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Gemini Exchange Moves Toward Launch With Twin NYDFS Approvals

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin exchange Gemini has received two key approvals from the NYDFS that move it closer to launching services in the US.

SEC Seizes Assets from Alleged Altcoin Pyramid Scheme

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A California company promoting a digital currency called GemCoin has had its assets seized by the US government amid allegations of fraud.

Bitcoin Websites Experience Service Outage in Venezuela

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Venezuelan Internet service provider (ISP) CANTV is blocking bitcoin-related websites, including those of major venture capital-backed startups.

How the Hunt for Satoshi Turned Dorian Nakamoto’s Life Upside Down: the Inside Story

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Once More for Posterity: Dorian Nakamoto Explains Why He Is Not the Mastermind Behind the World's Most Popular Digital Currency

Approaching the home that Dorian Nakamoto shares with his 93-year-old mother in the small Los Angeles County suburb of Temple City, one beholds a posted note under the doorbell declaring, “Private property: No solicitors or reporters.” Though I have come as an invited guest, the note stands as a stark reminder of the peculiar form of hell Nakamoto endured just a year and a half ago, when he was hounded to distraction by hordes of media and various curiosity-seekers after Newsweek magazine published a purported exposé that dubbed him the “Father of Bitcoin.”

The claim fell like a bomb on those who follow Bitcoin, and given Newsweek ’s longtime status as a paragon of mass magazine journalism, it engendered widespread discussion. The article, by Leah McGrath Goodman, served as the magazine’s cover story on March 6, 2014. It claimed to have uncovered the true identity of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, following a two-month investigation that included “interviews with those closest to (Dorian) Nakamoto and the developers who worked most frequently with him (“Satoshi”).

Citing Dorian’s past contracting work on top-secret engineering projects, an ingrained disdain for government intrusion, and using quotes from various family members which paint him as a humble, privacy-obsessed engineering mastermind, Goodman made a compelling though surface-level argument for Dorian Nakamoto as the creator of Bitcoin.

But following the article’s publication, most involved with Bitcoin were quick to question the validity of Goodman’s claims, seeing the evidence presented as largely circumstantial. A commonly held belief among those who are skeptical of Newsweek ’s claims is that “Satoshi Nakamoto” is actually an alias for a group of cryptographers/software engineers, rather than an individual. Others who corresponded with “Satoshi,” including core developer Gavin Andresen, believe he is in fact an individual.

Furthermore, a recent piece by Nathaniel Popper in The New York Times makes the case that if the creator was indeed an individual, he was probably BitGold inventor and noted cryptocurrency expert Nick Szabo, not Dorian Nakamoto (although Szabo, too, refutes these claims).

Still others have asked the logical question of why a humble and essentially private person such as Dorian Nakamoto would create Bitcoin, seek anonymity for that feat, and then choose an alias that includes his given last name, in light of all of the other measures he took to remain anonymous.

Mike Hearn, a developer who communicated with Satoshi prior to his departure from Bitcoin, even posted a blog entry that charted logical inconsistencies within Goodman’s claim that Dorian Nakamoto and Satoshi Nakamoto are one and the same.

Trial By Media Fire

The Newsweek story revealed sensitive details about Dorian Nakamoto in an effort to highlight personality traits and motivations that fall in line with what little there is to infer about Bitcoin’s creator. It ended up turning his world upside down.

In the midst of an unwanted media blitz that included what he describes as being unable to grab milk from the store without being barraged by reporters, Nakamoto gained support from lawyers and individuals in the Bitcoin community. One group even created the short-lived website “newsweeklied.com” that was intended to clear his name and raise funds for a lawsuit against the publication giant.

In a statement formally submitted to Newsweek by Nakamoto and his lawyer, he states that he “did not create, invent or otherwise work on Bitcoin,” and that, “Newsweek ’s false report has been the source of a great deal of confusion and stress for myself, my 93-year-old mother, my siblings, and their families.” He then ends the letter: “This will be our last public statement on this matter. I ask that you now respect our privacy.”

Given the definitive nature of that statement, I ask Dorian why he now desires to speak to the press. His simple answer: “Closure.”

Cookies and Courtliness

As we enter Nakamoto’s home, he leads me into the kitchen, where the table is neatly set with woven placemats, a Japanese style tea set and a box of chocolate chip cookies. It is immediately apparent that Nakamoto, 65, a bachelor with a past marriage and grown children on his family resume, may not regularly entertain new guests in such a quasi-formal setting, but he has his own sense of how to go about doing so. He exudes a kind of courtliness, reverence and respect for the occasion that young people today would likely describe as “old-fashioned.”

As I take my seat, he is quick to offer and pour me green tea, then proceeds to make sure that I am content and comfortable in a way that feels refreshingly sincere. Not drinking any tea himself, he settles into his seat and begins to form circles around the empty cup with his fingers. Far from the shrewd, eccentric man portrayed in the Newsweek piece, he appears much more as a kind and good-humored person, with an almost canonical approach to respect and hospitality. After an exchange of additional basic pleasantries, he chuckles to himself and says in his slow, deep voice, “OK. Ask me anything.”

At the crux of Newsweek ’s claim that Nakamoto is in fact the creator of Bitcoin is a brief exchange between Goodman and him, in which Goodman states that he “tacitly" acknowledged his role in the Bitcoin project by declaring to her: “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”

The words “no longer involved” and “turned over” would seem to lend credence to the belief that Nakamoto was in fact involved in some capacity with the “Bitcoin project.” I ask him about this exchange specifically, seeking to gain some clarity on his response. He replies: “I was thinking about work I had done at Citibank that was security things, security exchange. Even if I was involved I can’t tell you, because every engineering firm makes you sign a nondisclosure contract for during and post. I thought maybe that [her question] was something to do with Citibank work that I did.”

This response provides potential clarity surrounding this pivotal exchange between Goodman and Nakamoto. He insists he was not even familiar with the term “Bitcoin” at the time of the Newsweek interview, and thought Goodman was referring to a project that he had worked on at Citibank. Why, at the time, he drew this conclusion about the connection between “Bitcoin” and his previous, confidential work for Citi is still not entirely clear.

The Case for and Against

The Newsweek piece emphasizes: “Perhaps the most compelling parallel between the two Nakamotos are their professional skill sets and career timeframes.”

While portrayals of work on classified military projects are commonly projected with an almost clichéd, sinister tone, Nakamoto’s’s reasons for the life of secrecy described by his family are far more practical than they are mysterious. In addition to the nondisclosure agreements he signs with each classified project, and his firm belief in abiding by what he describes as the “engineer’s code,” he also emphasizes that it is extremely advantageous for people in his line of work to be as private as possible in order to best preserve their job security.

In this and his other responses, it is clear that Nakamoto has the mind of an engineer, articulating each of his carefully constructed thoughts piece by piece, and attending to even the most seemingly minute details. Noting the measures that his employers take to ensure that contractors will not be motivated to exchange classified information for rewards, he explains how anything from debt to a troubled relative or an affair (remember David Petraeus’s exit from the CIA?) would be grounds for immediate removal, and likely result in permanent exclusion from classified projects.

He notes that since publication of the Newsweek article, which exposed many personal details including sensitive information about his health and finances, he has been effectively “blacklisted” from the types of engineering jobs that he has worked on throughout his professional career.

Respect for the “Bitcoin Creator”

While the unwanted association with Bitcoin has brought significant hardship and stress to Nakamoto’s life, he brightens and is eager to thank the Bitcoin community for their “support.” He then expresses appreciation toward the “creator” for bringing Bitcoin’s blockchain technology to the world.

“The more I study about it, I think it’s a fantastic idea. I really appreciate what he [Satoshi Nakamoto] did, and all the people who contributed, including [Bitcoin core developer Gavin] Andresen and Andreas [M. Antonopoulos, Bitcoin entrepreneur and security expert].”

Warming to his topic, he continues: “And then the free software, freeware--that is a brilliant idea on the part of this creator or group of creators. But you also need very talented people to implement and carry it out; also marketing, sales. I just feel when I looked at it, I said ‘Wow! This is a beautiful thing.’ Especially if you are anti-authority or anti-establishment, which would be banks and governments and things like that. And they [Bitcoin] have a hold of young people now, including Jeffrey right here!

“I’d like to see how Bitcoin evolves into the next stage. How it encounters this problem, I won’t say problem, but government is always trying to encroach. Same thing with banks. And we will have to withstand the storm of what’s going to happen to our dollars as the international standard exchange currency….The biggest thing is we can’t possibly pay,” he says, in reference to the American debt. “My hope is that the top level designers, the creators, think about that.”

I am astonished to hear that Nakamoto has such high praise for the technology, and moreover, that he has clearly thought about how it should evolve, drawing on the nuances of the economic implications surrounding a decentralized currency/monetary system, and in light of the current geopolitical environment.

Riding Toward a Powerful Future

Nakamoto’s car, a faded beige Toyota Corolla, which “still runs great” after having logged almost 200,000 miles on the odometer, is not his preferred method of transportation. Driving to grab some Chinese food in Temple City, he points out the flawed street design and cracked sidewalks that obstruct his frequent bike rides around town.

Chuckling as he explains what he sees as simple solutions to basic infrastructure problems, he notes the pleasure and peace he finds in his regular bicycle rides, smiling as he recounts past excursions through the San Gabriel foothills and on the banks of the Los Angeles River. (Yes, there is such a thing, but it is mostly a wide concrete channel traversing the L.A. basin.)

In his New York Times piece, Popper states, “At this point, the creator’s identity is no longer important to Bitcoin’s future.” While most Bitcoin observers would likely believe this to be true, it is also clear that the unique mindset, convictions and motivations that governed “Satoshi’s” approach have had a meaningful, lasting effect on the enterprise, and they warrant examination. In this regard, Satoshi Nakamoto becomes more than the "genius” (or geniuses) who created Bitcoin—he also created Bitcoin, took no credit, and left the fortune amassed by his own creation completely untouched, all in order to best preserve the purity of a powerful idea. And that is a world-changing thing, quite likely unique in human history.

It is almost impossible for most of us to imagine a person or group who would have both the technical skill set to create Bitcoin and the ability to faithfully execute on such selfless principles. This draws us to figures like Nick Szabo and Dorian Nakamoto. Both men’s personalities and beliefs align with the characteristics that make Satoshi Nakamoto such a uniquely compelling figure. While such investigations are, for these reasons, entertaining and thought-provoking, they do clearly affect—in Dorian’s case, severely affect—the individuals under examination.

Moreover, such attempts to unveil the creator’s identity go against (what appears to be) Satoshi’s desire for Bitcoin to evolve as a truly inclusive open source project, in which the actual identity of its creator is ultimately unimportant.

With all that said, I am glad I was able to spend a day with Dorian Nakamoto in Temple City. I hope that this account will shed some light on Newsweek ’s so-called “Father of Bitcoin,” and perhaps help provide him with the closure that he seeks. If so, it couldn’t happen to a humbler guy.

***

Postscript: After learning of Dorian’s financial complications, his friend cryptograffiti created a piece of artwork that will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to Dorian. The artwork is also signed by Dorian, who will be conducting an AMA on Reddit later this week. The auction will be accepting bitcoin exclusively and will run until October 15th, 2015 at 7pm PST. Please submit sealed bids to info@cryptograffiti.com .

The post How the Hunt for Satoshi Turned Dorian Nakamoto’s Life Upside Down: the Inside Story appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoin Websites Blocked by Venezuelan Government

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CANTV, Venezuela’s state-owned and largest Internet service provider, has blocked, as of this morning, many Bitcoin-related domain names, websites and mining pools, according to Redditor rdymac. Among those confirmed to be blocked by the redditor are: coindesk.com blockchain.info blinktrade.com surbitcoin.com miningrigrentals.com nicehash.com btc-e.com coinapult.com coinbase.com Venezuela’s two local exchanges have also been blocked by CANTV, according to the redditor. The ISP is CANTV, managed by the institution CONATEL, and is very well known by their blockades to any website that doesn't follow the Government's endless rules or are suspected to be supporting any kind of opposition against the Socialist government, […]

The post Bitcoin Websites Blocked by Venezuelan Government appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Australian Startups Close Down as Banks End Support for Bitcoin

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Australia’s largest banks have ended all financial support and abruptly closed down the bank accounts of at least 17 Australian Bitcoin companies, including the Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association Chairman Ron Tucker’s Australian bitcoin exchange Bit Trade.

“The banks had not advised any of our members. To the best of our knowledge all, or nearly all digital currency businesses have received letters from their bank, or in many cases banks, advising of the closure of their accounts. This includes at least 17, with 13 of these closed permanently,” Tucker told Bitcoin Magazine.

Major Australian banks, including Westpac Banking Corporation and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, have not announced their motivations behind the termination of banking support for bitcoin companies. This incident has attracted the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Senator Matthew Canavan, who sees the sudden pronouncement of the bank as an unlawful act, and has requested the ACCC to launch a full investigation on the banks.

“Whilst we're unable to comment on the banks’ motivations (that is for them to explain) however, the consequences of these moves are becoming more clear. The Australian Bitcoin industry, as part of a larger revolution in financial technology, has seen its growth severely curtailed by this unexplained wave of debanking,” Tucker added.

Startups Begin to Leave Australia

“Unfortunately most digital currency startups have already shut their doors in Australia as no alternative banking solutions were available. In at least one case, one Bitcoin company, Coinjar, did relocate its head office to a more welcoming market in the U.K.,” Tucker told Bitcoin Magazine.

Most Australian Bitcoin startups offer bitcoin exchange services and merchant bitcoin payment processing; two of the few bitcoin-related services which require banking or credit card support. Although some bitcoin startups have begun to search for alternative financial institutions and organizations to maintain their operations, most companies have failed to secure banking service partnerships.

“Presently the industry here in Australia have no alternative options despite best efforts of our members to reach out to various banking sector participants,” added Tucker.

No Clear Justification

Labor Senator and a member of the Senate Economics References Committee Sam Dastyari showed his concerns toward the banks, due to their lack of explanation and justification behind the abrupt termination of banking support.

"I am concerned that there is an allegation that Australian banks are deliberately choking small businesses, while setting themselves up to offer the same services. We don't have a four-pillars policy to allow banks to guillotine emerging industries they are competing with … These small local digital currency companies are essentially competing to provide trading platforms, and develop emerging technologies,” explained Dastyari .

The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association strongly believes that the banks owe an explanation and a clear justification behind the “debanking” of the companies. Currently, all Australian major banks have terminated banking support for Bitcoin companies.

“Our members have said the banks have been remarkably unwilling to provide explanations for ceasing to provide services for ADCCA members. Our members, some of whom may end up being partners with or competitors to the banks in the future, are currently at the mercy of established financial institutions. At the very least I think our members are owed an honest explanation of why they are being debanked,” Tucker said.

The post Australian Startups Close Down as Banks End Support for Bitcoin appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Goldman Sachs' former technology chief is building 'the FedEx of money'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Hank Uberoi, Earthport CEO.

Hank Uberoi, Goldman Sachs' former technology chief, says Earthport is "probably the single largest investment opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve been investing for 28 years."

As Earthport's boss, Uberoi is obviously biased. But he seriously believes the company can revolutionise the way international business payments are made.

"If you think about manufacturing, go back 30, 40 years, if you wanted to buy materials in one country, manufacture in a second country, then sell in a third country, you really had to be very large," Uberoi tells Business Insider.

"You needed your own ships, your own aircrafts. Fast forward to today and with FedEx and UPS, nobody would dream of moving that stuff around themselves. These guys are deep experts in a highly complex and highly regulated field. They will always be better at this than any company, no matter how large."

'Try calling Citibank saying can you send this message to India'

A similar transition hasn't yet happened in the world of finance. Banks still try and do it all when it comes to moving money around the world.

When they can't, they partner with companies or banks that can. But these partners take a cut and communication can be an issue, meaning the process is expensive and convoluted.

"You’ve got this hodgepodge of banks around the world and they’ve got relationships with each other," Uberoi says. "I’m a bank in the UK, I’ve got a relationship with a bank in Malaysia, I send instructions to them. 30 years ago when there were 7 countries that mattered and there were a few thousand companies and a few million payments a year, that worked fine."

But in a world of globalised trade, that model is out of date, Uberoi says. "Cross border payments are expensive, they’re error prone, the money you send is not what arrives, and that’s creating a real issue."

Cross boarder payments are expensive, they’re error prone, the money you send is not what arrives

He should know — he spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to head the bank's technology division, before moving to hedge fund giant Citadel.

Uberoi has his own horror story of moving money: "I do a lot of business in India. I gave the Reserve Bank of India a code they asked for but they said 'No, it’s got to come from the bank you sent the payment with via Swift [a messaging system used by banks] in this particular format'.

"Try calling somebody in Citibank saying can you send this message to India. It literally took me 2 and a half months. If you don’t resolve it they’ll blacklist your account. It’s a convoluted, anarchic infrastructure, and that’s just one country."

'We go into banks and we know more than they do'

For banks, international payments are just one of a number of things they do and fixing inefficiencies in the system is not high on their agendas.

Earthport is about "being very deep and very narrow in a very complex, highly regulated market," says Uberoi. "We are essentially creating the FedEx, UPS, and DHL of payments."

Rather than simply trust partners to get on with it, Earthport sends payments to its own hubs within each country who make sure payments are properly formatted, reducing the chance of error. It then uses the local payment networks — the "rails" — within each country to process the payments.

FedEx trucks are seen parked in New York March 18, 2010. Package delivery giant FedEx Corp raised its outlook and posted sharply higher profit, but its shares fell as its domestic volume numbers disappointed investors' hopes for a U.S. economic recovery.Uberoi explains: "We move money around in bulk and then we create files that are pre-validated and pre-formatted for the local clearing and we deliver to our partner banks in the local country, with the view that they shouldn’t touch it. The whole idea is to eliminate any chance of errors creeping into the system from manual processes."

Earthport's strength lies in blending a smart technology platform with human expertise of local payment infrastructures.

Uberoi says: "Because we do one thing and one thing only, we’ve got people talking to 64 countries everyday. Whenever anything changes we know instantly. This is not a static database, it’s changing every hour."

"We can go into any one of the banks and pretty quickly it becomes clear that we know more about payments than they do. Not because they’re not smart, but because that function is fragmented across so many different countries and departments that there’s no one person who actually sees it end to end."

'My goal was to do this for 6 months on a part-time basis'

Uberoi ended up running Earthport almost by accident. He invested in the company, which is listed in London, back in 2009. But in 2010 he ended up playing a part in ousting the then CEO over troubles with the companies finances.

"I put some money in and my goal was to do this for 6 months on a part-time basis and then grow it from there," Uberoi recalls.

"About 3 years ago it became obvious that this is probably the single largest investment opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve been investing for 28 years. That's why I’m doing this full time — I don’t get paid for this."

The market for cross border business-to-business payments globally is $28 trillion (£18.4 trillion) a year, compared to $685 billion (£451 billion) a year for the remittance market, where individuals send money across borders.

And while the market for international payments for consumers is hugely crowded — TransferWise, Azimo, WorldRemit, and Western Union to name just a few — almost no one is trying to tackle business to business payments.

"The size of the opportunity is such that if we got 5% of the market, we’d be the largest payment company in the world," Uberoi says.

'If we were private we would be raising at a very different valuation'

Because the opportunity for growth is so big, Earthport is investing aggressively in growth. Part of that involves pricing its services competitively.

Uberoi says: "Our solution is faster, cheaper, more efficient, and we could have said it’s a so much better solution we’ll charge you $50 (£33) more than you’re paying now. Instead we’ve said, it costs you $100 (£66) a payment? We’ll charge you low single digit dollars. We basically decided we’re not in this for the short run."

The knock-on effect of this, though, is profit and revenues are not as big as investors would like. Earthport's full-year results on Tuesday showed a 78% rise in revenue to £19.27 million ($29.2 million) but losses widened from £6.33 million to £8.71 million ($9.6 million). Shares fell by more than 1.5% on the day.earthport"There’s very much a timetable for profit," Uberoi says. "We had predicted that we would break even on a six-month run rate basis in the last half, which we did. But at that point we realised that the opportunity has become so large that it would be silly to think about breakeven rather than invest in growing."

Earthport is listed on AIM, the stock market for growing companies in London, and has a market value of just £192 million ($291 million) — trifling compared to the huge private financial technology companies currently springing up.

It's a point not lost on Uberoi: "We’re listed for historical reasons, if we were private today, if you look at what’s happening in the private equity world, we would be raising money at a very different valuation. It would be measured not on where we are today, not on our revenue growth or how we’re doing now, it would be based on the size of the market opportunity, what are the barriers to entry.

"Take a company like Uber, they don’t make money, they’re not going to make money for 10 years. But look at the size of the market."

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/FilesUberoi isn't planning to take the business private though.

He says: "A couple of years ago [going private] crossed our minds, because the market really didn’t understand. They still don’t really understand but what happened is we realised our clients really like the fact that we’re listed.

"What we’re doing is a mission critical function. If they’re going to move it to us, they need to be really confident that we’ll do it well, that we’ll be around, and that a competitor is not going to buy us. The fact that we’re public means everything is disclosed."

Huge banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered, Santander, and Bank of America now trust Earthport to move money around the world for them, as well as organisations like the United Nations and even Western Union. The company is on track to process $10 billion (£6.4 billion) worth of transactions by the end of the year.

'We’ll solve the problem in the way that works'

Uberoi's focus now is on expanding the business. Earthport is in talks to enter Nigeria among other countries and it is also adding to its product offering.

The company recently signed a deal to offer payments through Ripple, the Silicon Valley payment system developed using the blockchain, the software that underpins bitcoin.

"We started seeing people are interested in new technologies — bitcoin, blockchain, distributed ledger technology," Uberoi says. "We said, we don’t know if this is the right way for moving money around but banks are interested in exploring it, so we’ll explore it." 

As a hub, Earthport on-boards its clients only once before letting them use any of the payment methods they want. It also meets anti-money laundering requirements, meaning banks can use the efficiency of Ripple's distributed ledger technology with minimal hassle.

"We’re going to become the utility and hub for the industry that finds the fastest and most efficient way of doing something at any point in time. We don’t play favourites, we’ll solve the problem in the way that works for our clients."

Join the conversation about this story »

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Goldman Sachs' former technology chief is building 'the FedEx of money'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Hank Uberoi, Earthport CEO.

Hank Uberoi, Goldman Sachs' former technology chief, says Earthport is "probably the single largest investment opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve been investing for 28 years."

As Earthport's boss, Uberoi is obviously biased. But he seriously believes the company can revolutionise the way international business payments are made.

"If you think about manufacturing, go back 30, 40 years, if you wanted to buy materials in one country, manufacture in a second country, then sell in a third country, you really had to be very large," Uberoi tells Business Insider.

"You needed your own ships, your own aircrafts. Fast forward to today and with FedEx and UPS, nobody would dream of moving that stuff around themselves. These guys are deep experts in a highly complex and highly regulated field. They will always be better at this than any company, no matter how large."

'Try calling Citibank saying can you send this message to India'

A similar transition hasn't yet happened in the world of finance. Banks still try and do it all when it comes to moving money around the world.

When they can't, they partner with companies or banks that can. But these partners take a cut and communication can be an issue, meaning the process is expensive and convoluted.

"You’ve got this hodgepodge of banks around the world and they’ve got relationships with each other," Uberoi says. "I’m a bank in the UK, I’ve got a relationship with a bank in Malaysia, I send instructions to them. 30 years ago when there were 7 countries that mattered and there were a few thousand companies and a few million payments a year, that worked fine."

But in a world of globalised trade, that model is out of date, Uberoi says. "Cross border payments are expensive, they’re error prone, the money you send is not what arrives, and that’s creating a real issue."

Cross boarder payments are expensive, they’re error prone, the money you send is not what arrives

He should know — he spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to head the bank's technology division, before moving to hedge fund giant Citadel.

Uberoi has his own horror story of moving money: "I do a lot of business in India. I gave the Reserve Bank of India a code they asked for but they said 'No, it’s got to come from the bank you sent the payment with via Swift [a messaging system used by banks] in this particular format'.

"Try calling somebody in Citibank saying can you send this message to India. It literally took me 2 and a half months. If you don’t resolve it they’ll blacklist your account. It’s a convoluted, anarchic infrastructure, and that’s just one country."

'We go into banks and we know more than they do'

For banks, international payments are just one of a number of things they do and fixing inefficiencies in the system is not high on their agendas.

Earthport is about "being very deep and very narrow in a very complex, highly regulated market," says Uberoi. "We are essentially creating the FedEx, UPS, and DHL of payments."

Rather than simply trust partners to get on with it, Earthport sends payments to its own hubs within each country who make sure payments are properly formatted, reducing the chance of error. It then uses the local payment networks — the "rails" — within each country to process the payments.

FedEx trucks are seen parked in New York March 18, 2010. Package delivery giant FedEx Corp raised its outlook and posted sharply higher profit, but its shares fell as its domestic volume numbers disappointed investors' hopes for a U.S. economic recovery.Uberoi explains: "We move money around in bulk and then we create files that are pre-validated and pre-formatted for the local clearing and we deliver to our partner banks in the local country, with the view that they shouldn’t touch it. The whole idea is to eliminate any chance of errors creeping into the system from manual processes."

Earthport's strength lies in blending a smart technology platform with human expertise of local payment infrastructures.

Uberoi says: "Because we do one thing and one thing only, we’ve got people talking to 64 countries everyday. Whenever anything changes we know instantly. This is not a static database, it’s changing every hour."

"We can go into any one of the banks and pretty quickly it becomes clear that we know more about payments than they do. Not because they’re not smart, but because that function is fragmented across so many different countries and departments that there’s no one person who actually sees it end to end."

'My goal was to do this for 6 months on a part-time basis'

Uberoi ended up running Earthport almost by accident. He invested in the company, which is listed in London, back in 2009. But in 2010 he ended up playing a part in ousting the then CEO over troubles with the companies finances.

"I put some money in and my goal was to do this for 6 months on a part-time basis and then grow it from there," Uberoi recalls.

"About 3 years ago it became obvious that this is probably the single largest investment opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve been investing for 28 years. That's why I’m doing this full time — I don’t get paid for this."

The market for cross border business-to-business payments globally is $28 trillion (£18.4 trillion) a year, compared to $685 billion (£451 billion) a year for the remittance market, where individuals send money across borders.

And while the market for international payments for consumers is hugely crowded — TransferWise, Azimo, WorldRemit, and Western Union to name just a few — almost no one is trying to tackle business to business payments.

"The size of the opportunity is such that if we got 5% of the market, we’d be the largest payment company in the world," Uberoi says.

'If we were private we would be raising at a very different valuation'

Because the opportunity for growth is so big, Earthport is investing aggressively in growth. Part of that involves pricing its services competitively.

Uberoi says: "Our solution is faster, cheaper, more efficient, and we could have said it’s a so much better solution we’ll charge you $50 (£33) more than you’re paying now. Instead we’ve said, it costs you $100 (£66) a payment? We’ll charge you low single digit dollars. We basically decided we’re not in this for the short run."

The knock-on effect of this, though, is profit and revenues are not as big as investors would like. Earthport's full-year results on Tuesday showed a 78% rise in revenue to £19.27 million ($29.2 million) but losses widened from £6.33 million to £8.71 million ($9.6 million). Shares fell by more than 1.5% on the day.earthport"There’s very much a timetable for profit," Uberoi says. "We had predicted that we would break even on a six-month run rate basis in the last half, which we did. But at that point we realised that the opportunity has become so large that it would be silly to think about breakeven rather than invest in growing."

Earthport is listed on AIM, the stock market for growing companies in London, and has a market value of just £192 million ($291 million) — trifling compared to the huge private financial technology companies currently springing up.

It's a point not lost on Uberoi: "We’re listed for historical reasons, if we were private today, if you look at what’s happening in the private equity world, we would be raising money at a very different valuation. It would be measured not on where we are today, not on our revenue growth or how we’re doing now, it would be based on the size of the market opportunity, what are the barriers to entry.

"Take a company like Uber, they don’t make money, they’re not going to make money for 10 years. But look at the size of the market."

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/FilesUberoi isn't planning to take the business private though.

He says: "A couple of years ago [going private] crossed our minds, because the market really didn’t understand. They still don’t really understand but what happened is we realised our clients really like the fact that we’re listed.

"What we’re doing is a mission critical function. If they’re going to move it to us, they need to be really confident that we’ll do it well, that we’ll be around, and that a competitor is not going to buy us. The fact that we’re public means everything is disclosed."

Huge banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered, Santander, and Bank of America now trust Earthport to move money around the world for them, as well as organisations like the United Nations and even Western Union. The company is on track to process $10 billion (£6.4 billion) worth of transactions by the end of the year.

'We’ll solve the problem in the way that works'

Uberoi's focus now is on expanding the business. Earthport is in talks to enter Nigeria among other countries and it is also adding to its product offering.

The company recently signed a deal to offer payments through Ripple, the Silicon Valley payment system developed using the blockchain, the software that underpins bitcoin.

"We started seeing people are interested in new technologies — bitcoin, blockchain, distributed ledger technology," Uberoi says. "We said, we don’t know if this is the right way for moving money around but banks are interested in exploring it, so we’ll explore it." 

As a hub, Earthport on-boards its clients only once before letting them use any of the payment methods they want. It also meets anti-money laundering requirements, meaning banks can use the efficiency of Ripple's distributed ledger technology with minimal hassle.

"We’re going to become the utility and hub for the industry that finds the fastest and most efficient way of doing something at any point in time. We don’t play favourites, we’ll solve the problem in the way that works for our clients."

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How the Block Chain Can Digitize Regulation

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

What is government sovereignty without control over currency? Thanks to bitcoin, some countries are confronting this reality. Long-term, it could change the relationship between government and currency. And if government responds to the disruption of government-backed currency in a sensible manner, the end result could be more stable and efficient currencies. That’s why Ajit Tripath, director of PWC’s advanced risk and compliance analytics practice, calls the block chain a megatrend in a blog recently posted on finextra.com. He says the only way out of the digital disruption of government that is presently occurring is the “digitization of government.” He predicts […]

The post How the Block Chain Can Digitize Regulation appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Frontier and the Evolution of Ethereum

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Readers of CCN may be wondering what's been going on with Ethereum, the much-hyped project of Vitalik Buterin which aims to take smart contracts, block chains, and cryptocurrency to the next level. The project has recently received multiple endorsements by Nick Szabo, a long-time cipherpunk who many consider to be the most likely candidate for Satoshi Nakamoto. Szabo spoke highly of Ethereum on Let's Talk Bitcoin and then again in an interview with the International Business Times. Szabo told the publication that he believed Ethereum could post more of a challenge to traditional legal and financial institutions than even Bitcoin, […]

The post Frontier and the Evolution of Ethereum appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CryptoCoinsNews, also known as CCN.LA, was launched in June 2013. After half a year with regular news updates, the site began to grow and started to employ talented journalists. After more than 2 years with 4 million unique visitors, 8 million sessions, and 18 000 000 pageviews, it is time to find a new strategic owner that can develop and push CCN.LA even further. CCN has been focusing on sharing news of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Dash. Including blockchain technology, FinTech, and more global economic news. We post daily bitcoin analysis, have our own unique and […]

The post CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CryptoCoinsNews, also known as CCN.LA, was launched in June 2013. After half a year with regular news updates, the site began to grow and started to employ talented journalists. After more than 2 years with 4 million unique visitors, 8 million sessions, and 18 000 000 pageviews, it is time to find a new strategic owner that can develop and push CCN.LA even further. CCN has been focusing on sharing news of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Dash. Including blockchain technology, FinTech, and more global economic news. We post daily bitcoin analysis, have our own unique and […]

The post CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CryptoCoinsNews, also known as CCN.LA, was launched in June 2013. After half a year with regular news updates, the site began to grow and started to employ talented journalists. After more than 2 years with 4 million unique visitors, 8 million sessions, and 18 000 000 pageviews, it is time to find a new strategic owner that can develop and push CCN.LA even further. CCN has been focusing on sharing news of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Dash. Including blockchain technology, FinTech, and more global economic news. We post daily bitcoin analysis, have our own unique and […]

The post CCN is Looking for a New Strategic Owner appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Six Arrested in Money-Laundering Probe Involving Bitcoin

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Police have arrested six people in connection with an ongoing international money-laundering investigation involving bitcoin. The authorities, which became suspicious following a series of large bitcoin trades, carried out various raids in and near Rotterdam – a city in the south of the Netherlands – leading to the arrests of four people in the country and […]

Coinbase Makes 'Instant' Bitcoin Buying Available in 26 Countries

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Coinbase has announced that customers across 26 countries can buy bitcoin "instantly" from today.

Goldman Sachs-backed bitcoin startup Circle is coming to London

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jeremy Allaire Circle CEO

Circle, the bitcoin services company backed by Goldman Sachs, is planning to open a London office from which it can spearhead European expansion, Business Insider can reveal.

Executives including founder and CEO Jeremy Allaire and co-founder Sean Neville are currently in London recruiting a country manager for the UK and scouting locations for an office here.

The company is also in talks with regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) about getting an e-money licence, which would allow it to operate its digital wallet service in the UK and add sterling to the currencies it currently lets people hold.

Circle is one of the most high-profile bitcoin companies in the US, although in conversation Allaire distanced the business from bitcoin. Circle has raised $76 million (£50.17 million) since launch in 2013, most recently raising $50 million (£33.1 million) in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs back in April.

The company began by offering a digital bitcoin wallet that lets people hold, send, and receive bitcoin through online accounts. But Allaire says this was just a proof of concept.

His ambition for Circle is to use the technology that underpins bitcoin to make sending and receiving any form of money as easy as sending email.

Money is uploaded to your Circle account in whatever currency you wish, then when you want to pay someone it is converted into bitcoin and transferred via the blockchain to the receiver, who quickly converts the sum back to whatever currency they wish.

circle logo lightThe blockchain software, which underpins bitcoin, acts as the trusted middleman in the transaction — basically a proxy for a bank. The software records who has paid who and once it's set down it can't be changed.

Because of the speed of the transaction, both parties are unlikely to feel much impact from the volatility of bitcoin. And because they're not going through a bank, they won't pay foreign exchange or other fees. Circle's money transfer service is free.

Allaire hopes that Circle becomes the go-to app for payments, not just across borders, but small sums between friends — just as sending an email today is the same whether it's to Japan or Leeds.

Circle last week became the first US company to receive a BitLicense from New York regulators, a new license required for digital currency companies that want to operate in the state.

The new license means for the first time that Circle can let people hold, send, and receive US dollars on the app. Allaire and Neville are hoping this will lead to much wider adoption. Allaire said currently "hundreds of thousands" of people use Circle.

The company also hopes to soon offer the service in sterling and euros, followed by many other currencies. Circle, which is incorporated in Ireland but based largely in Boston, will use the London office as its base for European expansion once these currencies are added to the service.

Neville told Business Insider that Circle chose London for its European expansion base over Dublin largely because of the attitude of the government and regulators towards financial technology and digital currencies in the UK. Neville said Britain is amongst the most forward thinking in the world in this area.

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Uber Drivers are Planning the Biggest Strike in Uber History

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

You might be familiar with strikes by taxi drivers in protest of Uber. Now, in various rideshare forums on the Internet, a growing and determined group of Uber drivers are trying to schedule an Uber driver strike October 16-18. One particularly vocal forum on the web, the Facebook group Uber Freedom, has more than 20,500 Likes and has posted a flyer for the strike as its cover photo on the popular social networking website.

The post Uber Drivers are Planning the Biggest Strike in Uber History appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

We Visited Those New Bitcoin ATMs in the Ukraine and Here’s What We Found

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CCN conducted an exclusive investigation into BTCU.biz's new Bitcoin ATMs in the Ukraine and discovered a less than perfect picture.

The post We Visited Those New Bitcoin ATMs in the Ukraine and Here’s What We Found appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Pretty much every financial asset got hammered in Q3

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

smash watermelon hammer

It's the first day of October and with the third quarter over, a lot of analysts are taking a moment to have a glance back, shudder a little bit and appreciate how thoroughly awful the three months from July to September were for investors.

It kicked off with Greece's crisis, saw massive sell-offs in emerging market stocks, not to mention "Black Wednesday," when a particularly bad day in Shanghai that rippled around the world.

Despite the US Federal Reserve's decision not to hike rates in September, even US equities haven't performed.

There was some money to be made, particularly on European government bonds, and some US bonds held up well. But pretty much everything else has been a nightmare.

The chart comes from Jim Reid at Deutsche Bank's early morning email. Here's how it looks:

Q3 hammered

Equities around the world slumped in dollar terms (and mostly in local currencies too) — even the FTSE MIB, the best index included here, fell by about 5%. The worst-affected, like Hong Kong's Hang Seng, China's Shanghai Composite and Brazil's Bovespa, saw wipeouts of 20-30%.

Commodities have plunged too — oil, copper and wheat sold off, and even commodities that would often be considered safe havens when others are crashing recorded a drop, like gold and silver.

Reid calls it "a Q3 to forget." Here's to a better Q4.

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The head of London's biggest fintech hub is leaving

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Eric Van Der Kleij

Eric van der Kleij is stepping down as head of London fintech hub Level39 after nearly 3 years in the job.

Level39 was set up by Canary Wharf Group to encourage financial technology, or fintech, startups to base themselves in Canary Wharf, offering companies support, services, and office space that could accommodate as little as 1 or 2 people.

Van der Kleij helped grow Level39 to one of the biggest fintech hubs in Europe. In an emailed statement to Business Insider, van der Kleij said: "I am so incredibly proud of what the team has achieved in the last three years."

Level39 said in a statement on its website that van der Kleij has "exceeded expectations in activating and transforming Canary Wharf into a preeminent destination for high growth tech companies."

Van der Kleij, who was the founding chair of TechCityUK, is leaving to focus on ENTIQ, an innovation consultancy that he runs. The company looking at blockchain technology, the software that underpins bitcoin.

Van der Kleij said in an email: "ENTIQ is the specialist innovation practise I founded with Claire Cockerton (founding CEO of Innovate Finance) and that is growing fast, delivering innovation programmes for major corporates as well as advising on ecosystem creation like Level39. 

"As a company we invested in our own 'ENTIQ Lab' — a technology lab based on Level39's High Growth Space:24, and upskilled the team on the rapidly emerging field of distributed ledger, or blockchain.

"As my understanding of the true capability of the technology has grown, coupled with the strong interest from the industry I realised there has never been a better time to do a deep dive into this area, hence the move to seek a successor."

Banks are extremely interested in harnessing blockchain technology and van der Kleij told Business Insider earlier this year: "The real powerful work being done in fintech is blockchain. I can tell you now with certainty that every major western bank we’ve spoken to, and some eastern ones, are looking at blockchain technology."

You can read Business Insider's full interview with Eric van der Kleij from earlier in the year here.

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Europol: Bitcoin May Become Sole Currency for EU Cybercriminals

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Europol has said in a new report that it believes bitcoin could become the go-to currency for digital criminals in the region.

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