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Abra adds twenty cryptocurrencies to its wallet app

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

Abra, a global currency wallet that was the belle of the early Bitcoin ball, has just added twenty cryptocurrencies and fifty fiat currencies, a feature that allows you to top up and send cash and cryptocurrencies from inside the wallet. “Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, Dash, Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Stellar Lumens, DigiByte, […]

Abra adds twenty cryptocurrencies to its wallet app

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

Abra, a global currency wallet that was the belle of the early Bitcoin ball, has just added twenty cryptocurrencies and fifty fiat currencies, a feature that allows you to top up and send cash and cryptocurrencies from inside the wallet. “Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, Dash, Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Stellar Lumens, DigiByte, […]

Abra adds twenty cryptocurrencies to its wallet app

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

Abra, a global currency wallet that was the belle of the early Bitcoin ball, has just added twenty cryptocurrencies and fifty fiat currencies, a feature that allows you to top up and send cash and cryptocurrencies from inside the wallet. “Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, Dash, Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Stellar Lumens, DigiByte, […]

Robinhood, the stock trading app loved by millennial investors and cryptocurrency traders, could soon be a $5.6 billion company

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

Vlad Tenev, Baiju Bhatt, robinhood, sv100 2015

  • Stock-trading app Robinhood could be valued at $5.6 billion when it closes an upcoming fundraising round, according to a Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal.
  • According to The Journal's sources, the funding round is being led by Russian billionaire Yuri Miller's investment firm, DST Global.
  • DST Global led Robinhood's previous funding round in 2017. 

Popular zero-fee trading app Robinhood could be valued in excess of $5 billion dollars — a huge increase over its previous $1.3 billion valuation in 2017 — when it closes a fundraising round that's currently in the works, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The five-year-old company is finalizing a new funding round led by DST Global, the firm led by influential Russian billionaire Yuri Miller, The Journal reports, citing anonymous sources. The firm led the company's previous funding round in 2017, which was the first time Robinhood was valued at over $1 billion.

Robinhood gained notoriety early on its for its straightforward design and zero-fee trading, which recently expanded to include cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin.

Robinhood

In addition to fundraising talks, Robinhood has received other interest from investors recently as well. On Wednesday, the company announced that Greylock investor Josh Elman would be joining Robinhood in a senior position. In a statement to Recode, Elman described Robinhood as "hyper-growth company."

Robinhood's reported $5.6 billion valuation would place it ahead of its rival platform, Coinbase, which was most recently estimated to have a $3.2 billion valuation

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Robinhood, the stock trading app loved by millennial investors and cryptocurrency traders, could soon be a $5.6 billion company

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

Vlad Tenev, Baiju Bhatt, robinhood, sv100 2015

  • Stock-trading app Robinhood could be valued at $5.6 billion when it closes an upcoming fundraising round, according to a Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal.
  • According to The Journal's sources, the funding round is being led by Russian billionaire Yuri Miller's investment firm, DST Global.
  • DST Global led Robinhood's previous funding round in 2017. 

Popular zero-fee trading app Robinhood could be valued in excess of $5 billion dollars — a huge increase over its previous $1.3 billion valuation in 2017 — when it closes a fundraising round that's currently in the works, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The five-year-old company is finalizing a new funding round led by DST Global, the firm led by influential Russian billionaire Yuri Miller, The Journal reports, citing anonymous sources. The firm led the company's previous funding round in 2017, which was the first time Robinhood was valued at over $1 billion.

Robinhood gained notoriety early on its for its straightforward design and zero-fee trading, which recently expanded to include cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin.

Robinhood

In addition to fundraising talks, Robinhood has received other interest from investors recently as well. On Wednesday, the company announced that Greylock investor Josh Elman would be joining Robinhood in a senior position. In a statement to Recode, Elman described Robinhood as "hyper-growth company."

Robinhood's reported $5.6 billion valuation would place it ahead of its rival platform, Coinbase, which was most recently estimated to have a $3.2 billion valuation

Join the conversation about this story »

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Brazilian Prison System Officials Caught in $22.4 Million Bitcoin Fraud

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

According to Brazilian news outlet Agência Brasil, authorities in Rio de Janeiro recently uncovered a money laundering scheme in which state officials misstate the budget spent on food for state-run prisons. Bitcoin was reportedly used to exchange some of the scheme’s proceeds, which totaled roughly $22.4 million. After the scheme was discovered, search warrants were

The post Brazilian Prison System Officials Caught in $22.4 Million Bitcoin Fraud appeared first on CCN

The pedestrian bridge that collapsed in Florida was designed to make students safer

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

fiu bridge collapse

  • A bridge at Florida International University's campus collapsed on Thursday, resulting in multiple injuries and casualties to those who were trapped beneath it.
  • The 950-ton bridge, which was set to be completed in 2019, was designed to make it safer for students to travel between FIU's campus and Streetwater, a city where around 4,000 students live.
  • The bridge was installed in a single day on Saturday through a method that was supposed to increase safety for workers, pedestrians, and drivers.


A bridge on Florida International University's campus collapsed on Thursday, resulting in multiple injuries and casualties to those who were trapped beneath it.

WSVN reported at least six injuries and The Miami Herald reported multiple deaths as a result of the bridge's collapse.

The 950-ton bridge was designed to make it safer for students to travel between FIU's campus and Streetwater, a city where around 4,000 students live. According to The Miami Herald, students and faculty had asked for a bridge that would span the seven-lane road where a student was killed by a motorist in August.

The bridge was installed in a single day on Saturday after the 174-foot span and support towers were built over several months. The rapid installation method was supposed to increase safety for workers, pedestrians, and drivers.

The bridge was set to be completed in 2019, and was part of a $14.2 million project, paid for by the US Department of Transportation, that would feature sidewalks, a plaza, benches, tables, and Wi-Fi.

Before and after the bridge was installed, MCM Construction, which built the bridge with FIGG Bridge Design, retweeted posts on its Twitter account which alluded to how the bridge and its installation were designed with student safety in mind.

"Student #SafetyFirst !!" one tweet read after the bridge was installed.

fiu bridge tweet

The company later released a statement about the collapse on Twitter.

"Our family's thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy," the company wrote. "The new UniversityCity Bridge, which was under construction, experienced a catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life. MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."

 

SEE ALSO: A pedestrian bridge near Florida International University collapsed, trapping people and cars underneath; several deaths reported

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Lightning Labs just raised millions from Jack Dorsey and others to supercharge blockchain transactions

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

Lightning Labs, a young, Bay Area-based startup, is trying to make it easier for users to send bitcoin and litecoin to each other without the costly and time consuming process of settling their transactions on the blockchain. It has investors excited about its work, too. The company is announcing today that it has raised $2.5 […]

Lightning Labs just raised millions from Jack Dorsey and others to supercharge blockchain transactions

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

Lightning Labs, a young, Bay Area-based startup, is trying to make it easier for users to send bitcoin and litecoin to each other without the costly and time consuming process of settling their transactions on the blockchain. It has investors excited about its work, too. The company is announcing today that it has raised $2.5 […]

Peter Thiel says he's 'long bitcoin' and that Trump will win reelection in 2020

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

Peter Thiel interview Economic Club of New York

  • Tech investor Peter Thiel talked cryptocurrencies, the potential outcome of the 2020 election, and Silicon Valley's insulated culture during a fireside chat at the Economic Club of New York on Thursday.
  • Thiel, an early bitcoin investor, predicted there will be one leading future cryptocurrency that will be the digital equivalent of gold.
  • Thiel suggested that, if President Trump runs again, he'd see a positive outcome in the 2020 election.
  • Thiel also chatted candidly about his negative opinions of Silicon Valley, which he described as having a "lemming-like" quality. 

On Thursday, tech investor and Facebook boardmember Peter Thiel chatted with journalist Maria Bartiromo during a fireside chat at the Economic Club of New York. Thiel talked about a range of topics including the viability of cryptocurrencies, the results of the 2020 election if Trump were to run again, and Silicon Valley's insulated culture.

Thiel invested early in bitcoin, and said he's "long bitcoin, neutral to skeptical on everything else."

"I’m not exactly sure whether or not I would encourage people to turn out and buy these cryptocurrencies right now," he said. 

In the future, Thiel predicted that there will be one prevailing cryptocurrency that will viewed as the digital equivalent of gold. "It will most likely be bitcoin," Thiel said, although he hinted at the possibility of ethereum.

Thiel seemed unswayed by the increasing speculation regarding what many feel to be the cryptocurrency bubble.

"Any of the objections most people would have to bitcoin are the same objections people would have had to gold," he said. "But money is a bubble that never pops ... and there is this bubble-like aspect to money that can be quite stable."

Thiel, who recently announced that he intends to move from his longtime home of Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, reiterated his thoughts that the tech hub has become the home of pervasively hermetic ideologies. More than once, Thiel described the valley's tech community as having a "lemming-like" quality which lacked diversity of thought. 

"I thought it would be healthier to be somewhere outside [Silicon Valley]," Thiel said. 

Thiel stressed the importance of investors considering the geographic expansion of the tech community, not only within the United States, but globally as well. 

"This geographic question is something we should be thinking about super hard[...]" Thiel stated. "We're living in a very different world where we have to think about how we get American companies to compete globally."

donald trump peter thiel handshake

Thiel said that his stance on global economics was a contributing factor in his political backing of President Trump, a move that was controversial within the left-leaning community of Silicon Valley.

"I thought that supporting Trump was one of the least contrarian things I've ever done," Thiel said, citing the president's popularity among voters and victory. 

Thiel, while initially hesitant to speculate on the 2020 election, predicted a positive outcome for President Trump.

"I’m not trying to speculate on this," Thiel said. "[...but] I think if he runs again, he will get re-elected."

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Eligma Is Bringing Crypto Payments To The Offline World In The First Bitcoin City

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

This is a submitted sponsored story. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned in the content below. The startup behind Eligma, an AI-driven and blockchain-based cognitive commerce platform, is announcing Elipay, the first of the many platform’s features. The Crypto Transaction System is a demonstration

The post Eligma Is Bringing Crypto Payments To The Offline World In The First Bitcoin City appeared first on CCN

Bitcoin App Abra Adds Support for 70 Cryptocurrency and Fiat ‘Stablecoins’

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

Mobile Bitcoin wallet Abra has unveiled its new trading platform that lets users invest in 20 cryptocurrencies and 50 fiat currencies in the same app that they use to manage their BTC. Abra announced on Thursday that the latest version of its mobile app now includes support for a total of 70 currencies as a real-time

The post Bitcoin App Abra Adds Support for 70 Cryptocurrency and Fiat ‘Stablecoins’ appeared first on CCN

Walmart dives after lawsuit alleges company issued 'misleading e-commerce results'

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

Walmart stock price whistleblower

  • A whistleblower is suing Walmart, saying the company " issued misleading e-commerce results."
  • Shares of the company sank as much as 2.4% Thursday.

Shares of Walmart sank as much as 2.45% from their intraday highs on Thursday following a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the company " issued misleading e-commerce results."

In a suit filed in San Francisco on Thursday, the company's former director of business development, Tri Huynh, said he was wrongly fired for raising concern about Walmart's "overly aggressive push to show meteoric growth in its e-commerce business by any means possible -- even, illegitimate ones," according to a Bloomberg News report.

Walmart has been aggressively investing in its e-commerce business following its $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com in August 2016, including further buyouts of niche online stores like Bonobos and Modcloth.

On its most recent earnings report in February, Walmart said its online sales growth had slowed more than Wall Street expected, sending the stock tumbling. Shares of Walmart are down 11.7% since the beginning of 2018.

This story is developing...

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Walmart dives after lawsuit alleges company issued 'misleading e-commerce results'

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

Walmart stock price whistleblower

  • A whistleblower is suing Walmart, saying the company " issued misleading e-commerce results."
  • Shares of the company sank as much as 2.4% Thursday.

Shares of Walmart sank as much as 2.45% from their intraday highs on Thursday following a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the company " issued misleading e-commerce results."

In a suit filed in San Francisco on Thursday, the company's former director of business development, Tri Huynh, said he was wrongly fired for raising concern about Walmart's "overly aggressive push to show meteoric growth in its e-commerce business by any means possible -- even, illegitimate ones," to head of e-commerce Marc Lore, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Walmart has been aggressively investing in its e-commerce business following its $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com in August 2016, including further buyouts of niche online stores like Bonobos and Modcloth.

On its most recent earnings report in February, Walmart said its online sales growth had slowed more than Wall Street expected, sending the stock tumbling. Shares of Walmart are down 11.7% since the beginning of 2018.

This story is developing...

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Bitcoin is a ‘Crock’ Politician Received Biggest Donation from Company at Crypto Disruption Risk

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

The most virulently anti-Bitcoin congressman at this week’s House Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment Subcommittee hearing on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) received his largest campaign donations from industries threatened by widespread cryptocurrency adoption. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) — who made headlines when he called Bitcoin a “crock” during Wednesday’s hearing — has received

The post Bitcoin is a ‘Crock’ Politician Received Biggest Donation from Company at Crypto Disruption Risk appeared first on CCN

12 Startups Utilizing Blockchain Technology in New Ways

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

Blockchain is good for a lot more than just Bitcoin

Promoted: TrustedHealth Develops a Healthcare Ecosystem Based on Blockchain Technology, Presenting at the World Health Organization

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

TrustedHealth Thumb

Blockchain technology’s immense potential, while well-documented, continues to get lost in the hype surrounding the increasing value of cryptocurrencies and the oft-astronomical raises of initial coin offerings (ICOs). 

Though it has ushered in one the most disruptive technologies in decades, the distributed ledger movement remains in its infancy stage, relative to its potential application and scalability.

The healthcare sector, however, is one area where robust conversations about distributed technology applications are occurring at an accelerated pace. Now, a fast-moving startup firm known as TrustedHealth is blazing a new path toward securely digitizing and decentralizing the way patients seek treatment for specific conditions.

TrustedHealth is a blockchain-centric, patient-led and doctor-guided cooperative focused on combating life-threatening diseases. The goal of this project is to identify the best methods for ensuring improved health outcomes for patients throughout the world. 

Previously, the team behind TrustedHealth created Trustedoctor to assist patients and their families in their battles against life-threatening diseases. Now, TrustedHealth is bringing this successful model onto a blockchain to empower patients, helping them tap into expertise from across the globe in a decentralized way. The long-term goal is to unify and align healthcare experiences while supporting better medical record-sharing data security within the field.

Trustedoctor was presented to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 28, 2018, spawning discussions about how it could be utilized in furthering WHO’s mission. Since then, Trustedoctor and TrustedHealth have sought to encourage other organizations to use the virtual platform as the go-to, standardized portal for specialized medicine.

“The way we treat disease is much more specialized than it used to be,” said Philippe Schucht, the chief medical officer of TrustedHealth. “For instance, a patient isn’t diagnosed with general brain cancer, but with a specific subset of the disease that requires a specific treatment plan. The issue is that most people aren’t allowed easy access to the doctors specializing in this specific condition and it’s resulting in climbing misdiagnosis rates. Through TrustedHealth, we’re bringing the world’s expertise onto one network, making it highly accessible and secure.” 

Trustedoctor was formed after its founder, Greg Jarząbek, lost his mother to pancreatic cancer. He trekked throughout the world in an attempt to identify the best treatment for her. Through this experience, he realized the immensely scattered ecosystem that exists for the world’s leading physician specialists.  

The Trustedoctor network has already on boarded more than 80 world-leading doctor specialists, available to more than 250 patients from 35 countries around the world. Also, one of the Trustedoctor tools, Doctorlink, is being used in more than 50 hospitals around the world, according to TrustedHealth.

Today, the vision for connecting the entire health ecosystem is through TrustedHealth’s blockchain technology. Spanning beyond virtual consultations and second opinions, the holistic healthcare process of 

TrustedHealth is digital and decentralized, including initial consultation, medical records and insurance, lab orders, treatment assignments, travel options and payment. 

The company’s worldwide list of advisory board members includes technologists and medical experts from Japan, the U.K., the U.S., Switzerland, Slovenia and Russia.

TrustedHealth’s ICO commences on March 20, 2018, at 12:00 CET and its crowdsale begins on March 27, 2018 (if the hardcap is not reached in the presale). Whitelisting is now open. With a limited supply of the TrustedHealth tokens, contribution above 50 ETH will secure each investor a “HealthPass” — granting access to health insurance stored on an Ethereum-based wallet.

A HealthPass-registered Ethereum address allows a health consumer to access premium services within TrustedHealth’s network of service providers. From there, the company does the work to identify a proper physician match for each individual person.

Note: Trading and investing in digital assets is speculative and can be high-risk. Based on the shifting business and regulatory environment of such a new industry, this content should not be considered investment or legal advice.

This promoted article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

What you need to know on Wall Street today

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

Welcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours. Sign up here to get the best of Business Insider delivered direct to your inbox.

Some of the top equity-research shops in the world have seen revenue decline by 10% to 30% this year — and those are the lucky ones.

Others are staring at declines of as much as 60%, according to figures from the consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Equity research revenues were widely anticipated to decline after the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II, the complex and sweeping European regulatory reform, went into effect January 3. But the scale of some of the declines is striking. Here's our story

Elsewhere in finance news:

In company news, Toys R Us says a "perfect storm" killed the toy chain — and it blames Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Unilever's CEO says that in nine years, no investor has asked him the questions he's waiting to hear. And Rihanna responded to Snapchat's ad making light of Chris Brown's brutal attack, saying "shame on you."

In markets news:

Lastly, here are the rising stars of marijuana's investment scene that everyone from Wall Street to Silicon Valley should know.

Join the conversation about this story »

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These companies will be the biggest winners when Toys R Us closes its stores

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

Toys R Us


RIP Toys R Us. 

On Wednesday, America's best-known toy store informed employees that it would be closing or selling off all of its more than 700 stores in the US. The following morning, it filed liquidation papers. 

In a conference call with employees on Wednesday, CEO David Brandon partly blamed its downfall on a devastating holiday season, where sales were less than half of the $600 million usually made in a year.

The company has lashed out at its competitors, claiming that Walmart, Target, and Amazon created the "perfect storm" to kill off the chain after these stores cut prices on toys during the holiday season. Toys R Us said it could not offer such low margins given that it relies solely on its toy sales. 

These rival businesses, along with several others, are now set to capitalize on its demise. Find out who below:

SEE ALSO: Claire's is reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy as dying American malls claim another victim

Walmart

Walmart is the largest toy retailer in the country.

In 2017, it doubled down on its efforts to capture more of this market, adding 1,000 new toys to its selection during the holidays, offering exclusive products, and being more competitive on price. Toys R Us said in its liquidation filing that these price cuts were one of the big reasons behind the weak holiday sales that crippled the company. 

Given its large store base in the US, Walmart is well-positioned to capture the lost foot traffic from Toys R Us stores. It is also the second-largest online toy retailer, following Amazon. 



Amazon

Amazon is leading the way in online sales of toys. In 2016, toy sales amounted to $2.16 billion in sales, according to data from Ecommercedb.com. This figure eclipsed sales numbers from Walmart and Toys R Us.

Amazon is winning over parents who are ditching stores to shop online for toys. Online retailing has doubled its share — 14.7% of consumers say they now go online to purchase toys, versus 7.3% five years ago, according to a report done by Fung Global Retail & Technology.

Amazon wants its customers to know it's getting serious here. This month, it sponsored Khloe Kardashian's over-the-top baby shower.

"So grateful to be surrounded by a beautiful support system. And special thank you to @Amazon for helping me bring it all together! ... #AllOnAmazon#AmazonBabyRegistry," Kardashian captioned her Instagram post.



Target

Target was also singled out by Toys R Us as being part of a triumvirate of retailers that contributed most to its declining sales.

During the holiday, Target reported stronger-than-expected sales results thanks to surging online sales and more store traffic. While Target does not report its toy sales separately, Reuters reported in January that the lack of other strong retail and online players who sell toys would have helped the company to keep its "loyalists" away from bankrupt Toys R Us.

Similar to Walmart, Target has a strong store presence in the US and a growing online platform, which means it's well-positioned to scoop up former Toys R Us customers. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Decred Sets Its Sights on Decentralization in 2018

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

Decred Sets Its Sights on Decentralization in 2018

In 2015, Bitcoin developers Jake Yocom-Piatt and David Collins were getting frustrated with Bitcoin. The way they saw it, although Bitcoin started off as a decentralized system, over time, miners and a select group of developers had gained too much control over the protocol. In an attempt to create a system with a more open governance structure, the two launched Decred (short for “decentralized credit”) on February 8, 2016.  

Decred is based on an alternative implementation of bitcoin called btcd, written in Google’s programming language Go. The project’s core ideas stem from a white paper titled “Memcoin2: A Hybrid Proof-of-Work, Proof-of-Stake Cryptocurrency.” Similar to Bitcoin, Decred has a 21 million supply cap. But unlike Bitcoin, 1.68 million (8 percent) of Decred’s coins were pre-mined. Of those, half went to pay developers who contributed to the project early on, while the other half was airdropped (given out for free) to ensure a wide distribution in the network.

In Decred’s consensus system, proof of stake works alongside proof of work to give coin holders more of a voice in the system. Anyone who owns decred can buy tickets to participate in the protocol. The price of tickets (currently around $8,000) fluctuates based on demand to ensure that around 41,000 tickets are active in the network at any given time. When you buy a ticket (a process known as “staking”) your coins are temporarily locked up for several months. When a new block is created, five tickets are chosen at random to verify the block and vote on outstanding issues. As an incentive to participate, voters get 6 percent of the block reward.

Now headed into its second year, Decred recently released its 12-month roadmap. Bitcoin Magazine spoke with project lead Yocom-Piatt to get a sense of the highlights of the roadmap.

Autonomous Treasury

Decred’s most important project, by far, is its treasury system. Last year, Decred applied voting to unactivated consensus changes in the daemon. Similar to how soft forks get activated in Bitcoin, stakeholders in Decred vote by flipping a version bit in a block header. Once a majority threshold is reached, the new code activates automatically.  

Now, Decred wants to completely decentralize the control of its development funds. (Other projects are working toward similar goals, but if Decred pulls this off, it could be among the first to fully disintermediate the handling of treasury funds.)

As it stands, 10 percent of Decred block rewards go into a development fund to create a consistent cash flow for the project. Right now, control of the funds (currently valued at $28 million) is in the hands of the Decred Holdings Group LLC. Plans are to pass control of those funds to the community via a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), a type of smart contract that requires stakeholders to approve all spending.  

How it works is, anyone in the community will be able to submit a development proposal for a small fee. Ticket holders can then vote on the proposals they want to fund. Once a proposal is approved, users can create their own decentralized autonomous entity (DAEs) to govern the release of those funds.

For most practical purposes, you can consider a DAO and a DAE to be identical in function,” Yocom-Piatt explained. “For Decred, there will be the project-level Decred DAO, which is effectively a government entity whose actions are dictated by the stakeholders, and then individual users can form their own DAEs, similar to how you or I could form a C-corporation or LLC here in the U.S. to start a business.”

Both the DAO and DAEs will exist on-chain, but proposal submission and voting will take place off-chain in a version-control system dubbed “Politeia,” which is anchored to the blockchain via timestamps. This means nobody can surreptitiously modify a proposal.

“Every hour, there is an anchor dropped into the Decred blockchain that allows you to basically say [that] all the information that is in this Git repository existed on or before a given date,” said Yocom-Piatt. “It is like a time-ordered version of Github that you cannot fake.”

Work on Politeia is nearly done, says Yocom-Piatt. Decred just needs to add a voting element before deploying the platform on the mainnet. He thinks Decred could have the DAO up and running by the end of 2018, but DAEs may not happen until 2019.

Both types of smart contracts will be written in Bitcoin’s scripting language (remember, Decred is a fork of Bitcoin) but will require extensions in the form of new opcodes.

Decentralized Exchange

In another ambitious undertaking, Decred is looking to remove trusted third-parties from the process of moving funds in and out of Decred. This way, someone holding, say, bitcoin, can trade their bitcoin for decred directly, without going through an external exchange.

Key to this idea is the atomic swap, smart contracts that authorize cross-chain trades based on whether participants can publish a hash preimage. Decred completed the first on-chain atomic swap between Decred and Litecoin in October 2017. The next step is to create a decentralized exchange that is distinct from the majority of its peers.

“Everyone else who has used [atomic swaps] to date, has done so in an attempt to capture a fee on the swaps, either as an explicit fee or via an intermediate blockchain or a token that is used to coordinate the swap,” Yocom-Piatt said.

In contrast, Decred wants to implement atomic swaps in a way that captures no revenue, so that, eventually, other exchanges are no longer needed. “This isn't about finding a way to compete with other exchanges for trading fees; it is about eliminating them,” he said.  

Decred’s goal in 2018 is to come up with a formal proposal for a decentralized exchange and put the proposal on Politeia for stakeholder approval.  

Consumer-Oriented Approach

On-chain transactions on Decred take five minutes on average to settle (they take 10 minutes on Bitcoin), which is awkward at best when you want to pay for something on the spot. Decred is planning to implement the Lightning Network, a second-layer solution that allows transactions to be handled instantly off-chain and settled on-chain later, so that users can initiate transactions on the fly. (Lightning is also a central component in enabling atomic swaps.)

Specifically, Decred is implementing lnd, the open-source lightning daemon spearheaded by Lightning Labs. The bulk of the work in porting lnd from Bitcoin is nearly complete, says Yocom-Piatt. He adds that the work has been challenging. That is because Lightning was built with Segregated Witness, and, even though Decred is a fork of Bitcoin, Decred still lacks many of the changes that were bundled into Bitcoin’s Segregated Witness changeset. “There are some outstanding issues with transaction signatures that still need to be sorted out, at which point testing can begin,” he said.

Some instant transactions, like point-of-sale, are particularly useful if you make them with your mobile phone, similar to Apple Pay. To that end, Decred is looking to add simplified payment verification (SPV) support to its wallet, so that mobile clients only need to download a small part of the blockchain to verify transactions.

But Decred wants to implement SPV in a way that preserves privacy. Right now, many light wallets do not support SPV and instead rely on a central server for checking balance and transaction details.

To do this efficiently, the server needs access to your public key, meaning the service can see all of the addresses you use. Meanwhile, most existing SPV clients rely on bloom filters to receive only the transactions relevant to a user’s local wallet. The problem is bloom filters leak information about their users to all the nodes they connect with.

To step around this issue, Decred is using a new light-client protocol by Lightning Labs known as compact filters, which offer most of the benefits of a centralized light wallet, without the negative privacy aspects of bloom filters.  

“It drastically reduces the amount of data you need to download to have a functional client,” said Yocom-Piatt. “It is just the headers and some filters, basically 66 MB vs 2.1 GB for entire chain.” He said SPV support should be available to users in the spring.

Undisclosed Privacy Plans

In Bitcoin, transactions are traceable. In 2018, Decred wants to introduce a proposal for a unique privacy feature that will allow users to send untraceable payments. Decred remains tight-lipped on the matter, other than to say it will take a different approach than Monero and Zcash. Yocom-Piatt’s final comment on the matter: “We are going to deliver something working as opposed to just declaring what our plans are.”

Also on the to-do list, Decred plans to make several scaling improvements to its protocol and it will be updating the graphical user interface (GUI) on its Decrediton wallet to support SPV, mobile, Politeia voting and the Lightning Network.   

While many cryptocurrency projects are viewed mainly as a store of value, Decred is steering itself toward a future as a functional payment system, and it wants to be among the first to get there. “Our goal for 2018 is to cut the head off the snake, so nobody can cut the head off the snake later,” Yocom-Piatt concluded.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Decred Sets Its Sights on Decentralization in 2018

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

Decred Sets Its Sights on Decentralization in 2018

In 2015, Bitcoin developers Jake Yocom-Piatt and David Collins were getting frustrated with Bitcoin. The way they saw it, although Bitcoin started off as a decentralized system, over time, miners and a select group of developers had gained too much control over the protocol. In an attempt to create a system with a more open governance structure, the two launched Decred (short for “decentralized credit”) on February 8, 2016.  

Decred is based on an alternative implementation of bitcoin called btcd, written in Google’s programming language Go. The project’s core ideas stem from a white paper titled “Memcoin2: A Hybrid Proof-of-Work, Proof-of-Stake Cryptocurrency.” Similar to Bitcoin, Decred has a 21 million supply cap. But unlike Bitcoin, 1.68 million (8 percent) of Decred’s coins were pre-mined. Of those, half went to pay developers who contributed to the project early on, while the other half was airdropped (given out for free) to ensure a wide distribution in the network.

In Decred’s consensus system, proof of stake works alongside proof of work to give coin holders more of a voice in the system. Anyone who owns decred can buy tickets to participate in the protocol. The price of tickets (currently around $8,000) fluctuates based on demand to ensure that around 41,000 tickets are active in the network at any given time. When you buy a ticket (a process known as “staking”) your coins are temporarily locked up for several months. When a new block is created, five tickets are chosen at random to verify the block and vote on outstanding issues. As an incentive to participate, voters get 6 percent of the block reward.

Now headed into its second year, Decred recently released its 12-month roadmap. Bitcoin Magazine spoke with project lead Yocom-Piatt to get a sense of the highlights of the roadmap.

Autonomous Treasury

Decred’s most important project, by far, is its treasury system. Last year, Decred applied voting to unactivated consensus changes in the daemon. Similar to how soft forks get activated in Bitcoin, stakeholders in Decred vote by flipping a version bit in a block header. Once a majority threshold is reached, the new code activates automatically.  

Now, Decred wants to completely decentralize the control of its development funds. (Other projects are working toward similar goals, but if Decred pulls this off, it could be among the first to fully disintermediate the handling of treasury funds.)

As it stands, 10 percent of Decred block rewards go into a development fund to create a consistent cash flow for the project. Right now, control of the funds (currently valued at $28 million) is in the hands of the Decred Holdings Group LLC. Plans are to pass control of those funds to the community via a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), a type of smart contract that requires stakeholders to approve all spending.  

How it works is, anyone in the community will be able to submit a development proposal for a small fee. Ticket holders can then vote on the proposals they want to fund. Once a proposal is approved, users can create their own decentralized autonomous entity (DAEs) to govern the release of those funds.

For most practical purposes, you can consider a DAO and a DAE to be identical in function,” Yocom-Piatt explained. “For Decred, there will be the project-level Decred DAO, which is effectively a government entity whose actions are dictated by the stakeholders, and then individual users can form their own DAEs, similar to how you or I could form a C-corporation or LLC here in the U.S. to start a business.”

Both the DAO and DAEs will exist on-chain, but proposal submission and voting will take place off-chain in a version-control system dubbed “Politeia,” which is anchored to the blockchain via timestamps. This means nobody can surreptitiously modify a proposal.

“Every hour, there is an anchor dropped into the Decred blockchain that allows you to basically say [that] all the information that is in this Git repository existed on or before a given date,” said Yocom-Piatt. “It is like a time-ordered version of Github that you cannot fake.”

Work on Politeia is nearly done, says Yocom-Piatt. Decred just needs to add a voting element before deploying the platform on the mainnet. He thinks Decred could have the DAO up and running by the end of 2018, but DAEs may not happen until 2019.

Both types of smart contracts will be written in Bitcoin’s scripting language (remember, Decred is a fork of Bitcoin) but will require extensions in the form of new opcodes.

Decentralized Exchange

In another ambitious undertaking, Decred is looking to remove trusted third-parties from the process of moving funds in and out of Decred. This way, someone holding, say, bitcoin, can trade their bitcoin for decred directly, without going through an external exchange.

Key to this idea is the atomic swap, smart contracts that authorize cross-chain trades based on whether participants can publish a hash preimage. Decred completed the first on-chain atomic swap between Decred and Litecoin in October 2017. The next step is to create a decentralized exchange that is distinct from the majority of its peers.

“Everyone else who has used [atomic swaps] to date, has done so in an attempt to capture a fee on the swaps, either as an explicit fee or via an intermediate blockchain or a token that is used to coordinate the swap,” Yocom-Piatt said.

In contrast, Decred wants to implement atomic swaps in a way that captures no revenue, so that, eventually, other exchanges are no longer needed. “This isn't about finding a way to compete with other exchanges for trading fees; it is about eliminating them,” he said.  

Decred’s goal in 2018 is to come up with a formal proposal for a decentralized exchange and put the proposal on Politeia for stakeholder approval.  

Consumer-Oriented Approach

On-chain transactions on Decred take five minutes on average to settle (they take 10 minutes on Bitcoin), which is awkward at best when you want to pay for something on the spot. Decred is planning to implement the Lightning Network, a second-layer solution that allows transactions to be handled instantly off-chain and settled on-chain later, so that users can initiate transactions on the fly. (Lightning is also a central component in enabling atomic swaps.)

Specifically, Decred is implementing lnd, the open-source lightning daemon spearheaded by Lightning Labs. The bulk of the work in porting lnd from Bitcoin is nearly complete, says Yocom-Piatt. He adds that the work has been challenging. That is because Lightning was built with Segregated Witness, and, even though Decred is a fork of Bitcoin, Decred still lacks many of the changes that were bundled into Bitcoin’s Segregated Witness changeset. “There are some outstanding issues with transaction signatures that still need to be sorted out, at which point testing can begin,” he said.

Some instant transactions, like point-of-sale, are particularly useful if you make them with your mobile phone, similar to Apple Pay. To that end, Decred is looking to add simplified payment verification (SPV) support to its wallet, so that mobile clients only need to download a small part of the blockchain to verify transactions.

But Decred wants to implement SPV in a way that preserves privacy. Right now, many light wallets do not support SPV and instead rely on a central server for checking balance and transaction details.

To do this efficiently, the server needs access to your public key, meaning the service can see all of the addresses you use. Meanwhile, most existing SPV clients rely on bloom filters to receive only the transactions relevant to a user’s local wallet. The problem is bloom filters leak information about their users to all the nodes they connect with.

To step around this issue, Decred is using a new light-client protocol by Lightning Labs known as compact filters, which offer most of the benefits of a centralized light wallet, without the negative privacy aspects of bloom filters.  

“It drastically reduces the amount of data you need to download to have a functional client,” said Yocom-Piatt. “It is just the headers and some filters, basically 66 MB vs 2.1 GB for entire chain.” He said SPV support should be available to users in the spring.

Undisclosed Privacy Plans

In Bitcoin, transactions are traceable. In 2018, Decred wants to introduce a proposal for a unique privacy feature that will allow users to send untraceable payments. Decred remains tight-lipped on the matter, other than to say it will take a different approach than Monero and Zcash. Yocom-Piatt’s final comment on the matter: “We are going to deliver something working as opposed to just declaring what our plans are.”

Also on the to-do list, Decred plans to make several scaling improvements to its protocol and it will be updating the graphical user interface (GUI) on its Decrediton wallet to support SPV, mobile, Politeia voting and the Lightning Network.   

While many cryptocurrency projects are viewed mainly as a store of value, Decred is steering itself toward a future as a functional payment system, and it wants to be among the first to get there. “Our goal for 2018 is to cut the head off the snake, so nobody can cut the head off the snake later,” Yocom-Piatt concluded.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Promoted: A “Four-Wheel” Economy, Parked Right Up the Block

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

Helbiz Thumb 3

Like a car accelerating onto a highway on-ramp, the trajectory of blockchain technology continues to move at a rapid pace. Amid talk of crypto price volatility and initial coin offerings, a number of promising distributed applications continue to take shape, disrupting the landscape.

One novel initiative being curated in the nascent blockchain space involves the field of transportation and mobility, where owners of private vehicles can rent them out on a just-in-time basis without logistical concerns about keys or communication with users. 

Enter Helbiz, a global enterprise that has its sights set on a summer launch in Los Angeles. Its main premise: A shared transportation model at a time when the cost of car ownership is declining rapidly and cars decrease in value.

A Transportation-Fueled Project

According to the data-gathering service Statistica, there will be an estimated 36 million car-sharing users worldwide by 2025. Tied to this trend is the increasing number of people opting for short-term car rentals over ownership. Much of this is tied to the desire to avoid insurance, car maintenance and other encumbrances associated with having a car. This rings particularly true in big cities and dense urban areas where traffic gridlock and congestion abound.   

Another factor supporting Helbiz’s aim: According to parking expert Donald Shoup, a distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, the average car is parked and sits idle 95 percent of the time.

It’s these emerging trends that are driving Helbiz’s efforts to build a global mobility community that provides access to vehicles and other transportation services on an hourly, daily or weekly basis to maximize possible usage of any type of private vehicle independent of the owner’s schedule. Situated on the Ethereum blockchain and powered by ERC20 standard tokens known as “HBZ,” Helbiz seeks to become the desired payment transaction hub for blockchain-based transportation services throughout the world.

The infrastructure used to facilitate this seamless peer-to-peer car sharing is tied to iOS and Android applications on a blockchain, which allow users to rent any car on the platform, instantly unlocking it and turning it on with their phone without the need for any direct interaction with the owner. 

The Helbiz app also serves as a connection point between car owners, insurance companies and other third parties that then, through smart contracts, pay these owners directly using HBZ. 

At 23, Palella sold his agricultural company with over 1,000 employees to outside investors. Then, in 2015, he founded Palella Investment LTD and became one of the youngest hedge fund owners in the world, managing $250 million out of its headquarters in London.

In 2017, Salvatore founded SP1 and received, as one of the first funds to do so in the world, the authorization to trade cryptocurrency.  

“Blockchain [technology] and smart contracts allow us to facilitate secure, real-time transacting tied to a single payment source,” said Palella. “This reduces transaction costs and greatly simplifies the renting process, reducing paper documentation and providing a great way to rent and share/send data.” 

Palella noted that the Helbiz utility token exists for the core purpose of constructing a more complex and secure payment system and, as a separate application, for decentralized payments through its own second-layer protocols, which increase convenience and trust between sellers, limits cancellations and also captures and curates valuable user data. Most importantly, the Ethereum-based network allows it to be scalable, fostering its global use to pay for transportation without foreign transaction fees.

Currently, Helbiz is in the midst of an ambitious launch to include the following anticipated milestones, per its token website:

  • Q1 2018: Initial coin offering (ICO) and listing on a top exchange
  • Q2 2018: MVP of Helbiz marketplace and launch of operations in Los Angeles; integrating blockchain system for payments
  • Q3 2018: Private Alpha allowing owners to share and sell data; Helbiz app expansion to a second city in the U.S.
  • Q1 2019: Beta version of wallet, exchange and reward system; Helbiz app expansion in four additional cities in the U.S.
  • Q2 2019: Version 1.0 of the Helbiz platform online

“Our grand vision is to give personal control back to the user through our blockchain-sharing economy model,” concluded Palella. “In five years, we hope to have a platform/app on millions of smart devices and digital locks in thousands of cars in every major city in the world. We see this as a major step in helping millions of people get around quickly and with ease.” 

Note: Trading and investing in digital assets is speculative and can be high-risk. Based on the shifting business and regulatory environment of such a new industry, this content should not be considered investment or legal advice.

This promoted article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Wall Street banks are at 'an inflection point' — and it's bad news for traders

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

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 11.13.00 AM

  • Morgan Stanley and Oliver Wyman just published their annual blue paper on wholesale banks and asset managers.
  • The report highlights growing pressures on the asset management industry, which will in turn translate into added cost pressures for the wholesale banks that serve them.
  • "We think we are at an inflection point," the report reads. "Institutional and corporate client revenue pools have historically grown at a similar pace, each comprising ~50% of global wholesale banking revenues. However, tailwinds on the corporate wallet and pressures on the institutional wallet present a shift that we think is here to stay."

Wall Street banks are at "an inflection point."

According to a big report from Morgan Stanley and Oliver Wyman on wholesale banks and asset managers, it's now time for banks to shift their focus towards corporate business, versus the institutional investor clients they've been focused on.

That's because the asset managers are under intensifying cost pressure. As a result, institutional client revenue growth over the next three years is forecast to slow to a compound annual growth rate of 2%. Corporate client revenues in contrast are forecast to grow at CAGR of 5% in the short term, as rising rates bolster various business lines.

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 11.23.15 AM

"We think we are at an inflection point," the report reads. "Institutional and corporate client revenue pools have historically grown at a similar pace, each comprising ~50% of global wholesale banking revenues. However, tailwinds on the corporate wallet and pressures on the institutional wallet present a shift that we think is here to stay."

The report highlights a positive medium-term outlook for corporate revenues in macro trading, dealmaking, and transaction banking.

"Cyclical tailwinds are set to drive revenue growth in the corporate segment, but with very different dynamics between "CFO-down" and "CFO-up" relationships," the report said. 

"CFO down" businesses include debt business, lending, cash management and trade finance. As the name suggests, these are usually delivered to the CFO and Treasury units. These businesses tend to be sticky and stable, and will benefit from rising rates. And it's here that Morgan Stanley and Oliver Wyman are forecasting the fastest growth in revenues (5.5% CAGR over the next five years).

"CFO-up" products in contrast include headline grabbing equity deals, mergers and acquisitions, and leveraged finance. These are higher return businesses, but also more volatile and more relationship based. Specialized advisory firms have already eaten in to this revenue pie, taking market share from the bigger banks. 

The report said:

"To win with corporates, banks need to invest in relationship bankers for CFO-up businesses and in technology for CFO-down businesses. CFO-up products, like M&A advisory, are high-touch relationship-driven businesses. We don't think that will change any time soon. Highly skilled relationship bankers are key for banks to continue investing in. For CFO-down products, like transaction banking, technology is set to disrupt, define and expand the future state of the industry."

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 11.32.42 AM

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NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy will soon accept bitcoin

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

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Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will soon accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

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Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

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CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy will soon accept bitcoin

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

Playboy bunnies

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will soon accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

Here are the current crypto prices:

Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

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NOW WATCH: The surprising reason why NASA hasn't sent humans to Mars yet

CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy will soon accept bitcoin

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

Playboy bunnies

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will soon accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

Here are the current crypto prices:

Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

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NOW WATCH: The surprising reason why NASA hasn't sent humans to Mars yet

CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy is now accepting bitcoin

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

Playboy bunnies

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will now accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

Here are the current crypto prices:

Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

SEE ALSO: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

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NOW WATCH: The science of why human breasts are so big

CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy is now accepting bitcoin

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

Playboy bunnies

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will now accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

Here are the current crypto prices:

Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

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NOW WATCH: The science of why human breasts are so big

CRYPTO INSIDER: Playboy is now accepting bitcoin

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

Playboy bunnies

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

You might have seen the news yesterday that Playboy will now accept a slew of cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ethereum — as payment, but there's another little-known coin the porn site is supporting that could radically change how porn is paid for online. 

Business Insider tech reporter Becky Peterson has everything you need to know here>>

Here are the current crypto prices:

Crypto prices today

What's happening:

Join Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss cryptocurrencies and blockchain with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff. 

SEE ALSO: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

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NOW WATCH: The science of why human breasts are so big

Lightning’s First Implementation Is Now in Beta; Developers Raise $2.5M

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

Lightning’s First Implementation Is Now in Beta; Developers Raise $2.5M

Today, March 15,Lightning Labs announced lnd 0.4-beta, the first beta release of the Lightning software implementation spearheaded by the development company. This makes lnd the first ever Lightning implementation to be marked as beta, meaning that the development team deems it to be feature complete and safe enough for use on Bitcoin’s mainnet — though the software could still contain bugs. In conjunction, Lightning Labs has also announced a $2.5 million seed investment round, which will fund further development of lnd.

“We're calling this lnd release a beta as it has all the necessary safety, fault-tolerance and security features that we've deemed necessary to feel comfortable with early users to start experimenting with small amounts of real bitcoin and litecoin,” Lightning Labs CTO Olaoluwa Osuntokun told Bitcoin Magazine.

As an open and permissionless project, the Lightning Network was already being rolled out by users eager to test the highly anticipated scaling layer — even before any Lightning implementation was released in beta. Lightning Labs, in particular, favored a more cautious approach, as the development team was still working on “breaking changes,” Osuntokun explained. He noted that users who have opened payment channels with previous lnd releases will now have to close these channels before upgrading to the latest version.

A significant step compared to previous lnd releases is that the new software is compatible with various Bitcoin implementations. Where the alpha versions of lnd relied on btcd to interact with Bitcoin’s blockchain (both lnd and btcd are written in Google’s Go programming language), the beta release gives users the option to use their own preferred backend, including bitcoind (part of Bitcoin Core, in C++), Bcoin (JavaScript) and others.

Other new features implemented in the lnd beta include a new private key seed format specifically designed for Lightning; improved fault-tolerance in case something goes wrong; and smarter pathfinding for routing payments, as well as bug fixes and other improvements.

In conjunction with the software release, Lightning Labs announced a seed-funding round of $2.5 million to fund continued development of lnd. Investors include big names in the Bitcoin, blockchain and broader tech industry, such as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee; BitGo CTO Ben Davenport; Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; PayPal COO and Yammer founder David Sacks; Tesla and SpaceX angel investor Bill Lee; head of Square Capital and Square’s People Lead Jacqueline Reses; Eventbrite co-founder Kevin Hartz; Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev; and The Hive, Digital Currency Group and others.

Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark hopes that, with the release of the lnd beta and the seed-funding round, development of Lightning Network technology will move to its next phase.

“Lightning is not just about scalability, it’s also an app development platform. I think a lot of people don't get that yet,” she told Bitcoin Magazine.

Building on lnd, developers can write apps that connect to the Lightning Network. Lightning Lab’s Lightning App Directory already features several dozen such apps, not limited to apps developed by Lightning Labs itself. Examples include Lightning wallets for desktop and mobile, a blogging platform with micropayments, a gambling site and more. Although most of these apps are only available on Bitcoin’s testnet so far, this is likely to change with the release of lnd 0.4-beta.

Moving forward, Lightning Labs plans to implement a range of new features in lnd, including “watchtowers” to outsource security (channel monitoring) to third parties, atomic multipath payments to increase payment channel liquidity, routing tools for Lightning node operators and more. And while lnd is already compatible with both Bitcoin and Litecoin, the two networks are not yet interoperable; a fix for this is also planned for a future release.

It should be noted that although the lnd 0.4-beta release marks a milestone in the development of the Lightning Network, it is still in beta — so it is still somewhat risky to use.

“This is still an early beta version aimed at developers and advanced users,” Stark said. “As with any early software there will still be bugs. Users shouldn't be putting more money on Lightning right now than they are willing to lose.”

For full details of the release, see the lnd 0.4-beta release notes.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Lightning’s First Implementation Is Now in Beta; Developers Raise $2.5M

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

Lightning’s First Implementation Is Now in Beta; Developers Raise $2.5M

Today, March 15,Lightning Labs announced lnd 0.4-beta, the first beta release of the Lightning software implementation spearheaded by the development company. This makes lnd the first ever Lightning implementation to be marked as beta, meaning that the development team deems it to be feature complete and safe enough for use on Bitcoin’s mainnet — though the software could still contain bugs. In conjunction, Lightning Labs has also announced a $2.5 million seed investment round, which will fund further development of lnd.

“We're calling this lnd release a beta as it has all the necessary safety, fault-tolerance and security features that we've deemed necessary to feel comfortable with early users to start experimenting with small amounts of real bitcoin and litecoin,” Lightning Labs CTO Olaoluwa Osuntokun told Bitcoin Magazine.

As an open and permissionless project, the Lightning Network was already being rolled out by users eager to test the highly anticipated scaling layer — even before any Lightning implementation was released in beta. Lightning Labs, in particular, favored a more cautious approach, as the development team was still working on “breaking changes,” Osuntokun explained. He noted that users who have opened payment channels with previous lnd releases will now have to close these channels before upgrading to the latest version.

A significant step compared to previous lnd releases is that the new software is compatible with various Bitcoin implementations. Where the alpha versions of lnd relied on btcd to interact with Bitcoin’s blockchain (both lnd and btcd are written in Google’s Go programming language), the beta release gives users the option to use their own preferred backend, including bitcoind (part of Bitcoin Core, in C++), Bcoin (JavaScript) and others.

Other new features implemented in the lnd beta include a new private key seed format specifically designed for Lightning; improved fault-tolerance in case something goes wrong; and smarter pathfinding for routing payments, as well as bug fixes and other improvements.

In conjunction with the software release, Lightning Labs announced a seed-funding round of $2.5 million to fund continued development of lnd. Investors include big names in the Bitcoin, blockchain and broader tech industry, such as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee; BitGo CTO Ben Davenport; Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; PayPal COO and Yammer founder David Sacks; Tesla and SpaceX angel investor Bill Lee; head of Square Capital and Square’s People Lead Jacqueline Reses; Eventbrite co-founder Kevin Hartz; Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev; and The Hive, Digital Currency Group and others.

Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark hopes that, with the release of the lnd beta and the seed-funding round, development of Lightning Network technology will move to its next phase.

“Lightning is not just about scalability, it’s also an app development platform. I think a lot of people don't get that yet,” she told Bitcoin Magazine.

Building on lnd, developers can write apps that connect to the Lightning Network. Lightning Lab’s Lightning App Directory already features several dozen such apps, not limited to apps developed by Lightning Labs itself. Examples include Lightning wallets for desktop and mobile, a blogging platform with micropayments, a gambling site and more. Although most of these apps are only available on Bitcoin’s testnet so far, this is likely to change with the release of lnd 0.4-beta.

Moving forward, Lightning Labs plans to implement a range of new features in lnd, including “watchtowers” to outsource security (channel monitoring) to third parties, atomic multipath payments to increase payment channel liquidity, routing tools for Lightning node operators and more. And while lnd is already compatible with both Bitcoin and Litecoin, the two networks are not yet interoperable; a fix for this is also planned for a future release.

It should be noted that although the lnd 0.4-beta release marks a milestone in the development of the Lightning Network, it is still in beta — so it is still somewhat risky to use.

“This is still an early beta version aimed at developers and advanced users,” Stark said. “As with any early software there will still be bugs. Users shouldn't be putting more money on Lightning right now than they are willing to lose.”

For full details of the release, see the lnd 0.4-beta release notes.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Goldman Sachs is launching an incubator to create a startup engine within the Wall Street giant (GS)

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

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

  • Goldman Sachs has launched a new incubator program, according to a memo seen by Business Insider. 
  • The point of the program is to keep good ideas within the firm by providing resources to help people turn out-of-the-box ideas into real businesses. 

On Wall Street, they say a company's most valuable asset walks out the door at the end of the work day. 

So how does a large bank like Goldman Sachs hold on to its people who want to swap their suit jacket for a Silicon Valley hoodie? It launches an incubator. 

That's exactly what Goldman has done, according to a memo seen by Business Insider. In an internal memo, chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and president David Solomon announced GS Accelerate, a new incubator that'll provide employees with capital to help turn out-of-the-box ideas into to real businesses within the bank.

Goldman's chief strategy officer Stephanie Cohen will work with leaders across the bank to select teams for the incubator, the memo said. 

"By applying to GS Accelerate, you will have an opportunity to submit ideas that can deliver best-in-class solutions for our clients, take Goldman Sachs into new business areas, manage risk and tackle inefficiencies in our operations," the memo said. 

Of course, this isn't just a human capital play. Keeping good ideas within the firm could translate into new businesses that drive growth, cut costs, or generate returns.

Ideally, those business will experience the same amount of success as Goldman's retail lending arm Marcus, launched in 2016, which was able to originate more than $1 billion in loans quicker than any of the bank's small fintech rivals. 

"If we're creative, imaginative and learn from what did and didn't work, GS Accelerate can become a powerful engine to bring important ideas to life and continue our long tradition of pioneering innovations that eventually become standard in our industry," the memo said. 

How will it work?

At a firm like Goldman Sachs, it can be hard for new ideas to make their way through the red-tape, especially if it's an idea that's tangential to the main business. GS Accelerate attempts to address that.

For instance, let's say a FICC trader has a new idea for the bank's burgeoning retail business. Typically, that would be difficult - if not impossible - to get through the traditional chains of command. Through GS Accelerate, however, that trader could submit their idea online, which would then be reviewed by business leaders at the firm.

Ultimately, that idea could be picked alongside others for the program, which provides the necessary resources and access to mentors. At this point, it's not clear how many teams will go through the incubator.

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This color-coded graph shows which finance jobs are going to be in demand — and where Wall Street is headed

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

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 10.15.12 AM

  • Morgan Stanley and Oliver Wyman just published their annual blue paper on wholesale banks and asset managers, highlighting growing pressures on the asset management industry. 
  • As part of the study, the two firms set out their predictions for compensation spending by role across both wholesale banking and asset management. 
  • Technologists are going to be in demand, with engineering, tech, quant and analytics staff making up a bigger chunk of bank front office operations, and IT making up a huge portion of the back office. There's a similar story in asset management.
  • The report estimates that up to 40% of the asset management workforce "will require fundamental re-training."

The finance workforce of the future is going to look very different. 

That's the conclusion of the annual Morgan Stanley/Oliver Wyman blue paper on wholesale banks and asset managers, published Wednesday. The report highlights intensifying cost pressures on asset managers, which will in turn translate into added cost pressures for the wholesale banks that serve them. 

And that dynamic is going to have significant repercussions for those employed in the finance industry. The report said: 

"As banks adopt new technologies and build new businesses, the talent model will need to shift profoundly. In the front office, demand for quants will increase significantly, while technology experts such as user experience (UX) specialists will need to be aligned with business teams to enable agile proposition development. We estimate these two roles will grow to represent 25% of compensation from <5% today.

"In the back office, IT will make up ~60% of future compensation, driven by higher salaries for more specialized, in-demand technology skill-sets such as user interface (UI) developers."

The same is true for those working in the asset management industry. The report suggests asset managers could cut costs by 30% as a result of investments and advancements in automation and oursourcing. The report said: 

"We expect headcount to reduce due to automation and externalization of the skill-set. We also estimate that up to 40% of the workforce will require fundamental re-training. This will be most significant in portfolio management and asset administration roles where the use of better data and analytics will transform roles.

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 10.02.51 AM

"As a result, compensation structures will shift. Investment management will continue to demand the lion’s share of compensation spend. Technology and Data Management’s share of compensation will grow fourfold whereas relative spend on automated back office functions will decrease. The share of Distribution will remain largely flat but we expect this role to shift most fundamentally as data and technology will be increasingly important at the interface to customers."

To be sure, there are challenges. For one, attracting these skilled technologists to finance can be difficult, with the report saying "wholesale banks will need to evolve their talent models to compete."

And for asset managers, the retraining of 40% of a workforce isn't likely to come easy. 

"Overseeing this transition should be a CEO role," the report said. "The depth and speed of change required far exceeds the traditional change management process handled by HR departments."

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Bitcoin Lightning Startup Goes Beta With Twitter CEO Backing

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

Big investors are lining up to back the startup behind the most advanced implementation of bitcoin's in-development Lightning Network.

The next big thing in airplane tech is becoming a nightmare for some airlines (UTX)

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

FILE PHOTO: Bombardier's CS300 Aircraft, showing its Pratt & Whitney engine in the foreground, sits in the hangar prior to its test flight in Mirabel, Qubec, Canada February 27, 2015.   REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

  • Pratt & Whitney's new PurePower geared turbofan engines are designed to be cleaner, quieter, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient than existing jet engines.
  • The engines will power the next generation of narrow-body airliners from Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Mitsubishi, and United Aircraft Corporation.
  • However, the engines have been plagued by a series of teething problems that have slowed down aircraft deliveries, increased maintenance costs, and even a forced the Indian Government to ground a fleet of planes.
  • Fortunately, Pratt & Whitney is expected to overcome these issues. 

Pratt & Whitney's new PurePower line of geared turbofan engines is the next big thing in airplane tech. For commercial aviation engines, it's supposed to be the biggest step forward in 30 years. They are set to power the next generation of narrow-body commercial airliners from Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Mitsubishi, and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation.

In fact, Pratt & Whitney PurePower is the sole engine supplier for Bombardier's revolutionary composite C Series airliner.

In 2016, Richard Anderson, then CEO of Delta Air Lines called the engine "the first true innovation" to hit airline industry since the Boeing Dreamliner revolutionized carbon composite airframes.

Thus far, the Connecticut-based subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation has committed a couple of decades and roughly $10 billion to develop its geared turbofan (GTF) technology.

Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer for this piece of newfangled equipment to hit its stride.

Even though PurePower engines entered service in 2016, the number of aircraft using the engine remains limited due to a series of teething problems.

Airbus A321neo _First_Flight_with_Pratt___Whitney_Hamburg_Christian_Brinkmann__2_The first issues came to light that year when Qatar Airways' Airbus A320neos experienced uneven cooling in their GTF engines. Uneven cooling could lead to deformations and parts rubbing against one another while prolonging turnaround times between flights. As a result, the airline deemed the engines unable to meet its performance requirements. 

In December, Qatar replaced its troubled order for 50 A32oneos with an order for 50 larger A321neos. This time around, the airline is expected to use engines from rival CFM International instead of Pratt & Whitney. 

In February, IndiGo, an Indian low-cost airline, announced that it had to replace 69 engines in 18 months on its fleet of around 30 A320neo jets, Bloomberg reported.

Around the same time, Airbus had to temporarily halt deliveries of GTF-powered jets due to on-going issues with the engine.  

The problems culminated with India's aviation authority, DGCA, grounding 11 PurePower GTF-powered Airbus A320neo jets. According to the Economic Times, the decision was made after GTF powered Airbus jets suffered three mid-flight engine failures in two weeks. The failures have been attributed to an issue with a seal located inside the engine's high-pressure compressor.

Pratt & Whitney PW1100G JM Production Line West Palm BeachIn a statement to Business Insider, Pratt & Whitney said it was aware of the decision made by the DGCA and that it, along with Airbus, is fully committed to maintaining the airworthiness of its planes.

The statement went on to explain that Pratt & Whitney took immediate action last month after identifying an issue related to the knife edge seal in the high-pressure compressor of 43 PW1100G-JM engines designed for the Airbus A320neo. Pratt received "all necessary approvals" from European aviation regulators for the changes it made to the engine by February 21, the company said. According to Pratt & Whitney, it began shipping updated engines by March 1. 

It should also be noted that modern twin-engined jetliners are designed to be able to operate on a single engine. 

Pratt & Whitney's new geared turbofan engine is still a gamechanger for the industry

The idea of a geared turbofan engine centers around the principle of a bypass ratio. Modern turbofan engines produce thrust in two manners.

First, there are the compressors and combustion chamber at its core. It's the part of the engine we most commonly associate with a jet. Then there's the fan at the front of the powerplant that's driven by the jet core. It directs air through bypass compartments around the core of the engine. 

The bypass ratio is the proportion of the air that bypasses the core versus the amount that goes through it. Generally speaking, a higher bypass ratio means quieter, more efficient, and more powerful engines. 

Pratt & Whitney PW1100G JM Production Line 06In conventional turbofan engines, a bypass ratio reach can reach as high as 9:1. Pratt's PurePower GTF engines have a bypass ratio of 12:1.

To increase bypass ratio, engine manufacturers have to increase the length of its fan blades. However, if elongated enough, the speeds achieved at the tip of the blades will be so fast that it generates unwanted vibrations.

This is where the "gear" in geared turbofan comes into the picture, aviation industry analyst Richard Aboulafia told Busines Insider. 

"You can get as high as eight or 10:1 without a gear, but to move beyond that ratio you need something to slow down the fans so they don't go too fast basically," Aboulafia said. "And the gearbox does that for you."

According to Pratt & Whitney, its engine's gearbox doesn't just slow the fan down, like the transmission in a car, it helps the fan spin at its optimal speed.

And the results are incredible.

Bombardier CS300Compared to current generation engines, Pratt claims it can achieve 16% better fuel efficiency, 50% lower emissions, and is 75% quieter.

In fact, SWISS and Air Baltic have reported their GTF powered C Series jets have returned even better fuel economy than Bombardier's projections.

Fortunately for Pratt & Whitney, all of the problems the company's next-generation engines have encountered do not point to fundamental flaws with the technology and can be fixed, Aboulafia said. 

It'll just take time. 

SEE ALSO: RANKED: The 10 best European Airlines

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Cryptocurrencies and the Distribution of Power in the Age of Google and Facebook

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

Although Bitcoin has been able to prove it is possible to exchange value without the need for the centralization of money production and validation, cryptocurrencies have a long way to go. Exchanging value freely online is probably the most important achievement since the internet actually came to existence. If you think about it, despite how

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Bitcoin Price Plunges Toward $8,000 as Market Grows Heavy

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

The Bitcoin price plunged toward $8,000 on Thursday as the cryptocurrency market began to grow heavy across the board. Just two top 100-cryptocurrencies — Kin and DigixDAO — managed to advance against the US dollar, while the other 98 endured another day in the red. Bitcoin Price Dips Below $8,000 On Wednesday, the Bitcoin price

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How to Tell if You Should Use Blockchain in Your Application

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


There is plenty of hype around Blockchain, starting from the enthusiasm caused by the price increases of Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies. It is a powerful and versatile technology, but it isn't right for every application. We'll give you some ways to assess whether it is right for yours.

The post How to Tell if You Should Use Blockchain in Your Application appeared first on ExtremeTech.

Huge UK tech exit as Experian acquires 2-year-old credit checking startup ClearScore for £275 million

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

Customer using ClearScore

  • Experian buying ClearScore for £275 million.
  • 2-year-old ClearScore offers people credit checks for free in the UK and has over 6 million customers.
  • The deal is the biggest UK tech exit in years and five times bigger than the average exit since 2010.


LONDON — Credit checking company Experian plans to acquire UK credit startup ClearScore for £275 million ($385 million) in one of the biggest UK tech deals in years.

Experian announced plans to acquire to two-year-old London startup on Thursday. Experian CEO Brian Cassin said the deal was part of his company's "strategy to extend the services we provide to UK consumers."

The acquisition is subject to approval from the UK's Competition and Markets Authority and regulator the Financial Conduct Authority.

Justin Basini ClearScore

If cleared, the takeover represents one of the biggest tech exits in the UK for years and a huge win for the UK's fintech sector. A report last year from innovation consultancy Mind the Bridge found the average UK tech exit since 2010 was $75 million, meaning the ClearScore deal is around five times bigger than average.

ClearScore was founded in July 2015 and was the first company to provide totally free credit checks and scores to consumers in the UK. The business makes money from commission on products sold to customers who get their checks done.

Despite still being a startup, ClearScore already has over 6 million customers in the UK and the business is on track for revenue of $55 million this year, according to Experian. ClearScore also has operations in South Africa, where it serves 200,000 customers.

ClearScore CEO Justin Basini said in a blog post announcing the deal: "I believe that this acquisition will allow us to grow faster and develop exciting new innovations that will deliver improved financial well-being to you, our current users, in the UK and South Africa, and hopefully millions more around the world."

The big price tag is a win for ClearScore's backers: London-based venture builder Blenheim Chalcot; and QED Investors, the venture capital business set up by CapitalOne cofounder Nigel Morris.

SEE ALSO: Google's former No. 2 in Europe just launched a startup that gives you a completely free credit score

DON'T MISS: The former boss of Google UK explains why he left to become a fintech investor

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ROSENBERG: There's a myth circulating Wall Street about the next financial crisis — and it reveals unlearned lessons from the last one

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

david rosenberg

  • This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of Bear Stearns, which proved to be the first domino of the banking system that fell.
  • Economists aren't sounding the alarm for another implosion of  the global financial system. 
  • But the belief that financial risks are low is a "myth," according to David Rosenberg.

The worst financial crisis in modern history claimed its first victim during this week a decade ago. 

Bear Stearns, the 85-year old investment bank and America's fifth-largest at the time, failed to convince its shareholders that it had enough staying power to survive the housing collapse. Many of the mortgages taken by underqualified borrowers had been bundled into securities that Bear Stearns put together. 

And so as more Americans struggled to make mortgage payments, putting these securities in jeopardy, Bear Stearns' own creditors began to panic. In a deal arranged by the Federal Reserve, JPMorgan acquired the firm for a tiny fraction of its then market value.

You'd be hard pressed to find an economist who's speculating that another collapse of the financial system is imminent. At best, we could be looking at another economic crisis.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, looks no further than where it all began a decade ago — in credit. This time, however, Rosenberg isn't worried about housing. 

"Watch investment-grade corporate and high-yield spreads very closely," Rosenberg told Business Insider. "There is a bubble on business balance sheets."

What Rosenberg calls a bubble, investors would describe as a hunt for yield. Investor appetite for returns wherever they may be found pushed the yields on the riskiest, most indebted companies to levels close to those last seen in 2006, before the last financial crisis began to unfold. 

But the credit market is starting to show cracks. Investors "haven't learned how important it is to believe in mean reversion and too many are lured into the herd mentality camp," Rosenberg said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch data showed bond funds saw outflows of $14.1 billion during the week ended February 14, the fifth-largest redemption on record. About $11 billion of that came from high-yield funds, even after the market weathered the volatility that shook stocks and Treasurys in early February.

"I am also concerned about auto loan and credit card delinquencies which are rising, and we haven't even seen the unemployment rate start to rise just yet," Rosenberg added. "Wait till that happens. This tells you the quality of the credit out there — very weak. In fact, almost half of the investment-grade corporate bond market is now rated BBB!"

A "BBB" rating is just two notches above junk. 

Although more Americans struggle to make their car payments on time, there's hardly any siren-blaring about a housing-style meltdown. In a recent note, however, Rosenberg argued it's a "myth" that financial risks are modest. 

"I think the White House has to be very careful not to deregulate so quickly when it comes to the financial sector, especially now as credit quality starts to erode," he said. 

"Remember — the financial setbacks that always occur amidst a Fed tightening cycle don't have to include the banks," Rosenberg said. "We had savings & loans companies in the 1980s, mortgage funds in the mid-1990s, a hedge fund (LTCM) in the late 1990s, for some examples."

And so, the lesson for money managers here is that the time for reaching for the stars is over — at least for this cycle, Rosenberg said. He advises raising cash and reducing the beta or volatility of your portfolio. 

SEE ALSO: GOLDMAN SACHS: A new 'scenario worth worrying about' could cause the next avalanche of selling in the stock market

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One of the world's biggest oil companies changed its name with a bizarre video featuring gymnasts, an acne-covered teen, and a woman giving birth

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

statoil name change video

  • Statoil, Norway's government-owned oil company, has changed its name to Equinor.
  • It announced the news with a bizarre video that features gymnasts, an acne-covered teen, and a woman giving birth.
  • Statoil/Equinor says that the name change is not just cosmetic, however, and signals a move towards being a "broad energy company," rather than simply focusing on oil.


Statoil, Norway's government-owned oil company, has changed its name — and it made the announcement in a bizarre fashion.

The firm, the world's 11th largest oil and gas company, released a video on Thursday announcing that after 45 years of operations, it is changing its name to Equinor.

The video is perhaps not what you'd expect from a company with assets worth more than €100 billion.

Starting off with the scream of a woman echoing through a forest, the video then cuts to her giving birth, before shots of a little girl doing gymnastics, a classroom of children learning that "to learn is to change", and a spotty teenager looking in the mirror cross the screen.

After a minute or so, the video's narrator confirms that even big companies like Statoil change, eventually announcing the change of name right at the end of the two-minute long clip.

Here's the video in all its glory:

Explaining the meaning of the new name, the company said that "Equinor is formed by combining ‘equi’, the starting point for words like equal, equality and equilibrium, and ‘nor’, signalling a company proud of its Norwegian origin, and who wants to use this actively in its positioning."

"Equinor is a powerful expression of who we are, where we come from and what we aspire to be. We are a values-based company, and equality describes how we want to approach people and the societies where we operate," Eldar Sætre, chief executive of Statoil, or is it Equinor, said in a statement.

"The Norwegian continental shelf will remain the backbone of our company, and we will use our Norwegian heritage in our positioning as we continue growing internationally within both oil, gas and renewable energy."

Equinor says that the name change is not just cosmetic, however, and signals a move towards being a "broad energy company," rather than simply focusing on oil.

SEE ALSO: The world's biggest sovereign wealth fund partnered with the Queen to buy nearly £200 million of London property last year

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$6K in Sight? Bitcoin Price On Edge of Correction

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

Bitcoin looks set to revisit November lows after dropping below $8,000, but a minor corrective rally looks to be in the offing beforehand.

Chinese Bitcoin Mining Giant Bitmain is Expanding to the United States

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

Major China-based cryptocurrency miner Bitmain is looking to carve an entry into the United States. The company is looking to expand in the port of Walla Walla, a city in Washington. The news was first published in a local publication, Union-Bulletin. Though Bitmain has not made any announcement of the expansion, the article mentions a

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The stock research business is getting battered in 2018 — and it's especially bleak for one type of firm

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

wall street trader sad

  • Equity research firms have seen revenues slashed in 2018, with some experiencing drops of as much as 60%.
  • The catalyst for the decline is sweeping European financial reform that went into effect January 3.  Although the rules originated in Europe, they're having a global impact.
  • For global banks, where research isn't a profit center, falling revenues aren't a giant concern — at least not yet.
  • For struggling specialist and domestic firms without diversified revenue streams, the decline poses a more existential threat.
  • Some boutiques have capitalized on the new environment and have outperformed top-tier banks.

Some of the top equity-research shops in the world have seen revenues decline by 10% to 30% so far in 2018 — and those are the lucky ones. 

Others are staring at declines of as much as 60%, according to figures from consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Equity research revenues were widely anticipated to decline in the wake of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), the complex and sweeping European regulatory reform that went into effect January 3. 

That's because one of its headline provisions prohibits free and bundled research, requiring asset managers to pay for it separately from commissions for executing trades — a significant departure from past procedure that has shaken up the industry.

Since most asset managers elected to absorb the cost of research rather than pass it along to their own customers, they were expected to trim their research budgets and the number of analysts they work with.

"I was dealing with 10 of you; I don't want 10 of you anymore, I only want the five best of you," Mary Erdoes, the head of JPMorgan Chase's massive asset and wealth management business, explained at an analyst conference in November.

And that's how it's been playing out thus far in 2018, according to research from Oliver Wyman, which speaks with top management at financial firms and has been following the MiFID II impacts closely. 

"Almost every buy-side client has come out as absorbing the research cost, placing further downward pressure on prices,” said Michael Turner, a partner at Oliver Wyman.

Turner explained that the leading banks have seen research revenues drop 10% to 30% compared with last year. The upside is that they haven't been losing many clients. 

For global research banks firmly outside the top five, the year has been more of a struggle.

“Tier-2 banks have seen much worse declines, with some up to 60% down in research revenues,” Turner said.

It's a much more mixed bag for specialist and regionally focused firms. Some boutiques have actually outperformed the tier-1 global banks, while others that lack a distinct offering are getting battered as bad or worse than the tier-2 banks. 

“We’ve seen a wide divergence in specialists and domestics. Some who have a particular content edge have actually outperformed the big banks, with slight revenue gains, while those without a niche have been really hurt,” Turner said.

Overall, Oliver Wyman expects global equity research revenues to decline 30% to 40%, or $2 billion, by 2019. Trading execution revenues have remained surprisingly resilient. 

It's not a crisis for everybody

It's important to put these figures into context. There are roughly $60 billion in equities-related revenues worldwide, according to Oliver Wyman and others, and equity research only accounts for about $5 billion of that pool. 

It's not chump change, but for global banks, declines in research revenues don't pose dire consequences, given the size of the banks and their breadth of activities.

"It's bad, but it's not an existential crisis,” Turner said. "We expect few capacity withdrawals, especially at the global banks, given the importance of research for other areas of the firm."

Research itself isn't a major profit center, but it plays a role in myriad other business lines at bulge-bracket banks, especially trading execution, equity derivatives, and prime brokerage (servicing hedge funds). It also impacts investment banking, including equity capital markets. 

Erick Davis, CEO of research firm Autonomous Research, a boutique that specializes in financial firms, says the revenue pool that research indirectly contributes to could exceed $100 billion, if you combine global equities with capital markets.

For the big banks, remaining connected to the customers who fund that larger revenue pool is more critical than taking small losses from the shrinking $5 billion equity research pool.

"It's disadvantageous to screw up customer relationships around research," said Davis, though he questioned the sustainability of treating research as a loss leader and expected that some banks will eventually have "tough decisions that need to be made."

For firms that specialize in research, however, such a decline is far more critical. 

"Specialists who have seen revenues drop by more than 40% will be in a real tough place at the end of the year," Turner said. 

"They just pulled a rug out from underneath everyone else"

Davis' firm is among the cadre of specialists that have outperformed in 2018. Autonomous has retained most of its clients and is optimistic about its revenue opportunity going forward, hiring one new senior analyst and their associate away from a global bank this year, Davis said.

Why have some specialists faired so well? Part of that has to do with how investors and asset managers have cut and reprioritized their research budgets in the post-MiFID II world. 

What Erdoes described in November has largely aligned with what Davis has heard from large clients: They're looking for just five or six global research firms. That "opens up a lot more wallet to specialists," said Davis, who observed that buy-side firms have embraced a more intense relationship with research shops that provide niche, premium products, as Autonomous does.

The types of firms left out in that picture: the tier-2 global banks and the regional or specialist firms that don't offer a premium product — the companies that Oliver Wyman say have been worst hit thus far in 2018.

The global banks suffering this year can thank JPMorgan, in part, for their pain. Last year, when banks were figuring out how to price research separately in preparation for MiFID II, the bank reportedly undercut the competition and came out with an entry-level price option of $10,000 — four times less than what some rivals were considering. 

"It was massively disruptive to firms that cover all sectors," Davis said, adding that it was probably a brilliant strategy by JPMorgan, which has a strong research offering. "They just pulled a rug out from underneath everyone else that had come out with a pricing point for global sectors."

Despite the ugly numbers to start the year, it's still early on and there hasn't been a scramble to cut analyst jobs.

One top equities headhunter told us they weren't "seeing any analysts going out to the market," but that the story could change by the third quarter.

Even then, talented analysts aren't likely to find themselves out of work.

Given the desire of asset managers like Erdoes to only work with the "five best," it's essential for competitive research shops to staff the best analysts.

The head of one global bank's research department, who told Business Insider in November that there was "a resurgence in competition for the best talent" ahead of MiFID II, said he is "still seeing escalated levels of competition for world class talent."

Mediocrity is what will get left behind.

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2 Million Crypto Storage Wallets Have Now Been Downloaded from Bitcoin.com

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This is a sponsored story. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned in the content below. Founders of the Bitcoin.com wallet have announced this week the milestone reached of over 2 million wallets created, which has happened over a period of just 7 months. The

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One in 4 UK bankers say their job is harming their health and mental wellbeing

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

tired sleep

  • Twenty six percent of British bankers believe their job negatively impacts their health and wellbeing.
  • That's according to the third annual review from the Banking Standards Board.
  • Investment banking, long seen as the pinnacle of the banking industry, was more likely than other areas to negatively impact workers' health, the survey showed.
  • However, investment bankers "were the least likely to see pressure in their roles as excessive."

LONDON — Long hours, punishing deadlines, and very little sleep. That's the outside of view of banking for many not involved in the industry.

A new survey from the UK's Banking Standards Board released on Thursday seems to confirm that view, with 26% of bankers surveyed saying that "working in their organisation was having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing."

"In areas of firms with the lowest scores for this question, employees commonly described what they saw as inconsistent and unfair treatment within their organisation of different departments, teams or geographic areas," the report noted.

Investment banking, long seen as the pinnacle of the banking industry, but also as the most gruelling part of it, was more likely than other areas to negatively impact workers' health, the BSB said.

"People working in investment banking, were the least likely to see pressure in their roles as excessive, yet more likely to experience work having a negative impact on their wellbeing, suggesting their concept what is ‘excessive’ differs from other areas in banking."

Twenty nine percent of investment bankers reported their work having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Not only are a significant proportion of bankers negatively affected health-wise by their jobs, so too are many scared of what might happen if they speak up about their concerns, the BSB's third annual report said.

Over a quarter of the 36,000 people surveyed by the BSB said that would be "worried about negative consequences for themselves if they raised concerns," although 60% said they would not. 

"This is a mixture of fear that they will get into trouble and futility that it will serve no useful purpose," Dame Colette Bowe, the BSB's head said, according to the Financial Times.

The Banking Standards Board was set up in 2015 by Britain's seven biggest banks as a measure to improve conduct in the industry in the wake of scandals like LIBOR.

SEE ALSO: 5am starts, missing lunch and avoiding Twitter: Here’s how a $135 billion money manager spends his day

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Australia Warns of Scammers Collecting Taxes in Bitcoin

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

Australia’s official tax authority has warned the public of scammers purporting to be tax agents demanding cryptocurrencies like bitcoin for tax payments. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is alerting citizens of fraudsters impersonating the tax agency to seek payments of faux tax debts from unsuspecting victims in cryptocurrency. The scammers who purport to be ATO … Continued

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Crypto Currencies Aiming to Revolutionize Gambling Industry

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

This is a sponsored story. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned in the content below.  2017 was a memorable year for crypto world. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies seen a significant growth and wider adoption while numerous projects raised millions of dollars in capital via

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Bitcoin.com Celebrates 2 Million Wallets Created in Less Than a Year

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

This is a paid-for submitted press release. CCN does not endorse, nor is responsible for any material included below and isn’t responsible for any damages or losses connected with any products or services mentioned in the press release. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned

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CoinMetro Bring on a New World-Class Advisory Team and Partner with Industry Heavyweights Bitcoin PR Buzz

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

This is a paid-for submitted press release. CCN does not endorse, nor is responsible for any material included below and isn’t responsible for any damages or losses connected with any products or services mentioned in the press release. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned

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Cryptocurrencies continue to slump

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

bitcoin

  • Cryptocurrencies are falling on Thursday morning.
  • Bitcoin is below $8,000 at a 5-week low.
  • Investors are spooked by Google's advertising bans, as well as ongoing regulation fears.
  • The crypto market has now lost over $130 billion since the start of March.


LONDON — Cryptocurrencies are falling again on Thursday morning amid continued bearish sentiment in the market.

Bitcoin dropped below $8,000 to a five-week low and the rest of the market is following its lead. Here's the scoreboard at 7.15 a.m. GMT (3.15 a.m. ET):

You can find other live cryptocurrency prices on Markets Insider.

The slump is part of a wider sell-off in the crypto market that began at the start of the month. Investor confidence was last week been shaken by fears of regulation, big sellers liquidating holdings in the market, and rumours of another exchange hack.

The latest blow to already shaky investor sentiment is Google's decision on Wednesday to ban all cryptocurrency advertising on its platforms, which pushed cryptos into the red.

Trey Ditto, the CEO of crypto-specialist PR firm Ditto, said in an email on Wednesday evening: "Today’s decision to ban ads on Google feels like they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"We use Facebook and Google to educate potential investors and users about a range of topics and opportunities. I worry this punishes the good actors in this fast-growing space and will thus hurt the consumers and investors who are looking for information to make smart crypto investment decisions."

Chris Keshian, CEO of Apex Token Fund, took a more optimistic view, saying in a statement: "Banning is simply a 'pause' button as organisations tease out better ways to regulate an asset class that they are in the process of understanding.

"This won’t be the last ban but, in time, we expect to see some of these restrictions lifted, as more meaningful regulations come into force."

Still, the combination of all the negative factors means that the size of entire cryptocurrency market has now declined by over $130 billion since the start of March, according to market data provider CoinMarketCap.com.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin is slumping and analysts say there are 3 big reasons for the 'fear and panic'

DON'T MISS: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Jim Chanos says Elon Musk just told his 'biggest whopper' about Tesla yet

Cryptocurrencies continue to slump

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

bitcoin

  • Cryptocurrencies are falling on Thursday morning.
  • Bitcoin is below $8,000 at a 5-week low.
  • Investors are spooked by Google's advertising bans, as well as ongoing regulation fears.
  • The crypto market has now lost over $130 billion since the start of March.


LONDON — Cryptocurrencies are falling again on Thursday morning amid continued bearish sentiment in the market.

Bitcoin dropped below $8,000 to a five-week low and the rest of the market is following its lead. Here's the scoreboard at 7.15 a.m. GMT (3.15 a.m. ET):

You can find other live cryptocurrency prices on Markets Insider.

The slump is part of a wider sell-off in the crypto market that began at the start of the month. Investor confidence was last week been shaken by fears of regulation, big sellers liquidating holdings in the market, and rumours of another exchange hack.

The latest blow to already shaky investor sentiment is Google's decision on Wednesday to ban all cryptocurrency advertising on its platforms, which pushed cryptos into the red.

Trey Ditto, the CEO of crypto-specialist PR firm Ditto, said in an email on Wednesday evening: "Today’s decision to ban ads on Google feels like they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"We use Facebook and Google to educate potential investors and users about a range of topics and opportunities. I worry this punishes the good actors in this fast-growing space and will thus hurt the consumers and investors who are looking for information to make smart crypto investment decisions."

Chris Keshian, CEO of Apex Token Fund, took a more optimistic view, saying in a statement: "Banning is simply a 'pause' button as organisations tease out better ways to regulate an asset class that they are in the process of understanding.

"This won’t be the last ban but, in time, we expect to see some of these restrictions lifted, as more meaningful regulations come into force."

Still, the combination of all the negative factors means that the size of entire cryptocurrency market has now declined by over $130 billion since the start of March, according to market data provider CoinMarketCap.com.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin is slumping and analysts say there are 3 big reasons for the 'fear and panic'

DON'T MISS: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Jim Chanos says Elon Musk just told his 'biggest whopper' about Tesla yet

Cryptocurrencies continue to slump

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

bitcoin

  • Cryptocurrencies are falling on Thursday morning.
  • Bitcoin is below $8,000 at a 5-week low.
  • Investors are spooked by Google's advertising bans, as well as ongoing regulation fears.
  • The crypto market has now lost over $130 billion since the start of March.


LONDON — Cryptocurrencies are falling again on Thursday morning amid continued bearish sentiment in the market.

Bitcoin dropped below $8,000 to a five-week low and the rest of the market is following its lead. Here's the scoreboard at 7.15 a.m. GMT (3.15 a.m. ET):

You can find other live cryptocurrency prices on Markets Insider.

The slump is part of a wider sell-off in the crypto market that began at the start of the month. Investor confidence was last week been shaken by fears of regulation, big sellers liquidating holdings in the market, and rumours of another exchange hack.

The latest blow to already shaky investor sentiment is Google's decision on Wednesday to ban all cryptocurrency advertising on its platforms, which pushed cryptos into the red.

Trey Ditto, the CEO of crypto-specialist PR firm Ditto, said in an email on Wednesday evening: "Today’s decision to ban ads on Google feels like they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"We use Facebook and Google to educate potential investors and users about a range of topics and opportunities. I worry this punishes the good actors in this fast-growing space and will thus hurt the consumers and investors who are looking for information to make smart crypto investment decisions."

Chris Keshian, CEO of Apex Token Fund, took a more optimistic view, saying in a statement: "Banning is simply a 'pause' button as organisations tease out better ways to regulate an asset class that they are in the process of understanding.

"This won’t be the last ban but, in time, we expect to see some of these restrictions lifted, as more meaningful regulations come into force."

Still, the combination of all the negative factors means that the size of entire cryptocurrency market has now declined by over $130 billion since the start of March, according to market data provider CoinMarketCap.com.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin is slumping and analysts say there are 3 big reasons for the 'fear and panic'

DON'T MISS: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Jim Chanos says Elon Musk just told his 'biggest whopper' about Tesla yet

5am starts, missing lunch and avoiding Twitter: Here’s how a $135 billion money manager spends his day

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

Plane window

  • JPMorgan Asset Management's Malcolm Smith shares what an average day looks like as a $135 billion money manager.
  • Smith starts working between 5am and 6am
  • He steers of clear of social media platforms like Twitter and does his best thinking on planes.

LONDON — Work starts early when you're in charge of more than $100 billion of other people's money.

Malcolm Smith, the head of JPMorgan Asset Management's $135 billion international equity group, usually wakes at around 5:00 am, and is working almost straight away, he told Business Insider in an interview in February.

"I'm doing emails, speaking to people from five or six in the morning," he said.

"The first thing I do when I get up is check markets to see what's happened overnight, check the news flow that's incoming from people around the world. Occasionally I'll end up doing calls at the time of the morning, but will normally be in the office between 7:30 and 8:15."

Smith's day then progresses in a manner that would be recognisable for many office workers, with a whole heap of meetings. 

"There's normally a round of morning meetings for different investors, and investor groups.

"Then its straight into the day of CIO reviews, what's happening in individual portfolios, any new client work we're doing, and I'll probably see a couple of clients across the day."

Smith doesn't normally have time for lunch, but has frequent dinners with clients.

Staying up to date is crucial in the markets right now, especially given the increasing influence politics and geopolitics on market movements, and the unpredictable nature of the current news cycle.

Just look at Tuesday's shock news that President Donald Trump had sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, an event which caused the dollar to drop almost half a percent.

To keep on top of things, Smith uses a variety of tools, including the traditional media. 

"I tend to look at the standard news sources — Bloomberg, the FT, and [when prompted by a press officer] Business Insider."

Internal research from fellow JPMAM employees also plays a key role.

"We have a lot of internal research capability, so I consume a huge amount of that. We get a lot from the sell side as well — so overnight trading desks, how the US has finished up, how Asia's opening and how its trading so far that morning. I get that from both internal sources and external sources."

"We have a great infrastructure here in doing that. We have people on the ground all over the world, trading guys, people who are looking at live markets and news flows the whole time, and they're connected into Twitter, social media, live news feeds, the whole nine yards."

Smith himself, however, is not a fan of Twitter, saying he avoids using the platform for fear of having "too much" information, a problem he believes plagues many in the markets and can disrupt investment decisions.

"The problem with Twitter is that you can't read everything all the time. You end up with the classic problem of having too much information. That's a problem for our industry actually," he said.

"There's this wonderful drive to learn more and share information, but there's a limit to how many words you can read in a day. You can't read every piece of content that's been produced in that day."

Information overload is something Smith is keen to avoid, and the enormous amount of time he spends travelling helps him with that.

"One of the places I find the most productive for me is sitting on a plane. I'm sure people think I'm nuts when they sit on the plane next to me, because sometimes I'll just stare out the window," he said.

"It's quite good to be isolated and just to have time to think about things. Time on a plane to look out the window and get lost in your own thoughts is quite an important thing. Some of my best thinking ever has been done there."

"I have a pen and a notepad sitting there, and I just work through problems I'm dealing with."

SEE ALSO: A 36-year-old in charge of $135 billion shares his 'awkward' advice for making it to the top — and it involves going against your instincts

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

Bitcoin Drops Below $8K Amid Crypto Market Sell-Off

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

The price of bitcoin fell below $8,000 during early-hours trading on Thursday, its lowest total since early February.

Congressional Hearings: We Must Distinguish Digital Commodities From ICOs

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

U.S. Congress Hearing Addressed the Need to Distinguish Digital Commodities From ICOs

On March 14, 2018, the House Financial Committee held a hearing entitled “Examining the Cryptocurrencies and ICO Markets.” This was the first hearing in which members of the U.S. Congress, specifically a subcommittee on capital markets, securities and ICO markets, addressed cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Witnesses at the hearing included Dr. Chris Brummer, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center; Mike Lempres, chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase; Robert Rosenblum, a partner at the Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonseni Goodrich & Rosati; and Peter Van Valkenburgh, the director of research at Coin Center.

The hearing addressed the economic efficiencies and potential capital formation opportunities that cryptocurrencies and ICOs offer to businesses and investors. It also reviewed the current approach by the SEC, CFTC and state regulators to administer laws which adequately protect investors. Because regulatory clarity so far has been difficult for businesses and investors, members of Congress also expressed interest in how to best monitor and oversee blockchain technology as it moves into the future.

Notable points asked of and addressed by the witnesses included the need for security and investor compliance for U.S. cryptocurrency exchanges; the need (or in Rosenblum’s case, lack thereof) for regulators to distinguish the difference between cryptocurrencies that are considered digitally scarce commodities and securities tokens; the need to establish a harmonization among the “patchwork” of regulatory agencies dictating how to move forward; and the policing of cryptocurrencies, all in such a way that won’t stifle domestic innovation by forcing investors and businesses to leave the country.

Digitally Scarce Commodities and Security Tokens

Distinguishing major cryptocurrencies from the majority of ICO tokens was the biggest topic of conversation during the hearing.

Van Valkenburgh noted that digital scarcity is a fundamental difference between ICOs and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Filecoin.

“The fundamental innovation of Bitcoin is digital scarcity. That digital scarcity can then be employed by innovative people for a variety of innovative purposes. A token that is scarce and transferable from person to person can be used just like money, just as any good throughout history from gold to seashells. A scarce token can also be automatically redeemable for a digital good or computing service provided by the same network of computing participants who verify the blockchain. These are projects like Ethereum, Filecoin and Blockstack and they are beginning to compete with competitors like Amazon, Facebook and Google. A scarce token can also represent a legal agreement.”

Van Valkenburgh went on to distinguish scarce tokens already put into practice from others that are merely theoretical, supported only by blockchain software that has yet to be built. Recently, new blockchain projects have raised money by selling the promise of future tokens to willing investors in ICOs.

From a regulatory standpoint there is a fundamental distinction that must be made between scarce tokens that exist on a blockchain and are used for payment or to obtain computing services and, on the other hand, promises of future tokens representing the hopefully profitable efforts of a developer.

He went on to state that the former scarce tokens are like digital commodities while the latter (ICOs) are securities, both having distinct risks that must be addressed by investors in different ways.

Rosenblum suggested a short– and long-term approach for the SEC and other agencies to modify the regulation rules around cryptocurrencies so that the industry does not get locked into a concrete regulatory system too early. He used the combination of blockchain technology with artificial intelligence to convey why imposing regulations at this time would not be a good idea: 

It could potentially lead to new marketing, business opportunities, scientific and sociological advances. However, the opportunity to use that same technology for manipulative conduct, data breach and other nefarious conduct is really hard to predict right now.

On the subject of regulating ICOs, Brummer emphasized the need for standardized and precise promoter disclosures for investor protection. Speaking primarily about cryptocurrency white papers, essentially the business and technological plan behind each cryptocurrency, Brummer gave a list of recommended standardized disclosures:

  • Location: Brummer cited one particular study which indicated that in 32 percent of ICOs it is not possible to identify the identity or origin of the ICO issuer or promoter. Without having this information it is very difficult for investors to understand the protection rights or authorities they can contact in case of fraud. Therefore, ICO promoters or issuers should establish a clear statement of where an issuer is located.
  • Problem and proposed technology solution: The most important information for assessing the success of an ICO is understanding its proposed solution for how the technology will solve a problem: a plain-English explanation of the technology solution. More technical aspects of the white paper would be subject to the validation of a third-party technology audit. All code would be subject to a public repository such as GitHub.
  • Token proposal: An ICO’s white paper should disclose legal rights of token holders as well as how the tokens will be traded and on what platforms.

Brummer concluded by saying that white papers should also disclose the basic principles of blockchain governance and risk factors, not only for the token itself, but also for the industry as a whole.

Brummer stated that one major point of contention for government regulators on cryptocurrencies might be the fact that “because digital things tend to be more abstract and they therefore tend to be harder to understand,” there is more tension and difficulty in defining them as commodities, unlike gold which is “shiny and universally identified as something that has value.”

Huizenga, in turn, acknowledged that “governmental bureaucracies tend not to view the world through those lenses. And I think that there is a certain governmental responsibility to protect investors.”

A Patchwork of Regulatory Agencies

While distinguishing between a digitally scarce commodity and a security appeared to be the most fundamental and pressing issue, all testifying witnesses acknowledged the need for clear lines in which regulatory agencies operate and monitor the industry. This confusing and often contradictory relationship between the SEC vetting cryptocurrencies, the CFTC policing cryptocurrencies on the spot market, and state regulators has already indicated a level of disorder that could potentially stymie further development within the domestic cryptocurrency and blockchain technology industry.

Again, Van Valkenburgh reiterated that if policymakers get the distinction between digitally scarce commodity tokens and security tokens wrong, they will cede leadership of the technology development to the rest of the world.

Rosenblum suggested that, moving forward, “regulation by enforcement, in an area that is as complicated and dynamic as this, is not the appropriate way to regulate. Enforcement is clearly necessary; however, we need clearer guidelines on the SEC’s registration, market trading and how investment rules should apply and do apply, and that is something that you cannot do through regulation and enforcement.”

Security and Compliance

Congressman Hultgren expressed concern over cybersecurity standards within cryptocurrency. Addressing these concerns, Lempres stated, “Approximately 99 percent of Coinbase cryptocurrency holdings are held in cold storage.” Furthermore, 20 percent of Coinbase’s employees are dedicated to compliance. Lempres also pointed out that the blockchain’s transparent ledger allows for Coinbase to glean insight into bad activity occurring within their system. Lempres also referred to the cybersecurity standards of the state of New York’s “BitLicenses.” So far these BitLicenses have only been administered to four cryptocurrency companies — including Coinbase — and that is the strongest evidence for the security standardization, according to Lempres.

Voices For and Against

Voicing disapproval of cryptocurrency, no one was more direct than Congressman Brad Sherman. “Cryptocurrencies are popular with guys who like to sit in their pajamas and tell their wives they are going to be millionaires. They help terrorists and criminals move money around the world. Tax evaders. They help startup companies commit fraud, take money, and one percent of the time they actually create a useful business.”

Sherman went on to suggest that cryptocurrency hurts the U.S. dollar, prevents the federal government from preventing tax evasion, and takes away from investment that could otherwise be used to develop the American economy. Chairman Huizenga noted that, despite Sherman’s comments, the hearing was to focus on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and not Dodd Frank reform.

On the other hand, Rep. Tom Emmer, a member of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, suggested that the potential for innovation from blockchain technology in American society is something both Republicans and Democrats should welcome.

I tend to trust people and believe that they’re in these things for good, and that they’re trying to improve their own lives and hopefully the lives of people around them — that old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats. And yet I hear elected officials who don’t have any concept of what we’re dealing with here and how exciting it is, talking about how we got to regulate and create more government infrastructure. I respectfully disagree that that won’t act as a wet blanket on this amazing new technology. I realize there has to be some regulation, but there’s got to be balance.



This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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