Visa’s Fast Track Program On Boards New Bitcoin Lightning Payment Startup, LastBit

The Visa fast track program has onboarded a new Bitcoin Lightning crypto payment startup, LastBit, which recently launched its beta app. This addition comes barely a month since Strike also joined the Visa initiative to scale crypto adoption through Lightning BTC payment solutions.

Lastbit will enable merchants to accept BTC payments regardless of their preference since the underlying tech converts such transactions to fiat upon settlement. Currently, this BTC lightning-based innovation only allows merchants to receive their payments in U.S dollars. However, they are set to release an app that is Euro compatible in a few weeks, according to the company’s founder, Prashanth Balasubramanian.

LastBit’s BTC Lightning for Micropayments

Despite the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, mainstream adoption is still one of the most significant uncertain factors. Well, BTC lightning solutions, which came up as a result of network congestion, seem to be finding a niche in micropayment fiat-crypto on-ramps, given the convenience in rates and transaction time.

LastBit’s lighting payment, for instance, allows users to load BTC on their applications, after which they can access a digital debit card. With this card, they can then initiate BTC payments, which are received by vendors in dollars and soon Euros.  Balasubramanian has since noted that their goal is to facilitate the mass adoption of Bitcoin as a standard means of payment,

“We simply want to see the masses using bitcoin on a day-to-day basis. To do this, we have engineered arguably the most seamless interoperability between bitcoin and fiat, on top of the Lightning Network, that caters to the needs of both new and experienced users alike,”

Prospect Markets!

As the world continues to move towards digital ecosystems, crypto startups like Stripe and LastBit are looking to capitalize on the growing opportunities in various markets. On this front, LastBit is set to expand into Europe following approval from the EU. Balasubramanian confirmed this prospectus move with Coindesk, highlighting that;

“With a solid product, partnerships and notable investors […] behind us, we’re going to roll out our Bitcoin, Lightning, and EUR interoperable payments layer in the EU to prove that this works and that a small company without millions can pull off a complex payments product to push for Bitcoin adoption,”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Bitcoin Locked on Ethereum Explodes Higher while Lightning Network Value Unmoved

The number of Bitcoin locked on Ethereum continues to grow at a fast pace.

A total of 18,221 BTC are now locked in WBTC, which has its market cap reaching a new all-time high as well, in the north of $200 million.

An ERC20 token, Wrapped Bitcoin brings the value and liquidity of Bitcoin to the DeFi world. Here, one WBTC equals one BTC.

Being an Ethereum-based token, it is integrated into Ethereum smart contracts, wallets, and dapps. Also, the transfer of WBTC is faster than the usual bitcoin.

Launched in January 2019 as a collaborative project by Dharma, Compound, Kyber, Maker, Set Protocol, Ren, and BitGo, it is an attempt to bring more liquidity into the Ethereum network as the overall value of Bitcoin is much larger than Ether.

WBTC is used to borrow and lend on platforms like Compound or even for margin trading on the likes of Fulcrum dapp.

The growth of WBTC has eclipsed the layer two solutions on bitcoin, Lightning Network that makes payments on bitcoin faster and cheaper, whose network capacity is stuck under 1,000 BTC.

This growth happened just in the past three months when the market cap of both the Lightning Network and WBTC was at the same level only for the latter to grow by more than 1,600% during this time.

Recently, Blockstream released its major version of c-lightning, its implementation of the Lightning Network, dubbed “Rat Poison Squared on Steroids.”

This release comes with Multi-part payments (MPP) to improve LN’s user experience, making it easier to support fraud-fighting component Watchtower, and laid the groundwork for a tool that tracks “all” the coin movements of a user for tax purposes.

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Author: AnTy

Corda’s Blockchain Is Helping 85% of Italian Banks Cut Interbank Reconciliation to 24 Hours

Banks in Italy are fast moving to integrate R3 Corda blockchain for standard reconciliation processes amongst themselves. Currently, close to 85% of Italian banks have integrated with Corda’s underlying infrastructure as part of the initiative to improve interbank reconciliation in the country. This move has seen the average double-checking time reduce from 30-50 days to just 24 hours, quite a milestone in time efficiency, not to mention other fundamentals such as trusted sharing and verification of the same on a blockchain.

Notably, Italy’s interbank reconciliation agreement came into effect back in 1978 to provide guidelines for transfers amongst local banks. It has been pretty much the same for around four decades until in 2019, when a data standardization clause was added with an integration window set between March and October this year.

Following this change, the Italian Banking Association Head of Innovation, Silvia Attanasio, noted that an improvement in the underlying infrastructure was inevitable, hence the shift to decentralized tech.

“The benefit is related to the new standardization more than the technology itself, It’s like the rhythm you set on your metronome that sets a [faster] timeline.”

It is quite noteworthy that the Corda based network has been designed by NTT Data and is run by SIA, a bank tech company. With 55 members so far, this project’s stakeholders are optimistic that the number will grow to above 80 as it prepares for a final phase in October.

The Value Proposition in Decentralization

Bitcoin’s inception brought forth the concept of decentralization, an idea that has proven to be even more valuable in other ecosystems compared to payment networks. That said, experts in various industries, especially financial services, have taken the forefront in experimenting with the value proposition of blockchain tech. In Italy, for example, the banks had initially considered a centralized database, but it didn’t sail through since stakeholders wanted to ledgers at the very core.

Other than a fast and trustworthy clearance avenue, blockchain tech reduces risk exposure according to Silvia’s sentiments. This is because only banks are integrated into the Corda blockchain hence shielding clients from shortcomings that might have otherwise affected them directly,

“If we failed in this process, the worst thing that could happen was to have a problem in the information exchange between banks …. Clients are not affected, the companies are not affected. It was a natural sandbox.”

While the Corda project is still in its early stages, some Italian banks have already begun experimenting with KYC data integration such that they can seamlessly share information. Italy has also signaled an interest in participating in the pilot phase of the digital Euro.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Former UFC Fighter, Eddie Alvarez, Finally Buys Bitcoin: “You Got Me!” to BTC Bull Ben Askren

  • The Bitcoin adoption virus is spreading wide and fast as yet another celebrity becomes an owner of the largest cryptocurrency.

Former Ultimate Fighting Competition (UFC) lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez, admitted to owning Bitcoin after constant pressure from compatriot UFC fighter, Ben Askren. Alvarez said in a tweet published on May 8, 2019, that he “could not sit on the sidelines any longer” as BTC briefly touched the $10,000 mark on Friday.

The former UFC fighter claims Ben Askren, former MMA champion, and a big supporter of cryptocurrencies got to him after continuously speaking to him about it. He tweeted,

However, Alvarez claims he still does not understand the hype and functionalities of BTC yet given the intricacies it contains.

“I still have no clue what it’s all about but I’m in … you might have to coach me they this.”

Ben Askren, sponsored by Litecoin (LTC) Foundation, is a big fan of Bitcoin, having recently changed his Twitter handle name to “Bitcoin halving 2 days away” in honor of the upcoming halving in about 50 hours.

With the price of Bitcoin targeting a breach of $10,000 ahead of its halving the recent celebrity additions and institutional investors coming into play, global addition only seems more likely.

UFC world affinity to Crypto

The UFC world has been one of the biggest sporting activities to show support for cryptocurrencies in the past few years. Just a day ago, UFC announced their partnership with the social token, Chilliz (CHZ) to develop a fan token, offer fan tickets and experiences in a bid to connect the fans to the MMA fighters using their Socio app.

In February, DapperLabs, an Ethereum based project created UFC fighter collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain. Litecoin Foundation also partnered with the UFC to advertise the cryptocurrency during UFC 232: JONES VS GUSTAFSON 2”.

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Author: Lujan Odera

European Space Agency to Use Blockchain-Powered Satellite Data For Mining Transparency

Blockchain tech is fast on the track of providing solutions from space despite a skeptical approach towards its major use as per now ‘cryptocurrencies’. The European Space Agency (ESA) has committed to fund a blockchain project that aims to cut costs in the mining chain processes through satellite data.

Hypervine, a Scottish startup headquartered in Glasgow, is the entity behind this idea of space data and blockchain integration. The firm set out to smoothen information storage for quality improvement in mining environments. Today, Hypervine is part of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA) and has previously collaborated with Tontine incubator and Napier University in Edinburg.

Hypervine’s Blockchain Solution in Mining

Just like other industries, Mining has to adopt given the inevitable nature of change especially with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). It is this niche that has seen Hypervine establish an operation suited to pace up the multi-trillion industry.

One reason for settling in the use of blockchain tech is its immutable nature. The proposed Hypervine model will allow true records to prevail in perpetuity hence very fine details that initially resulted to miscalculations can be audited for decision making. Fatal accidents that are common in quarries can be averted with the satellite stored data accessible via blockchain.

Furthermore, mining firms which opt to leverage this tech in the future stand a chance of reducing their data management costs while increasing efficiency in strategic decisions. This is mainly because a coordinated database provides comprehensive and timely information to act on compared to gathering from different sources. According to ESA’s technical officer, Beatrice Baressi, funds are flowing into the mining industry for new tech;

“The use of satellite-based data for mining work is already a sector experiencing huge investment and funding across private and nationalised space programs.”

The Environmental Prospect

ESA supported its funding towards Hypervine noting that their innovation would greatly improve the environment. Beatrice added that blockchain can be an indirect driver to reducing carbon emissions which ultimately is good for earth;

“It is a core goal of ours to make industries such as quarrying safer, cleaner and more accountable. Working with companies such as Hypervine allows us to achieve these goals whilst improving the standards across multiple industries.”

Hypervine is not the first blockchain project ESA is funding, the European intergovernmental organization allocated $66,000 to SpaceChain back in 2019. This is a blockchain start-up developing a multi sig satellite-based wallet.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Are Institutional Investors Still Interested In Cryptocurrencies: 2019 Report

Over the course of the year, institutional investment has increased at a fast pace following the rapid development in the industry and exponential growth in Bitcoin over the last 12 months. CEO of digital asset manager Vision Hill Group, Scott Army, released the ten most important things that institutional investors should be looking for come 2020. How big can the blockchain and cryptocurrency market grow?

Here are some key concepts derived from the report, “An Institutional Take on the 2019/2020 Digital Asset Market.”

Bitcoin remains the supreme cryptocurrency

During the bear run in 2018, During the 2018 Bear run, BTC price dropped far less than the 90%+ of the top altcoins and has shown no signs of slowing in its dominance as 2019 saw the coin shoot up over 100% as altcoins remained relatively flat. The dominance by Bitcoin shows a clear disparity in the market – There’s bitcoin, and then there’s everything else.

Furthermore, the coin acts as the market beta, at least for now, given its huge market dominance – currently at 68.4%, as at the time of writing. The op-ed reads,

“Bitcoin’s size and its institutionalization has enabled it to be an attractive first step for allocators looking to get exposure (both long and short) to the digital asset market, suggesting that bitcoin is perhaps positioned to be digital asset market beta, for now.”

Institutional investment interest is on a gradual rise

The conversion numbers remained low during 2019 given the sustained bearish momentum through the previous year. Despite this, the field has witnessed a massive growth in institutional investor interest as educational progress took massive steps.

Big institutional funds, hedge funds, banking, and fund managers are taking a keen interest in the field with the processes for forming a digital asset strategy that is either getting started or already in motion in these firms.

Simplicity wins the day

It is getting clearer that active management in the space is dying a slow death with crypto fund managers opting to have singe asset index funds or exclusively trade in Bitcoin.

“Since the start of 2019, active managers were collectively up 30 percent on an absolute return basis according to our [Vision Hill] tracking of approximately 50 institutional-quality funds, compared to bitcoin being up 122 percent over the same time period.”

The slow process in approval of the Bitcoin ETF is yet another key moment through 2019 in institutional investing. Due to this, funds have resulted in privatized single asset vehicles such as Galaxy Digital’s, Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and other institutional investment products such as Bakkt futures and Fidelity’s latest London branch to serve European investors.

DeFi economies stamped authority in 2019

Smart contract powered collateral economies, one of the many cases DeFi, have seen a spike in interest as the world starts to embrace finance in a way, traditional finance cannot compete with. A platform such as Maker (MKR) allows users to earn value from their tokens by either lending or borrowing, giving the token a form of economic utility. The benefit of digital collateral is that it can be liquid and economically productive while at the same time serving its primary purpose.

However, the increasing value in DeFi and the economies built on smart contracts is not being reflected on the value of Ethereum, the platform hosting the ecosystem. Since the start of the year, ETH is trading over 30% lower despite hosting a multitude of Dapps and users.

Product market fit finally taking shape

With such a huge interest in the field, the development of fitting products to the market is only just a matter of time. The huge investments already poured into the field with Big Tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook announcing their Bluesky and Libra projects respectively signaling an opening market for blockchain.

“We are at the tip of the iceberg as it relates to the products and applications blockchain technology enables, and mainstream users will come with growing manifestations of product-market fit. As more time and attention gets spent on diagnosing problems and working on solutions, the industry will begin to achieve its full potential.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Portag3 Ventures Raises $320 Million In Latest Fund Round To Invest In FinTech Startups

The FinTech arena in Canada has been fast expanding as Venture Capitalists pump more funds into the space. Portag3 Ventures is the latest VC firm to raise a significant funding directed towards FinTech projects; the Canadian based company recently managed to secure $320 million.

According to reports by TechCrunch, Portag3 Ventures received the funds from both strategic investors and institutions. The $320 million will be used to support FinTech startups with promising products as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) takes shape. Portag3 Ventures plans to capitalize its acquired funds on FinTech potential markets like Asia-Pacific, Europe, United States and Canada.

Despite the young nature of FinTech, a number of big global players in the financial sector participated in Portag3’s Ventures 2nd funding round. Notably were Credit Union Aviva France and Alterna Saving; others include Green Shield Canada, Eldridge Industries and CNP Assurances.

Adam Felesky, the CEO of Portag3 Ventures, noted that the firm also plans to use its platform to build global champions from Canada. He emphasized that the U.S market would accommodate Canada’s skill supply once they make more success stories. The CEO further added that existing FinTech stakeholders in Canada would be better off learning from Europe’s already successful startups.

Bitcoin Launches on Canada’s 3iQ Stock Exchange

Last month, 3iQ which is a stock exchange based in Canada announced that its Bitcoin Fund will roll out in December or at the beginning of 2020. The firm had earlier on filed with the Ontario Securities Commission for its prospectus approval; once cleared the BTC fund will trade in the Toronto Stock Exchange. Fred Pye, 3IQ’s CEO, confirmed that they intend to onboard large Canadian banks that are willing to be part of the FinTech revolution.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Unilever Executive Vice President: Blockchain Use Saved 2-3% of Ad Costs

Fast moving consumer goods giant, Unilever’s new blockchain based pilot ad buying platform has been a resounding success according to the executive vice president for global media, Luis Di Como.

Speaking to media news outlet, Campaign, Luis confirmed the blockchain saved the company about 2-3% of their ad costs through reconciliation. The platform also recorded zero leakages in the media budget spent and ensured every contractual agreement was fulfilled by the publishers.

“This is not going for the latest shiny tool,” Di Como said. “We are going through our rules and our principles to built trust again and having full transparency across all of our operations.”

More than Cutting Costs

Despite the huge steps taken in cutting costs, Di Como insists the platform will offer Unilever more than just a cheaper ad costs. Built on a blockchain, the platform offers a decentralized ledger whereby data is recorded permanently and is easily accessible. Di Como further commented,

“It’s about finding better ways of doing things and releasing capacity to invest more in strategy, communications and media investment.”

The project was created in 2018 following a partnership with IBM iX and MediaOcean, the ad software and computing company. The three companies have formed a consortium to enhance the development of blockchain solutions for the overall digital advertising industry.

IBM partnered with MediaOcean in mid-2018 to build a blockchain solution to increase the transparency in digital advertising. The platform allows users to easily track their ads and offer solutions to challenges in the ad industry.

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Author: Lujan Odera