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48 minutes | 4 days ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: Understanding Bitcoin and Stablecoins in Africa and South America
Join Michael Casey & Shiela Warren as they speak with Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO of AZA Finance and Sebastian Serrano, CEO of Ripio for a discussion on the past, present and future of bitcoin and stablecoins in Africa and South America.Bitcoin, Stablecoins and International AdoptionThis week’s accompanying Money Reimagined podcast episode looks at the adoption of cryptocurrencies and stablecoins in emerging markets, which over the past year has seen real signs of life. Is this finally the moment to realize one of the great hopes of this technology: to enable financial empowerment in developing countries where traditional finance is constrained? To explore that question, my co-host Sheila Warren and I are joined by Elizabeth Rossiello, the founder and CEO of AZA, which has for seven years been developing digital payment solutions in African markets, and Sebastian Serrano, the founder and CEO of Ripio, which has been doing similar work in Latin America for more or less the same amount of time. Photo by Captureson Photography on Unsplash modified by CoinDesk
60 minutes | 11 days ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: Understanding China's Fast-Approaching Digital Yuan
In the lore of digital disruption, Eastman Kodak Co.'s downfall is particularly momentous.Kodak was once one of the world's most powerful companies. But it failed to act on digital cameras and online photo sharing, despite seeing the trends years before. (Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created the first digital camera in 1975.)It's an apt story to remember now as the digital money revolution rolls ahead at a time of momentous political transition.On this episode of CoinDesk's Money Reimagined, join Jen Zhu Scott, Executive Chairman of The Commons Project, Tanvi Ratna, CEO of Policy 4.0, along with hosts Michael J. Casey and Sheila Warren of the World Economic Forum for this deep-dive into the potential of, and thought behind China's forthcoming DCEP, better known as the digital yuan.With DCEP, China’s supply chains will become hyper-efficient, giving it a big advantage over other countries’ production sectors. And as those models extend into China’s international One Belt One Road initiative, foreign dependency on its production processes could grow, giving Beijing geopolitical clout. Out of this, China will forge financial autonomy. Its digital currency will eventually be interoperable with other tokens and blockchains, allowing its businesses and their foreign trading partners to move money across borders without using dollars as an intermediary. They’ll bypass New York, in other words. Solution: Open MoneyThis won’t happen overnight. But the effect on confidence in the U.S. could arise within the next four years. How should Washington react? Christopher Giancarlo, former CFTC chairman and the founder of the Digital Dollar Foundation, is pushing for a digital dollar that would integrate constitutionally enshrined privacy protections, making it more appealing than the digital yuan, which many fear will become a Beijing surveillance tool. But will people truly trust the U.S. not to monitor digital dollar transactions? After all, as Jennifer Zhu Scott, chair of the Commons Project, noted in this week’s Money Reimagined podcast, global finance is already subject to a comprehensive U.S.-led system of surveillance.So, while we’re right to worry about a Chinese “panopticon” ingesting people’s identifying information, that’s not the data threat the U.S. can or should compete with. In the same podcast episode, Policy 4.0 CEO Tanvi Ratna said the bigger issue is how troves of DCEP-generated anonymized data will enable Chinese businesses to extract huge efficiencies and unlock innovation across decentralized economic systems.There may be a way for the U.S. to compete here. But it will require a radical, disruptive solution. This is an episode you won't want to miss.Original Album Art Image by Kido Dong / Unsplash modified by CoinDesk
24 minutes | 16 days ago
OPINIONATED: 'Where Banks Go, Regulation Follows.' Why Institutional Acceptance Is a Double-Edged Sword For Crypto – Feat. Ajit Tripathi
With PayPal recently announcing crypto services for millions of customers, it seems the crypto industry has passed another acceptance milestone. But, with that acceptance comes greater responsibility, says Ajit Tripathi, a long-time consultant working at the top of the industry. Going forward, crypto can expect greater regulatory scrutiny and higher compliance costs. Times ten, says Tripathi.On the Opinionated podcast this week, Tripathi discusses his recent op-ed “Bitcoin Is Good for PayPal, but Is PayPal Good for Bitcoin?” where he compares the costs of setting up a neobank in the U.K. (like Monzo) with creating a DeFi protocol this summer. At the moment, the former comes with millions in compliance costs and the latter comes with none, and customers are not protected, he says.As mainstream players, like PayPal, enter the market, Tripathi argues it’s inevitable that regulators will intervene. After the last financial crisis and following the ICO run-up, they feel obliged to take notice. Listen in as Tripathi describes the regulatory challenges facing the industry as it becomes more popular.Find Ajit online: twitter.com/chainyoda
45 minutes | 18 days ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: Government Reimagined, with Jeff Saviano and Glen Weyl
In our weekly Money Reimagined podcast, Sheila Warren and I talked to two outside-the-box thinkers on their ideas for improving governance. Quadratic Voting and Open AuctionsOne of our guests was Glen Weyl, the political economist and Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, who co-authored the book “Radical Markets” with University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner. We chose to focus on just two of the many ideas that that book puts forward. One is quadratic voting, which allows people not only to vote for or against a particular issue but to express how strongly they hold that view by buying extra votes – up to a certain limit of assigned credits. The cost in credits of each additional vote increases by a quadratic formula. It’s designed to help small groups of voters who care deeply about particular issues while still constraining them from overly skewing results.Weyl has also worked on a variation of the concept with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin called quadratic funding, which in theory could diminish the influence of wealthy “whales” in voting systems that are based on financial holdings or contributions. The second big idea we explored is that of perpetual open auctions. Here, every bit of property, including what we might otherwise think of as public property, is owned by private entities with the proviso that it is always up for auction and that the majority of the value created from it is shared equally among citizens as a social dividend. Weyl and Posner argue that such an arrangement would incentivize owners to manage the property well, and that the wider distribution of wealth creation would give a greater number of people the wherewithal to start businesses. It would also be easier to develop land for infrastructure, such as high-speed rail lines, because the developer could easily acquire it. Both of these ideas are rooted more in legal and process innovation than in software and distributed computing per se. But they intersect nicely with concepts associated with the crypto and blockchain space. One is the potential for self-sovereign identity models to prevent people from gaming quadratic voting. Another is the potential enhancements that smart contracts, non-fungible token-based property, and decentralized finance (DeFi) concepts such as automated market-making might bring to open auctions. Also, quadratic funding might fix free-rider problems in blockchain projects, Buterin believes. Smart taxationOur other guest was Jeff Saviano, the global lead of tax innovation at EY. He is a member of the Prosperity Collaborative, within which organizations such as the World Bank, MIT Media Lab’s Connection Sciences lab and the New America Foundation are working with governments to improve transparency and efficiency in the collection and distribution of taxes. Saviano talks of how blockchain-based tracing systems might not only give taxpayers a transparent view of how their taxes are being spent but also incorporate programmability. For example, the actual, uniquely identified dollars that you contribute could be channeled directly and transparently into identifiable services that immediately benefit you and your community. Or, governments could use smart contracts to put hard constraints on those dollars, so only certain categories of expenditure, and not others, are enabled.
52 minutes | 25 days ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: 'Bermuda Will Skip the Age of CBDCs' with Premier David Burt
In this episode, Michael J. Casey and Sheila Warren of the World Economic Forum are joined by the newly reelected Premier of Bermuda, David Burt, who is spearheading projects to use the island as a testing ground for stablecoins and to launch a communally owned national digital bank.
37 minutes | a month ago
OPINIONATED: ‘It’s This Really Precious Thing.’ Lex Sokolin on DeFi’s Next Chapter, and Frances Coppola on the End of Banks
This week on the Opinionated podcast, we welcome two Londoners: Lex Sokolin and Frances Coppola. Lex Sokolin is the global fintech co-head at ConsenSys, the Ethereum development studio, as well as a CoinDesk columnist. Lex discusses his recent piece How DeFi Can Avoid the Irrelevance of P2P Lending and Crowdfunding, where he compares DeFi to once-hot financial ideas, like equity crowdfunding.He explores how DeFi can avoid the fate of those trends. DeFi has global scale, he says, a thoroughly open source nature that spurs innovation, and it offers built-in tokenized incentives for participation, among other advantages. “DeFi is displaying the evidence of traction with something between 500,000 and 1 million people using DeFi protocols,” Sokolin says. “There’s a magic in DeFi that wasn’t in P2P lending and crowdfunding.”Frances Coppola is a veteran writer on banking, finance and economics and the author of “The Case for People’s Quantitative Easing.”She discusses her recent opinion piece about the state of the banking system called “Banks Are Toast but Crypto Has Lost Its Soul.”“The nature of the business is changing so fundamentally that what we think of as big banks and what they do will be very different in the future,” she tells us. But while some see stablecoins as a helpful way to move currencies around the world, Coppola believes that the industry has sold out its values by adopting fiat-backed coins like tether. “This game has been played from time immemorial. [It’s] creating fake things to represent real things. I think the fact that you put it on a blockchain makes any difference really,” she says.Tune in to hear two bold thinkers with big ideas about the future of finance.
49 minutes | a month ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: The Troubling Legacy of a Law Meant to Keep Us Safe with Brynly Llyr and Juan Llanos
This system is broken. It has become a leviathan – too big, too comprehensive. Giant fines have skewed the risk-versus-payoffs for banks, which impose compliance on everyone regardless of size. (This is despite AML guidelines typically allowing ID exemptions for transfers of up to $1000, and in the U.S. up to $3,000.)It’s time to scale down, not up.“There is a principle in design that in order to optimize the system, to maintain the most positive outcome, we have to sub-optimize the sub-systems,” crypto compliance expert Juan Llanos said during this week’s episode of the Money Reimagined podcast. “That means we may have to learn to live with a little money laundering. We might have to live with the risk that someone in Somalia might be a criminal trying to get through the cracks.”A more open mind from regulators toward cryptographic technologies that help regulators manage system-wide risks without imposing strict identity requirements on everyone would also be welcome. Research by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab into how to identify system risks within otherwise anonymous bitcoin transaction flows offers one potential way forward. The test is whether policymakers can respond to the human cost of the existing approach.“Is this the system that really promotes prosperity in our world?” C-Labs General Counsel Brynly Llyr asked during the same podcast episode. “I mean, yes, money laundering is very serious, tax evasion is very serious, but when we look at the remittance markets and the folks who are relying on … transfers of $50 and $100 ... is this really what we want our system to be cracking down on? Is this the best use of our resources?”
28 minutes | a month ago
BORDERLESS: Police Brutality Is Global, So Is Bitcoin
From the CoinDesk Global Macro news desk, this is Borderless – a twice-monthly roundup of the most important stories impacting Bitcoin and the crypto sector from around the world. On this episode, Nik, Anna, Daniel and CoinDesk tech reporter Colin Harper discuss Nigerian protestors using bitcoin, the digital yuan reaching retail users in China, the IMF talking about crypto, and more.In Nigeria, people are protesting police brutality and demanding the abolition of SARS, or the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit, an infamous special forces team known for abusing and harassing citizens. CoinDesk reporter Colin Harper joins the conversation to talk about how The Feminist Coalition, a movement advocating for women’s rights in Nigeria, has been using bitcoin to fundraise and help people hurt by the police during the protests. After the movement’s bank account was frozen, it switched to bitcoin donations, using bitcoin as a censorship-resistant tool, just as activists in another part of the world – Belarus – are doing.On the central bank digital currency front, China is charging forward with its digital yuan project: last week, about two million people got free digital yuans in a lottery in Shenzhen. People could spend the giveaway tokens in over 3,000 local stores, as Reuters reported. The consumers haven’t been impressed so far, but maybe that’s only a beginning,Unlike in China, central bankers in the West are not that sure about CBDCs. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report discussing the benefits of issuing digital tokens by central banks. Maybe the most interesting part, the International Monetary Fund talks about the Big Tech stablecoin projects and what’s at stake there. Reporters Nikhilesh De, Daniel Nelson, Anna Baydakova and Colin Harper discuss these issues and more on today’s episode of Borderless.
32 minutes | a month ago
THESIS: ‘Privacy Is Undervalued by the Market’: Cypherpunk Capital CIO
The market for privacy coins is so hot in 2020 that it seems regulators fear it’s reaching its boiling point. Some are even looking to take action to tamp it down and are including privacy blockchain technology as part of their guidance on larger encryption-related issues. Despite this potential regulatory overhang, Cypherpunk Capital, a firm publicly traded under the symbol “HODL” on the Canadian public markets, maintains that privacy is undervalued. Moe Adham, the firm’s chief investment officer, talked to CoinDesk on The Thesis about his fund’s privacy focus. Adham’s investment thesis on increasing private transactions on blockchain networks comes from his search for cryptocurrency use cases. That’s especially important to him because he is also co-founder and CEO of YCombinator-backed bitcoin ATM provider Bitaccess. Payments have not worked for crypto, in part, because it hasn’t delivered cost savings to users compared to credit cards, Adham pointed out. “We’ve really failed on the payments side,” he said. “So then, if you think that we’ve failed on payments, what is the value proposition of crypto?” Two other justifications for crypto, scarcity and censorship resistance, are often touted by advocates. According to Adham, scarcity alone might not be a compelling enough concept. “I think that from our perspective, when you look at scarcity a lot of assets are scarce,” Adham said. “Apple has a stock that’s a scarce asset. But the value is from the underlying company, not just the scarcity.”“I’m not necessarily convinced that scarcity alone is a long-term value proposition,” he added. On the other hand, Adham calls censorship resistance and the ability for users to conduct transactions privately as perhaps cryptocurrency’s greatest innovation.“The real fundamental change for crypto is the decentralized nature of it leads to censorship resistance,” he said. This led directly to Cypherpunk Holdings’ thesis that privacy is undervalued and has been mispriced by the market. That may seem like a dangerous proposition in a market that is now being scrutinized by regulators, including a recent U.S. Department of Justice crypto enforcement framework warning market stakeholders. However, Adham points to a Europol report that showed in 2019 only 1.1% of total transactions were related to criminal activity. It’s a delicate balance as there are a lot of unknowns in how regulators will enact privacy policies. Nevertheless, privacy is a bet where Cypherpunk Capital is clearly putting its chips – and Adham makes a convincing argument. Listen in to this episode of Thesis to hear more about privacy, mixers and more with CoinDesk host Daniel Cawrey and guest Moe Adham from Cypherpunk Capital!
9 minutes | a month ago
EDITORS: 'Only in Crypto': What the OKEx Mess Says About New and Old Finance
On Friday morning as the OKEx withdrawal-freeze story twisted and turned, CoinDesk's editors had an off-the-cuff discussion about the fundamental realities and unique challenges of security for even the largest exchanges.
22 minutes | a month ago
OPINIONATED: Jill Carlson, Emily Parker – Coinbase's 'Apolitical' Mission Is Hypocritical and Unhelpful
Coinbase’s recent decision to take no position on political and social issues has divided the cryptocurrency industry. Some see it as a wise move in a no-win hyper-sensitive political environment. Others say CEO Brian Armstrong is tone-deaf to cultural forces sweeping the United States and the world. This week, the debate got material within Coinbase itself, with about 5% of employees choosing to quit and take a severance package, rather than work for a company with a crypto-only mission statement. This week on Opinionated – our new podcast featuring CoinDesk’s best columnists and contributors – we are joined by Jill Carlson and Emily Parker to discuss the Coinbase controversy and its meaning for the industry and Silicon Valley. Carlson is an investor with Slow Ventures and co-founder of the Open Money Initiative. She writes this week that Armstrong, far from creating an environment in which people can work free of distractions, is creating an environment where difficult issues remain unaddressed and people feel not-heard.Carlson sees Coinbase’s stance cutting off useful debate. “The backlash against cancel culture is not manifesting as advocacy for dialogue, free speech, nuance and tolerance. Rather, the backlash is only driving discourse deeper underground, breeding an even more intense culture of fear and further entrenching intolerance,” she writes. Parker is CoinDesk’s Global Macro Editor. Her op-ed “Coinbase’s ‘Mission’ Violates the Spirit of Bitcoin” points to what she calls the hypocrisy of Armstrong going apolitical while espousing the values of Bitcoin (including economic freedom and censorship resistance). “Armstrong would like to have it both ways. He wants to be apolitical about the disruptions that make him uncomfortable, but political about Bitcoin’s mission to disrupt the world,” she writes. Join us for a lively discussion with two bold and original thinkers. Opinions featured in this week’s podcast:Emily Parker – Coinbase’s ‘Mission’ Violates the Spirit of BitcoinJill Carlson – Reading Between the Lines of Brian Armstrong’s Mission Memo
40 minutes | a month ago
RESEARCH: The Potential Ripple Effects of Ethereum 2.0, Explained
The virtual event invest: ethereum economy takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 14. CoinDesk’s Christine Kim spoke to colleagues Michael J. Casey and Aaron Stanley about the most compelling and under-discussed topics about Ethereum 2.0 headlining next week’s conference. From the dynamics of staking to the architecture of sharding, there haven’t been many topics Ethereum 2.0 core developers have shied away from discussing over the past five weeks on “Developer Perspectives: Ethereum 2.0.” See also: 3 Things You Should Know Before Staking on Ethereum 2.0Each discussion, however, has sparked new questions about the ramifications of Ethereum’s transition to proof-of-stake on the crypto markets and the broader blockchain industry. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions about how the markets are going to behave,” said Casey, CoinDesk’s chief content officer. “Do we end up with a split, [with] two versions of ethereum or at least two tokens that trade differently in the marketplace?”Casey added that financial engineers in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space will likely seek to unlock the liquidity of staked ETH on Ethereum 2.0 before token transfers are officially enabled on the network. What new DeFi products are created, their attributes and, most important, their impact on the value of ETH remain to be determined. Along with lingering questions over how the markets will react to the launch of Ethereum 2.0, there’s also uncertainty over how the launch will affect the competitive landscape for dapp users and dapp developers in the crypto industry. “What does the multi-chain future look like?” asked Stanley, CoinDesk’s managing director of events content. “If Eth 2.0 succeeds, … what does that mean for all these other [smart contract] chains out there? Are they going to go away or just cease to exist? I don’t think that’s the case.”With the recent popularity around yield farming and liquidity mining on Ethereum, Stanley also questioned what the real incentives are for users holding large amounts of ETH, upwards of $11,000 worth, to stake on Ethereum 2.0 when they could earn “100x returns farming ‘hotdog coin’ or whatever the meme coin of the day is.”See also: Yearn, YAM and the Rise of Crypto’s ‘Weird DeFi’ MomentThese questions are pertinent to the discussions happening next Wednesday at invest: ethereum economy. Keynote speakers headlining the virtual conference are founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Heath P. Tarbert. To register for the event, click here. CoinDesk Research has recently published an updated report about the launch of Ethereum 2.0, as well as recent developments on the existing Ethereum blockchain. Download it for free on the CoinDesk Research Hub.
61 minutes | 2 months ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: Getting Internet Identity Right, 30 Years On
This week, Michael Casey and Sheila Warren talk to Hyperledger Executive Director Brian Behlendorf about self-sovereign identity, the topic of this week's column. A developer whose three-decade career has seen him deeply involved in efforts to foster a more open internet, Brian grasps, like few others, the nuances of how human beings should live within a rapidly changing digital economy.
28 minutes | 2 months ago
BORDERLESS: BitMEX Charges, a Digital Euro, Fighting Belarusian Censorship and New Ransomware Concerns
From the CoinDesk Global Macro news desk, this is Borderless – a twice-monthly roundup of the most important stories impacting Bitcoin and the crypto sector from around the world. It’s created by reporters Nikhilesh De, Anna Baydakova and Daniel Nelson.Last week, two federal U.S.agencies brought charges against BitMEX, one of the world’s largest crypto derivatives trading platforms, alleging the company violated multiple laws by allowing U.S. customers to trade its options contracts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, a prosecutor, claimed the exchange and its owners, CEO Arthur Hayes, CTO Samuel Reed, Ben Delo and Gregory Dwyer violated the Bank Secrecy Act by not conducting any know-your-customer procedures, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged that BitMEX allowed U.S. customers to trade on its platform, despite the fact that the startup hadn’t registered as an exchange with the company. The charges are both criminal and civil, and the SDNY announced that while it had arrested one of Hayes’ colleagues, Hayes himself remains at large.Across the pond, the European Union is preparing to set the fate of its much-hyped “digital euro.” In its latest report, released last week, the bloc’s central bank reiterated the importance of preparing a EU CBDC future but once again refused to commit to it. That decision is expected in the middle of next year. But central bankers are nonetheless thinking through what a “digital euro” might look like right now. For example, one “requirement” is that any “digital euro” should have “cash-like features.” That means broad accessibility, offline capabilities, widespread acceptance, all the cash-like features we don’t even think about. ECB officials even set “strong european branding” as a requirement.Belarus has been protesting against its president Alexander Lukashenko since August. And since then, the government has been trying to limit access to the information: in addition to multiple internet outages, local media and political movement websites have been blocked. News publications are looking to new, decentralized tools to fight back.A San Francisco-based startup called Clostra is offering a peer-to-peer file-sharing service called NewNode. Users can connect devices using the internet, Bluetooth or WiFi hot-spots, sharing information similarly to how torrent clients operate (indeed, Clostra was founded by former BitTorrent director of engineering Stanislav Shalunov). Reporters Nikhilesh De, Daniel Nelson and Anna Baydakova discuss these issues and more on today’s episode of Borderless.
41 minutes | 2 months ago
RESEARCH: Confessions of a Sharding Skeptic
With final preparations for the launch of Ethereum 2.0 soon to be underway, CoinDesk's Christine Kim spoke to Cayman Nava, technical lead at ChainSafe Systems and Alexey Akhunov, an independent researcher and software developer about the kinks in ETH's evolution that still need to be worked out.This episode is sponsored by Crypto.com, Nexo.io and Elliptic.co.The Ethereum blockchain processes about three to four times as many transactions as Bitcoin. It’s still not enough, however, to meet rising user demand for the cryptocurrency and prevent network congestion. See also: DeFi Frenzy Drives Ethereum Transaction Fees to All-Time HighsOne of the most highly anticipated fixes to Ethereum’s transaction bottleneck and its lack of scalability is an ambitious software upgrade called Ethereum 2.0. According to Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, Ethereum 2.0 will boost network speeds from around 15 transactions per second (TPS) to 100,000 TPS. How? The solution is sharding. Cayman Nava, technical lead at ChainSafe Systems, explains sharding as “a natural way to break things up.” “If you’re wanting to process a lot of data but you don’t want any one party to be overloaded with that data, you can naturally think of breaking up your problem into smaller pieces,” said Nava. These “smaller pieces” Nava is referring to are called shards. In Ethereum 2.0, 64 shards will be created to break up the transaction load of Ethereum. See also: Ethereum 2.0: How It Works and Why It MattersWhile sharding sounds effective in theory, there are other Ethereum developers who are skeptical about the benefits of this technique in practice. “If I were to design scaling [for Ethereum], first I would squeeze as much as possible out of Ethereum 1, which I think hasn’t been done yet, and then after that I would actually introduce sharding logically in order to see whether users would actually be able to use [sharding] effectively,” said Alexey Akhunov, an independent researcher and software developer for Ethereum that has been contributing code to the network’s development since 2016. Sharding logically refers to breaking up data within the same blockchain as opposed to sharding physically, which necessitates the creation of multiple mini-blockchains. As mentioned, Ethereum 2.0 will spawn a physically sharded system of 64 linked databases. Optimizing the communication between shards in this environment, Akhunov goes on to explain, may pose an even greater challenge to network scalability than a transaction bottleneck. Nava agrees there are kinks and holes in the design of Ethereum 2.0 and its sharded system that need to be worked out. But in Nava’s view, these problems that call for further detailing and research can be delayed in the short term while developers work toward an upgrade launch. “I think we can delay these harder problems like how sharding should work or what it should look like. That can be pushed off a little bit so we can think about it and get it right. In the near term, we can get a lot of the benefits from the [Ethereum 2.0] work that we’ve been doing,” said Nava.
41 minutes | 2 months ago
THESIS: CoinFund’s Jake Brukhman Talks Active Investing in the DeFi and NFT Space
CoinFund’s Jake Brukhman Talks Active Investing in the DeFi and NFT SpaceMany investors, particularly in the venture capital space, like to take a hands-off approach to investments. Not Jake Brukhman at CoinFund, whose firm actively participates in various cryptocurrency networks in which his firm has decided to deploy capital. Some of this comes from the need to understand these networks. CoinFund, launched in 2015, was one of the first cryptocurrency investment firms to get involved with decentralized finance and the yield farming craze. The firm allocates about 20% of its capital to active DeFi investing. “The beauty of these open protocols is that they make it fairly easy to iterate on the technology and really move fast with the speed of software towards efficiency,” said Brukhman. “The problem of investing in DeFi for crypto investors is largely a portfolio construction problem.”The sheer choice of DeFi projects for investment makes the space challenging, with a plethora of options in the automated market making (AMM) and decentralized exchange (DEX) space, says Brukhman. “As investors, how do we think about what to invest in? Do we invest in all the possible iterations of AMMs and DEXs that come along? Do we invest in the most innovative one? Do we invest in the first one?”AMMs specifically have key importance in DeFi, Brukhamn told CoinDesk, bringing institutional-level liquidity that has enabled the market to grow in 2020. “AMMs enable liquidity like we’ve never really had before,” he said. “Retail users can get the same benefits as a professional hedge fund market maker.” And while DeFi is a hot subject in 2020, Brukhman’s fascination with scarce items on the blockchain in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, might be a peek into future developments within the blockchain ecosystem. Brukhman believes all digital content will end up on a blockchain somewhere. “Non-fungibles are not just about cat pictures, they are not just about art or collectibles,” Brukhman said. “It’s also about domain names, about selling insurance policies and maybe in the future about selling royalty-bearing assets.” All of this and much more on the first edition of The Thesis podcast!
25 minutes | 2 months ago
OPINIONATED: The Biggest Story in Crypto – The Stablecoin Surge and Power Politics, Feat. Nic Carter
Nic Carter discusses the $20 billion stablecoin phenomenon and its implications for the global financial system. Welcome to Opinionated, a new podcast featuring CoinDesk's leading columnists and contributors. I'm your host, Ben Schiller, CoinDesk's opinion editor.On this week's show, we're joined by Nic Carter, cofounder of Coin Metrics and partner at Castle Island Ventures.Nic discusses this year's $20 billion surge in USD-backed stablecoins (what he calls "crypto-dollars") and the potentially enormous implications of an offshore dollarization system based on blockchain.Fiat-backed stablecoins are "not what Satoshi intended," Carter says, but their "preposterous" growth this year is the "the most important phenomenon in the industry.""It not only tells us about he maturation of the crypto financial infrastructure. It also tells us a lot about current geopolitics, too," he says.Nic has written two op-eds for CoinDesk about crypto-dollars:"Policymakers Shouldn't Fear Digital Money: So Far It's Maintaining the Dollar's Status" (from February)and"The Crypto-Dollar Surge and the American Opportunity" (this month).U.S. policymakers fear losing power as dollar-flows increasingly shift to stablecoins.Central bankers may have less ability to set interest rates. And the corresponding banking infrastructure, based largely in New York, will process fewer transactions as people move into assets like tether and USDC instead.Nonetheless, Carter says the U.S. should embrace this new form of money technology.One, it's mostly, for now, a U.S. industry, and overwhelming pegged to dollars. More dollars in circulation, while not necessarily good for American workers, is good for the dollar's reserve currency status.Two, blockchains are inherently neutral – "equal opportunity databases" that don't exclude people and represent financial freedom. That ought to accord with American values.And third, if the U.S. doesn't sanction stablecoin transactions, some other country or company will, inviting in the threat of surveillance and a loss of power anyway."The U.S. should consider embracing a neutral alternative to the highly politicized New York corresponding banking system before it's too late and whole tranches of its allies defect to a Chinese or a Russian system," Carter says.Nic had a lot more to say about stablecoins, the future of money and great power rivalry. Check it out here, and please subscribe to CoinDesk's new podcast feed.
35 minutes | 2 months ago
RESEARCH: The One-Way ETH 'Burn' That Will Kick-Start Ethereum 2.0
With the final preparations for the launch of Ethereum 2.0 soon to be underway, CoinDesk's Christine Kim spoke with Developers Raul Jordan and Eduardo Antuña Díez about what's left to do.This episode is sponsored by Crypto.com, Bitstamp and Nexo.io.Lead developer at Prysmatic Labs Raul Jordan, who has been building Ethereum 2.0 software for over two years, explained his team would be wrapping up all feature development by October 15. “At that time, it’s all hands on deck to just have good documentation, good user experience, fix-up security holes [and] basically prepare for launch. That’s where we are today if all remains on track,” said Jordan. The final features currently in development by Prysmatic Labs and other software development teams include making sure different code implementations of Ethereum 2.0, also called “clients”, are interoperable and can be used interchangeably by a user without running the risk of losing validator rewards. See also: A Day in the Life of an Ethereum 2.0 ValidatorIt’s not only client developers who are beginning final preparations for this network upgrade. Ethereum startups building hardware and tooling for users to participate in the Ethereum 2.0 launch are also working on adding last-minute features to their products. Eduardo Antuña Díez, project lead at DAppNode, said, “The most important thing that we realized after the first [Ethereum 2.0] testnet is that people need to know the status of their validators. Having a good monitoring system to be able to know when your validator is down … we are working in that direction.” Before Ethereum 2.0 goes live, Jordan and Díez both noted that a new contract will be created on the current Ethereum blockchain to receive deposits of 32 ETH. Only once this contract accumulates a minimum of 524,288 ETH, which is worth roughly $181 million at time of writing, will the new Ethereum blockchain officially kick-start at midnight UTC the following day. See also: Ethereum 2.0: How It Works and Why It MattersAbout the security of the deposit contract, Jordan said, “There’s no way to retrieve [funds]. … It’s considered a burn in the short term. It’s not like there’s any sort of admin key or any sort of way to take those funds out. There’s no way somebody can take all the ETH that is locked in there.”
63 minutes | 2 months ago
MONEY REIMAGINED: Money Is a Meme, w/ Lana Swartz and Nicky Enright
Money is changing, but where do we go from here? Through high profile interviews and thoughtful analysis, join CoinDesk's Michael Casey and Sheila Warren of the World Economic Forum as they explore the connections between finance, human culture and our increasingly digital lives.In this inaugural episode media studies professor Lana Swartz and multimedia artist Nicky Enright join the discussion.Sushi, Hotdogs, Yams, Shrimp. The whimsical, food-obsessed names of DeFi protocols are antithetical to the stodgy imagery of the mainstream financial system they seek to disrupt. Banks’ memes, by contrast, skew toward strength and durability. (Think of the rampart lions and Roman columns at the entrances of bank branches in old parts of London, New York or Paris.)DeFi’s critics say the silly names betray the fact it’s merely a fad and a game – or worse, a scam. It’s all imaginary, they say. It’s not real. The problem with that perspective is that all aspects of money, including the financial systems built on top of it, are imaginary. And, in case you’re wondering, that’s a feature, not a bug. Israeli historian Yuval Harari calls money “the most successful story ever told,” even more important to the evolution of society than religion, corporations and a host of other human-imagined institutions. Like those concepts, money’s power hinges on the collective adoption of a common belief system. It takes a set of mutually understood rules and gives them symbolic representation in a token we call a currency. In exchanging that token, we reach agreements that reflect those rules and so enable commerce, collaboration, value creation and, ultimately, civilization. Storytelling and cultural creation have always been integral to how society fosters this belief system, how we’ve forged communities around currencies. It’s why representations of money and the conversations around it are rich with iconography, foundational myths and stirring language.This process of collective imagination has become firmly tied to another powerful imaginary concept: the nation-state. This combination has been so effective that it has survived the introduction of new technologies and tokens over time. We’ve gone from shells to coins to banknotes to checks to credit cards to Venmo, and each time we’ve just accepted that a new transfer vehicle can convey the same rules and values we’ve always attached to our national currencies. This is a useful lens to apply to the many new ideas for money bubbling up in the crypto world. Whether it’s bitcoin’s bid to become a digital gold-like currency or the fight between Uniswap and SushiSwap to dominate liquidity in DeFi’s lending markets, the semiotic process for creating memes and stories is vital to the establishment of a new system. National elites used such methods to get us to collectively imagine a bank-centric system of fiat currencies. Those of us who want to change that need to do something similar. We need to reimagine money.Imagined CommunitiesIf you have a $100 bill in your wallet, take a good look at it.On one side, there’s Ben Franklin’s balding head and torso, behind which are a quill, an inkwell with the Liberty Bell superimposed onto it, and an extract from the Declaration of Independence. There are also the seals of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve, the signatures of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer, a serial number and other identifying numerals. On the other, we see Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where Franklin and other Founding Fathers signed the declaration, along with the words “In God We Trust.” On both sides, the number 100 appears numerous times in and around a highly ornate border. Combined with cotton threads and watermarks, the baroque design helps make the note difficult to counterfeit. But more importantly, the imagery appeals directly to patriotism. It’s all associated with the nation-state to which the dollar, we are encouraged to believe, is indelibly linked. Now think about the actual value of the note, by which I mean the physical piece of paper. You could use it as a bookmark, maybe, make a paper plane out of it, or write a very small amount of information in very small print on it. But none of those uses add up to $100 in utility. A banknote’s value comes almost entirely from our shared imagination, a commonality of beliefs fed by centuries of cultural production that forges a type of community. It’s only because the payer and the payee share those beliefs that this piece of paper can function as an instrument for clearing that community’s debts.Each tribe of cryptocurrency advocates is endeavoring to create the same sense of community and belief around its preferred token. How they attain that is a cultural challenge. What’s Real?In November 2014, I created a video for The Wall Street Journal with Nicky Enright, a multimedia artist. We filmed him walking the streets of the Diamond District in New York’s Midtown as he wore an A-frame sandwich board and held a wad of “Globos,” his personal currency, in hand. The beautifully ornate notes were on sale for a $1, he told passersby, in a special two-for-one deal. The interactions with people were fascinating. One of the most common questions was, “Is it real?” Enright’s answer was always something like, “Of course it’s real. You can see and hold it, right?” As a guest on this week’s inaugural Money Reimagined podcast, Enright reflected on those exchanges, noting that “people will question the Globo in a way that they rarely, if ever, question their own currency” and yet the very same questions about what is “real” could be applied to the purely symbolic value of the dollar. The pertinent question for cryptocurrency advocates is: How do the purveyors and believers in a particular currency similarly get enough people to believe in it, to view it as “real?” And that’s again where the cultural conversation comes in. It’s why Bitcoin’s culture is filled with ideas, phrases and iconography that help build community. Think of the word “HODL,” or the concept that Bitcoin is “The Honey Badger of Money,” or the almost religious devotion to the mysterious founding father, Satoshi. (By the way, it’s irrelevant that these ideas, like DeFi’s, seem frivolous to traditionalists. They are appropriately in line with the meme culture of the digital age, and consistent with the liberal conventions that internet culture unleashed, as names like Yahoo! and Google became corporate mainstays.)Community = GovernanceUniversity of Virginia media studies professor Lana Swartz, author of the newly published New Money: How Payment Became Social Media, has some thoughts on all this. As the second guest on this week’s podcast, she reflected on the very early research that she and two colleagues did into Bitcoin’s culture in 2013. At that time, she said, “there was a real fixation on the idea that Bitcoin would be free from human institutions, free from human foibles and free from the need for human governance… But then all these early Bitcoin people ever really did was to talk and create community, and create ways to govern themselves, and create ways to think about this project.”It’s a great insight. Money is inseparable from community, and community is about values, the expression of which involves governance. (Not government per se, but governance.) This brings us full circle to DeFi, where tribes conduct meme warfare on Twitter and elsewhere to promote their tokens. Each of those tokens is tied to a protocol, which offers a different form of governance. The difference with traditional money is that the enforcement of each token’s particular governance model comes via a decentralized network rather than the centralized institutions of a nation-state. That shift is what makes it so promising. But it’s also why the cultural creation process is so challenging, as it must compete with the giant mindshare that traditional finance occupies. It’s why the meme-ing must continue. The End of Wall Street As We Know It?Hats off to Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal for coming up with a killer graph. Sadly, I’m using that descriptive literally. The chart, which appeared Tuesday in Bloomberg’s daily “Five Things to Start your Day” newsletter, maps the reservations at New York restaurants recorded by the website OpenTable and subway turnstile receipts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, against the price of shares in SL Green, a real-estate investment trust focused on Manhattan office space. COVID-19 has done a number on all three. Source: BloombergI include this here, because when thinking about the future of Manhattan real estate, it’s hard not to think about the future of Wall Street. Banks, brokerages and other financial institutions are giant contributors to the city’s commercial rents, occupying large open-plan trading areas on multiple floors of some of NYC’s prime real estate. But in the COVID-19 era, banks have learned that, with the help of new low-latency connectivity packages, their traders can work pretty well from home, offering the prospect that the firms can save millions in rents if they pare back their footprint in the city. An exodus from New York by bankers, traders and brokers would mark an end to an era. Hollywood’s movies about testosterone-fueled trading floors will become period pieces. The bigger question is what it means for the idea of Wall Street as a New York institution and, by extension, for the city’s outsized role in the regulation of the global financial system. There are plenty of reasons for banks to maintain a legal residence in New York. Most important, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has a unique role within the Fed’s monetary system, as it conducts the open-market operations by which the central bank implements monetary policy. To act as a counterparty with FRBNY in those trades and gain access to that vital flow of monetary liquidity, banks need, at the very least, a capital markets subsidiary domiciled in New York. Their presence for that purpose in turn gives local regulators such as the New York Department of Financial Services a critical role in world finance.But it’s not hard to imagine that a physical downgrading of banks’ physical presence in New York could, over time, degrade the city’s dominance. Will the rest of the U.S. continue to grant NYC its gatekeeping role?. And as central banks, potentially armed with digital currencies, move to expand the range of counterparties they deal with to include non-banks such as large companies and municipalities, New York’s centrality in the process could be further diminished. It’s yet another way in which the seismic events of 2020 could prove are setting it up as a turning point year for the world of finance. Further reading:Here in Venezuela, Doctors Struggle to Access Aid From Crypto Platform By José Rafael Peña GholamDigital Euro Would Provide Alternative to Cryptos, ECB President Lagarde Says By Dan PalmerIran Is Ripe for Bitcoin Adoption, Even as Government Clamps Down on Mining By Sandali HandagamaThe Currency Cold War: Four Scenarios by Jeff WilserOcean Protocol and Balancer Want to Do for Data What Uniswap Did for Coins by Ian AllisonHow Small Business Can Achieve 'Economies of Scale' by 2030 by Paul Brody
24 minutes | 2 months ago
BORDERLESS: Stablecoin Fail in Venezuela and the FinCEN Files
From the CoinDesk Global Macro newsdesk, this is Borderless - A twice-monthly roundup of the most important stories impacting bitcoin and the crypto sector from around the world. It's created by reporters Nikhilesh De, Anna Baydakova and Danny NelsonOn today’s show: the FinCEN files, AirTM isn’t working in Venezuela the way people hoped and stablecoin regulations are reappearing in the U.S. and Europe.CoinDesk's inaugural episode of Borderless discusses the FinCEN Files, which showed that not only is a global superpower keeping tabs on thousands of financial transactions, but it doesn't appear to actually be tamping downon the alleged crimes it purportedly wants to halt using this data. What's more, many of these transaction records aren't suspicious. Should the government hold on to this personal and financial data for 20 years?Stablecoin regulations are resurging in both Europe and the U.S., with government officials in both regions publishing new guidance discussing how stablecoins might be regulated and how issuers can interact with banks. The EU wants stablecoin issuers to abide by strict "e-money" rules, according to draft legislation leaked last week. Meanwhile, a federal banking regulator in the U.S. says nationally regulated banks can offer stablecoin issuers financial services.This applies specifically to hosted wallets, meaning wallets that are controlled by a trusted (regulated) third party. Wallets where users directly control the keys do not fall into the guidance. For its part, the Securities and Exchange Commission warns that some of these digital assets may or may not look like securities, and recommends that issuers contact it prior to launching a new token.Another stablecoin story down in Venezuela has us rethinking whether the country’s purported crypto economy is really as robust as the headlines make you think. CoinDesk contributor Jose Rafael Pena Gholam writes that opposition leader Juan Guaido’s attempted airdrop of $19 million in stablecoins to Venezuela's “health heroes” has fallen flat.The money came from funds seized by U.S authorities. Guaido was hoping to use it to back pay thousands of health workers with a $100 bonus for three months of work, but the drop has been hampered by the Maduro regime and tech hiccups.Reporters Nikhilesh De, Daniel Nelson and Anna Baydakova discuss these issues and more.
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