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Big Corporates Investing in Blockchain with Wait ‘N See Approach

Big Corporates Investing in Blockchain with Wait 'N See Approach

PitchBook data recently compiled for Reuters shows that both corporate funding and venture capital investments are still behind blockchain tech, although trust in cryptocurrency has still yet to become a feature of large company investment.

Corporate investment in Bitcoin is seen very much like the Holy Grail of the cryptocurrency industry, and to date, the big money is aimed at blockchain technology, although the application for the tech is not as widespread as some advocates would suggest.

However, the future is looking bright with this new data illustrating just how much corporates have softened towards the crypto market, despite avoiding the actual cryptocurrencies themselves. Funds heading in the direction of crypto and blockchain startups are now to the tune of USD 850 million this year to April, and some of this interest has come from high tech companies.

The Catch 22 continues for Bitcoin though, as large companies wait to see if Bitcoin can break through to gain wider adoption despite its fall in value. For many, the perception is that it is only corporate acceptance that can give the market impetus to drive crypto forward to new levels moving forward.

Despite the usual hype, blockchain still needs to find some more sectors in which to operate so that it can be accepted as a viable solution in industry, according to Richard Hay, UK head of fintech at law firm Linklaters, who calls for far more blockchain innovation:

“There are two dynamics at play… We can get something up and running and achieve cost savings, and also look longer term at ways of deploying the technology in more transformative ways.”

Pitchbook data to April also shows that some cooperate investment has been directed at crypto mining gear and exchanges, including the four biggest VC-backed firms by valuation, but Anton Ruddenklau, global co-head of fintech at KPMG feels that although companies are “really enamored” with tokenization, “they are investing as a technological hedge as much as anything”.

One potential crypto industry driver, Bakkt, has already run into problems before its launch. The highly-anticipated cryptocurrency platform has run into trouble with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) over its custody plans for clients’ Bitcoin, after raising USD 180 million last year from investors including M12, Microsoft’s venture capital arm.

 

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Forbes “Blockchain’s Billion Dollar Babies” List Released

Forbes “Blockchain’s Billion Dollar Babies,” List Released

Forbes has released its high flyer list of blockchain users which indicates which of these companies has valuations or revenues of USD 1 billion.

The usual high flyers are as expected including Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, ING, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Nestle, with crypto-companies such as Coinbase, Ripple, and Bitfury putting in a show.

Interestingly Forbes goes a bit further on the blockchain front by flagging the use of blockchain in the non-crypto domain. The list points to where the action is and who the players are when it comes to blockchain protocols, with a nod to companies such as the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp (DTCC) which records a mammoth 90 million transactions daily.

Firms using R3’s Corda protocol and the Ethereum network are also listed on Forbes’ breakdown, and blockchain based solutions utilized across many different sectors including food companies, supply chain management firms and others including banking. R3 itself leads a consortium of more than 200 financial institutions in research and development of DLT usage in the financial system and other commercial sectors.

Corda was designed for dealing with complex transactions and security and is expected to have many of the benefits of the blockchain. A new version of Corda was released earlier this year aimed specifically at businesses, called Corda Enterprise, it includes a blockchain applications firewall.

It was unsurprising to see Walmart on the list. The US retail giant has applied for numerous blockchain patents and has become a leader in applying new technology to the supply chain sector. Both Walmart and IBM have been at the forefront of DLT supply chains since its conception and both companies are eager to promote the use of the new technology in sectors including business and commerce.

 

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Game Creators to Introduce Biocoin to Promote Biodiversity, Taxonomy

Game Creators to Introduce Biocoin to Promote Biodiversity, Taxonomy

A private tech start-up launched in 2014 which focuses on taxonomy and the identification of different species has plans to launch its own crypto, Biocoin, to support the project.

The Australian startup launched the biodiversity video game Questagame after company co-founder Andrew Robinson and his wife Mallika listened to their children arguing in the back of the car over video games:

“They were talking about these fantasy worlds and all these monster types and shields they needed to protect themselves…Could we create a game in which you go out into the real world, and you’re learning the names of all these exciting creatures which in many ways are far more fantastical than anything you can find in a computer game?”

Which is exactly what Robinson went on to do with the co-founder of Questgame David Haynes. An idea on a drive in the country has now turned into a project based at Australian National University in Canberra, with players taking part from more than 40 countries and competitions between schools and universities.

Now Robinson is looking at cryptocurrency and how that may be incorporated into the game as a reward system. At present players joining teams pay a yearly subscription but whilst learning about biodiversity can also earn AUD 10 cents for each correctly identified creature. The revenue goes to the game’s partners World Wildlife Fund, Australian Geographic Society, Invasive Species Council, and Greenpeace.

The idea of Biocoin came about through Robinson’s awareness of blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin being mined by solving mathematical problems on a computer. His idea is to activate the coins each time a player identifies three species as part of the game. Then on the blockchain, the coins can be exchanged for other currencies.

He sees this as far more valuable than regular cryptocurrencies which he says lack the same degree of social good, although clearly, cryptocurrencies are now beginning to demonstrate a significant power to change and empower when used for social projects in parts of the globe where access to traditional fiat is limited.

 

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Invisible But Widespread: CEOs Call for Blockchain Tech to Speak for Itself

Invisible But Widespread_ CEOs Call for Blockchain Tech to Speak for Itself

It appears that many blockchain company CEOs want to see less talk and more action when it comes to development within the industry, and some of that is happening right now, but largely unseen by consumers.

What many CEOs are seeking is the invisible approach; blockchain becoming so widely adopted and so useful that users are not even aware they are using it. Such is the view of Ambrosus CEO Vlad Trifa, whose company supplies sensors used within the blockchain industry.

Such sensors, when added to products on the supply chain, ensure such goods are the genuine article. Trifa maintains that customers are willing to pay for information relating to origins and production. He argues the case using whiskey as an example:

“With blockchain, you should be able to identify that you’re drinking bottle 49 of the ABC batch, and by being able to prove that the shipment has not been tampered with, you can charge a higher price for the product… If you’re a bad producer then you don’t want that data to be transparent and that’s the problem we’re trying to solve in the first place.”

CEO and marketing guru David Wachsman of Wachsman PR, argues: “The fact is that blockchain is useful, except you shouldn’t have to know that you’re using blockchain to use it.” Many consumers are largely unaware of major companies such as Apple and Amazon and even Facebook using blockchain technology, Wachsman maintains.

Crypto.com’s new MCO Visa card is a case in point. CEO Kris Marszalek points out that blockchain use is everywhere, but not necessarily noticed as such by consumers. He maintains that the MCO fee-free card is a case in point, allowing benefits and reductions connected with major companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Airbnb and Expedia. Mark Zuckerberg has recently discussed the consequences of using blockchain technology for authorization of user data on Facebook.

Waschman again, talking from the Token2049 conference in Hong Kong, maintaining that the space is growing with much of the hype is gone, sums it up: “If you want actual mass adoption, and you want the technology to be used by more people than just in this conference, then we need to simply become invisible.”

 

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Litecoin’s Charlie Lee Makes Case for Overcoming Crypto Adoption Hurdles

Litecoin's Charlie Lee Makes Case for Overcoming Crypto Adoption Hurdles

Litecoin founder Charlie Lee has recently added his views on the industry’s status quo, suggesting that both volatility and storage are key areas hampering a more widespread adoption of digital currency.

The one-time Coinbase Engineering Manager and Director of Engineering turned Litecoin Guru claims that there is clearly a Catch-22 scenario hampering cryptocurrency’s volatility, although Bitcoin is currently experiencing a long run holding its own. Lee sees the volatility of crypto markets and its usability showing a clear correlation, suggesting:

“Because crypto prices are so volatile, it’s hard for people to actually use it, meaning adoption is hampered. Volatility is kind of a chicken and the egg type scenario. Once there is adoption, volatility will decrease, meaning more adoption.”

The upside to this, Lee argues, is at least the tendency for startups to work on new projects without the perpetual focus on cryptocurrency prices, which he feels distracts for the process of focussing on further development within the industry.

Lee sees storage as another key issue with many investors turning to exchanges to store their digital assets, many of which have been subjected to well-publicized hacks, further damaging user confidence. Also, a recent study from Kaspersky revealed that only in the second quarter of 2018, cybercriminals scooped USD 2.3 million via crypto phishing during initial coin offerings. None of this engenders confidence, particularly in inviting new users.

The Litecoin founder views the current bear market with a degree of optimism, maintaining that investors have far more certainty that the market will come back than during the last bear market, when there seemed little hope for an upturn in market fortunes. With a note of realism, Lee sees another year passing with more sell-offs before a turnaround, although he admits predicting the cryptocurrency market is a thankless task. Lee’s last word on where the market should be going:

“Next is supporting crypto companies with bank accounts. Then, lastly, you want to add crypto wallets, along with storing fiat in normal accounts for crypto companies. What would be cool is allowing people to store US dollars at a bank and cryptocurrencies too.”

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Microsoft’s Bing Browser Reveals 5 Million Crypto Ads Count in 2018

Microsoft’s browser Bing has revealed that it blocked over 5 million cryptocurrency-related ads during 2018 after its announcement last year that it was to start banning such advertising on its network.

The numbers were announced in Microsoft’s “Ad quality year in review 2018” published on 25 March, citing cryptocurrency as a “prime target for fraudsters and scam artists to defraud end-users”, despite the proven millions of legitimate users of cryptocurrency around the globe. The company’s official stance was clarified in an official post:

“Because cryptocurrency and related products are not regulated, we have found them to present a possible elevated risk to our users with the potential for bad actors to participate in predatory behaviors, or otherwise scam consumers.”

It appears that despite the bans on crypto related advertising announced in tandem by the likes of major social media sites and companies such as Facebook and Google in January and March of last year, both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appear to have a conflicting stance on cryptocurrencies, with rumors afoot that Facebook is looking at developing its own cryptocurrency.

The as yet unconfirmed move by Facebook to develop a cryptocurrency for global payments has been cited by multinational banking group Barclays as a USD 19 billion opportunity for the social networking giant. The company’s WhatsApp-driven crypto global payments system reported by The New York Times has still received no comments from Facebook but Barclays is already speculating on where this move, if it happens, could take the company’s profits by 2021.

Dorsey recently revealed his fascination for Bitcoin after studying its “beautiful” white paper. He iterated that Bitcoin and blockchain is the future of world economics and will bring in a new technological revolution.

 

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President Macron Claims Blockchain Can Boost French Agriculture

President Macron Claims Blockchain Can Boost French Agriculture

Speaking at the 56th International Agricultural Fair in Paris, French president Emmanuel Macron has spoken of the benefits that can be brought to the industry by the utilization of blockchain technologies.

President Macron has asserted that both the agricultural industry in France as well as the food industry, in general, will gain through the integration of blockchain:

“Let’s do this in Europe, [be at the] the vanguard of agricultural data by developing tools that will track every product from raw material production to packaging and processing.”

The French president urged the EU to embrace the use of blockchain in order to tap into the potential which exists in both of these markets. Last year, the French government announced a partnership with IBM regarding its Pathways to Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) education system. This included the development of new skills in data science, cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain. The push forward on blockchain would see new graduates and experienced technical professionals filling the new vacancies created by the new government-led drive.

President Macron suggests that the successful use of blockchain in both the agricultural and food industries could see a trickle-down effect in other areas, arguing, “The innovation is there and it must be used in the agricultural world as doing so would both bring shared excellence and offer benefits to consumers.”

UNICEF France, who has already started accepting cryptocurrency donations for a number of its programs, is equally positive. Executive Director Sebastien Lyon commented: “Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for charitable purposes offer a new opportunity to appeal to the generosity of the public and continue to develop our actions with children in our country of intervention.”

 

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Malta Banks Deny Blockchain, Crypto Operators Custody Service

Malta Banks Deny Blockchain, Crypto Operators Custody Service

In the past year, the Island of Malta made a name for itself as it strived to become the go-to-hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses. However, it now appears that startups are encountering problems with account opening in local banks, as banks say cryptocurrency businesses are outside their risk appetite.

Last week, Times of Malta was able to gather information from crypto-related businesses setting up shop in Malta, following the trends of moving from toxic jurisdictions to more a friendly one. According to the news outlet, the sources confirmed that banks were politely declining their businesses.

While risk appetite may have been one of the reasons provided by the banks, another possible one is that the banks may be waiting for more clarity from Malta’s Financial Service Authority (MFSA) before attending to cryptocurrency startups. More so, it seems the banks are having a hard time distinguishing between cryptocurrency and blockchain-related ventures, and are lumping them up as a sum.

According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, upon investigating the problem further, he discovered:

“The general understanding is that when it comes to crypto operators, banks are waiting for operators to obtain an MFSA license before opening their doors – which is understandable.”

The MFSA had said earlier that all crypto ventures aiming to operate from the Island should obtain licenses, and while it had said the first licenses would be issued in the first quarter of this year, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) interference with the process may have throttled the process, thereby creating a bureaucratic bottleneck.

The IMF expressed worry about the speed in which the blockchain industry in Malta had been developing and wanted more cautionary steps to be taken. In a report enumerating its risk assessment on the financial stability involving virtual-assets, it recommended immediate action on some critical gaps in Malta’s supervision for combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML). The report further urged gradual enforcement of the laws and regulations.

 

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Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

The Boston Globe has reported on startup Arwen as one of a growing number of firms seeking to make cryptocurrency exchanges more secure by adding a layer of technology that would enable users to convert one currency to another with more safety.

Two Boston companies, Highland and Underscore, helped startup Arwen get started. The new firm was founded by a Boston University computer science professor and her doctoral student. Their plan is to create an extra layer of tech to protect transactions, based on an “atomic swap”.

This would allow users to swap cryptocurrency from different blockchains, without ever needing to hand over their tokens to an exchange as the mediator, as is the case with most traditional centralized exchanges. Effectively, the exchange matches orders but is non-custodial in the sense that users still retain control over their private keys and funds.

A group venture of capital firms and startups in Boston have identified cryptocurrencies as needing further safety standards to make them more safer. One of these firms, Castle Island Ventures, raised USD 30 million to work on the projects. Castle Island has already invested in six startup companies, other local firms like General Catalyst, First Star Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and Underscore VC.

“The reason we launched the fund is we think a lot of these cryptocurrencies will be investible assets,” Castle Island Ventures founder Matthew Wash commented. “It’s bordering on a joke how immature the infrastructure is — and how dangerous it is… Every time I see one of these exchanges get hacked, or the founder take off with money in some kind of scam, it’s another reminder of how immature this industry is.”

““We’re in the early days,” says Arwen CEO Sharon Goldberg. “But let’s go back to 1999 and using credit cards on the Internet. Nobody wanted to put their credit card number into a website. But you do today, because you trust the encryption. You see that little lock in your browser.”

Goldberg points out the irony of using centralized exchanges to trade decentralized currency; adding that trusting software code is one thing, but trusting a centralized exchange is something quite different.

Arwen launched a sandbox environment for demonstrating the technology last month, and the company is now talking with prospective customers, mostly outside of the US, such as in Japan where exchanges are looking to improve current crypto technology.

 

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Bear Market Anniversary: How Startups Kept Above Water

Bear Market Anniversary_ How Startups Kept Their Heads Above the Water

The infamous bear market which began in early winter of 2017 – now popularly called the crypto winter – has hit hard on many startups and rendered many projects as wastelands.

Many startups that raised their funding caps later fell short of expectations due to the reduced value of funds collected in crypto and could no longer fulfill their obligations to the development timeline. While some are yet to produce a working prototype and have relied mainly on market situations to remain significant, others kept their funds in fiat and were able to maintain development strides. These are building bridges and establishing quality partnerships relevant to their stay in the industry.

Some startups resolved to layoffs and reorganizations when they could no longer manage allowances and had to cut down on excesses to maintain minimum operations for their project. Consequently, a large number of developers and blockchain experts have been returned to the job pool.

Some companies successfully raised their capital and chose not to get listed on any exchange but rather adopt the ‘BUIDL’ route to salvage whatever little significance the development trend could offer. Moreover, many never raised enough to make it to any trading platform, so it was the perfect excuse to ‘BUIDL’.

In the middle of these occurrences, some startups remained valiant and challenged the bear market head-on. Some shared their experiences and opinions with news outlet Coindesk, and maintained that they were going long with the overall crypto outcome.

For some of them, this was possible only because they were survivors of the previous bear market in 2014 and now understand the terrain better, especially after witnessing the huge spike in the price of bitcoin to sky-high USD 20,000 – a feat many are eager to see again.

“We were expecting an extended downturn as we were around for the last bear market,” Matt Luongo, the project lead of Keep told Coindesk in a response to a ‘crypto winter survey‘.

Another respondent Brayton Williams, a co-founder of Boost VC opined: “This ‘winter’ is 100X better than the 2014/15. People don’t think crypto is going to die. They are all just trying to time for when it comes back. In 2014/15, the conversation was all about if crypto survives at all.”

One peculiar observation in the crypto startup trend is the likelihood that the ecosystem is gradually resembling the initial public offering façade that most have dreaded. “The investment money is returning back to the norm of difficult to obtain. I think the ‘winter’ is greatly exaggerated. We are just back to normal behaviors,” says Williams.

It is important to note that this isn’t the first bear market in the history of crypto. The flagship crypto Bitcoin has seen a fair share of dramatic price fluctuations over the years. Perhaps the reason this particular one has become more noticeably disturbing is the fact that the rate of exposure was greatly facilitated by players from outside the cryptosystem, yet it remains unknown why the gradual shift in paradigm, the interest from institutions, and possibly support from government organizations have had little effect on price movement.

However, some that have done well have advised that ICOs spread their capital across crypto indices or liquidate as much from the funds collected to run development for up to a minimum of two years.

 

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