World Bank slams bitcoin, declines to help El Salvador’s cryptocurrency plan

World Bank slams bitcoin, declines to help El Salvador’s cryptocurrency plan

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Last week, El Salvador’s government passed a law to accept bitcoin as legal tender alongside the US dollar. The country receives $6 billion in remittances per year—nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product—and the hope is that bitcoin’s lower transaction costs could boost that amount by a few percentage points.

The move was first proposed by the country’s president, Nayib Bukele, who said he hoped that in addition to facilitating lower remittance fees, the bitcoin plan would attract investment and provide an avenue for savings for residents, about 70 percent of whom are unbanked. (What Bukele didn’t say, but what Bloomberg has reported, is that he and members of his political party have owned bitcoin for years.)

Adding the cryptocurrency to the roster isn’t a simple task, though, and the new law gives the country just three months to roll the plan out nationwide. No country has ever used bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as legal tender, and challenges abound. To address those concerns, El Salvador turned to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for assistance; the latter is currently considering a $1.3 billion financing request from the country.

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#bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #currency, #el-salvador, #imf, #policy, #world-bank

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No, NFTs aren’t copyrights

For contemporary artists, attaching work to the blockchain in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) may seem like a secure and verifiable way to sell art online.

In some ways, it is. Blockchain inherently records time-stamped data on all transactions, with a permanent indication of ownership across a distributed ledger. A look inside a blockchain’s transactions will provide all the information needed about when an NFT was traded, who was involved in the transaction and how much was spent.

But the reality of NFT ownership is much more complicated than one might imagine. As a new crypto asset class, NFTs appear to exist almost unbound by current regulatory systems. But when combined with art, there are overlaps to consider. Understanding the legal pitfalls of the contemporary NFT ecosystem is the first step in unlocking its potential.

Does copyright exist on the blockchain?

High hopes abound for the potential of NFTs to serve as copyright alternatives, with many believing them to be copyrights themselves. When viewed at face value, it’s easy to understand the confusion.

The NFT purchaser owns nothing more than a unique hash on the blockchain with a transactional record and a hyperlink to the file of the artwork.

The truth is, NFTs are just tokens that represent an asset, completely separate from the assets themselves. Because every NFT represents a unique asset, a single NFT can’t be duplicated while maintaining the same value as the original. Many equate this exclusive form of ownership with ownership of the work itself, but the distinction must be emphasized.

This misconception goes further. The range of possibilities for what can be an NFT coincides surprisingly well with works eligible for copyright. While every jurisdiction defines “works” in different ways, none stray too far from the essentials. In Canada, for example, copyright protection extends to literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works in addition to performances, recordings and other related works. Creators need not apply for these protections — the state provides them inherently upon the creation of the work.

Naturally, this protection is guaranteed for the original work that an NFT represents. When artwork is created and auctioned on an NFT marketplace, the copyright functions almost exactly as it would in an in-person scenario, with the copyright retained by the artist. But a lack of copyright trading infrastructure that complies with international law makes the exchange of NFT copyrights impossible on current platforms.

So unless an external agreement is made between the artist and the buyer, the bundle of copyrights to an NFT still belong to the original artist. The NFT purchaser owns nothing more than a unique hash on the blockchain with a transactional record and a hyperlink to the file of the artwork.

Without legal parameters, fraud is inevitable

The issue of NFT copyright tracking gets even trickier when considering the potential for theft and fraud. In order to be added to the blockchain, NFTs must be “signed” by the uploader in a process known as “minting.” Similar to a painter’s signature on their painting, this feature is intended to link the NFT to its creator. Things can go wrong when minters lie about their identity, which is not uncommon across many NFT platforms.

The issue stems from the lack of a strong legal framework in the NFT market. One can mint a tweet, art piece or even a gif of Nyan Cat without being the actual creator on some platforms. As a result, many artists have reported seeing their art being stolen and sold in NFT form without their consent in what would clearly be a copyright violation in the traditional art marketplace.

This issue is particularly pervasive among NFT tweet exchanges. A Twitter bot known as @tokenizedtweets went on a minting spree earlier this year, sending shockwaves throughout Twitter and the NFT community. Its policy of creating NFTs from viral tweets without the author’s consent or even notification caused an outcry from several actors, artists and other creators, provoking responses from names as big as William Shatner, who expressed concern about “these @tokenizedtweets stealing content, images I upload and my tweets which are all under my copyright being tokenized and sold without permission.”

Theft and fraud are natural results of platforms that lack a strong legal infrastructure. The actions of @tokenizedtweets, now banned from Twitter, demonstrates this issue well.

What’s missing? International compliance

So far, no NFT platforms have ventured into internationally compliant territory for the copyright of art that an NFT sale represents. Doing so would be a tremendous leap for the NFT ecosystem. In addition to minimizing fraud through stronger copyright enforcement, international compliance would allow for tokenized copyright exchange within the blockchain itself.

The groundwork has already been laid thanks to the 1886 Berne Convention, an international agreement that guarantees standardized copyright protection at the moment a work is created in any of its 179 signatory countries. The treaty was tested in 2014, for example, when Tom Petty sued Sam Smith for copyright infringement over Smith’s hit song, “Stay With Me,” which is almost melodically identical to Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The suit and settlement, which includes royalties to Petty’s estate, demonstrated the continuing functionality of the Berne Convention.

The 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty formally brought Berne principles into the digital art realm, but many Berne Convention signatories didn’t sign it. With no new treaties on the horizon, the private sector may have to pick up the slack left behind by world governments.

The NFT world still fails to comply with the diversity of copyright law around the world despite the uniformity imposed by international treaties. To move the industry away from speculation and into global functionality, international copyright compliance must be incorporated into this emerging ecosystem.

#blockchain, #column, #copyright-law, #crypto-art, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #gif, #intellectual-property-law, #nfts, #non-fungible-tokens, #opinion, #tc

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Ledger raises $380 million for its crypto hardware wallet

French startup Ledger has raised a $380 million Series C funding round led by 10T Holdings. Following today’s funding round, the company has reached a valuation of $1.5 billion.

Other investors in the funding round include existing investors Cathay Innovation, Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, Draper Esprit, DCG, Korelya Capital and Wicklow Capital. Some new investors are joining the round, such as Tekne Capital, Uphold Ventures, Felix Capital, Inherent, Financière Agache and iAngels Technologies.

Ledger’s main product is a hardware wallet to manage your crypto assets. They are shaped like USB keys and feature a tiny screen to confirm transactions on the device. The reason why that screen is important is that your private keys never leave your Ledger device.

In other words, if you want to store large amount of cryptocurrencies, you don’t want to leave them on an exchange account. If someone manages to sign in, they could withdraw all your crypto assets. With a hardware wallet, you remain in control of your crypto assets.

The company first launched the Ledger Nano S. You have to connect the device to a computer using a USB cable. More recently, with the Ledger Nano X, you can send and receive assets from your phone as the Nano X works over Bluetooth. Ledger also provides an enterprise solution for companies that want to add cryptocurrencies to their balance sheet.

Overall, Ledger has sold over 3 million hardware wallets. Every month, 1.5 million people use Ledger Live, the company’s software solution to manage your crypto assets. The company even says that it currently secures around 15% of all cryptocurrency assets globally.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride as the company has been around for seven years. After the crypto boom of 2018, interests for hardware wallets faded away. Moreover, as the company secures expensive assets, it has also suffered from a serious data breach — 272,000 customers have been affected.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to launch new products, add more DeFi features to Ledger Live and support the growth of the crypto ecosystem in general.

#blockchain, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hardware-wallet, #ledger, #ledger-wallet, #startups, #wallet

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Money Minx aims to build a ‘Personal Finance’ OS for the everyday investor

New regulations are making it easier to invest in alternative assets via crowdfunding, and the recent explosion of crypto and NFTs means that investors are more diversified than ever. 

Keeping up with such a variety of investments may prove difficult to those who want to handle managing their investment portfolios on their own. Money Minx, a new San Diego-based startup co-founded by husband and wife team Hussein and Jessica Yahfoufi, wants to help with that.

Put simply, Money Minx aims to build a “Personal Finance OS” for every household. The platform is designed to help people track all of their investments — yes, including crypto and NFTs — in one place, in whatever currency. The company claims that its AI can also go a step further, and help people spot opportunities in their portfolio as well as catch potential risks.

“We built Money Minx to help people cover all their bases, better understand their personal balance sheet and grow their net worth,” Hussein said. “No financial advisor needed.”

Money Minx also aims to provide people with easy-to-use tools to create dashboards and reports. In its “soft launch” phase, the startup has been growing rapidly — from $15 million in assets tracked at the end of March to $107 million by mid-May. Its user base is growing by 40% month over month.

As many founders do, Hussein says he and Jessica developed the platform to meet a need of their own.

“We built this because we needed it as ‘do it yourself investors,’ said Hussein, who previously started crowdfunding site appsplit and works as a CTO at a San Diego-based fintech company. “I didn’t want to hire a financial advisor and spend 1% of my portfolio every year for them to tell me what to do. So I started to do it on my own on a spreadsheet and then started building this tool last year.”

Hussein talked to other investors and realized that many were also managing their own finances and had also moved into investing outside the stock market.

Image Credits: Money Minx co-founders Jessica and Hussein Yahfoufi / Money Minx

“Everyday investors are preferring to invest more in crowdfunding sites and alternative assets than the traditional stock market,” he said. 

This shift has created a gap in the market for an easy way to track investments across multiple platforms, the Yahfoufis believe. 

Money Minx operates as a SaaS business and charges a monthly subscription fee across three different plans ranging from $10 to $30 a month. Looking ahead, Hussein is considering building out a white-glove service.

Although Money Minx has been approached by interested VCs, Hussein says the company prefers to stay bootstrapped — for now.

Indeed, VCs are pouring money into the space. Just last week, personal finance startup Truebill announced it had raised a $45 million Series D funding round led by Accel.

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #crowdfunding, #crypto-economy, #cryptocurrency, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-advisor, #fintech, #money, #money-minx, #saas, #san-diego, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #truebill

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Mythical Games raises $75M to build an NFT game engine

Even as NFT sales dip below their most speculative highs, startups aiming to tap into their potential are still scoring big funding rounds from investors who believe there’s much more to crypto collectibles than the past few months of hype.

Mythical Games, an NFT games startup based out of Los Angeles, has banked a $75 million raise from new and existing investors betting on the startup’s aim to expand the ambitions of their first title and locate a substantial platform opportunity amid helping developers build blockchain-based gaming experiences.

The round was led by WestCap. Existing investors were joined by 01 Advisors, Bilibili, Gary Vaynerchuk, the Glazer family, Moore Capital, and Redbird Capital in the Series B funding. The startup has raised a whopping $120 million to date.

The company has been building a title called Blankos Block Party that seems to be Fall Guys meets Roblox meets Funko Pop. The PC game capitalizes on a number of big social gaming trends around user-created content, while adding in a marketplace where users can buy avatar figures and accessories crafted by a variety of artists and designers that Mythical has partnered with. Users can buy or sell the limited run or open edition items through their marketplace. Unlike some other NFT platforms, the goods live on a private blockchain so they can’t be re-sold on public marketplace platforms like OpenSea.

Mythical Games is part of a growing movement to bring blockchain-based game mechanics mainstream while leaving behind elements of crypto platforms that are seen as less ready for primetime. Users can purchase avatars on the platform with cryptocurrency through BitPay but they can also pay with a credit card. Users don’t need to walk through the mechanics of setting up a wallet or writing down a seed phrase either.

While the company has big hopes for Blankos as it onboards more users, the bigger investor opportunity is likely in the game engine that the team is building. The startup’s “Mythical Economic Engine” is being designed to help budding game builders create NFT-based marketplaces that won’t get them in any regulatory trouble, marrying compliance across geographies and tools that help creators comply with anti-money laundering laws and know-your-customer frameworks.

“With any new market like [NFTs], it goes through all these different cycles,” Mythical Games CEO John Linden tells TechCrunch. “We think this will actually change gaming for the long haul. The more we talk to game studios, we’re finding more and more potential use cases.”

#advisors, #articles, #bilibili, #bitpay, #blockchain, #ceo, #computing, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #decentralization, #financial-technology, #funko, #gary-vaynerchuk, #los-angeles, #roblox, #tc, #technology, #westcap

0

Bitcoin now legal tender in El Salvador, first nation to adopt cryptocurrency

El Salvador now says both US dollars and bitcoin are legal tender.

Enlarge / El Salvador now says both US dollars and bitcoin are legal tender. (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News)

On Wednesday, El Salvador’s president signed into law a proposal to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, making the Central American nation the first in the world to officially use the cryptocurrency.

The new law says that companies must accept bitcoin as a form of payment, and the government will allow people to pay taxes with it as well. The exchange rate with the dollar will be set by the market, and exchanges from dollars to bitcoin won’t be subject to capital gains tax. The law was passed by a supermajority vote of the legislature, with 62 of 84 deputies assenting.

President Nayib Bukele said the new law would make it easier for Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back to friends and family in the country. Some $6 billion in remittances flowed into the Salvadoran economy last year, accounting for nearly a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Around 70 percent of Salvadorans lack access to traditional banking and other financial services within the country, the president said. The 39-year-old leader hopes that sending remittances will become cheaper, too. Last year, the average fee was 3 percent per transaction. Eliminating that fee would net Salvadorans an additional $180 million.

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#bitcoin, #central-bank, #cryptocurrency, #currency, #el-salvador, #policy

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Are we overestimating the ransomware threat?

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Justice Department said it has seized much of the cryptocurrency ransom that  U.S. pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline paid last month to a Russian hacking collective called DarkSide by tracking the payment the as it moved through different accounts belonging to the hacking group and finally breaking into one of those accounts with the blessing of a federal judge.

It’s a feel-good twist to a saga that began with a cyberattack on Colonial and resulted in a fuel shortage made worse by the panic-purchasing of gasoline last month after Colonial shut down one of its major pipelines (and later suffered a second pipeline shutdown owing to what it described as an overworked internal server). But Christopher Alhberg, a successful serial entrepreneur and the founder of Recorded Future, a security intelligence company that tracks threats to the government and corporations and runs its own media arm, suggests that Americans have overestimated DarkSide all along. He explained a lot about the way its operations work last week in an interview that you can hear here. Shorter excerpts from that conversation follow, edited lightly for length.

TC: Broadly, how does your tech work?

CA: What we do is try to index the internet. We try to get in the way of data from everything that’s written on the internet, down to the electrons moving, and we try and index that in a way that it can be used for for people who are defending companies and defending organizations. . .  We try to get into the heads of the bad guys, get to the where the bad guys hang out, and understand that side of the equation. We try to understand what happens on the networks where the bad guys operate, where they execute their stuff, where they basically transmit data, where they run the illicit infrastructure — all of those things. And we also try to get in the way of the traces that the bad guys leave behind, which could be in all kinds of different interesting places.

TC: Who are your customers?

CA: We have about 1,000 of them in total, and they range from the Department of Defense to some of the largest companies in the world. Probably a third of our business is [with the] government, one third of our businesses are in the financial sector, then the rest [comprise] a whole set of verticals, including transportation, which has been big.

TC: You’re helping them predict attacks or understand what happened in cases where it’s too late?

CA: It can go both ways.

TC: What are some of the clues that inform your work?

CA: One is understanding the adversary, the bad guys, and they largely fall in two buckets: You’ve got cyber criminals, and you’ve got adversary intelligence agencies.

The criminals over the last month or two here that the world and us, too, have been focused on are these ransomware gangs. So these are Russian gangs, and when you hear ‘gang,’ people tend to think about large groups of people [but] it’s typically a guy or two or three. So I wouldn’t over estimate the size of these gangs.

[On the other hand] intelligence agencies can be very both well-equipped and [involve] large sets of people. So one piece is about tracking them. Another piece is about tracking the networks that they operate on . . Finally, [our work involves] understanding the targets, where we get data on the potential targets of a cyber attack without having access to the actual systems on premises, then tying the three buckets together in an automated fashion.

TC: Do you see a lot of cross pollination between intelligence agencies and some of these Russian cutouts?

CA: The short answer is these groups are not, in our view, being tasked on a daily or monthly or maybe even yearly basis by Russian intelligence. But in a series of countries around the world — Russia, Iran, North Korea is a little bit different, to some degree in China — what we’ve seen is that government has encouraged a growing hacker population that’s been able, in an unchecked way, to be able to pursue their interest — in Russia, largely — in cyber crime. Then over time, you see intelligence agencies in Russia — FSB, SVR and GRU —  being able to poach people out of these groups or actually task them. You can find in official documents how these guys have mixed and matched over a long period of time.

TC: What did you think when DarkSide came out soon after the cyberattack and said it could no longer access its Bitcoin or payment server and that it was shutting down?

CA: If you did this hack, you probably had zero idea what Colonial Pipeline actually was when you did it. You’re like, ‘Oh, shit, I’m all over the American newspapers.’ And there are probably a couple of phone calls starting to happen in Russia, where basically, again, ‘What the hell did you just do? How are you going to try to cover that up?’

One of the simplest first things you’re going to do is to basically say either, ‘It wasn’t me’ or you’re going to try to say, ‘We lost the money; we lost access to our servers.’ So I think that was probably fake that whole thing [and that] what they were doing was just to try to cover their tracks, [given that] we found them later come back and try to do other things. I think we overestimated the ability of the U.S. government to come rapidly right back at these guys. That will just not happen that fast, though this is pure conjuring. I’m not saying that with access to any inside government information or anything of the sort.

TC: I was just reading that DarkSide operates like a franchise where individual hackers can come and receive software and use it like a turnkey process. Is that new and does that mean that it opens up hacking to a much broader pool of people?

CA:  That’s right. One of the beauties of the Russian hacker underground is in its distributed nature. I’m saying ‘beauty’ with a little bit of sarcasm, but some people will write the actual ransomware. Some will use the services that these guys provide and then be the guys who might do the hacking to get into the systems. Some other guys might be the ones who operate the Bitcoin transactions through the Bitcoin tumbling that gets needed . . . One of the interesting points is that to get the cash out in the end game, these guys need to go through one of these exchanges that ended up being more civilized businesses, and there might be money mules involved, and there are people who run the money mules. A lot of these guys do credit card fraud; there’s a whole set of services there, too, including testing if a card is alive and being able to figure out how you get money out of it. There are probably 10, 15, maybe  20 different types of services involved in this. And they’re all very highly specialized, which is very much why these guys have been able to be so successful and also why it’s hard to go at it.

TC: Do they share the spoils and if so, how?

CA: They do. These guys run pretty effective systems here. Obviously, Bitcoin has been an incredible enabler in this because there is a way to do payments [but] these guys have whole systems for ranking and rating of themselves much like an eBay seller. There’s a whole set of these underground forums that have historically has been the places that these guys have been operating and they’ll including include services there for being able to say that somebody is a scammer [meaning in relation to the] thieves who are among the cyber criminals. It’s much like the internet. Why does the internet work so well? Because it’s super distributed.

TC: What’s your advice to those who aren’t your customers but want to defend themselves?

CA: A colleague produced a pie chart to show what industries are being hit by ransomware and what’s amazing is that it was just super distributed across 20 different industries. With Colonial Pipeline, a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, they’re coming from the oil.’ But these guys could care less. They just want to find the slowest moving target. So make sure you’re not the easiest target.

The good news is that there are plenty of companies out there doing the basics and making sure that your systems are patched [but also] hit that damn update button. Get as much of your stuff off the internet so that it’s not facing out. Keep as little surface area as you can to the outside world. Use good passwords, use multiple two-factor authentication on everything and anything that you can get your hands on.

There’s a checklist of 10 things that you’ve got to do in order to not be that easy target. Now, for some of these guys — the really sophisticated gangs — that’s not enough. You’ve got to do more work, but the basics will make a big difference here.

#christopher-alhberg, #colonial-pipeline, #cryptocurrency, #fbi, #ransomware, #recorded-future, #tc

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In search of a new crypto deity

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, I wrote about tech taking on Disney. This week, I’m talking about the search for a new crypto messiah.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


The Big Thing

Elon has worn out his welcome among the crypto illuminati, and the acolytes of Bitcoin are searching out a new emperor god king.

This weekend, thousands of crypto acolytes and investors have descended on a Bitcoin-themed conference in Miami, a very real, very heavily-produced conference sporting crypto celebrities and actual celebrities all on a mission to make waves.

Even though I am not at the conference in person (panels from its main stage were live-streamed online), I have plenty of invites in my email for afterparties featuring celebrities, open bars and endless conversations on the perils of fiat. The cryptocurrency community has never been larger or richer thanks to its most fervent bull run yet, and despite a pretty noteworthy correction in the past few weeks, people believe the best is yet to come.

Despite having so much, what they still seem to be lacking is a patron saint.

For the longest bout, that was SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk who bolstered the currency by pushing Tesla to invest cash on its balance sheet into bitcoin, while also pushing for Tesla to accept bitcoin payments for its vehicles. As I’ve noted in this newsletter in the past, Musk had a tough time reconciling the sheer energy use of bitcoin’s global network with his eco warrior bravado which has seemed to lead to his mild and uneven excommunication (though I’m sure he’s welcome back at any time).

There are plenty of celebrities looking to fill his shoes — a recent endorsement gone wrong by Soulja Boy was one of the more comical instances.

Crypto has been no stranger to grift — of that even the most hardcore crypto grifters can likely agree — and I think there’s been some agreement that the only leader who can truly preach the gospel is someone who is already so rich they don’t even need more money. It’s one reason the community has offered up so much respect for Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who truly doesn’t seem to care too much about getting any wealthier — he donated about $1 billion worth of crypto to Covid relief efforts in India. A Musk-like cheerleader serves a different purpose though, and so the community is in search of a Good Billionaire.

The best runner-up at the moment appears to be one Jack Dorsey, and while — like Musk — he is also another double-CEO, he is quite a bit different from him in demeanor and desire for the spotlight. He was, however, a headline speaker at Miami’s Bitcoin conference.

Dorsey gathers the most headlines for his work at Twitter but it’s Square where he is pushing most of his crypto enthusiasm. Users can already use Square’s Cash App to buy Bitcoin. Minutes before going onstage Friday, Dorsey tweeted out a thread detailing that Square was interested in building its own hardware wallet that users could store cryptocurrency like bitcoin on outside of the confines of an exchange.

“Bitcoin changes absolutely everything,” Dorsey said onstage. “I don’t think there is anything more important in my lifetime to work on.”

And while the billionaire Dorsey seems like a good choice on paper — he tweets about bitcoin often, but only good tweets. He defends its environmental effects. He shows up to House misinformation hearings with a bitcoin tracker clearly visible in the background. He is also unfortunately the CEO of Twitter, a company that’s desire to reign in its more troublesome users — including one very troublesome user — has caused a rift between him and the crypto community’s very vocal libertarian sect.

Dorsey didn’t make it very far into his speech before a heckler made a scene calling him a hypocrite because of all this with a few others piping in, but like any good potential crypto king would know to do, he just waited quietly for the noise to die down.


(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Other things 

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Facebook’s Trump ban will last at least 2 years
In response to the Facebook Oversight Board’s recommendations that the company offer more specificity around its ban of former President Trump, the company announced Friday that it will be banning Trump from its platforms through January 2023 at least, though the company has basically given itself the ability to extend that deadline if it so desires…

Nigeria suspends Twitter
Nigeria is shutting down access to Twitter inside the country with a government official citing the “use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Twitter called the shutdown “deeply concerning.”

Stack Overflow gets acquired for $1.8 billion
Stack Overflow, one of the most-visited sites of developers across the technology industry, was acquired by Prosus. The heavy hitter investment firm is best known for owning a huge chunk of Tencent. Stack Overflow’s founders say the site will continue to operate independently under the new management.

Spotify ups its personalization
Music service Spotify launched a dedicated section this week called Only You which aims to capture some of the personalization it has been serving up in its annual Spotify Wrapped review. Highlights of the new feature include blended playlists with friends and mid-year reviews.

Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark case
Justices from the conservative and liberal wings joined together in a landmark ruling that put limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This one email explains Apple
Here’s a fun one, the email exchange that birthed the App Store between the late Steve Jobs and SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet as annotated by my boss Matthew Panzarino.


illustration of money raining down

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

For SaaS startups, differentiation is an iterative process
“The more you know about your target customers’ pain points with current solutions, the easier it will be to stand out. Take every opportunity to learn about the people you are aiming to serve, and which problems they want to solve the most. Analyst reports about specific sectors may be useful, but there is no better source of information than the people who, hopefully, will pay to use your solution..”

3 lessons we learned after raising $6 million from 50 investors
“…being pre-product at the time, we had to lean on our experience and our vision to drive conviction and urgency among investors. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Investors either felt that our experience was a bad fit for the space we were entering (productivity/scheduling) or that our vision wasn’t compelling enough to merit investment on the terms we wanted.

The existential cost of decelerated growth
“Just because a technology startup has a hot start, that doesn’t mean it will grow quickly forever. Most will wind up somewhere in the middle — or worse. Put simply, there is a larger number of tech companies that do fine or a little bit worse after they reach scale.”

 

Again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

#analyst, #app-store, #bertrand-serlet, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #bryce-durbin, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #digital-currencies, #elon-musk, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #india, #jack-dorsey, #king, #matthew-panzarino, #miami, #nigeria, #president, #prosus, #soulja-boy, #spacex, #spotify, #stack-overflow, #steve-jobs, #supreme-court, #svp, #tc, #technology, #tencent, #tesla, #trump, #twitter, #united-states, #vitalik-buterin, #week-in-review

0

Frst and Fabric Ventures announce fellowship program for crypto entrepreneurs

VC funds Frst and Fabric Ventures are teaming up to create Le Crypto Fellowship. With this program, the two firms want to find the next 10 crypto entrepreneurs in France. And they think they might foster the most promising crypto startups if they don’t have any preconceived idea and team yet.

As Pierre Entremont from Frst writes in a Medium post, there are a lot of opportunities if you want to build the next crypto success, but few entrepreneurs are actively looking at this space.

“Nearly all crypto developers and entrepreneurs are already rich and therefore don’t step up their ambition,” he writes.

Blockchain development and DeFi projects are nearly always open source. Learning resources are available for free around the web. So it’s not that hard to get started and build a prototype, but you have to get started. Frst and Fabric Ventures think they can create the right framework to incentivize the next generation of entrepreneurs.

If you get accepted into the program, the two VC firms will hand you €100,000 in exchange for 7% of your company. Basically, this should cover one year of salary for one person in France with a salary of €50,000, €21,000 in employer contributions and €29,000 in expenses. You can be based in another country as long as it’s in the same timezone and you incorporate your company in France.

This way, you get to play around and think about an ambitious idea without feeling any financial pressure. You’ll join a Discord channel with other fellows and you’ll attend weekly Zoom meetings during the first few months. After that, Fabric Ventures and Frst partners will schedule regular office hours with you to check in on your progress.

If you end up creating a proper company and taking your idea to the next level, the fellowship may later ask to invest an additional €700,000 for a 20% stake in the company.

Candidates can apply until June 15. Le Crypto Fellowship isn’t looking for people who already have an idea or are only available part-time. But if you want to join as a team of 2 or 3, you can. Instead of €100,000, you’ll get €200,000 or €300,000. Working as a team will probably help you remain motivated over the long haul.

This isn’t the first startup mentoring program. The Thiel Fellowship is arguably the most well-known one. But Le Crypto Fellowship doesn’t limit itself to college dropouts and has a different focus. It’s going to be interesting to see if it pans out and if the VC firms will have a second, a third and a fourth batch down the road.

#blockchain, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #europe, #fabric-ventures, #fellowship, #frst, #le-crypto-fellowship, #startups

0

What $10M in daily thefts tells us about crypto security

If you’re among the growing number of people interested in cryptocurrencies, you may be interested to know that nearly 7,000 people lost more than $80 million between October 2020 and March 2021 — a 1,000% increase from a year ago, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The scams include fake currency exchanges and phony “investment” websites selling the currency. More recently, more than $10 million was stolen in various cryptocurrencies in the days leading up to Elon Musk’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

And here’s the rub: You have no way to protect your accounts from any theft. In the world of cryptocurrency, there are no guarantees. Unlike the traditional banking world, there is no equivalent to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to cover any losses on your account. If your assets are stolen, you’re out of luck.

Nearly 7,000 people have lost more than $80 million between October 2020 and March 2021 — a 1,000% increase from a year ago, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Enabling secure access to these cryptocurrency assets is absolutely critical to preventing theft — which, as of the end of 2020, amounted to just over $10 million a day — and/or lockout of one’s potential fortune.

But how can you ensure that people can always access their accounts? That depends on how the accounts are set up initially — which usually means that passwords or other knowledge-based authentication (KBA) is involved. Unfortunately, passwords simply aren’t suitable for securing high-value accounts because they can be easily compromised, either through phishing attacks or outright theft.

Plus, if you have a less-used cryptocurrency wallet, you might forget your initial password and might have trouble recovering it — if there is even a mechanism to perform the recovery. KBA is also plagued with problems ranging from lack of recollection (what is my favorite hobby again?) to the wide availability of “personal” information on the web (for a few dollars, you can surely find my mother’s maiden name).

Cryptocurrency account takeovers happen with increasing frequency; it doesn’t help that there are few pre-established trust relationships between users and the exchange or wallet provider and that almost all transactions are finalized within minutes and not easily reversible.

Sadly, these takeovers make use of a very similar pattern that has been observed for years in the traditional banking world: An attacker will first try harvesting and then stuffing stolen credentials. If that doesn’t work — say a user has protected their account by requiring an SMS second factor — they will move on to popular techniques to overcome SMS, such as SIM swapping or a $16 SMS relay service that sends that SMS code to the attacker’s smartphone, which leads to a “successful” account takeover.

Even highly secure tokens or dedicated authenticator apps are vulnerable to replay attacks from a motivated hacker — and with personal fortunes at stake, there is no lack of motivation.

Furthermore, the vast growth in the number of cryptocurrency exchange users coupled with this need for strong cybersecurity has resulted in terrible support experiences where users have to wait for weeks or even months to regain access to their own accounts — simply because it is so difficult for them to prove they are the rightful owner.

Authentication best practices can help

So how do we fix this situation? With standards-based user authentication that has been proven to be resistant to phishing and account takeovers — and that is already embedded into billions of devices worldwide and available to just about any user on a modern browser. The FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) authentication protocols were developed by a who’s who of IT, payments and consumer services and ensure that all cryptographic credentials are stored on a user’s device — thereby eliminating even the most advanced machine-in-the-middle attacks.

The crypto exchange Gemini was an early adopter of FIDO for both its smartphone app and for browser users, with a growing percentage of its users protecting their accounts with FIDO authentication by purchasing FIDO Certified security keys. There have been a number of other exchanges that have added FIDO authentication, such as Coinbase, which also supports FIDO keys. Binance has FIDO for its web versions, but not on its smartphone apps yet. And STEX also has support for various FIDO devices and methods. Finally, Ledger hardware wallets support FIDO directly in their devices.

Ideally, it would be better and more effective if there was broad cryptocurrency industry acceptance of FIDO’s approach to modern authentication and adoption of several related best practices, such as:

  • Standardize authentication flows and practices across crypto exchanges. Better user authentication should be a standard practice for every exchange, not a competitive differentiator. If all leading exchanges moved to industry best practices for account creation, login and recovery, it would help protect customers — and their collective crypto assets.
  • Require users to enroll multiple authenticators to help with account recovery for each cryptocurrency exchange, whether that is two FIDO security keys or a FIDO security key and a biometric authenticator. Having multiple account recovery keys for each cryptocurrency exchange will help lessen support burdens and help users who lose a device. It will also offer users a choice of stronger authentication options.
  • Eliminating less secure backup and recovery options, such as using SMS or other knowledge-based authentication factors, will also help improve overall security, particularly for account recovery.

The bottom line is that for the cryptocurrency market to reach its full potential, its exchanges need to collectively strike a balance between the anonymity and privacy that make crypto unique with the security of accounts and assets. Following the lead of crypto exchanges like Gemini and letting users lock down their accounts is a great step toward protecting users against phishing and account takeovers while maintaining privacy and convenience.

Andrew Shikiar is CMO and executive director of The FIDO Alliance, which promotes the development of, use of, and compliance with standards for authentication and device attestation.

#authentication, #banking, #column, #computer-security, #cryptocurrency, #federal-trade-commission, #opinion, #tc

0

Augmented reality NFT platform Anima gets backing from Coinbase

Augmented reality and non-fungible tokens, need I say more? Yes? Oh, well NFTs have certainly had their moment in 2021 but the question of what they do or what can be done with them has certainly been getting voiced more frequently as the speculative gold rush begins to cool off and people start to think more about how digital goods can evolve in the future.

Anima, a small creative crypto startup built by the founders of photo/video app Ultravisual, which Flipboard acquired back in 2014, is looking to use AR to shift how NFT art and collectibles can be viewed and shared. Their latest venture is an effort to help artists bring their digital creations to a bigger digital stage and help find what the future of NFTs looks like in augmented reality.

The startup has put together a small $500k pre-seed round from Coinbase Ventures, Divergence Ventures, Flamingo DAO, Lyle Owerko and Andrew Unger.

“As NFTs move away from being a more speculative market where it’s all about returns on your purchases, I think that’s healthy and it’s good for us specifically because we want to make things that are more approachable,” co-founder Alex Herrity says.

Their broader vision is finding ways for digital objects to interact with the real world, something that’s been a pretty top-of-mind concern for the AR world over the last few years, though augmented reality development has cooled more recently as creators have sunk into a wait-and-see attitude towards new releases from Apple and Facebook. Both the AR and NFT spaces are incredibly early, something Anima’s co-founders were quick to admit, but they think both spaces have matured enough that the gimmicks are out in the open.

“There’s a context shift that happens when you see AR as a vehicle to have a tactile relationship with something that you collected or that you see is a lifestyle accessory versus the common thing now where it’s a little bit more of an experiential gimmick,” co-founder Neil Voss tells TechCrunch.

The team has worked with a couple artists already as they’ve made early experiments in bringing digital art objects into AR  and they’re launching a marketplace late next month based on ConsenSys’s Palm platform where they hope to showcase more of their future partnerships.

 

#anima, #apple, #arkansas, #augmented-reality, #blockchain, #blockchains, #co-founder, #coinbase, #coinbase-ventures, #consensys, #cryptocurrency, #ethereum, #facebook, #flipboard, #marketing

0

Dapper Labs backs art hardware startup Infinite Objects in $6 million seed raise

The NFT world is all about reshaping the idea of digital ownership, but art hardware startup Infinite Objects sees a big opportunity in making physical copies of those assets as it looks to reshape digital art and collectibles.

The startup makes screens that show a single video from a single artist and don’t do anything else. You can’t download apps to the screens or upload your own photos to them or check the time or weather. If you even want another piece of art from Infinite Objects, you can’t just download it, you have to actually go to their site and buy another display with that artwork on it. Each screen boasts information about the work, edition numbers and serial numbers etched on the back of it, inextricably tying the physical display to the work that it displays.

Infinite Objects CEO Joe Saavedra tells TechCrunch they’ve raised $6 million in seed funding from a host of backers including Courtside VC, which led the deal, and NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs.

For the longest time, Infinite Objects was an NFT platform without the NFTs. The company has worked with artists since 2018 to make (often limited run) series of physical display frames highlighting a specific digital work of the artist that looped forever. Sure, users could watch that looping video on the Infinite Objects website whenever they wanted, but the value was in owning an official copy of that artist’s work. Sound familiar?

When the wider popularity of NFTs as a speculative asset hit earlier this year, Saavedra saw a huge opportunity as internet users began discussing the future of digital art and digital scarcity. His team had already flirted with NFTs, partnering with artist Beeple back in December — months before he would spring out of relative obscurity in art circles with a $69 million sale at the Christie’s auction house — to release “physical tokens” of NFTs he was selling on the platform Nifty Gateway.

Saavedra sees a bigger opportunity for companies and creators in the NFT world to make their assets more approachable and understandable to a general audience with what his company is building, but he also sees a chance to transform NFTs from blind ownership to something more focused on actually appreciating the digital art that’s been purchased.

“When it comes to ownership, it’s exciting to be buying an NFT for $500 or $5,000, but what’s not exciting is having to open Safari on your phone to show it off,” Saavedra tells TechCrunch. “This physical vessel that we’ve designed is just so understandable for people who maybe don’t even understand what the blockchain at all, but they certainly understand limited edition physical merchandise.”

Saavedra is dismissive of other digital displays that cycle through artwork and says that art owners could also just toss images of their NFTs onto the TV if they wanted to, but that they all only serve up art as “glorified screensavers.”

The team at Infinite Objects sees broader opportunities in the NFT world but they’ve been tight-lipped on exactly what these efforts will look like. You can see some potential hints in the list of backers in this round, including most interestingly NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs. The startup has been building out its own blockchain called Flow and Saavedra was quick to sing its praises in our conversation, noting that its more scalable and sustainable than the Ethereum network. Dapper Labs recently announced its first major third-party NFT platform, partnering with avatar startup Genies –another investor in this round — for a digital accessories storefront that’s being launched this summer.

Serena Ventures, Betaworks, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, GFR Fund, Kevin Durant & Rich Kleiman, Genies, and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures also participated in the round.

 

#articles, #artist, #beeple, #blockchain, #blockchain-art, #blockchains, #brooklyn-bridge-ventures, #ceo, #christies, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #dapper, #dapper-labs, #ethereum, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #nft, #nifty-gateway, #serena-ventures, #tc, #ventures

0

Indonesian crypto exchange Pintu gets $6M Series A led by Pantera, Intudo and Coinbase Ventures

Along with the stock market, cryptocurrency is also seeing an uptick among retail investors in Indonesia. Pintu, a platform focused on first-time cryptocurrency buyers, announced today it has raised a $6 million Series A, led by Pantera Capital, Intudo Ventures and Coinbase Ventures.

Other participants in the round included Blockchain.com Ventures, Castle Island Ventures and Alameda Ventures.

The Indonesian Commodity Futures Trading Regulatory Agency (also known as Bappepti) began regulating Bitcoin and other cryptoassets as commodities two years ago, paving the way for licensed brokers like Pintu. Founded last year by Jeth Soetoyo to make it easier for first-time investors to purchase Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, Pintu is registered under Bappebti and the Ministry of Communication and Informatics as a licensed cryptoassets broker.

A wave of interest in capital investing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among millennials who want alternatives to keeping their money in low-yield savings accounts, spurred interest in investment apps like Ajaib, Bibit and Pluang, which have all recently raised funding.

Many first-time investors are also looking at cryptocurrencies. According to Pintu’s internal estimates, last year Indonesia processed $10 billion USD in cryptoassets transactions, mostly through retail investors.

Pintu chief operating officer Andrew Adjiputro told TechCrunch in an email that many Indonesian retail traders see crypto as an alternative investment asset class, and that the majority of retail investors are aged 20 to 35 years old. But the company is starting to see more older investors as crypto gains popularity.

“Based on our internal survey, in terms of public’s top of mind asset classes, we see crypto as a top three asset class in Indonesia, alongside gold and mutual funds,” he said.

Other Indonesian cryptocurrency exchanges include Indodax and Tokocrypto. When asked how Pintu differentiates, Adjiputro said it focuses on the mass market to reach mainly first-time crypto users, and its value proposition lies in its mobile-first app, easy user experience and educational materials developed by the company.

“For most Indonesians, the concept of investing and trading is new, because historically penetration in these categories have been so low,” he explained. “So what we’re seeing is also the opportunity to help Indonesians understand the concept of investing/trading and along the way leapfrog investments into other asset classes. What this means is that there is a large base of underserved first time investors that demand a simple and intuitive trading platform where they are handheld from the start to finish and also educated on the fundamentals of investing/trading on top of that of crypto.”

Pintu’s new funding will be used on marketing, hiring and product development.

#coinbase-ventures, #cryptocurrency, #cryptocurrency-exchange, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #intudo-ventures, #investing, #pantera-ventures, #pintu, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

China advances its war on bitcoin, cracks down on mining

Technicians inspect bitcoin mining machines at a mining facility operated by Bitmain Technologies Ltd. in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.

Enlarge / Technicians inspect bitcoin mining machines at a mining facility operated by Bitmain Technologies Ltd. in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. (credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bitcoin took investors on another rollercoaster ride over the weekend after a top regulator in China announced a crackdown on mining, a new tack in the country’s ongoing fight against the cryptocurrency.

The government will “crack down on bitcoin mining and trading behavior and resolutely prevent the transfer of individual risks to the society,” said the statement, which was issued by the Financial Stability and Development Committee of the State Council, the country’s cabinet equivalent. The committee is chaired by Vice Premier Liu He, who acts as President Xi Jinping’s top representative on economic and financial matters.

“The wording of the statement did not leave much leeway for cryptocurrency mining,” Li Yi, chief research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the South China Morning Post. “When all mining activities are banned in China, it will be a turning point for the fate of bitcoin, as a large chunk of its processing power is taken out of the picture.”

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #china, #cryptocurrency, #policy

0

Equity Monday: Crypto’s awful weekend, Apple v. Epic, and funding rounds galore

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

After a somewhat quiet weekend, things are kicking off in rapid-fire fashion this week. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The cryptocurrency selloff that was in full-swing on Friday continued over the weekend. Though bitcoin and ether managed to recoup some of their losses since they set new local minima, the value of popular cryptos is vastly depressed compared to recent highs.
  • Looking ahead, it’s the final day of arguments at the Epic Games vs. Apple trial. And we’re seeing a smaller company try to crack some of the hold that a major tech incumbent enjoys over a huge piece of the digital economy. So, if you like startups, you might want to put aside your Apple fandom for a minute.
  • More than a few funding rounds are cracking off this morning, including neat rounds from African fintech Mono, India-and-UAE-based Zeta, Emitwise raising $3.2 million, and Aurora Solar raising $250 million.

With a busy funding market and a yet-busy IPO cycle, it should be yet another busy week. Strap in!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#africa, #apple, #aurora-solar, #bitcoin, #coinbase, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #emitwise, #epic-games, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ethereum, #fundings-exits, #india, #mono, #startups, #trial, #uae, #zeta

0

Crypto payments above $10,000 would be reported to IRS under Treasury plan

A coin with a bitcoin symbol lying on top of a pile of $20 bills.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | R.Tsubin)

The Biden administration wants businesses to report cryptocurrency transactions with values of at least $10,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion,” the US Treasury Department said in its proposal for implementing the tax compliance initiatives in President Biden’s American Families Plan. The larger Biden plan still needs approval from Congress.

The Treasury document said that crypto reporting is one part of “the President’s tax compliance initiatives that seek to close the ‘tax gap’—the difference between taxes owed to the government and actually paid.” The proposal calls for a $4.5 billion investment in IT to implement a new information-reporting regime that would help close that gap, which was nearly $600 billion in 2019.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #irs, #policy

0

Decentralized Komorebi Collective launches to back female and non-binary crypto founders

As decentralized currencies have taken off in recent months, there’s been renewed attention around DAOs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, as a means of bringing together groups of investors who can deploy capital as a unit while voting collectively on those investments. In the spirit of blockchain, they aim to bring greater transparency to investment decision-making.

A number of high-profile DAOs have launched in recent months as crypto mania came to a fervor. Komorebi Collective, launching today, is a new organization founded by women in the blockchain space that will be making investments exclusively in “exceptional female and non-binary crypto founders,” founding member Manasi Vora tells TechCrunch.

The group is comprised of a number of core team members largely assembled from the crypto nonprofit she256 and organization Women in Blockchain, including Vora, Eva Wu, Kristie Huang, Medha Kothari, and Kinjal Shah who will collectively do most of the heavy-lifting behind finding and presenting investments to the group. Other hand-selected members who committed a minimum of $5,000 USD will likely have a lighter commitment.

Each investment will be voted on by all the collective’s key signers, some 36 in total, the majority of which are female.

“DAOs level the hierarchy of a venture fund by ensuring everyone is going to have a seat at the table,” says Shah, who is also an investor at crypto VC firm Blockchain Capital. “We are very careful in approaching the backers that are really mission-aligned.”

Other members of the DAO include firms like Kleiner Perkins, Mechanism Capital, Dragonfly Capital, IDEO CoLab Ventures and Stacks Accelerator alongside a number of individuals and founders who work at firms like Twitter, Coinbase, Skynet Labs, Celo Labs and Gitcoin.

The organization itself is built on the Syndicate Protocol, a project that shares some of Komorebi Collective’s backers.

The group hopes the structure of their organization will be able to take a mission-driven approach that improves diversity in the crypto space while proving the sustainability of the DAO model. Despite an explosion in startup investments in the past year, women-led startups received just 2.3% of venture dollars invested in 2020, a study in HBR found.

“There’s so much more room to grow when it comes to female founders getting funding and I want to be part of the solution,” Shah tells TechCrunch.

#blockchain, #blockchain-capital, #blockchains, #coinbase, #computing, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #decentralized-autonomous-organization, #ethereum, #kleiner-perkins, #tc, #technology

0

US Treasury calls for stricter cryptocurrency rules, IRS reporting for transfers over $10K

President Biden’s vision for an empowered, expanded IRS is poised to have a big impact on cryptocurrency trading.

According to a new report from the U.S. Treasury Department, the administration wants to put new requirements in place that would make it easier for the government to see how money is moving around, including digital currencies. The report notes that cryptocurrencies pose a “significant detection problem” and are used regularly by top earners who wish to evade taxes.

The proposed changes would create new reporting requirements built on the framework of existing 1099-INT forms that taxpayers currently use to report interest earned. Cryptocurrency exchanges and custodians would be required to report more information on the “gross inflows and outflows” of money moving through their accounts. Businesses would also be required to report cryptocurrency transactions above $10,000 under the new reporting requirements.

“Although cryptocurrency is a small share of current business transactions, such comprehensive reporting is necessary to minimize the incentives and opportunity to shift income out of the new information reporting regime,” the report states.

The Treasury Department notes that wealthy tax filers are often able to escape paying fair taxes through complex schemes that the IRS currently doesn’t have the resources to disrupt. According to the report, the IRS collects 99 percent of taxes due on wages, but that number is estimated to be as low as 45 percent on non-labor income, a discrepancy that hugely benefits high earners with “less visible” income sources. The Treasury calls virtual currency, which has some reporting requirements but still operates mostly out of sight in regulatory grey areas, a particular challenge.

“These opportunities are particularly available for those in the top end of the income distribution who can avoid taxes through sophisticated strategies such as offshoring, creating complex partnership structures, or moving taxable assets into the crypto economy,” the Treasury report states.

The report details a multiyear effort to bolster IRS enforcement that would bring in as much as $700 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years. The proposed changes, if implemented, would go into effect starting in 2023.

#biden, #cryptocurrency, #decentralization, #digital-currency, #financial-technology, #government, #internal-revenue-service, #tax, #tc

0

Bitcoin crashes as investors fear crypto bull market could be nearing its end

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a host of Altcoins suffered massive drops Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, erasing months of gains and hundreds of billions in market cap. The overall crypto market shrunk more than 20% over the past 24 hours according to crypto tracker CoinMarketCap.

What’s behind the drop? Well, some may say the market was flying too close to the sun as investors piled into speculative and technically unremarkable projects like Dogecoin. Others may pin the blame on Elon Musk, who announced that Tesla would no longer be accepting bitcoin for Tesla purchases, which investors feared could trigger a broader backlash among corporate adopters who they hoped would be encouraged to put bitcoin on their balance sheets.

Not all cryptocurrencies are seeing the same fortune, while Bitcoin dropped to nearly $31k, more than half its all-time-high, Ethereum fell to prices it first reached last month. Some of the steepest losses were seen by Dfinity’s Internet Computer token which has shed nearly 60% of its value in the past week. Meanwhile, multi-chain development platform Polygon has surged throughout the broader crash, up 88% this week.

Public market investors got a taste for the crypto market’s volatility as Coinbase stock fell 5% Wednesday morning, down more than 47% from its briefly achieved all-time-high and 10% lower than its direct listing target price.

#bitcoin, #blockchain, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #dogecoin, #elon-musk, #ethereum, #money, #tesla

0

Equity Monday: Elon Musk Elon Musk’s the crypto markets, while Indian startups raise huge rounds

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

There was lots to get through today, so, in order, here’s the rundown:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#apollo, #att, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-monday, #houm, #india, #moglix, #pine-labs, #real-estate, #san-francisco, #sequoia, #tc, #twitter, #verizon, #vise, #y-combinator

0

Elon Musk giveth and taketh away

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, I wrote about Facebook’s never-ending Trump problem. This week, I’m looking at Elon Musk’s wild week of whipping crypto markets.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

The big thing

This week, Elon Musk may have crashed the crypto markets with a tweet.

Musk has always been anything but predictable but retail and institutional investors are also anything but dismissive of his ability to pump up markets — especially if there’s a good joke to tell in the meantime. A few days after he crashed Dogecoin because of his appearance on Saturday Night Live where he called the currency a “hustle,” he drove the price of Bitcoin — a cryptocurrency with a $1 trillion market cap –down as much as 17% with a tweet basically noting that he now believes Bitcoin is bad for the environment and that Tesla will not be accepting Bitcoin payments for its cars after all.

The impact was immediate. Crypto investors flooded into his mentions pleading for mercy and complaining to each other in public and private that he shouldn’t have been so rash. Unrelated coins across the cryptosphere dipped as investors worried whether the tweet, shipped at a tenuous moment for this bull run would drag the space down to earth. A later tweet that he was working with Dogecoin developers directly on improving its efficiency sent the joke coin (worth billions of dollars) surging and supplied crypto investors with a worrying insight that perhaps this is all just a joke to Musk.

Days later, Bitcoin has erased months of gains — though Dogecoin isn’t doing too poorly.

Musk has had his own dealings with the SEC in recent years, but his market moving tweets have seemed dubious at times but have generally seemed to be just another case of him trolling. Tesla’s investment in Bitcoin has complicated this somewhat, and while it’s not known whether he actually has holdings of Dogecoin, he’s certainly put himself in a less flexible legal arena when his company has a billion dollar stake in the fortunes of Bitcoin which he seems to lord control of over with his Twitter.

Retail investors aren’t used to blowing up a billionaire’s mentions and eliciting a response and there’s a certain irresistible power that comes with that especially for pumping nascent bets like Dogecoin, but I suspect that there’s going to be some reticence among a certain class of investor to invite Musk’s brand of randomized volatility into their wallets.

Other things

Jim Urquhart / Reuters

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Uber and Lyft supplying free rides to vaccine appointments
In an effort to get more Americans vaccinated, the Biden White House has partnered with Uber and Lyft allowing riders to get free rides to and from vaccination sites, covering up to $15 each way.

State attorneys tell Facebook to nix Instagram for Kids app
Attorneys General representing some 44 U.S. states and territories signed a letter pressuring Facebook to abandon its plans to create a version of Instagram designed specifically for kids.

Burning Man plans for a virtual year
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken yet another year of Burning Man away from attendees. The festival in the Nevada desert has been a favorite of high-profile tech executives, but this year they’ll have to settle for a wholly virtual experience.

Ethereum creator donates $1 billion to India Covid recovery
One of the wildest story of the weeks involves the creator of Ethereum dumping billions of dogecoin copy cats that were unceremoniously gifted to his account, donating them to a host of charities. He donated some $1.5 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in total.

Amazon nukes accounts of some major Chinese sellers
Alleging fake reviews and behaviors that violated its store policies, Amazon took the nuclear option on a number of massive Chinese sellers on its platform that were responsible for billions in merchandise value. Those account holders aren’t too happy and Amazon isn’t too repentant.

GasBuddy hits top of App Store 
In the wake of the Colonial Pipeline attack, several states in the eastern United States were left with gas shortages, pushing the gas-finding app GasBuddy to the top of the App Store for the first time ever.

Extra things

Illustration Expensify

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

The Expensify EC-1
“Let’s make it clear from the outset that this story is about an expense management SaaS business called Expensify. As you’d expect, yes, this is about the expense management market and how Expensify has grown, its technology and all of that. Normally, that would make us change the channel. But this is also a story about pirates; peer-to-peer hackers who asked, “Why not work from Thailand and dozens of countries across the globe?” and actually did it using P2P hacker culture as a model for consensus-driven decision-making — all with pre-Uber Travis Kalanick in a guest-starring role..”

Is there a creed in venture capital
“Entrepreneurs and investors should recognize that contracts are worth very little without the ongoing relationship management that keeps all parties aligned. Enforcement is so unusual in the world of startups that I consider it a mostly dead-end path. In my experience, good communication is the only reliable remedy. This is the way.

5 ways to raise your startups PR game
“I get emails every week from companies coming out of stealth mode, wanting to make a splash. Or from a Series B company that’s been around for a while and hopes to improve their branding/messaging/positioning so that a new upstart doesn’t eat their lunch. How do you make a splash? How do you stay relevant?”


Again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

#blockchain, #cryptocurrency, #tc, #week-in-review

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Crypto and blockchain must accept they have a problem, then lead in sustainability

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

Just last week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin due to the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in bitcoin mining. We applaud this decision, and it brings to light the severity of the situation — the industry needs to address crypto sustainability now or risk hindering crypto innovation and progress.

The market cap of bitcoin today is a whopping $1 trillion. As companies like PayPal, Visa and Square collectively invest billions in crypto, market participants need to lead in dramatically reducing the industry’s collective environmental impact.

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

The increasing demand for crypto means intensifying competition and higher energy use among mining operators. For example, during the second half of February, we saw the electricity consumption of BTC increase by more than 163% — from 265 TWh to 433 TWh — as the price skyrocketed.

Sustainability has become a topic of concern on the agendas of global and local leaders. The Biden administration rejoining the Paris climate accord was the first indication of this, and recently we’ve seen several federal and state agencies make statements that show how much of a priority it will be to address the global climate crisis.

A proposed New York bill aims to prohibit crypto mining centers from operating until the state can assess their full environmental impact. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a call for public comment on climate disclosures as shareholders increasingly want information on what companies are doing in this regard, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the amount of energy consumed in processing bitcoin is “staggering.” The United Kingdom announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the prime minister launched an ambitious plan last year for a green industrial revolution.

Crypto is here to stay — this point is no longer up for debate. It is creating real-world benefits for businesses and consumers alike — benefits like faster, more reliable and cheaper transactions with greater transparency than ever before. But as the industry matures, sustainability must be at the center. It’s easier to build a more sustainable ecosystem now than to “reverse engineer” it at a later growth stage. Those in the cryptocurrency markets should consider the auto industry a canary: Carmakers are now retrofitting lower-carbon and carbon-neutral solutions at great cost and inconvenience.

Market participants need to actively work together to realize a low-emissions future powered by clean, renewable energy. Last month, the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) launched with over 40 supporters — including Ripple, World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute and ConsenSys — and the goal to enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by 2025.

Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the larger industry still has a long way to go. While 76% of hashers claim they are using renewable energy to power their activities, only 39% of hashing’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.

To make a meaningful impact, the industry needs to come up with a standard that’s open and transparent to measure the use of renewables and make renewable energy accessible and cheap for miners. The CCA is already working on such a standard. In addition, companies can pay for high-quality carbon offsets for remaining emissions — and perhaps even historical ones.

While the industry works to become more sustainable long term, there are green choices that can be made now, and some industry players are jumping on board. Fintechs like Stripe have created carbon renewal programs to encourage its customers and partners to be more sustainable.

Companies can partner with organizations, like Energy Web Foundation and the Renewable Energy Business Alliance, to decarbonize any blockchain. There are resources for those who want to access renewable energy sources and high-quality carbon offsets. Other options include using inherently low-carbon technologies, like the XRP Ledger, that don’t rely on proof-of-work (which involves mining) to help significantly reduce emissions for blockchains and cryptofinance.

The XRP Ledger is carbon-neutral and uses a validation and security algorithm called Federated Consensus that is approximately 120,000 times more energy-efficient than proof-of-work. Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain, is transitioning off proof-of-work to a much less energy-intensive validation mechanism called proof-of-stake. Proof-of-work systems are inefficient by design and, as such, will always require more energy to maintain forward progress.

The devastating impact of climate change is moving at an alarming speed. Making aspirational commitments to sustainability — or worse, denying the problem — isn’t enough. As with the Paris agreement, the industry needs real targets, collective action, innovation and shared accountability.

The good news? Solutions can be practical, market-driven and create value and growth for all. Together with climate advocates, clean tech industry leaders and global finance decision-makers, crypto can unite to position blockchain as the most sustainable path forward in creating a green, digital financial future.

#bitcoin, #blockchain, #column, #cryptocurrency, #elon-musk, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #opinion, #renewable-energy, #tc, #tesla

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GameStop FOMO inspires a new wave of crypto pump-and-dumps

Physical representations of virtual dogecoins sit atop computer components.

Enlarge (credit: peng song / Getty)

After the California Gold Rush, in 1870, two Kentucky swindlers whipped up a scheme to prey on thirsty financiers’ FOMO. They invented a diamond field out West. Investors sunk millions in today’s money into the scheme. All of it, of course, was for naught—a cautionary tale about believing anyone who claims they have a surefire plan to get rich quick.

A hundred and fifty years later, a new generation of amateur investors is equally desperate not to miss the next big thing in the finance world. After watching the great GameStop stock boom play out on sites like Reddit and Discord this winter, hundreds of thousands of hopefuls are joining Discord groups that promise big earnings from manipulating the crypto market—also known as crypto pump-and-dumps. Step 1: Buy in early, when the coin is low. Step 2: convince other people to join you—the more, the merrier, the bigger the potential gains as the price of the coin goes up. Step 3: Sell out before the price tanks. Get the timing right, these groups promise, and you come out a winner (and richer). Losers are left holding the bag.

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#bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #day-trading, #discord, #gamestop, #gaming-culture, #policy

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Solana, a blockchain platform followed by top crypto investors, says it’s a lot faster than Ethereum

Solana isn’t known yet outside of the crypto community. But insiders think the blockchain platform is interesting for a wide variety of reasons, beginning with its amiable founder, Anatoly Yakovenko, who spent more than a dozen years as an engineer working on wireless protocols at Qualcomm and who says he had a lightbulb moment at a San Francisco cafe several years ago following two coffees and a beer.

His big idea centered on creating an historical record to speed along “consensus,” which is how decisions are made on blockchains, which are themselves peer-to-peer systems. Right now, consensus is reached on various blockchains when members solve a mathematical puzzle, a mechanism that’s called “proof of work.” These miners are rewarded for their efforts with cryptocurrency, but process takes work hours in Bitcoin’s case and days in the case of Ethereum, and it’s insanely energy intensive, which is why neither Bitcoin nor Ethereum has proved very scalable. (Bitcoin’s heavy reliance on fossil fuel is the reason Elon Musk cited earlier this week to explain why Tesla is no longer accepting Bitcoin as payment for the company’s electric cars.)

But there is another way. Indeed, crypto watchers and developers are excited about Ethereum and other currencies that are transitioning to a new system called “proof of stake,” wherein people who agree to lock up a certain amount of their cryptocurrency — say it’s Ether — are invited to activate so-called validator software that enables them to store data, process transactions, and add new blocks to the Ethereum blockchain. Like miners, “validators” do what they do to earn more cryptocurrency, but they need far less sophisticated equipment, which opens up the opportunity to more people. Meanwhile, because more validators can participate in a network, consensus can be reached faster.

Yakovenko is enthusiastic about the shift.  We talked with him yesterday, and he said it would “devastating for the entire industry” if Ethereum weren’t able to pull off its objective, given its mindshare and its roughly $500 billion market cap.

Still, he argues that not even proof of stake is good enough. His biggest concern, he says, is that even with proof of stake, miners — and bots — have advance access to transaction information that allows them to exploit users, or front run transactions, because they can control transaction ordering and profit from that power.

Enter Yakovenko big idea, which he calls “proof of history,” wherein the Solana blockchain has developed a kind of synchronized clock that, in essence, assigns a timestamp for each transaction and disables the ability for miners and bots to decide the order of which transactions get recorded onto the blockchain. It also, says Yakovenko, allows for faster block finalization and much faster consensus because the timestamps of previous transactions no longer need to be computed. “Basically, the speed of light is how fast we can make this network go,” he says.

Certainly, Solana — which has sold tokens to investors but never equity in the company — has many excited about its prospects. In recent interviews with both investor Garry Tan of Initialized Capital and CEO Joe Lallouz of the blockchain infrastructure company Bison Trails, both mentioned Solana as among the projects that they find most interesting right now. (We assume both hold its tokens.)

Others say on background that while they understand the developer benefits and need for more scaleable blockchains than Ethereum — and they think Solana is a contender for this market — Solana still needs to more developer mindshare to prove its long-term worth and it’s not there yet. According to Solana itself, there are currently 608 validators helping secure the Solana Network and 47 decentralized applications (or “dapps”) powered by Solana. Meawhile, they were reportedly 33,700 active validators helping to secure “Eth 2.0” as of late December and 3,000 dapps running on the Ethereum blockchain as of February.

In fairness, the Ethereum network went live in 2015, so it has a three-year head start on Solana. In the meantime, Solana has a lead of its own, says Yakovenko, who is based in San Francisco and has assembled a distributed team of 50 employees, including numerous former colleagues from Qualcomm. Asked about other projects that have embraced a proof of history approach, he says that while it’s “all open source” and “anybody can go do it,” there “isn’t a set of our biggest competitors saying they’re going to rework their system and use this.”

The likely reason is that it’s almost comically complicated. “It just takes a lot of work to build these systems,” Yakovenko says. “It takes two to three years to build a new layer one, and you can’t really take an idea for one and stuff it in the other one. If you try to do that, you’re going to set yourself back by six to nine months at the least and potentially introduce bugs and vulnerabilities.” Either way, he adds, “We’re the only ones that are really building this proof-of-history thing, that use a verifiable delay function as a source of time.”

Either way, Solana, which itself has a $12 billion market cap, isn’t interested in competing with Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies on every front anyway, suggests Yakovenko. All it really wants is to disrupt Wall Street and the rest of the global markets, even if he doesn’t put it that way exactly.

He knows it sounds crazy. But the way he sees it, what Solana is building is “an open, fair, censorship-resistant global marketplace” that’s better than anything inside of the New York Stock Exchange or any other means of settling trades. It’s certainly a much bigger opportunity than he imagined, backed at that cafe. As he said yesterday: “Everything that we do to make this thing faster and faster results in this better censorship resistance, and therefore better markets. And price discovery is what I imagine is the killer use case for decentralized public networks. Can we be the world’s price discovery engine? That’s an interesting question to ask.”

Pointing to the wild swings in cryptocurrency prices right now, he says he suspects that “part of that is just developers and folks discovering the network and building cool applications on it.” It’s exciting when people can “self serve and build stuff that they want to go to market,” he adds. “It’s the secret weapon of decentralized networks versus any incumbents like Bank of America or Visa or whatever. Those big companies can’t iterate and move as fast as global set of engineers who can just come together and code whenever they want to.”

He saw the same dynamics play at Qualcomm. “Working in a big company, it seems like there’s a ton of resources, right? They can accomplish anything. But you saw us working on proprietary operating systems while the Linux guys were just working first for fun, right? And it seemed like it was just a weird hobby that people had; they were coding operating systems at night; they were coding over the weekend. Then all of a sudden, Linux is the de facto mobile iOS for Android.”

If you’re curious to learn more about Solana, we’ll have a podcast coming out soon with our longer conversation with Yakovenko. In the meantime, the outlet Decrypt today published an explainer titled “What is Solana?” that you might check out here.

#blockchain, #cryptocurrency, #ethereum, #multicoin-capital, #proof-of-stake, #tc

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Binance, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange, reportedly under investigation

Binance, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange, reportedly under investigation

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images News)

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is under investigation by a laundry list of US government agencies, including the US Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a report by Bloomberg. The agencies are probing Binance for potential criminal violations, the report says, though the company has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The investigations come on the heels of a report by Chainalysis that traced $2.8 billion worth of illicit bitcoin on exchange and trading platforms. Of that, $756 million went through Binance. Most of the suspect accounts received small amounts, but the majority of the illicit cryptocurrency flowed to a few hundred accounts that received between $100,000 to $100 million. Government officials are said to be focused on money laundering and tax evasion.

The recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline that led to gasoline shortages has sharpened the focus on cryptocurrencies’ role in illegal activities. In that case, it’s reported that Colonial paid the attackers $5 million to return control of the pipeline’s operations. In another, a ransomware gang recently posted personnel records from District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department after the department didn’t cave to their demands of a $4 million ransom. The group, known as Babuk, is behind other ransomware attacks and frequently requests payment in bitcoin.

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#binance, #bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #doj, #irs, #policy

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Musk: Bitcoin is bad for climate (and you can’t buy Teslas with it anymore)

A casually dressed man appears flip during a presentation.

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2020. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that Tesla would stop taking bitcoin as payment for the company’s electric vehicles. The change comes less than two months after the automaker began accepting the cryptocurrency. Why the about-face? Musk now says he has concerns over bitcoin’s carbon footprint.

Tesla’s purchase policy wasn’t the company’s only bitcoin-related announcement that has made waves. In February, the electric automaker disclosed that it had taken a $1.5 billion stake in the currency. Cryptocurrency promoters rejoiced at the string of announcements—Tesla’s moves had bolstered the currency’s legitimacy, and bitcoin’s price against the dollar surged over 15 percent in the wake of the disclosure.

But environmentalists despaired—the carbon footprint of purchasing a Tesla with bitcoin was so large that it swamped any emissions savings from driving it. Today, Musk appears to share that assessment. “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

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#bitcoin, #carbon-footprint, #cars, #climate, #cryptocurrency, #policy, #tesla

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BRD’s Blockset unveils its white-label cryptocurrency wallet for banks and other enterprise clients

Blockset, the blockchain infrastructure platform for enterprises by BRD, announced early access to its Wallet-as-a-Service today. The white-label solution gives clients, like financial institutions, the ability to launch wallets that have the same features as BRD’s own mobile cryptocurrency wallet, which now has about 7 million users with over $20 billion assets under protection.

Blockset’s clients include some of the largest ATM networks and Japanese investment bank (and BRD investor) SBI Holdings, CoinFlip, Welthee, CoinSwitch, Coinsquare and Wyre. BRD’s other investors include Ripple and it has raised $56 million in funding so far.

One of Blockset’s selling points is access to real-time data about several kinds of cryptocurrencies. This not only allows users to see how their assets are performing, but also enables institutions to perform compliance tasks, fraud detection, anti-money laundering and other important services. Blockset also claims that its multi-chain API has up to 99.999% uptime.

The platform currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Tezos, Hedera, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV, and will add more chains based on customer demand.

Blockset already offered a white-label solution called WalletKit, before launching its current Wallet-as-a-Service with more features. BRD co-founder and CEO Adam Traidman compares its Wallet-as-a-Service to Google Maps, because both aggregate large amounts of constantly-changing data and can connect to other apps, while remaining user-friendly.

“The concept is really a result of learnings from working with our customers, tier one financial institutions, who need a couple things,” Traidman told TechCrunch. “Generally they want to custody crypto on behalf of their customers. For example, if you’re running an ETF, like a Bitcoin ETF, or if you’re offering customers buying and selling, you need a way to store the crypto, and you need a way to access the blockchain.”

“The Wallet-as-a-Service is the nomenclature we use to talk about the challenge that customers are facing, whereby blockchain is really complex,” he added. “There are three V’s that I talk about: variety, a lot of velocity because there’s a lot of transactions per second, and volume because there’s a lot of total aggregate data.”

Blockset also enables clients to add features like trading crypto or fiat or lending Bitcoin or Stablecoins to take advantage of high interest rates. Enterprises can develop and integrate their own solutions or work with Blockset’s partners.

Other companies that offer enterprise blockchain infrastructure include Bison Trails, which was recently acquired by Coinbase, and Galaxy Digital.

Blockset differentiates by focusing on real-time data. It looks at a smaller number of mainstream blockchains in order to ensure depth of information and speed.

“If you’re a financial institution, you can’t accept anything other than instant, accurate and highly-scalable kinds of data. Right down to the millisecond of latency is really important because it can give traders an advantage,” said Traidman.

In a press statement, Wyre chief executive officer Ioannis Giannaros said “Blockset is the clear industry leader in offering enterprise-grade SLAs [service-level agreements] that we require to guarantee high scalability, uptime and data integrity across multiple blockchains.”

#apps, #blockchain, #blockset, #brd, #cryptocurrency, #fintech, #startups, #tc, #wallet-as-a-service

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Vitalik Buterin donates $1 billion worth of ‘meme coins’ to India Covid Relief Fund

Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, on Wednesday donated Ethereum and “meme coins” worth $1.5 billion in one of the largest-ever individual philanthropy efforts.

Buterin transferred 500 ETH and over 50 trillion SHIB (Shiba Inu), a meme coin, worth around $1.14 billion at the time of transaction, to the India COVID-Crypto Relief Fund. The transaction sparked panic among some investors, with SHIB’s price dropping by over 35% in the past 24 hours.

The meme coin which courted retail investors in China and elsewhere following recent surges in the Dogecoin cryptocurrency, managed to garner billions (USD) worth of investment in recent days before today’s crash. Buterin’s donation of SHIB — which was sent to him without his consent in the first place — comes at a time when India is grappling with a surge in the coronavirus infections in the country.

Sandeep Nailwal, who put together the Indian relief fund and co-founded crypto organization Polygon, said in a tweet that he won’t do anything that hurts “any community specially the retail community involved with SHIB.”

Buterin, who became the youngest crypto billionaire at the age of 27 earlier this month, also transferred Ethereum and Dogelon Mars (ELON) — another meme coin — worth $336 million to Methuselah Foundation, a non-profit that supports efforts in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine therapies; and over 13,000 ETH to Givewell, a non-profit organization that works to curate the best charities around the world. Buterin also donated to Gitcoin Community, MIRI, and Charter Cities Institute.

 

India has been reporting over 350,000 daily infections and over 3,500 fatalities for the last two weeks. The second wave of the coronavirus has overwhelmed the South Asian nation’s healthcare system, leaving countless of people to scramble for hospital beds, medical oxygen and other supplies.

#asia, #blockchains, #china, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #distributed-computing, #dogecoin, #ethereum, #india, #joseph-lubin, #retail-investors, #tc, #vitalik-buterin

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CryptoPunks NFT bundle goes for $17 million in Christie’s auction

A lot of 9 CryptoPunks portraits ended up selling for just under $17 million in a Christie’s auction Tuesday evening, marking another substantial moment for NFT art sales. The lot of pixelated portraits were from the collection of the NFT platform’s co-creators Matt Hall and John Watkinson.

The CryptoPunks platform is one of the first NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain. Back in 2017, ten thousand of the procedurally generated characters were given away for free. In the years since, a vibrant NFT community has developed around the ‘Punks. In recent months, on the back of a broader NFT boom, prices exploded.

Last month, TechCrunch profiled the community and some of its buyers who have paid tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars each to join the exclusive club of CryptoPunks owners.

Tuesday’s sale marks a substantial payday for the creators of the project, but comes just days after a much more substantial one: the release of their new project called Meebits which garnered nearly $80 million in sales in just a few hours.

The final Christie’s bid was for $14.5 million, $16.96 million after fees.

Many inside the crypto community had expected the sale to reach an even higher premium in recent weeks, something that had led to a substantial run-up in prices of CryptoPunks in the weeks ahead of the auction. Though the lot sold for a significantly higher dollar amount, when priced in denominations of the surging Ethereum cryptocurrency, the entire bundle sold for slightly less than the sale price of the last alien figure, which sold in March for 4,200 Eth (some $7.2M USD at the time).

#articles, #auction, #blockchain, #blockchains, #christies, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #cryptopunks, #decentralization, #ethereum, #joseph-lubin, #matt-hall, #nft, #tc

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eBay embraces NFTs

eBay is joining the NFT frenzy, telling Reuters today that going forward it will allow the sales of NFTs on its platform, a mainstream embrace that follows billions of dollars in NFT purchases over the past few months. The e-commerce company seems poised to slowly build up sales of digital collectibles on the platform, starting with a smaller group of verified sellers on the platform.

“In the coming months, eBay will add new capabilities that bring blockchain-driven collectibles to our platform,” eBay exec Jordan Sweetnam told them.

eBay has invested heavily in infrastructure for physical collectibles like trading cards, as well as items like sneakers and watches which they help verify for buyers.

eBay is a major presence in online shopping, but the platform will have its work cut out for it competing with dozens of crypto native NFT marketplaces already out there. While NFT interest has been high as of late, the infrastructure for buying collectibles with cryptocurrencies still isn’t the most user-friendly. Earlier this week, executives at eBay said they were open to accepting cryptocurrencies in the future.

This news comes as the Ethereum cryptocurrency, which is the primary method of purchase for most NFTs, reaches past all-time-highs, currently trading over $4,100.

#articles, #blockchain, #computing, #cryptocurrency, #ebay, #ecommerce, #nft, #online-shopping, #technology

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Private-equity firm revives zombie fossil-fuel power plant to mine bitcoin

Private-equity firm revives zombie fossil-fuel power plant to mine bitcoin

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Few bitcoin projects illustrate the cryptocurrency’s enormous climate impact better than the Greenidge power plant in upstate New York. The once-abandoned power plant was bought by private equity firm Atlas Holdings and retasked. A significant portion of Greenidge’s electricity no longer powers nearby homes or businesses; rather, the plant’s smokestacks are increasingly pouring pollutants into the atmosphere in the service of mining bitcoin.

Now, Greenidge is on the verge of ramping up its bitcoin ambitions. By the end of this year, it plans to have 18,000 specialized machines mining bitcoin, and with the recent approval of its data center expansion plans, it will add 10,500 more. When the project is complete, the miners will be using 79 percent of the power plant’s capacity, or 85 MW. 

“No direct competitor currently owns and operates its own power plant for the purpose of bitcoin mining,” the company wrote in its recent S-4 filing with the SEC. “No other bitcoin-mining operation of this scale in the United States currently uses power generated from its own power plant.” The filings came as a result of Greenidge’s recent merger with Support.com.

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#bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #climate-change, #cryptocurrency, #fossil-fuels, #policy, #power-plant

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Equity Monday: Dogecoin is passé, but student notes are big business

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

This weekend was all about memecoins. And I am sorry about that. But Equity doesn’t run the world, sadly, it merely notes what is going on:

  • Dogecoin dropped during Elon Musk’s SNL appearance. Which was somewhat ironic. Also there’s another memecoin that is skyrocketing.
  • Palantir, DoorDash, Airbnb, Alibaba will report earnings this week, amongst others.
  • Clubhouse is finally coming to Android. In the United States. By invite. So, if that’s you, congrats, welcome to the app.
  • A major cyberattack and ransom situation in the United States is a data point, yet again, that we’re woefully unprepared for cyber risk.
  • StuDocu raised $50 million which was cool, while Gojek raised another $300 million, which was the very opposite of surprising.
  • This week’s Extra Crunch Live is going to be really good. I will see you there!

It is going to be a busy week! Already since we recorded this show there’s more drama from Box, and more. Strap in!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#airbnb, #alibaba, #android, #clubhouse, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #cyberattack, #dogecoin, #doordash, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-monday, #equity-podcast, #gojek, #india, #palantir, #pipeline, #snl, #startups, #studocu, #tc

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