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Pangea Blockchain Fund announced the close of its seed round and debuted its inaugural International fund focused on transformative blockchain solutions. The firm recently closed a $22,000,000 fund and expects fundraising to cap at $200,000,000.

The firm’s debut fund attracted a distinguished group of investors including Bitcoin.com owner Roger Ver.

Blockchain Investment Advisory Sagl co-founder James Duplessie said:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to change the nature of the systems that lie beneath the things we do every day and could be the greatest driver of value creation in our lifetime, …. Our team’s investment thesis is based on the profoundly important reality that blockchain will fundamentally alter the way society collaborates, transacts, governs and brings new concepts to life. We have chosen the name ‘Pangea’ for our business- because it means ‘whole earth’ – highlighting our intention to use blockchain as a means to provide unifying and transformative change to the world.”

Unlike most blockchain fund, Pangea Blockchain Fund solely focuses on commercial and industrial applications for the underlying blockchain technology, with no plans to invest in directional cryptocurrency.

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Global messaging technology company SWIFT, has revealed its plans to integrate with enterprise blockchain software firm R3. This plan includes launching a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) of a gateway that will allow R3 to link to Global Payments Innovation payments from their platform.

While speaking at the Paris Fintech Forum, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt said that they would be announcing the integration later today.

Leibbrant was speaking in a panel with the CEO of Ripple Brad Garlinghouse, which is a rival company. During this panel Leibbrant said:

“Our new gpi platform is extremely interoperable and open, and we’ve always had links to other networks […] we are announcing later today a Proof-of-Concept with R3 blockchain on trade, where you can initiate a payment on the trade platform, and then it goes into gpi. So we’re exploring interconnectivity with a lot of things.”

According to the official statement, “gpi Link will seamlessly connect gpi members to multiple trade platforms thereby enabling gpi payment initiation, end-to-end payment tracking, payer authentication and credit confirmation. The gateway will enable the continuous monitoring and control of payment flows and the subsequent movement of goods by those trade platforms, while to ensure global integration and interoperability it will support application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as SWIFT and ISO standards.”

R3 officially launched its Corda platform, which is an open-source blockchain platform, recently and has now over 300 partners globally from both public and private sector involving in the development process. CEO of R3 David E. Rutter said in the release, “Following the recent launch of our Corda Settler, allowing for the payment of obligations raised on the Corda platform, it was a logical extension to plug into SWIFT gpi.”

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

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Circle, a cryptocurrency financial company which has been funded by Goldman, has released their third report on the USDC stablecoin. The USDC stablecoin is an Ethereum based token which had been announced in May, 2018, after the company raised 110 million dollars in an investment round.

The company states in the report that they have sufficient capital to back each individual token on a 1:1 basis. According to the report that published on the 16th January, 251,211,148 USDC tokens were issued and outstanding on 31 December 2018, while the company holds 251,211,209 dollars in deposits, an excess of 61 dollar reserves.

This report was important against to all people who doubt that companies actually back each stablecoin, even more so after Tether refused an audit report despite claiming to hold stablecoins worth 2.6 billion dollars.

The report states that “the issued and outstanding USDC tokens do not exceed the balance of the US Dollars held in custody accounts.”

Grant Thornton, which offers professional audit, tax and advisory services, and wrote the report indicated:

“Our examination was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.”

The token had been added to the combined stablecoin market of major currency exchange Binance in December, after being listed on OKEx and Huobi.

The companies last audit report back in November also found no issues. The firm had around 127.5 million dollars, which was enough to redeem its tokens at the time.

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We already know that Bitcoin is slowly moving towards space. Now the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA – also wants to use blockchain technology for its infrastructure.

An aero-computer engineer at NASA Ames Research Center suggested that blockchain networks and smart contracts could help decreasing some security problems and enable private and anonymous communication with air traffic services.

The U.S. government proposed a way to secure data about military and corporate activities using the blockchain.

“The design innovation is the use of an open source permissioned blockchain framework to enable aircraft privacy and anonymity while providing a secure and efficient method for communication with Air Traffic Services, Operations Support, or other authorized entities.”

By using Smart Contracts, NASA researchers also want to ensure that certificates are secured and communication channels with high bandwidth are available. The authority has already presented a prototype in its paper:

“This framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member, sharing data in accordance with the terms specified in the form of smart contracts. The prototype demonstrates how this method can be economically and rapidly deployed in a scalable modular environment.”

As the basis for the prototype, NASA intends to cooperate with the Hyperledger Fabric Certificate Authority (CA). The NASA blockchain will differ from the Bitcoin blockchain. It is further said that NASA’s solution should be privacy oriented and also uses different ledgers to enable privatized data collections.

NASA had previously granted 330 thousand dollars to a professor at the University of Akron, to support research on ethereum blockchain tech to automatically detect floating debris. This shows that NASA is furthermore trying to explore blockchain for technological improvements.

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The Ethereum Foundation has given Parity Technologies a 5 million dollar grant, which it has announced in a blog-post.

The foundation had publicly announced 17 million dollars toward projects that contribute to at least one of its three focus areas: scalability, usability, and security. According to them, Parity has all of these qualities.

Parity Technologies, which has been founded in 2015, is an infrastructure and innovation focused company that aims to enable businesses and organisations to capitalise on blockchain technology. This grant will fund Parity’s work on Casper, sharding, light clients, developer tools, QA, audits and infrastructure improvements. Parity is also known for one of the most well-known Ethereum clients.

Per the announcement, the foundation said:

“The Ethereum Foundation is committed to funding teams and individuals building the common infrastructure around scalability, usability and security. To that end, we couldn’t think of a more applicable fit for a grant given Parity’s constant push to raise the technical bar and their pinpointed focus on next generation advancements like proof-of-stake, sharding and WebAssembly.”

The foundation also said that the grant was going to be released not at once but in phases. It stated that the initial phase has already been completed while the next will be released following the accomplishment of certain milestones.

Some of the milestones are the eWasm compatibility work, mainnet light wallet Parity Fether, that allows users to interact with the Ethereum network without running a full node or relying on Infura, as well as the successful completion of and the completion of sharding’s first two phases. Sharding is a way of scaling the Ethereum blockchain that involves breaking up the network into smaller pieces so that every node doesn’t have to process the entirety of every transaction.

The Ethereum Foundation is commited to funding more startups and developers that are building common infrastructure around the network. This means the 3 million dollar grant back in October, was just a beginning. The foundation stated that they have been “delighted to see our ecosystem rally around and support technical merit and value alignment” and that they are are commited to using their resources to support this mission furthermore.

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One of the leading over-the-counter (OTC) trading desks which belongs to the US-based cryprocurrency company Circle, wrote in a report that its trades hit a total volume of 24 billion dollars in 2018.

According to the statement that was published on 3rd of January, the trade desk of Circle executed more than 10 thousand OTC trades over the year with 600 counterparties spanning over 36 assets and reached a total volume of 24 billion dollars in notional volume.

Over-the-counter (OTC) trading gives traders the ability to exchange without the interference of third parties. This service is attractive to institutional clients because of the privacy.  OTC trading desks are not only preferred by institutional investors but also by high net worth individuals.

The fintech firm is claiming that it has become a core liquidity provider of the entire crypto ecosystem. This claim rests upon their partnerings with over 1000 institutional clients. Circle has also expanded its team with 150 new hires.

Circle has a very positive look about the next year and the 2019 market as it stated:

“This year, we anticipate further incremental growth in institutional adoption catalyzed by stable coin usage, advancements in institutional custody solutions, increasing regulatory clarity particularly in the U.S., and improvements and innovation in core crypto infrastructure.”

After Circle and Gemini, Coinbase also launched their own OTC desk in November to appeal to the institutional investment class after the increasing demand. Since last year institutional investors as a whole have shifted to higher liquidity OTC markets.

In their plans for 2019 the firm said that they expect growth in institutional adoption catalyzed by stablecoin usage, advancements in institutional custody solutions, increasing regulatory clarity particularly in the US, and improvements and innovation in core crypto infrastructure. Per the statement, Circle said:

“As we approach 2019 and work closely with Coinbase in the establishment of CENTRE, we expect to see more issuers join CENTRE and launch issuance and redemption, more fiat currencies supported using the CENTRE protocols and governance scheme, and more products launch that leverage CENTRE fiat tokens to create value for their own customers,”

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After the huge fall of value of cryptocurrencies in the last months, two of the crypto giants Bitmain and Huobi announced to cut jobs, following ConsenSys, which also made a similar announcement. It is not a surprise that the industry is scaling back operations and companies lay off staff.

Chinese cryptocurrency company Bitmain, which has been one of the top mining hardware manufacturers, said in a statement that they would be undergoing some adjustments to their staff the next year as it continues to build sustainable business.

A spokesman denied rumours that are going around on social media that the company will lay off more than half of its employees, but gave no specific information on exactly how many layoffs are planned.

Bitmain said in the statement:

“A part of that is having to really focus on things that are core to that mission and not things that are auxiliary. As we move into the new year we will continue to double down on hiring the best talent from a diverse range of backgrounds,”

Concurrently, a spokeswoman for Huobi, which is one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, said that they are optimising their staff, which means cutting off their worst performing employees. She also mentioned that this does not mean that they are not hiring anymore, but that they will continue to hire new staff for emerging markets and core teams.

Both companies declined to quantify the number of layoffs planned. Bitmain has a total of 2594 full-time employees and Huobi has more than 1000 employees.

According to some experts, downsizing is part of the cycle of many new, high-growth industries. The recent downsizing of cryptocurrency companies may instead give rise to sharper, more focused companies in the future.

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Rumours have been going around about Facebook seeking to develop a cryptocurrency for WhatsApp transfers. Apparently, the focus is on a stablecoin that will let users transfer money in the remittance market in India.

There is no certain information about when it will launch but according to Facebook, it is not going to be so soon. The company is still in the process of developing strategies and a plan for custody assets to protect the value of the stablecoin.

Facebook had a very scandalous year, and we often heard its name connected to negative things, but their ambition about crypto appears to remain and the company has long been expected to make a move in financial services. After they hired David Marcus, former president of PayPal, in 2014, everyone had expectations on this matter.

Like every other company, Facebook has been hiring people in its blockchain group, and they are too trying to get in the blockchain ecosystem and they want to explore the power of this new technology.

WhatsApp is probably the most popular encrypted messaging platform, and everyone has heard of it. In India alone, WhatsApp has more than 200 million users.

There has been over 120 ventures related to stablecoins in the last past year, but we heard many shut down. The most known and used stablecoin Tether has also had a lot of issues this year. Even though the creators say that each coin is backed by one U.S. dollar, doubts have been coming up after the company refused to be audited.

We believe that Facebook, which has billions of users and more than 40 billion dollars in annual revenue might have a better chance of making a stablecoin that holds what it promises. Facebook will be the first lage technology company to launch a stablecoin.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

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The tax agency of U.K. (HMRC) has published a detailed explanation on December 19, about crypto assets, what they are, how individuals will be taxed and who can qualify as a cryptocurrency trader.

This report specified the details on how individual crypto holders will be taxed and which records they need to keep.

The report indicates:

“HMRC does not consider cryptoassets to be currency or money. This reflects the position previously set out by the Cryptoasset Taskforce report (CATF). The CATF have identified three types of cryptoassets which are; exchange tokens, utility tokens and security tokens.”

The report specifically focused on exchange tokens, which it explains as “a method of payment”.

According to the report, individuals hold crypto assets as a investment, usually for capital appreciation in its value and they will have to pay Capital Gains Tax when they sell their crypto assets.

Also individuals who receive crypto assets as a form on payment or get them through mining will have to pay Income Tax and National Insurance contributions.

The report continues by detailed explanations on different situations of how taxes would have to be paid in certain situations under titles such as, financial trading, mining, airdrops etc. It also gives some examples to underline these titles.

Blockchain forks is another important title in the report, which is essentially a collectively agreed upon software update which can cause the chain to split and new tokens to be formed.

If an individual holds crypto assets through an exchange, the exchange will make a choice whether to recognise the new crypto assets created by the fork. New crypto assets can only be disposed of if the exchange recognises the new crypto assets. HMRC will “consider cases of difficulty as they arise.”

The tax agency of U.K. also mentioned that they would publish further information about the tax treatment for assets held by businesses or companies.

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According to the “LinkedIn 2018 Emerging Jobs Report” published on the 13th of December, blockchain developer is the top emerging job in the United States. The reason for this is the continuous interest in cryptocurrency states the report.

The “Blockchain Developer” job, reaches the top of the list with the 33 times growth this year, and demand coming from companies such as IBM, Consensys, and Chainyard in cities including San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta.

Even though the value of Bitcoin has fallen from around 20.000 dollars to 4000 dollars this year, the number of consumers purchasing the digital currencies has nearly doubled and the cryptocurrency served as an excellent proof of concept for its underlying blockchain technology. For this reason, the interest in blockchain increased a lot this year and many companies started to look for blockchain developers.

Not only the blockchain jobs have grown, but also programs that train developers and others in blockchain skills. After UC Berkeley created an online course on cryptocurrencies and business-scale blockchain networks, it has experienced thousands of signups.

Guy Berger, Chief economist of LinkedIn, wrote:

“It’s no surprise that we’re seeing an explosion of machine learning roles and continuing growth of data science roles. In fact, we started to see glimmers of this in last year’s report, however both fields are starting to see more specialized roles emerge,”

In 2016, 645 vacancies tagged with the words “blockchain”, “Bitcoin” or “cryptocurrency” were published on LinkedIn in 2016. This number rose to 1800 in 2017 and this year to around 4500 vacancies. LinkedIn’s search system displays over 13 thousand records related to blockchain and 2470 records related to cryptocurrency.

According to LinkedIn data, IBM, ConsenSys and Chainyard are outstanding options if you are interested in pursuing a career as a blockchain developer. This “first place” on the LinkedIn emerging jobs list only shows that there is so much more to come on blockchain technologies.

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