Bitcoin-based Startup Zap Opens Strike for Public Beta And Plans to Release Visa Rewards Card

Jack Mallers, Zap founder, revealed on Thursday that Zap’s Strike product, which enables individuals to receive Bitcoin in US dollar form through direct bank deposits, opens up for the public beta.

Mallers, who is also a lightning network developer, announced that Zap has finally entered Visa’s Fast Track program. In an email with CoinDesk discussing the firm’s 2020 plans, Maller elaborated that joining the program will position the firm to enter the market quickly. He said:

“Visa works with members of the Fast Track program to help them go to market in the most efficient way possible, providing them support and resources every step of the way.”

Mallers also explained that his main focus for 2020 is introducing a Strike card for use by consumers using the app as well as integrating it with Visa Direct, the program which makes Venmo payments so fast. However, he did not give a date when the Strike card will be launched.

Mallers also explained that Visa will be Zap’s partner for consumer issuance offering but will not take part in merchant offering.

Visa has been very aggressive in inking deals with crypto-based firms this year. For instance, with Coinbase, as well as Fold, the shopping reward app, provides corresponding Visa cards. The cards are mostly used by cryptocurrency users who prefer to get crypto rewards as opposed to other forms of kickbacks. Also, there are crypto debit cards that enable individuals to use dollars. Currently, it is not clear the options that Zap will avail to its cardholders this year.

Although Visa confirmed the partnership deal, it declined to offer additional information by the time of publication.

While Cash App by Jack Dorsey, as well as a renowned exchange platform, Coinbase are highly referred to as the mainstream apps when it comes to selling and purchasing Bitcoin, Mallers is set to provide an app with the same capabilities but at low costs.

Currently, the Strike platform is mostly common among small businesses as well as with their customers.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Decentralized Indexing Protocol, The Graph, Raises $5M In A SAFT From Coinbase and DCG

Ethereum-based data startup, The Graph, has revealed that it has raised $5 million after its token sale.

The San Francisco firm announced on Tuesday that the new token sale, utilizing the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT) model, for various accredited investors.

Among the participants were highly reputable firms such as Coinbase Ventures, ParaFi Capital, Framework Venture, as well as Digital Currency Group. Previously, the company had acquired $2.5 million during the seed round, which was led by Multicoin Capital.

The Graph has developed an indexing platform that will help organize blockchain data for easy accessibility. Individuals can utilize The Graph’s open-source platform for searching specific Ethereum data just as is the case with Google search.

According to Yaniv Tal, The Graph CEO, there are thousands of developers who are already using the firm’s tools, which includes the team that came up with decentralized exchange (DEX) Uniswap as well as token-fueled Aragon project.

Hayden Adams, Uniswap’s co-founder, confirmed that they use The Graph’s tools for Uniswap.info – the company’s analytics site.

Speaking to the press, Framework Ventures’ Michael Anderson, one of the lead investors, stated that his firm was pleased to support Yaniv and his team. According to Anderson, his firm would help The Graph to grow further once it launches. Anderson also stated that The Graph’s reputation was at par with that of Chainlink as well as Ethereum.

At the moment, The Graph is a hosted service but, plans are underway to ensure it moves to a decentralized network before the end of the year.

The Graph was founded in 2018 and currently services thousands of applications. The firm claims that it processed approximately 50 million queries every day, and in May, it processed 750 million queries, which represented an increase of 45% compared with April.

SAFTs are designed to allow firms to sell the rights to future tokens that are only available once the network is launched. The format was developed to ensure that a startup isn’t operating an unregistered securities sale.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Industry Giants, BHP and Baosteel, Make First Iron Ore Trade for $14 Million Using Blockchain

Mining conglomerate, BHP Group has revealed that it has transacted a $14 million worth of iron ore trade through a blockchain-based platform which has been created by MineHub Technologies based in Canada.

The transaction involved BHP Group and China Baowu Steel Group, which is an offshoot of Chinese giant steelmaker China Baoshan Iron & Steel, which is mostly referred to as Baosteel.

Last month, BHP stated that it was in the process of piloting a blockchain-based iron ore trade with the Chinese conglomerate Baosteel.

In a statement shared exclusively with Bitcoin Exchange Guide, during the transaction process, BHP utilized the blockchain platform to process the contract terms virtually, exchange the documents as well as offer real-time cargo visibility.

The piloting of the blockchain-enabled trading by BHP is part of the firm’s plan to digitize its documentation procedures for its commodities trading fully. According to Michiel Hovers, who is BHP’s sales and marketing executive, the mining industry requires a paradigm shift when it comes to documentation. He said:

“The bulk commodity industry needs a digital revolution to reduce physical documentation processes.”

Baowu Steel, which is state-owned, has previously invested in blockchain technology in efforts to digitize its trade. Last month, the firm conducted what it said was the inaugural blockchain-enabled yuan-denominated foreign letter of credit (LC) with another mining giant called Rio Tinto. The firm used the Contour platform that has been developed on Corda technology R3, which is an enterprise-focused blockchain solutions firm.

BHP’s journey in the blockchain space can be traced back to 2017 after Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum founder announced that the mining giant was developing a blockchain-based application that will help in tracking natural resources.

In February last year, the mining leader in partnership with a Japanese based shipping firm NYK successfully tested blockchain tech.

The Canadian-based MineHub Technology explained that the BHP testing was just one of the many in the pipeline, which will involve its blockchain platform. The firm also stated that the testing comes at an opportune time when various crooked characters are taking advantage of the supply chain uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

BIS Annual Report Reveals Increased Activity in CBDC; Emphasis on Policy Not Competition

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Annual Economic report has revealed that Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) are gaining popularity and could play an essential role in the digital innovation era.

Covered in a particular chapter ‘Central banks and payments in the digital era,’ the report paints a picture of the ongoing activity in this space. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic and Libra proposal are some of the factors that significantly accelerated research and development on CBDC’s.

The Switzerland headquartered organization has since encouraged central banks to consider CBDC’s noting the underlying opportunity in digital policy creation:

“One option at the frontier of policy opportunities is the issuance of CBDCs, which could amount to a sea change.”

The Push Factors

According to the BIS report, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards digital ecosystems, not sparing payment networks. The report highlights that there has been a sharp decline in cash transactions leading to a surge in e-commerce services.

Consequently, financial watchdogs are also embracing the new ‘normal’ hence the efforts towards CBDC’s in recent months.

As the U.S issued stimulus checks at the height of the pandemic, the vulnerabilities of its payment ecosystem were highly exposed. The BIS report points out that social inequalities attributed to payment ecosystems can, therefore, be solved with CBDC frameworks:

“The crisis has amplified calls for greater access to digital payments by vulnerable groups and for more inclusive, lower-cost payment services going forward.”

Another factor was Libra’s announcement back in 2019; the Facebook-led project sounded a warning for regulators globally as per the report. Before this, most had taken a laid-back approach with minimal activity in research. However, the Libra proposal has awakened a CBDC frenzy within a year.

Focus is on Policy, Not Competition

While private stablecoin proposals may have spurred the move towards CBDC’s, the organization said that regulators are focused on the policy as opposed to competition.

“CBDC issuance is not so much a reaction to cryptocurrencies and private sector ‘stablecoin’ proposals, but rather a focused technological effort by central banks to pursue several public policy objectives at once.”

At the moment, China is the most advanced jurisdiction in a CBDC integration. The Asian superpower rolled out a pilot for the digital yuan as soon as it emerged from the COVID lockdown. The PBoC backed digital currency is expected to equip China’s watchdogs with access to digital payment ecosystems.

With most of the population already using Alipay and WeChat, a migration towards digital monetary policy might not be complicated. Other nations that have signaled they will embrace a CBDC include Italy and France, which are both ready for a digital Euro.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

WEF’s ‘Blockchain Bill of Rights’ Gets Support From Governments and DLT Firms

The World Economic Forum has finally revealed Presidio Principles called the ‘Blockchain Bill of Rights’ on Friday after teasing about it for quite some time.

These new principles, which would focus on forming international partnerships and fostering diplomacy across countries for creating Digital Economy 2.0.

The document found support from 15 signatories until now, which involves the government of Colombia, blockchain firms like ConsenSys, CoinShares, Electric Coin Company, along with the United Nations’ World Food Program.

The Presidio Principles described 16 essential rights of users for blockchain networks and applications. Some of the key principles of the Blockchain bill of rights include:

  • User’s right to manage consent of data stored with third-party service providers.
  • Porting of data between interoperable networks
  • Revoke consent for data collection at any given time in future.

Victor Munoz, the advisor to the President of Columbia on the matters of economy and digital transformation revealed the reason behind their support for the Presidio Principles and said:

“We supported the creation of the Presidio Principles – as well as guidelines and design principles for public institutions – because we wanted to ensure that progress can continue rapidly and responsibly, ensuring that basic characteristics like security and data privacy are secured for our citizens,”

Apart from the few mentioned signatories, many blockchain and crypto firms are advocating for others to join WEF’s open dialogue, one of them being Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin. Lubin believes this would show the users in the community their commitment to standing for the rights of the users in the decentralized space.

The global blockchain council has been involved in the development of the framework behind the Presidio Principle since last year when it first convened in 2019. The first draft of the Blockchain Bill of Rights was made public on April 10th on Github and was open for public comments and it was available for comments until May 5.

The final version of the bill was released on May 23rd. The next step to ensure its correct implementation would be to issue different guidelines for different industries and how it can be incorporated in their current ecosystem.

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Author: James W

Bitcoin’s Transaction Volume on the Darknet Grows by 65% in Q1, 2020

Recent analysis conducted by Crystal Blockchain – the analytics unit of Bitfury – has revealed that the use of Bitcoin and other altcoins on the darknet is on the rise.

These same stats also show that the use of mixers to conceal BTC transactions has grown from 1% to 20% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter last year.

This market research dubbed ‘Darknet Use and Bitcoin’ highlights some key segments in which users transfer or receive digital assets via the darknet.

Notably, the value of BTC transacted between darknet entities grew by 65% despite a plunge in the number of Bitcoins transferred. As per the report, there was a 22% and 26% drop in the number of Bitcoins sent and received through darknet channels.

Source; Crystal Blockchain

The BTC Darknet Market Outlook

Bitcoin launched about a decade ago and has been gaining popularity over the years. It is noteworthy that the darknet is among the major adoption drivers of this market.

However, recent developments in regulation by entities like the FATF aim at changing some dynamics of the darknet’s BTC operations. Most notably, more players have opted to use mixers in a bid to conceal their identities.

This has shift has caused a drop in the use of exchanges with strict KYC requirements. Stats by Crystal Blockchain show that the BTC market share of such ecosystems decreased to 13% compared to 24% back in Q1, 2019. The report reads:

“While more exchanges implement the FATF requirements, darknet users are trying to avoid the risk of unveiling of their activity by those exchanges. To veil darknet activities, they started to prefer mixing services to exchanges for withdrawal of cryptocurrency.”

Based on this market shift, there was a total of 7,496 BTC transferred through mixers compared to 790 Bitcoins last year. This translated to a surge in USD value from $3 million to $67 million in Q1, 2020.

Though BTC remains dominant, the report noted that other altcoins are now competing for the darknet market share.

Private coins like Monero have actually found themselves in trouble with authorities for facilitating illegal activities via its private coin. Crystal blockchain is, however, optimistic that darknet crypto usage will be reduced with advanced tech and regulations.

“What is reassuring, however, is that these activities are easy to monitor and identify with analytical tools like Crystal. As a result, the impact of the strong regulations enacted by the FATF and the European Union to fight these illicit activities is already apparent.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Major Silicon Chip Maker for BTC Mining Machines, TSMC, to Build $12B Plant in Arizona

A Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) one of the largest semiconductor chip manufacturer revealed plans to open another manufacturing plant in the US state of Arizona, worth $12 billion dollars under its global expansion plans, reported South China Morning Post.

The move is being seen as a victory for the Trump administration who has been emphasizing on bringing in hi-tech manufacturing firms within the states which in turn would offer more direct and indirect jobs as well. The chip manufacturer struck a deal with the administration to ensure all sensitive components would be manufactured locally.

The move by TSMC could have a lasting impact on the technology ecosystem in the US since the chip manufacturer boasts of a client list that includes Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Huawei Technologies and Advanced Micro Devices. The shift would also mean that these technology firms would not have to rely on China for the manufacturing of these chips. The company has weighed in cost as well as global supply chain before making a decision on opening their second manufacturing plant in the US. The company also released a statement saying,

“TSMC welcomes continued strong partnership with the US administration and the State of Arizona on this project. This project will require significant capital and technology investments from TSMC. The strong investment climate in the United States and its talented workforce make this and future investments in the US attractive to TSMC.”

The Construction of the Manufacturing Plant is Expected to Complete By 2024

TSMC also revealed that the construction of the manufacturing plant would begin in 2021 while the production of chips is scheduled to start by 2024. The firm is expecting to churn out 20,000 wafers in a month and is expected to generate 1,600 jobs.

While the federal government is ready to push the project in hopes of creating more jobs within the country and lessen their dependence on China. However, a similar initiative by the government in the form of Foxconn has so far not yielded the expected results.

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Author: Rebecca Asseh

Decentralized Blockchain Platform Celo Wraps Up $10M cGLD Auction on CoinList

cLabs, a Silicon Valley-based blockchain startup, has revealed that it has raised approximately $10 million through auctioning off the Celo Gold (cGLD) tokens which were availed to investors within the CoinList platform.

According to a press statement shared with Bitcoin Exchange Guide, about 509 investors drawn from different parts of the world were involved in the auction process, and on average paying $1 for every Celo Gold (cGLD) token. The press release also indicated that the majority of the investors are from Germany as well as the United Kingdom. The startup also confirmed that on average, a buyer spent about $519 for the cGLD token and in most instances earned about 50 tokens in bonus for referrals. The auction came to an end on Tuesday morning after running for approximately 12 hours.

The current sale of the cGLD tokens will help the startup to add to its $30 million raised in venture capital funding by companies such as Polychain as well as Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). Apart from being a major funder of the project, Polychain is currently one of the 77 entities which are running Celo validator nodes.

Whereas it is not clear when the launch date will be, the CoinList investors are expecting to get their tokens before the end of the year.

[Also Read: Celo Adds 20+ New Members to the Alliance for Prosperity]

According to Andy Bromberg, CoinList co-founder, the cGLD token sale was the second time the platform has conducted a successful token sale this year and follows the successful sale of Solana tokens which raised 1.76 million. Bromberg also stated that CoinList buyers will be able to get the cGLD tokens direct into their CoinList wallets after the Celo mainnet finally goes live. Additionally, the investors can also opt to transfer their tokens to external wallets that they own to Custodians like Anchorage and Coinbase.

CoinList stated that it is focused on assisting prospective crypto projects to succeed and it was a pleasure to partner with the Celo project. Currently, Celo enjoys the support of more than 700 backers.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

NYDIG Sold $140M in A Previously Unknown Bitcoin Fund Last Week, Just Ahead of BTC Halving

New York Digital Investment Group (NYDIG) revealed this week that it sold just shy of $140 million in a bitcoin fund, that was previously unknown.

It became public after the fund was revealed in a Form D filing for an exemption to the US SEC on Tuesday, reported Forbes.

Formerly named NYDIG Bitcoin Yield Enhancement Fund LP, this pooled investment fund started selling on May 5 with a number of investors contributing to the capital raise.

Back in November 2018, NYDIG’s subsidiary, NYDIG Execution received BitLicense allowing it to legally operate a crypto-related business — be a crypto custodian for five cryptos viz. Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Litecoin (LTC), and to conduct money transmissions.

Interestingly, BitLicense was created by Ben Lawsky who had ties with Stone Ridge Asset Management, an advisor to NYDIG’s Bitcoin Strategy Fund. Lawsky also sits on the Board of Directors of Ripple, San Francisco-based fintech company.

In December, Bitcoin Strategy Fund received a green light from the SEC to offer the shares of its new bitcoin fund to institutional investors. This was a portfolio fund in the Stone Ridge Trust VI for cash-settled futures contracts.

Lawsky, the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” as he has been referred too after he issued close to $6 billion in fines to institutions while he was New York State’s Superintendent of Financial Services from May 2011 to June 2015.

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Author: AnTy

Hedge Fund Manager Paul Tudor Jones Has Almost 2% Of His Assets In Bitcoin

Just last week, macro investor Paul Tudor Jones revealed that he is buying bitcoin through CME bitcoin futures contracts and sees it as a hedge against inflation.

Now, in today’s interview with CNBC, the long time hedge fund manager shared that he has almost two percent of his assets in Bitcoin.

Economist and trader Alex Kruger deduced this almost 2% allocation to about $430 million based on Tudor BVI fund’s asset under management at $21.6 billion as of March 30.

If he allocated his personal assets, it would amount to under $100 million.

This “seems like the right number right now,” said Jones adding “it’s not for me, it’s not the greatest, it’s not the great cure for all the materials, it’s great speculation that’s what I would say Bitcoin is.”

Cash is a “wasting asset in your hands”

During his interview, he talked about why despite being a skeptic of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for a long time, he changed his mind about digital assets.

What changed was COVID and the great monetary inflation. This made him think about “how you want to be positioned in your portfolio going forward. So, that’s really what trips my interest in Bitcoin,” said Jones.

Comparing Bitcoin to cash, he explained when it comes to stores of value, it’s about four things — purchasing power, trustworthiness, liquidity, and portability. He said,

“When it comes to trustworthiness, bitcoin is 11 years old and there’s very little trust in it. But We’re watching the birth of a store of value.

Whether that succeeds or not only time will tell. What I do know is that every day that goes by and bitcoin survives, the trust in it will go up.”

However, when it comes to cash, from a purchasing power standpoint,

“if you own cash in the world today you know your central bank has an avowed goal of depreciating its value, 2% per year. So, you have in essence a wasting asset in your hands.”

Bitcoin has yet to stand the test of time like gold

The world is going virtual right now, especially after the lockdown put in place all over the globe because of coronavirus. And this digitization of the world benefits bitcoin, he said.

The increasingly digitized world means Bitcoin will be that much more accessible by the universe of people that could own it as a store of value.

He explained how every single bull market has one common thread — an ever-expanding universe of people who own it.

In bitcoin’s case, there’s probably between 55 and 70 million people in Bitcoin. If you’re buying Bitcoin your bet is that number is going to go to 120 million or to 200 million.

It’s kind of hard in a world that’s becoming increasingly digitized not to think that’s happening although evidence at this point doesn’t agree to it. Jones said,

“But when I think of Bitcoin I look at it is one tiny part of a portfolio. It may end up being the best performing of all of them.”

But he’s conservative in allocation because “it has not stood the test of time, for instance, the way the gold has, which has been a store value for twenty-five hundred years.”

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Author: AnTy