.

Users can buy CryptoKitties in exchange for Ether, often for as little as USD 5 worth but obviously sometimes much higher as was the case during the Codex Protocol art auction. The cats have a unique 256-bit genome with DNA and ‘cattributes’, and these can be bred with each other to produce new types of cats. One of the main goals of the game is to breed rare specialized fancy cats which are far more valuable.

There is a digital marketplace where CryptoKitties can be bought and sold for Ether, so it is actually possible to make money playing the game if you have a knack for breeding highly sought after CryptoKitties. Each is a digital asset and has a non-fungible token corresponding to it on the Ethereum blockchain. The fact that they are stored in the blockchain makes CryptoKitties cryptographically secure, and makes it simple to prove authenticity and ownership via a private key.

The featured digital art item was created by art director Guilherme Twardowski aka Guile Gaspar. He showed off the picture of it, a grey-colored cat with a glowing purple and blue orb on its neck, on Twitter.

Celestial Cyber Dimension is on display at @ChristiesInc fur the @CodexProtocol #EtherealNY charity art sale. The live auction starts tomorrow. https://t.co/jkhtKtjsb2 pic.twitter.com/GPX3lAuKEO

— CryptoKitties (谜恋猫) (@CryptoKitties) May 12, 2018

It has a corresponding physical statuette which was given over to the winning bidder after payment. This statuette contains the private key and has a pixelated display showing the CryptoKitty. This is the first time an official physical statue has been made for a CryptoKitty.

The winner of the auction, Igor Barinov, says he spent so much money on this CryptoKitty because he loved the game, he liked the cat’s attributes, he enjoyed the real-life nature of this auction versus the typical digital auctions on the CryptoKitties websites, and he knew it was all going to charity.

 

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Argentinian Bank Utilizes Bitcoin for International Payments

Banco Masventas, a bank based in Argentina, has launched a new service as of 22 May 2018 which will utilize Bitcoin to facilitate international money transfers. This is a major milestone for Bitcoin, since it is likely the first time it has been used by a financial institution as an international payments standard.

The bank is partnering with Bitex, a Latin America-based Bitcoin exchange, to facilitate the international payments. In an interview with Coindesk, Bitex chief marketing officer Manuel Beaudroit said that customers won’t actually be touching any Bitcoin when using this new international payment service offered by Banco Masventas. The customer simply asks the bank to send an international payment from their account, and the bank in coordination with Bitex will handle converting their fiat funds to Bitcoin and back again when it reaches its international destination.

This service offered through Bitex will allow Banco Masventas customers to significantly reduce costs associated with international transfers since there will be no international banks as intermediaries. Also, international transfers will be faster than other systems, occurring in less than 24 hours. It only takes 10 minutes for a Bitcoin transaction to confirm on average, but it will take some time to convert fiat to Bitcoin and back to fiat.

International transfers will be available to over 50 countries, and Banco Masventas will be charging a 3% commission.

Of course, Bitex’s process of converting fiat to Bitcoin and back to fiat when the money reaches its international destination is inherently centralized and possibly not entirely cryptographically secure. Customers will have to trust Banco Masventas and Bitex when using this new international transfer service.

Sending Bitcoin by itself with no other service involved actually makes more sense if control of your money and security is the priority. Of course, using purely Bitcoin is less convenient since ultimately it usually needs to be converted into fiat before it can be used to buy goods and services. Bitex streamlines the process of converting Bitcoin payments to fiat, which can be quite an arduous process if someone had to do it themselves. Also, using the service offered through Bitex removes the risk of market volatility.

It is a big deal that any bank is using Bitcoin to transfer money across international borders, and this may be the beginning of banks recognizing and utilizing Bitcoin as a trustworthy payment method in the future. Bitcoin’s ability to transfer money anywhere in the world instantly and securely is gaining recognition.

 

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Bitcoin Pizza Day Marks Eight

Eight years ago today, on 22 May 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz of Jacksonville Florida made history by purchasing two large pizzas from Papa Johns with 10,000 Bitcoins. This was considered a major milestone as it was possibly the first time that Bitcoin was used to purchase goods from a major company. Today, ‘Bitcoin pizza day’ is proof that Bitcoin could be used as a currency.

Hanyecz had mined the Bitcoins to purchase the pizza on his personal computer. This is a feat that is now impossible, mining Bitcoins on a personal computer costs more in electricity than the minuscule amount of Bitcoin it produces. Nowadays, expensive specialized mining rigs made with application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are required to have any chance of mining Bitcoin profitably.

The pizza was purchased with the help of a forum user on Bitcointalk; Laslo Hanyecz sent the Bitcoins to the forum user and then the forum user purchased the pizza with their card. Bitcointalk continues to be the most popular Bitcoin and cryptocurrency forum to this day, and was started by Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious founder of Bitcoin who disappeared shortly after it launched.

Many would think that Laszlo Hanyecz would have regrets over using 10,000 Bitcoins to buy a couple of pizzas, since today they are worth an astonishing USD 84 million. Coindesk released a pizza day tracker which updates in real-time how much the 10,000 Bitcoins used to buy the pizza are now worth, expected to result in cringing and astonishment from most.

He doesn’t appear to have any, however, he was stoked just to be able to use the Bitcoins to buy pizza since he had gotten them for free by mining on his computer and they were barely worth anything at the time.

At the time the infamous pizzas were purchased, each Bitcoin was worth roughly 3/10 of a US penny. This fact help illustrates how enormous the rise in Bitcoin’s price has been. As of this writing, each bitcoin is worth USD 8,200, an incredible rise of 273,300,000% since pizza day. There is probably no other asset in the world that has risen at such a pace as Bitcoin has in the long term.

Now Bitcoin can be used to buy anything in the world and is accepted on at least a thousand different retail websites, but it all began with one man in Florida using Bitcoin to buy pizza.

 

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Blockchain Gains US Momentum as Ohio Examines New Bill

The US state of Ohio is currently proposing a change to state law through a bill which will legally recognize smart contracts and storage of records on a blockchain, according to Coindesk.

There are several states in the US that have adopted blockchain-associated laws. Vermont, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, and Tennessee are among these states. Indiana, Iowa, and Texas have taken a somewhat negative approach against cryptocurrencies or flagged them as potentially risky.

Some states have examined the governmental use of blockchain, either as isolated applications in specific or integrated government functions. Vermont, for example, recognizes data stored on a blockchain as admissible in the court system, according to Brookings.

Washington and New Hampshire have succeeded in passing some legislation and Arizona has introduced or passed regulations ranging from making signatures, transactions, and contracts on a blockchain legally valid, to allowing residents to pay their income tax in cryptocurrencies.

If Ohio becomes another blockchain state and the ‘Revise Electronic Transactions Act/blockchain/smart contracts’ bill signs into law, it will significantly pass ownership rights to those needing to store electronic information on the blockchain. Bill 300 states:

“Notwithstanding any other law, a person that, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, uses blockchain technology to secure information that the person owns or has the right to use retains the same rights of ownership or use with respect to that information as before the person secured the information using blockchain technology.”

Changes to the existing bill have notable inclusions in the amendment relating specifically to blockchain, making it clear that smart contracts will legally usable for legal documents.

Brookings research shows that in the past two years, a wave of states has started to shift attention to blockchain technology and explore the potential roles of the technology in public and private services.

Recently, Arizona passed a bill that allows residents of the state to use cryptocurrencies in making tax payments. Also, Wyoming passed its own bill through both legislatures early this year which exempts cryptocurrency from state property tax, potentially making it the friendliest state in the US to investors of crypto assets.

 

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Walmart Develops Sales Platform Integrating Blockchain

Walmart has filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a sales platform which integrates blockchain technology. This platform was invented by Donald R High, Michael D Atchley, and Chandrashekar Natarajan.

This is a big milestone for the use of blockchain technology, considering that Walmart is one of the world’s largest company with USD 500 billion of revenue, 11,700 stores in 28 countries, and 2.3 million employees. Any integration of blockchain technology by Walmart will end up being used by millions of people worldwide.

In the patent application, a platform for re-selling Walmart products is described. When a customer purchases a product it is recorded in the blockchain with the exact time and cost. The customer can sell their product on the platform to someone else and reference the blockchain record as proof of authenticity. The blockchain will continue to track the product as it passes through the courier service to the end customer, providing another layer of security that the product will be delivered as promised.

Essentially, the blockchain will provide an immutable record of a product’s history from when it is first purchased at Walmart. This record will be virtually safe from hacking or modification since it is secured with cryptographic technology, making it very reliable and giving purchasers of re-sold products peace of mind.

The blockchain records are expected to help prevent fraud when re-selling Walmart products, saving people money. Theoretically, this blockchain technology can be used to track down products stolen from Walmart as well, if the serial numbers are recorded in the database when the products are put on the shelf. In this way, any stolen product can be referenced back to the blockchain database as long as it still has its serial number.

The provisional patent application was originally filed on 16 November 2016, while the non-provisional application was filed on 16 November 2017 but published to the public only five days ago. The patent application has yet to be examined or approved; it takes on average two years from the non-provisional application date for a patent to be approved or disposed of.

If Walmart’s blockchain technology patent is approved, it will have retroactive protection from the provisional filing date in 2016 and can sue anyone who copied the technology since that date. There is no guarantee that the patent will be approved, it must go through patent prosecution to determine if it is unique enough to warrant a patent.

Regardless of whether the patent succeeds, Walmart can begin to use the sales platform with integrated blockchain technology described in the patent at any time it chooses.

 

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14872355556 – Mike Mozart

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 2017 Bad Year for Aussie Crypto Scams as US Launches ‘Cryptosweep’

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Monday that consumers lost more than USD 2.1 million to cryptocurrency scams last year, CoinDesk reported.

Of this figure, the ACCC reported, consumers lost approximately USD 100,000 per month between January and September of 2017. These losses increased in December to USD 200,000 when Bitcoin price rose to nearly USD 20,000, recording losses of more than USD 700,000. The commission noted that these figures showed a correlation between the number of scams and the price of Bitcoin.

The common cause of consumer losses was due to scams involving fake ICOs, cryptocurrency pyramid schemes, and ransomware payments.

Although the figure is high, it was noted that scams overall last year Australians lost more than USD 340 million, with USD 64 million being lost to investment scams specifically last year.

Cryptocurrency fraud is by no means limited to Australia, with fraud occurring in all countries which have a crypto market. In North America, seven scams and hacks last year netted around USD 490 million of consumer funds for the criminals. The Wall Street Journal has reported that of the 1,450 ICOs it reviewed, 271 had “red flags that include plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams”.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has launched its own task force to attempt to clean up the crypto space in the US and Canada, primarily by conducted thorough investigations of ICOs and cryptocurrency related products, according to CoinDesk.

The investigation, labeled ‘Operation Cryptoweep’ according to statements, has involved to date “nearly 70 inquiries and investigations and 35 pending or completed enforcement actions since the beginning of the month”.

The Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) conducted its own survey on cryptocurrency crime recently in an investigation involving 32 cryptocurrency investment plans over four weeks.  The report indicated that almost two-thirds of these promoters did not give investors a physical address and that five out of the 32 promoters did not disclose any investment risks, as well as the risk of cybersecurity threats and hacks, and instead simply promised gains of up to 40% every month.

Joseph Rotunda, the TSSB’s Enforcement Division director, commented that “the market for cryptocurrency investments is saturated with widespread fraud, and our work is only revealing the tip of the iceberg”.

 

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Tom Lee Explains Why His Post Consensus Bitcoin Prediction Went South

Fundstrat Global’s outspoken co-founder and cryptoanalyst Tom Lee, has explained to CNBC why he feels that his predictions of Bitcoin getting an injection from the last week’s New York Consensus Conference, didn’t actually come to fruition.

Although Tom Lee stands by his prediction of $25K by end of 2018 position, he suggests that the reasons the market, not only didn’t receive the suggested boost but in fact, lost value, was mainly due to the current lack of clarity in regulation and custodial announcements at the conference. Firstly, he explained why the bitcoin price should have gained from the Blockchain week of events in NYC:

“Given conferences like Consensus are chances for the community to gather in a centralized place and meet constituents new to the community (growth in attendance), it seems natural that the combination of ‘sanity check’ (all is OK and progress is happening) plus ‘new interest’ (incremental attendance) should strengthen the crypto-community’s conviction… And coupled with growth in incremental constituents, should have aided crypto-currency prices.”

Lee clearly wasn’t alone in expecting a bitcoin rally after the conference. Many were expecting a surge due to the popularity of the event and the number of attendees, particularly after months of uncertainty in the cryptocurrency market, and bitcoin’s recent signs of slow recovery. The total crypto market cap actually sank by $40 billion during the conference and bitcoin price declined by 3 percent.

Lee maintains that it wasn’t all negative, suggesting, “I think Consensus was a huge success. It is a great conference to bring a lot of people together from around the world. The quality of the people that were there was amazing.” He added:

“Bitcoin doesn’t have to go up every day to move from $8,000 to $25,000. The ten best days account for all the return of bitcoin in a year. If you didn’t own bitcoin for ten days each year, you lost 25 percent each year.”

The Fundstrat analyst suggested that crypto enthusiasts expect that regulation needs further careful clarification and discussion, and was disappointed at the lack of a current nuanced approach by regulators in this regard.

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Former JPMorgan Blockchain Head Says That Banks Are Close To Adopting Cryto

Amber Baldet, former head of the blockchain arm at Wall Street’s JPMorgan Chase has suggested that banks trading in cryptocurrencies is imminent.

The ex-bank executive, who has now launched her own startup Clovyr, says crypto business will be conducted by banks, “sooner than people probably think,” although she admits that the legal and regulatory framework remains a challenge to financial institutions.

Baldet played a critical role in establishing the bank’s enterprise blockchain strategy, and its flagship Quorom project and was listed in Fortune’s list of the most influential young people in business. She maintains that another challenge to banks will be custody issues, although banks are beginning to find their own resolutions to the problem, with some announced during the past week.

Goldman Sachs has announced its own plans recently to open a cryptocurrency desk which will make it the first of Wall Street banks to take such a significant step. But, it remains to be seen if Wall Street takes this direction in the future. The biggest issue for banks right now is a lack of clear regulation, as they are strictly prohibited from providing any unregulated services.

Founder of the BKCM digital asset fund and contributor to CNBC’s Fast Money, Brian Kelly, has stated that he sees Wall Street becoming a major factor in crypto market popularity, as new institutions such as Goldman Sachs come on board, commenting that this could cause a market surge.

Baldet’s former employer, J.P. Morgan Chase, developed its blockchain technology two years ago for clearing and settling derivatives and cross-border payments, and has shown signs recently it may be leaning towards cryptocurrency, following in the footsteps of Sachs with the new appointment of Oliver Harris as head of cryptocurrency assets strategy.

Nasdaq is already supporting cryptocurrency exchanges, and the company is certainly not new to cryptocurrency’s underlying technology blockchain. Apart from its long-term relationship with blockchain startup, Chain, it has recently announced a collaboration with cryptocurrency exchange Gemini.

In an interview with CNBC, Nasdaq’s CEO Adena Friedman said the firm could one day launch a crypto exchange, commenting: “Certainly Nasdaq would consider becoming a crypto exchange over time…I believe that digital currencies will continue to persist, it’s just a matter of how long it will take for that space to mature.”

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Cryptocurrency Company Taunts Warren Buffet With Billboards Near His Office

Genesis Mining has purchased billboards near Warren Buffet’s office in Omaha taunting him for his recent negative statements about Bitcoin. The billboards state “Warren: you said you were wrong about Google and Amazon. Maybe you’re wrong about Bitcoin?”.

Warren Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world with a net worth near $83 billion; he is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway which is a multinational conglomerate that owns Geico, Dairy Queen, and Fruit of the Loom and has major holdings in Kraft-Heinz, American Express, Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Apple, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines. He has more money than the entire $70 billion Ethereum market cap, and isn’t that far behind the Bitcoin market cap of $141 billion.

He is one of the most successful investors in the world, so when he gives investment advice people take it seriously. Berkshire Hathaway’s book value has grown at an astonishing 19% annually since 1965, 10% better than the S&P 500.

Recently, Warren Buffet made cryptocurrency headlines when he gave his negative opinion on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general. He says Bitcoin is not really an investment because it lacks intrinsic value in the sense that it doesn’t produce anything. This is actually incorrect since the intrinsic value of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is that it is a form of money that is easy to use, fast, efficient, decentralized, anonymous, and cryptographically secure.

Even though Warren Buffet admits he knows very little about blockchain technology, he is certain that cryptocurrency will come to a bad ending, in the sense that Bitcoin will lose all value. He says this despite Bitcoin going up on the order of 1000% in the past year.

At the 2018 annual shareholder meeting for Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet said Bitcoin is probably rat poison squared. This has sparked the creation of a Rat Poison Squared clothing line and a new cryptocurrency called Rat Poison Squared Coin.

As the billboard indicates, Warren Buffet missed opportunities in the past to invest in Google and Amazon, which are now a couple of the biggest internet companies in the world. He has largely avoided tech stocks because he doesn’t understand their business models, similar to how he is avoiding cryptocurrency because he doesn’t understand blockchain technology.

Genesis Mining is one of the largest cloud Bitcoin mining services in the world, and aside from the fun of taunting Warren Buffet for his ignorant views regarding cryptocurrency, these billboards serve as a publicity stunt for them to attract more business.

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