It is no doubt Grayscale’s booming popularity as a mainstream investment has caused a lot of community hullabaloo lately. As such, I felt it was worth making a FAQ regarding the topic. I’m looking to update this as needed and of course am open to suggestions / adding any questions. The goal is simply to have a thread we can link to anyone with questions on Grayscaleand its products. Instead of explaining the same thing 3 times a day, shoot those posters over to this thread.My hope is that these questions are answered in a fairly simple and easy to understand manner. I think as the sub grows it will be a nice reference point for newcomers. Disclaimer: I do NOT work for Grayscale and as such am basing all these answers on information that can be found on their website / reports. (Grayscale’s official FAQ can be found here). I also do NOT have a finance degree, I do NOT have a Series 6 / 7 / 140-whatever, and I do NOT work with investment products for my day job. I have an accounting background and work within the finance world so I have the general ‘business’ knowledge to put it all together, but this is all info determined in my best faith effort as a layman. The point being is this --- it is possible I may explain something wrong or missed the technical terms, and if that occurs I am more than happy to update anything that can be proven incorrect Everything below will be in reference to ETHE but will apply to GBTC as well.If those two segregate in any way, I will note that accordingly.
ETHE is essentially a stock that intends to loosely track the price of ETH. It does so by having each ETHE be backed by a specific amount of ETH that is held on chain. Initially, the newly minted ETHE can only be purchased by institutions and accredited investors directly from Grayscale. Once a year has passed (6 months for GBTC) it can then be listed on the OTCQX Best Market exchange for secondary trading. Once listed on OTCQX, anyone investor can purchase at this point. Additional information on ETHE can be found here.
So ETHE is an ETF?
No. For technical reasons beyond my personal understandings it is not labeled an ETF. I know it all flows back to the “Securities Act Rule 144”, but due to my limited knowledge on SEC regulations I don’t want to misspeak past that. If anyone is more knowledgeable on the subject I am happy to input their answer here.
How long has ETHE existed?
ETHE was formed 12/14/2017. GBTC was formed 9/25/2013.
How is ETHE created?
The trust will issue shares to “Authorized Participants” in groups of 100 shares (called baskets). Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create these baskets and they do it on behalf of the investor. Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 39 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here Note – The way their reports word this makes it sound like there is an army of authorizers doing the dirty work, but in reality there is only one Authorized Participant. At this moment the “Genesis” company is the sole Authorized Participant. Genesis is owned by the “Digital Currency Group, Inc.” which is the parent company of Grayscale as well. (And to really go down the rabbit hole it looks like DCG is the parent company of CoinDesk and is “backing 150+ companies across 30 countries, including Coinbase, Ripple, and Chainalysis.”) Source: Digital Currency Group, Inc. informational section on page 77 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here Source: Barry E. Silbert informational section on page 75 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here
How does Grayscale acquire the ETH to collateralize the ETHE product?
An Investor may acquire ETHE by paying in cash or exchanging ETH already owned.
Cash: The investor pays the subscription amount in cash and the Authorized Participant will use that cash to purchase ETH.
ETH: The investor transfers the ETH to the Authorized Participant, which will contribute the ETH in-kind to the Trust.
Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 40 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Where does Grayscale store their ETH? Does it have a specific wallet address we can follow?
ETH is stored with Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC. I am unaware of any specific address or set of addresses that can be used to verify the ETH is actually there. As an aside - I would actually love to see if anyone knows more about this as it’s something that’s sort of peaked my interest after being asked about it… I find it doubtful we can find that however. Source: Part C. Business Information, Item 8, subsection A. on page 16 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Can ETHE be redeemed for ETH?
No, currently there is no way to give your shares of ETHE back to Grayscale to receive ETH back. The only method of getting back into ETH would be to sell your ETHE to someone else and then use those proceeds to buy ETH yourself. Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Why are they not redeeming shares?
I think the report summarizes it best:
Redemptions of Shares are currently not permitted and the Trust is unable to redeem Shares. Subject to receipt of regulatory approval from the SEC and approval by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, the Trust may in the future operate a redemption program. Because the Trust does not believe that the SEC would, at this time, entertain an application for the waiver of rules needed in order to operate an ongoing redemption program, the Trust currently has no intention of seeking regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program.
Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the fee structure?
ETHE has an annual fee of 2.5%. GBTC has an annual fee of 2.0%. Fees are paid by selling the underlying ETH / BTC collateralizing the asset. Source: ETHE’s informational page on Grayscale’s website - Located Here Source: Description of Trust on page 31 & 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the ratio of ETH to ETHE?
At the time of posting (6/19/2020) each ETHE share is backed by .09391605 ETH. Each share of GBTC is backed by .00096038 BTC. ETHE & GBTC’s specific information page on Grayscale’s website updates the ratio daily – Located Here For a full historical look at this ratio, it can be found on the Grayscale home page on the upper right side if you go to Tax Documents > 2019 Tax Documents > Grayscale Ethereum Trust 2019 Tax Letter.
Why is the ratio not 1:1? Why is it always decreasing?
While I cannot say for certain why the initial distribution was not a 1:1 backing, it is more than likely to keep the price down and allow more investors a chance to purchase ETHE / GBTC. As noted above, fees are paid by selling off the ETH collateralizing ETHE. So this number will always be trending downward as time goes on. Source: Description of Trust on page 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
I keep hearing about how this is locked supply… explain?
As noted above, there is currently no redemption program for converting your ETHE back into ETH. This means that once an ETHE is issued, it will remain in circulation until a redemption program is formed --- something that doesn’t seem to be too urgent for the SEC or Grayscale at the moment. Tiny amounts will naturally be removed due to fees, but the bulk of the asset is in there for good. Knowing that ETHE cannot be taken back and destroyed at this time, the ETH collateralizing it will not be removed from the wallet for the foreseeable future. While it is not fully locked in the sense of say a totally lost key, it is not coming out any time soon. Per their annual statement:
The Trust’s ETH will be transferred out of the ETH Account only in the following circumstances: (i) transferred to pay the Sponsor’s Fee or any Additional Trust Expenses, (ii) distributed in connection with the redemption of Baskets (subject to the Trust’s obtaining regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program and the consent of the Sponsor), (iii) sold on an as-needed basis to pay Additional Trust Expenses or (iv) sold on behalf of the Trust in the event the Trust terminates and liquidates its assets or as otherwise required by law or regulation.
Source: Description of Trust on page 31 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Grayscale now owns a huge chunk of both ETH and BTC’s supply… should we be worried about manipulation, a sell off to crash the market crash, a staking cartel?
First, it’s important to remember Grayscale is a lot more akin to an exchange then say an investment firm. Grayscale is working on behalf of its investors to create this product for investor control. Grayscale doesn’t ‘control’ the ETH it holds any more then Coinbase ‘controls’ the ETH in its hot wallet. (Note: There are likely some varying levels of control, but specific to this topic Grayscale cannot simply sell [legally, at least] the ETH by their own decision in the same manner Coinbase wouldn't be able to either.) That said, there shouldn’t be any worry in the short to medium time-frame. As noted above, Grayscale can’t really remove ETH other than for fees or termination of the product. At 2.5% a year, fees are noise in terms of volume. Grayscale seems to be the fastest growing product in the crypto space at the moment and termination of the product seems unlikely. IF redemptions were to happen tomorrow, it’s extremely unlikely we would see a mass exodus out of the product to redeem for ETH. And even if there was incentive to get back to ETH, the premium makes it so that it would be much more cost effective to just sell your ETHE on the secondary market and buy ETH yourself. Remember, any redemption is up to the investors and NOT something Grayscale has direct control over.
Yes, but what about [insert criminal act here]…
Alright, yes. Technically nothing is stopping Grayscale from selling all the ETH / BTC and running off to the Bahamas (Hawaii?). BUT there is no real reason for them to do so. Barry is an extremely public figure and it won’t be easy for him to get away with that. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust creates SEC reports weekly / bi-weekly and I’m sure given the sentiment towards crypto is being watched carefully. Plus, Grayscale is making tons of consistent revenue and thus has little to no incentive to give that up for a quick buck.
That’s a lot of ‘happy little feels’ Bob, is there even an independent audit or is this Tether 2.0?
Actually yes, an independent auditor report can be found in their annual reports. It is clearly aimed more towards the financial side and I doubt the auditors are crypto savants, but it is at least one extra set of eyes. Auditors are Friedman LLP – Auditor since 2015. Source: Independent Auditor Report starting on page 116 (of the PDF itself) of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here As mentioned by user TheCrpytosAndBloods (In Comments Below), a fun fact:
The company’s auditors Friedman LLP were also coincidentally TetheBitfinex’s auditors until They controversially parted ways in 2018 when the Tether controversy was at its height. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is anything shady about DCG - I just find it interesting it’s the same auditor.
“Grayscale sounds kind of lame” / “Not your keys not your crypto!” / “Why is anyone buying this, it sounds like a scam?”
Welp, for starters this honestly is not really a product aimed at the people likely to be reading this post. To each their own, but do remember just because something provides no value to you doesn’t mean it can’t provide value to someone else. That said some of the advertised benefits are as follows:
Access to trading within a tax advantaged retirement account
Institutions can easily and safely get exposure to crypto in a more legal-friendly manner
Ease of use for those who are not very technologically savvy
Ease of access for someone who doesn’t want to set up a Coinbase account
Perceived trust in institutional platforms over something like Coinbase or Kraken
Degen traders who just want access to the volatility ETHE provides that have no interest in crypto beyond that
So for example, I can set up an IRA at a brokerage account that has $0 trading fees. Then I can trade GBTC and ETHE all day without having to worry about tracking my taxes. All with the relative safety something like E-Trade provides over Binance. As for how it benefits the everyday ETH holder? I think the supply lock is a positive. I also think this product exposes the Ethereum ecosystem to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it.
Why is there a premium? Why is ETHE’s premium so insanely high compared to GBTC’s premium?
There are a handful of theories of why a premium exists at all, some even mentioned in the annual report. The short list is as follows:
ETHE is NOT redeeming shares and as such doesn’t have an effective arbitrage mechanism
ETHE has a 1 year wait to be sold on the secondary market, again negating the ability to effectively arbitrage the premium
People may simply be willing to pay a premium for the benefits stated above.
Why is ETHE’s so much higher the GBTC’s? Again, a few thoughts:
ETHE hasn’t been around as long, so there is less secondary market supply to go around
ETHE was listed at an insanely high premium to begin with
ETHE might simply be more popular at the moment
Could just be sheer stupidity (investors think ETHE is a 1:1 ratio not 1:11)
Are there any other differences between ETHE and GBTC?
I touched on a few of the smaller differences, but one of the more interesting changes is GBTC is now a “SEC reporting company” as of January 2020. Which again goes beyond my scope of knowledge so I won’t comment on it too much… but the net result is GBTC is now putting out weekly / bi-weekly 8-K’s and annual 10-K’s. This means you can track GBTC that much easier at the moment as well as there is an extra layer of validity to the product IMO.
I’m looking for some statistics on ETHE… such as who is buying, how much is bought, etc?
There is a great Q1 2020 report I recommend you give a read that has a lot of cool graphs and data on the product. It’s a little GBTC centric, but there is some ETHE data as well. It can be found here hidden within the 8-K filings.Q1 2020 is the 4/16/2020 8-K filing. For those more into a GAAP style report see the 2019 annual 10-K of the same location.
Is Grayscale only just for BTC and ETH?
No, there are other products as well. In terms of a secondary market product, ETCG is the Ethereum Classic version of ETHE. Fun Fact – ETCG was actually put out to the secondary market first. It also has a 3% fee tied to it where 1% of it goes to some type of ETC development fund. In terms of institutional and accredited investors, there are a few ‘fan favorites’ such as Bitcoin Cash, Litcoin, Stellar, XRP, and Zcash. Something called Horizion (Backed by ZEN I guess? Idk to be honest what that is…). And a diversified Mutual Fund type fund that has a little bit of all of those. None of these products are available on the secondary market.
Are there alternatives to Grayscale?
I know they exist, but I don’t follow them. I’ll leave this as a “to be edited” section and will add as others comment on what they know. Per user Over-analyser (in comments below):
As asked by pegcity - Okay so I was under the impression you can just give them your own ETH and get ETHE, but do you get 11 ETHE per ETH or do you get the market value of ETH in USD worth of ETHE?
I have always understood that the ETHE issued directly through Grayscale is issued without the premium. As in, if I were to trade 1 ETH for ETHE I would get 11, not say only 2 or 3 because the secondary market premium is so high. And if I were paying cash only I would be paying the price to buy 1 ETH to get my 11 ETHE. Per page 39 of their annual statement, it reads as follows:
The Trust will issue Shares to Authorized Participants from time to time, but only in one or more Baskets (with a Basket being a block of 100 Shares). The Trust will not issue fractions of a Basket. The creation (and, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redemption) of Baskets will be made only in exchange for the delivery to the Trust, or the distribution by the Trust, of the number of whole and fractional ETH represented by each Basket being created (or, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redeemed), which is determined by dividing (x) the number of ETH owned by the Trust at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the trade date of a creation or redemption order, after deducting the number of ETH representing the U.S. dollar value of accrued but unpaid fees and expenses of the Trust (converted using the ETH Index Price at such time, and carried to the eighth decimal place), by (y) the number of Shares outstanding at such time (with the quotient so obtained calculated to one one-hundred-millionth of one ETH (i.e., carried to the eighth decimal place)), and multiplying such quotient by 100 (the “Basket ETH Amount”). All questions as to the calculation of the Basket ETH Amount will be conclusively determined by the Sponsor and will be final and binding on all persons interested in the Trust. The Basket ETH Amount multiplied by the number of Baskets being created or redeemed is the “Total Basket ETH Amount.” The number of ETH represented by a Share will gradually decrease over time as the Trust’s ETH are used to pay the Trust’s expenses. Each Share represented approximately 0.0950 ETH and 0.0974 ETH as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
I applied price discovery algorithms to 5 Min OHLCV data from Bitmex and CME contracts and Bitstamp, Coinbase, HitBTC, Kraken, Poloniex, Binance, and OkEx BTCUSD/BTCUSDT markets from March 2016 to May 2020. Some exciting results I got was:
Before the 2017/18 bull run, Bitfinex dominated the price discovery process. They started the run. But as the price increased, trades on other exchanges, Binance and Bitstamp played a more dominant role in leading the price up.
Since then, CME Contracts and Bitmex contracts have had an increasing role in price discovery. Today Bitmex and CME Contracts play the most substantial role in determining the direction of Bitcoin price.
In 2020, market dominance by Bitmex has been negatively correlated with price. Dominance by Bitfinex, Huobi and OkCoin has had high positive correlation with price.
Price discovery is the overall process of setting the price of an asset. Price discovery algorithms identify the leader exchanges whose traders define the price. Two approaches are most famous for use in Price Discovery. Gonzalo and Granger (1995) and Hasbrouck (1995). But they assume random walk, and a common efficient price. I do not feel comfortable assuming random walk and common efficient price in Bitcoin Markets. So I used this little know method by De Blasis (2019) for this analysis. This work assumes that "the fastest price to reflect new information releases a price signal to the other slower price series." I thought this was valid in our market. It uses Markov Chains to measure Price Discovery. Without going into the mathematical details the summary steps used was:
Data is first grouped into a daily interval. Then inside each daily interval's 5-minute candles, the change in prices between the current time t and previous time t-1 is calculated. The difference across the same time t across all exchanges in a given day is juxtaposed to create an initial matrix.
The initial matrix is used to create a Transition Matrix, which measures the probability of price changing to something else at time t+1 for its state at t.
Then other Markov Chain based algorithms are used to measure the influence an exchange at time t had over all other exchanges' price movement at time t+1 individually.
Reduction and normalization is done to this data. In the end, each exchange receives a single number that sums to 1 for a given day.
De Blasis (2019) names this number Price Leadership Share (PLS). High PLS indicates a large role in price discovery. As the sum of the numbers is 1, they can be looked at as a percentage contribution. I recommend reading the original paper if you are interested to know more about the mathematical detail.
Andersen (2000) argues that 5 Minute window provides the best trade-off between getting enough data and avoiding noise. In one of the first work on Bitcoin's Price Discovery, Brandvold et al. 2015 had used 5M window. So I obtained 5M OHLCV data using the following sources:
Poloniex, Bitfinex, Binance and HitBTC: Exchange's API through CCXT.
CME: Okay, this was was supposed to be tricky and expensive. I broke a TOS and scraped the data for free, removing the expensive part from the equation. I will not go into detail about where I scraped this data.
Futures data are different from other data because multiple futures contract trades at the same time. I formed a single data from the multiple time series by selecting the nearest contract until it was three days from expiration. I used the next contract when the contract was three days from expiration. This approach was advocated by Booth et al ( 1999 )
I can't embed the chart on reddit so open this https://warproxxx.github.io/static/price_discovery.html In the figure above, each colored line shows the total influence the exchange had towards the discovery of Bitcoin Price on that day. Its axis is on the left. The black line shows a moving average of the bitcoin price at the close in Bitfinex for comparison. The chart was created by plotting the EMA of price and dominance with a smoothing factor of 0.1. This was done to eliminate the noise. Let's start looking from the beginning. We start with a slight Bitfinex dominance at the start. When the price starts going up, Bitfinex's influence does too. This was the time large Tether printing was attributed to the rise of price by many individuals. But Bitfinex's influence wanes down as the price starts rising (remember that the chart is an exponential moving average. Its a lagging indicator). Afterward, exchanges like Binance and Bitstamp increase their role, and there isn't any single leader in the run. So although Bitfinex may have been responsible for the initial pump trades on other exchanges were responsible for the later rally. CME contracts were added to our analysis in February 2018. Initially, they don't have much influence. On a similar work Alexandar and Heck (2019) noted that initially CBOE contracts had more influence. CBOE later delisted Bitcoin futures so I couldn't get that data. Overall, Bitmex and CME contracts have been averaging around 50% of the role in price discovery. To make the dominance clear, look at this chart where I add Bitmex Futures and Perp contract's dominance figure to create a single dominance index. There bitmex leads 936 of the total 1334 days (Bitfinex leads 298 days and coinbase and binance get 64 and 6 days). That is a lot. One possible reason for this might be Bitmex's low trading fee. Bitmex has a very generous -0.025% maker fee and price discovery tend to occur primarily in the market with smaller trading costs (Booth et al, 1999). It may also be because our market is mature. In mature markets, futures lead the price discovery.
Table 1: Days Lead
Out of 1334 days in the analysis, Bitmex futures leads the discovery in 571 days or nearly 43% of the duration. Bitfinex leads for 501 days. Bitfinex's high number is due to its extreme dominance in the early days.
Table 2: Correlation between the close price and Exchange's dominance index
Binance, Huobi, CME, and OkCoin had the most significant correlation with the close price. Bitmex, Coinbase, Bitfinex, and Bitstamp's dominance were negatively correlated. This was very interesting. To know more, I captured a yearwise correlation.
Table 3: Yearwise Correlation between the close price and Exchange's dominance index Price movement is pretty complicated. If one factor, like a dominant exchange, could explain it, everyone would be making money trading. With this disclaimer out of the way, let us try to make some conclusions. This year Bitfinex, Huobi, and OkEx, Tether based exchanges, discovery power have shown a high correlation with the close price. This means that when the traders there become successful, price rises. When the traders there are failing, Bitmex traders dominate and then the price is falling. I found this interesting as I have been seeing the OkEx whale who has been preceding price rises in this sub. I leave the interpretation of other past years to the reader.
My analysis does not include market data for other derivative exchanges like Huobi, OkEx, Binance, and Deribit. So, all future market's influence may be going to Bitmex. I did not add their data because they started having an impact recently. A more fair assessment may be to conclude this as the new power of derivative markets instead of attributing it as the power of Bitmex. But Bitmex has dominated futures volume most of the time (until recently). And they brought the concept of perpetual swaps.
There is a lot in this data. If you are making a trading algo think there is some edge here. Someday I will backtest some trading logic based on this data. Then I will have more info and might write more. But, this analysis was enough for to shift my focus from a Bitfinex based trading algorithm to a Bitmex based one. It has been giving me good results. If you have any good ideas that you want me to write about or discuss further please comment. If there is enough interest in this measurement, I can setup a live interface that provides the live value.
Crypto-Powered: Understanding Bitcoin, Ethereum, and DeFi
Until one understands the basics of this tech, they won’t be able to grasp or appreciate the impact it has on our digital bank, Genesis Block. https://reddit.com/link/ho4bif/video/n0euarkifu951/player This is the second post ofCrypto-Powered— a new series that examines what it means forGenesis Blockto be a digital bank that’s powered by crypto, blockchain, and decentralized protocols. --- Our previous post set the stage for this series. We discussed the state of consumer finance and how the success of today’s high-flying fintech unicorns will be short-lived as long as they’re building on legacy finance — a weak foundation that is ripe for massive disruption. Instead, the future of consumer finance belongs to those who are deeply familiar with blockchain tech & decentralized protocols, build on it as the foundation, and know how to take it to the world. Like Genesis Block. Today we begin our journey down the crypto rabbit hole. This post will be an important introduction for those still learning about Bitcoin, Ethereum, or DeFi (Decentralized Finance). This post (and the next few) will go into greater detail about how this technology gives Genesis Block an edge, a superpower, and an unfair advantage. Let’s dive in… https://preview.redd.it/1ugdxoqjfu951.jpg?width=650&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=36edde1079c3cff5f6b15b8cd30e6c436626d5d8
Bitcoin: The First Cryptocurrency
There are plenty of online resources to learn about Bitcoin (Coinbase, Binance, Gemini, Naval, Alex Gladstein, Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon). I don’t wanna spend a lot of time on that here, but let’s do a quick overview for those still getting ramped up. Cryptocurrency is the most popular use-case of blockchain technology today. And Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be invented.
Bitcoin is the most decentralized of all crypto assets today — no government, company, or third party can control or censor it.
Bitcoin has two primary features (as do most other cryptocurrencies):
Send Value You can send value to anyone, anywhere in the world. Nobody can intercept, delay or stop it — not even governments or financial institutions. Unlike with traditional money transfers or bank wires, there are no layers of middlemen. This results in a process that is much more cost-efficient. Some popular use-cases include remittances and cross-border payments.
A few negative moments in Bitcoin’s history include the collapse of Mt. Gox — which resulted in hundreds of millions of customer funds being stolen — as well as Bitcoin’s role in dark markets like Silk Road — where Bitcoin arguably found its initial userbase. However, like most breakthrough technology, Bitcoin is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. People can use it for good or they can use it for evil. Thankfully, it’s being used less and less for illicit activity. Criminals are starting to understand that transactions on a blockchain are public and traceable — it’s exactly the type of system they usually try to avoid. And it’s true, at this point “a lot more” crimes are actually committed with fiat than crypto. As a result, the perception of bitcoin and cryptocurrency has been changing over the years to a more positive light. Bitcoin has even started to enter the world of media & entertainment. It’s been mentioned in Hollywood films like Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse and in songs from major artists like Eminem. It’s been mentioned in countless TV shows like Billions, The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Gray’s Anatomy, Family Guy, and more. As covid19 has ravaged economies and central banks have been printing money, Bitcoin has caught the attention of many legendary Wall Street investors like Paul Tudor Jones, saying that Bitcoin is a great bet against inflation (reminding him of Gold in the 1970s). Cash App already lets their 25M users buy Bitcoin. It’s rumored that PayPal and Venmo will soon let their 325M users start buying Bitcoin. Bitcoin is by far the most dominant cryptocurrency and is showing no signs of slowing down. For more than a decade it has delivered on its core use-cases — being able to send or store value.
At this point, Bitcoin has very much entered the zeitgeist of modern pop culture — at least in the West.
When Ethereum launched in 2015, it opened up a world of new possibilities and use-cases for crypto. With Ethereum Smart Contracts (i.e. applications), this exciting new digital money (cryptocurrency) became a lot less dumb. Developers could now build applications that go beyond the simple use-cases of “send value” & “store value.” They could program cryptocurrency to have rules, behavior, and logic to respond to different inputs. And always enforced by code. Additional reading on Ethereum fromLinda XieorVitalik Buterin.
Because these applications are built on blockchain technology (Ethereum), they preserve many of the same characteristics as Bitcoin: no one can stop, censor or shut down these apps because they are decentralized.
Just as tokens grew in popularity in 2017–2018, so did online marketplaces where these tokens could be bought, sold, and traded. This was a fledgling asset class — the merchants selling picks, axes, and shovels were finally starting to emerge.
I had a front-row seat — both as an investor and token creator. This was the Wild West with all the frontier drama & scandal that you’d expect.
Binance — now the world’s largest crypto exchange —was launched during this time. They along with many others (especially from Asia) made it really easy for speculators, traders, and degenerate gamblers to participate in these markets. Similar to other financial markets, the goal was straightforward: buy low and sell high. https://preview.redd.it/tytsu5jnfu951.jpg?width=600&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fe3425b7e4a71fa953b953f0c7f6eaff6504a0d1 That period left an embarrassing stain on our industry that we’ve still been trying to recover from. It was a period rampant with market manipulation, pump-and-dumps, and scams. To some extent, the crypto industry still suffers from that today, but it’s nothing compared to what it was then.
While the potential of getting filthy rich brought a lot of fly-by-nighters and charlatans into the industry, it also brought a lot of innovators, entrepreneurs, and builders.
The launch and growth of Ethereum has been an incredible technological breakthrough. As with past tech breakthroughs, it has led to a wave of innovation, experimentation, and development. The creativity around tokens, smart contracts, and decentralized applications has been fascinating to witness. Now a few years later, the fruits of those labors are starting to be realized.
I know that for the hardcore crypto people, what we covered today is nothing new. But for those who are still getting up to speed, welcome! I hope this was helpful and that it fuels your interest to learn more. Until you understand the basics of this technology, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the impact that it has on our new digital bank, Genesis Block. You won’t be able to understand the implications, how it relates, or how it helps. After today’s post, some of you probably have a lot more questions. What are specific examples or use-cases of DeFi? Why does it need to be on a blockchain? What benefits does it bring to Genesis Block and our users? In upcoming posts, we answer these questions. Today’s post was just Level 1. It set the foundation for where we’re headed next: even deeper down the crypto rabbit hole. --- Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
We have a lot more content coming. Be sure to follow our channels: https://genesisblock.com/follow/ Have you already downloaded the app? We're Genesis Block, a new digital bank that's powered by crypto & decentralized protocols. The app is live in the App Store (iOS & Android). Get the link to download at https://genesisblock.com/download
AMA Recap of CEO and Co-founder of Chromia, Henrik Hjelte in the @binancenigeria Telegram group on 03/05/2020.
Top 7 unique, high-potential cryptocurrencies of 2019 that are actually innovating the space
Right now, the top 20 has 2 forks of Bitcoin, Tether, an exchange's token, Ethereum Classic, and a few other projects that make this space look far less serious than it really is. On the other hand, you have many great projects out of the top 20 with huge potential going forward. The purpose of this post is to discuss the cryptocurrencies that I believe are exciting, different, and already have (or are extremely close to having) a working project. These are the projects that actually keep my faith alive in crypto among all the other BS out there. I'm hoping to outline a few projects you know, as well as some smaller ones. I will exclude Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP from this list, as everyone knows them already and what they do. This is NOT MEANT TO BE AN ALL-INCLUSIVE LIST - that means I'm definitely missing some projects. However, these are some of the projects I believe will make seriously large contributions to the space going forward. 1 - Nano. Reddit already shills the hell out of this coin, and it's for good reason. Nano is the single fastest and cheapest (100% free) P2P digital currency in the space, period. There's something to be said about sending somebody 50 Nano and them receiving EXACTLY 50 Nano, not 49.999 or something similar. Nano is an actual innovation in the space, with a very different codebase than other coins. It uses a block lattice (instead of using a blockchain), which is an incredible invention, and is reminiscent of the kind of innovation that ETH first offered for blockchain applications in 2015 - but for digital cash. Nano feels like what Bitcoin should have been from Day 1. Download the mobile app/create a web wallet and send some back and forth between the two - you'll understand why people are so bullish on this coin once you've tried it out for yourself. 2 - Monero. If any coin most clearly resembles the fungibility and privacy of using physical cash, it's Monero. It's the only major coin that is fully private by default, 100% of the time. The recent updates over the past few months have made Monero extremely cheap and fast to use, and if you haven't tried it out, I'd highly recommend it (MyMonero's web wallet is excellent https://wallet.mymonero.com). There's no denying this coin's potential to shape the space in the future as the top privacy coin. Monero has also proven to be highly resistant to bear trends, holding its price better than nearly every other top 40 coin in the last bear market. Lastly, the team is extremely competent and makes real innovations to this coin - between making transactions fully private, cost reduction/speed upgrades, and forking away from ASIC mining, this team has proven that they are little talk, ALL action, and committed to constantly improving this cryptocurrency.
Augur - This decentralized betting platform was one of the first Ethereum dapps ever planned, and took nearly 3 years to come to fruition. It is one of the most well-made, useful dapps running on Ethereum right now and has real users making markets every single day. You can bet on pretty much anything using Augur, and it's actually completely decentralized - meaning no third parties or governments who are unhappy with the content or types of bets being placed - can shut this dapp down. It does have a few issues for sure, but I am confident that they are minor and will be resolved in time as this market continues to mature.
IOTA - No matter what you think of this coin, IOTA's tangle is undeniably different. It's DAG-like technology is refreshing to see in a space where 98% of coins are just clones/forks of other coins - even if it doesn't work the way it should yet. It's possible that the removal of blocks and instead creating a tangle of transactions where every node in the network helps to power future transactions could allow for scaling beyond what current blockchains offer.
BitTorrent - I really hesitated to list this one. Do I agree with the way Justin Sun markets and overhypes every small meeting or minor project development? Of course not. However, there is no denying that this token will expose a TON of new users to cryptocurrency for the first time - arguably more than any other dapp token. BitTorrent, the application, is already being used by millions of users, and there's no denying that. This is a rare situation and no other cryptocurrency dapp has anywhere near the user count that this BitTorrent has. While I don't love Tron in general... it is largely an Ethereum clone with few advantages other than added hype...BTT is guaranteed to at least see some real-world usage and it might be good to own a few tokens.
Upfiring - If you like the idea that BitTorrent is putting forth (rewarding seeders), Upfiring is that exact idea - but their dapp is literally already out and nobody knows about it yet. I hesitated to list this project due to the low market cap, but it just might be one of the most useful dapps out there and one of the best uses of smart contracts. The dapp is awesome - super sleek and easy to use. In terms of high potential projects, this one is huge with around a 2 million USD market cap and really could explode at any time imo. You can download their dapp right now and share files on the blockchain, set a price in UFR for your files and earn crypto when others download them. Torrenting is one of the areas that I believe crypto will make a big impact in, since rewarding seeders is an excellent use-case to incentivize file-sharing. With an ATH of 40 million, it has reached 20x the current market cap before, so the price and hype level is currently low.
Major projects to watch out for due to being overvalued or other significant red flags (please don't downvote this post if you disagree with these - instead, let us know why you disagree in the comments): 1 - Litecoin. I'd certainly agree it should be in the Top 50 due to its fame status, but the #4 position is ridiculously high for a coin like this. Put simply, there is simply no major use case for this coin. If you wanted to use something as cash, Nano and even Bitcoin Cash are arguably both better options. At least Bitcoin serves as the standard for markets on exchanges. Remember that the creator of this coin has literally sold all of it as well - while arguably a smart move on his part, it's something to keep in mind. 2 - Binance Coin. Regardless of the fact that it is Binance, and Binance is great, this coin's entire value is based on a 100% CENTRALIZED business. That's a big deal. This means if something ever happens to Binance, for whatever reason, BNB's value will directly be affected as a result. In addition, a 4.5 BILLION dollar market cap for an exchange token is just a ridiculous market cap in general, even if it is Binance. Props to Binance for making this token so successful, though. 3 - Stellar. This is a big one, and I know I'm going to take some heat for listing this, so let me clarify. I really like what Stellar is doing with payments, for sure, but one thing that makes that all null and void from an investment standpoint - Stellar's team owns over 80% of the entire Stellar coin supply. Let that sink in for a second. 19,331,690,041 XLM is circulating among every single Stellar holder, while the team themselves holds 85,710,809,041 XLM. People tend to ignore this fact for some reason, but it's unfortunately a huge deal and requires that you put a ton of trust in Stellar's team not to casually sell millions of dollars worth of their XLM whenever they want more money. How would you feel if Vitalik owned 400,000,000 ETH? That's the same ratio to what the Stellar team owns. There's also been a ton of sketchy things that have happened with the team selling off millions of dollars worth of coins in 2017/early 2018 - you can search those in the search bar to read up on those incidents where users here tracked those transactions. Lastly, Stellar is a fork of Ripple. Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, but it's something to keep note of. 4 - Bitcoin SV. Yeah, it's pumping right now. Who cares, so are lots of coins. Ignore it, and maybe it will go away. This coin once again serves no real purpose and has no place being the #8 cryptocurrency with how many great projects are sitting below it. 5 - Ethereum Classic. This coin has already been 51% attacked SUCCESSFULLY, and it's value has gone up since then. In addition, no changes have been made to the coin to prevent such an attack in the future, and none are planned. No hard forks will happen to improve this coin, ever...that's because Ethereum Classic's main value proposition is immutable and irreversible transactions, Ironic - because the 51% attack showed that transactions on this chain are actually the exact opposite of this. Obviously, this coin should be avoided. And before you ask, why did I leave out... -Cardano: Interesting project but too far away from releasing their smart contracts to mention in this post. In addition, market cap is extremely high for not having a working product out yet -Tron: A hyped-version of Ethereum with few differences. Not necessarily bad, but not innovative enough to mention from a technological standpoint. I won't comment on their marketing tactics... -Vechain: It remains to be seen whether this use-case will ever play out using a public blockchain like this with real businesses. Certainly one to keep an eye on, but as of right now it's not being used on any sort of large scale -Qtum: Still has yet to find a real niche over projects like Ethereum, Tron, and EOS -EOS: Raised billions of dollars in their ICO but their platform still has many issues. There are some decent developments like Everipedia on it, but overall I decided to leave it out due to once again, not offering anything THAT innovative to the space, and the lack of decentralization (EOS team can freeze transactions) I'll update the top list as well if anyone provides me with good projects that I may have missed out on here!
Regards!! I'm Jesús Zambrano, member of the Hispanic community of NANO for a long time. Last thursday, we had an interesting and enjoying Ask-me-anything at Binance Spanish community on telegram with the people behind NANO, Colin LeMahieu (Founder and Executive Director) and Zach Hyatt (Proyect Manager), where we take advantage of their kindness and willingness to ask them some questions and share opinions about de currency. I will share a compilation of some of the questions and answers. -(Admin) ¡Welcome Binancians to our following AMA! I will explain how AMA works; we will have three (3) segments. Segment #1: I am going to ask to our guests five (5) questions and then they will answer them. I will be explaining the rest of the segments as we conclude one of them. -(Admin) Today we have the great pleasure of having Colin (Founder and Executive Director) and Zach (Project Manager) with us in our chat room. Could you give us a little introduction about you? - (Zach) Hi everyone, I am Zach Hyatt, the Project Manager at the Nano Foundation and am excited to help answer questions about Nano. I live in Austin, TX where it is quite hot right now! -(Colin) I’m Colin LeMahieu, founder of Nano. I’m a computer engineer and I’ve worked at companies like Qualcomm, Dell, and AMD. I have been working on Nano for about 5 years now and I’m really excited to talk with people who are interested as well! -(Admin) It is a pleasure for us to have you here, I have to say that on a personal level, I have been a follower of the project for a long time now, so it is incredible for me to be able to count on you tonight, we will start with segment # 1, with the questions I have for you. Feeless transactions and in record time! What is NANO? Can you give us an introduction to the project? -(Colin) Nano’s goal is to solve problems with other cryptocurrencies and make sending value fast and fee-less. It has a unique design to allow us to accomplish this. We want people to have the option of using decentralized digital money instead of fiat money anywhere in the world. Nano is accessible and easy-to-use today and we plan on keeping it focused on these goals. -(Admin) Thank you for answering my first question, I am delighted with the features offered by the project, every week they are updating and making important changes that help to improve the ecosystem that surrounds the team. Here you can find all the weekly updates: https://nano.org/en Previously the project was called RaiBlocks, it appeared for the first time in an ad in Bitcoin Talk in 2015. Can you tell us why a name change came up later? -(Zach) Yeah, absolutely. Although the original RaiBlocks name has a special place in our history, it was difficult to pronounce in some areas of the world and caused confusion with certain users. We decided to move to a shorter name that not only was easy to pronounce but also reflected the fast, efficient nature of the protocol. -(Admin) A short and quick name to pronounce, definitely NANO is perfect to define it! My third question is the following; I had seen a very interesting gif early in the chat and it is just about the question that I came to ask. Currently, NANO has 100% of its tokens in circulation and these tokens were distributed through Faucets, so it meant that any user with a computer could get coins simply by completing some captchas, can you tell me which has been the experience of users when using this method? -(Colin) The faucet was a great way for us to distribute coins to people who have never used it before. Cryptocurrencies that use mining end up distributing only to people who have money to buy the mining hardware and this is unfair. We had a lot of people from Indonesia and Asia in the beginning of our distribution and at the end there were a lot of people from South America, Venezuela and Brasil that were getting most of the Nano from the faucet. We think this was a fairer way to do it and it got Nano into the hands of people in different locations, and it had a very positive impact on their lives. -(Admin) This is incredible! thanks for your answer! Can you tell us about what the Open Representative Vote is about and how it protects the network? -(Zach) Nano uses voting to get confirmation on the network instead of mining and the nodes on the network that create votes are called Representatives. Open Representative Voting allows people who have a Nano balance to pick whatever representative they want to vote on their behalf. This allows the people who hold Nano to decide who generates consensus instead of mining companies. The voting process is very efficient and is a big part of what allows Nano to be fee-less and use very little energy. -(Admin) Very good! The last question on my part: Nano PoW is your new approach, I have read a pretty interesting example with emails, can you explain what it is about? -(Colin) Nano PoW is a research project we’re doing in order to create a proof of work algorithm that uses less energy than other popular algorithms. Since Nano is fee-less, there must be a method to limit transactions going onto the network, which this PoW achieves. With the goal of using more memory in the process instead of CPU cycles in order to generate proofs, this new Nano PoW will help prevent ASICs from being able to cheaply send lots of transactions. It’s important for a cryptocurrency that’s used around the world to be energy efficient and green so continuing our research on this is important to us. -(Admin)https://medium.com/nanocurrency/nano-pow-the-details-ba22a9092d6f Thanks for your answers, Colin and Zach! I have a video, taken from your YouTube account that I would like to share with the community https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh9pA8UCUrI Can you tell me what we see in this video? -(Colin) This is a video of how fast our transactions send and receive. You can see it takes less than 1 second to finish which means you can use it as a currency. - (Zach) The wallet was made by developers in our amazing community, it is called Natrium. It really shows how fast Nano is and how it is easy-to-use! -(Colin) You can also see how simple it is to use. You just scan, enter an amount, and send. There are no complicated setting which is great for new users and great for adoption. - (Zach) And the best part is, there were no fees at all for that transaction. In fact there have never been any transaction fees on the Nano network ever! -(Admin) Great! That's why I wanted to share it with everyone, yesterday I could try the wallet and it is really spectacular to use, thank you very much for that excellent explanation, please stay with us, now comes the part in which our users participate Segment 3, community questions Q -First congratulations on your project, it is amazing. Now, does nano BlockChain have another use besides making transactions? A - (Zach) Thank you! Nano has always been focused on transfer of value and will continue to maintain that focus. The overall design is aimed at doing only this so it can remain fast, efficient and fee-less. Q -Good evening! I understand that thanks to its architecture called "Block-lattice", each individual provides the computing power necessary to verify their own transaction, thanks to this they do not use miners to confirm transactions and they do not apply commissions of any kind. My question is: How did this occur and how difficult was it? A - (Colin) It’s simila, transactions are validated by votes from the representatives, not by the PoW. The PoW is a way to slow down how fast people can create transactions so they can’t spam the network. Q - Do you have any short or long term projects so that transactions using $NANO were anonymous? A - (Colin) Long term we want to see what privacy options exist and are fast. Most privacy schemes make the transactions very big or slow to process and it’s important for things to remain quick and efficient so we can have fast transactions. Q - We are living in Venezuela many changes in the cryptocurrency sector, the integration of crypto for service payment and product purchases is already a reality. What agreements has NANO made with service stores to integrate it as a means of payment? I want to pay my movie ticket with NANOS A - (Zach) Thanks for your interest in Nano. We are always looking for ways to allow everyone to use Nano in as many places as possible. Although separate from our organization, we are aware of the efforts of the Nano Venezuela organization and try to support them when possible in bringing Nano to as many people and stores in Venezuela as possible. Q - (7 questions made from one persone at once)
How do you manage to make your transactions virtually instantaneous?
How do they create part of the company's livelihood if no fees are charged for transactions?
Why does $ NANO consume so little electricity?
Requirements for a medium-sized company to adopt nano correctly as a means of payment?
Since 100% of the $ NANOS are distributed, I have seen something in Medium that talked about `` Nano PoW '', could you tell me a little more about how it works? What profit will the person / institution get that puts hardware for their PoW? Will more $ NANO be created apart from those already in circulation?
What do the representatives earn for putting their vote and validating blocks if 100% of the $ NANOS are already created / issued?
7- Since your policy / slogan / commandment is to be a cryptocurrency without fees, shouldn't you force exchanges in which $ NANO is present that they don't charge withdrawal fees? A - (Colin)
Transactions are fast because they’re validated by voting. The votes get transmitted around the world in milliseconds and all people have to do is count votes to confirm the transaction.
We use the Dev fund to pay for developing the Nano protocol. The Nano protocol is a free tool that other people can build businesses on. We have ideas for businesses that can use fast, free money in order to help people send money to their family in other countries or pay microtransactions. It’s similar to Linux, it’s free but big companies use it because it saves them money.
Nano uses little electricity because we use voting for validating transactions. Voting is just sending data over the internet which is power efficient.
You can run a nano node with 40-60$/mo using cloud virtual machines
Nano pow is just a more efficient way to slow people down from sending transactions to the network
The most important thing is: why does a company want to use cryptocurrency? They want to use it because it saves them money on bank fees, etc. Since 40-60$/mo running a node is less expensive than their bank fees, they want to participate in the network to keep it going and save them money.
Q - Knowing all this about Nano, could you say that Nano is one of the most energy-efficient, Ecological friendly currencies in existence? A -(Zach) Absolutely. We care about making a positive change in the world and so pride ourselves on leaving as little energy trace possible in the world. It may just be the fastest, most efficient transfer of value available. Q - If the nano protocol had not passed the Red4Sec signature security test, would it have any vulnerability today? A - (Colin) The Red4Sec audit didn’t find any critiral vulnerabilities in Nano. In fact they did the audit twice because they couldn’t find anything wrong and that never happened before. It’s important for us to keep the code high quality and we will do audits again in the future because it’s important to make sure everything is secure. Q - I'd like to see more development of Nano by using SMS on our phones to avoid the problem of no Internet connection at the moment A -(Zach) As much as we like the idea of SMS, unfortunately it is not a secure network so managing Nano transactions over it brings some unique requirements. However we are always innovating and trying to make Nano as easy and accessible as possible so hope advances can help over time make it more accessible in this area. Q - What plans do you have to close this 2019 to increase adoption in Latin America? A -(Colin) We are very excited about the passion we see in the south american community. We would love to make it down to VE however in the mean time follow nanoVE for updates and meetups - there may be one near you soon! Q - How will you make the adoption and use of $ NANO continue to increase especially in markets where other cryptocurrencies are gaining more ground? A - (Colin) Our focus is to build tools people need to accept cryptocurrency. Right now it’s still difficulty and expensive. One thing we’re making is the device Appia which can accept cryptocurrency similar to a credit card. We made this device very inexpensive and can connect over wireless so it can be used in markets or resturaunts or other places cryptocurrency is not yet available. - (Admin) Thank you very much for your answers! You are the first guests that answer all the questions of our users, you are amazing guys! @AndyNano It was amazing to meet you, I learned a lot from you @FundacionNanoVE Thanks for making this happen! excellent work @nano_isam Thanks for everything buddy! -(Zach) Can we ask a question to the channel? What are the top things Nano can do to help you in your daily lives? -(Colin) My question: How do you store cryptocurrency safely? Where do you back up your seed so it isn’t lost or stolen? A - In Venezuela we currently have a problem with conventional payment processors, they are very slow, it would be great to be able to see people using NANO to make their purchases at any store in Venezuela, 0 commissions and instant transactions, is what we need A - Fast transactions are what can help society the most, and except that, the best thing is that it is very cheap ... from there it is addition, those are the main characteristics that we look for the most A - encrypted file in a pendrive A - Nano is a direct competition to the vast majority of Cryptos, in transaction speed and that it is literally free to send or receive, nothing to wait for 5 hours or the next day when you pay for items or services with Crypto, let's increase the adoption of nano! -(Colin) Question: Are there barriers to using Nano in your country right now? A - No barriers in Venezuela A - No barrier what is lacking is greater diffusion in means to give greater projection and that the adoption arrives. Here I am to support NANO! A - There should be no barriers to the payments we wish to make, freedom above all -(Colin) Fantastic! - (Zach) Thanks everyone, I have to go but I appreciate all the awesome questions and answers!
Here’s the sequel of our previous article. You wanted — you got it. Let’s roll! OneCoin OneCoin is a good example of a Ponzi scheme. In 2015, the Indian company One Coin Limited began to issue digital currency without a blockchain and decentralization. The old-school MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) strategy was used for the distribution of coins. The company was selling a wide range of training packages on crypto trading, mining and successful life. There were textbooks, presentations, and other rubbish, among which were OneCoin tokens. They were supposed to allow users to get even more tokens. But the thing was that only One Coin Limited had exclusive rights to issue of coinage. So there were no other options for mining this coin. On the international conference the founder of OneCoin, Ruja Ignatova, presents these tokens as theBitcoin killer. See how easy it is to fool users? Over the years, the company has spread its network globally. And only in 2017, the project gets into a number of investigations and restrictions. Owners and employees of the company more and more often could not answer questions from investors and carried on with the nonsense about “a bright crypto-future.” Finally, regulators and banks in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Belize, Thailand and other countries have banned the trade of OneCoin and warned users not to get engaged with this company. In early March 2019, the current OneCoin cryptocurrency leader Konstantin Ignatov, brother of Ruja Ignatova, was arrested at Los Angeles airport. He is accused of fraud and creating a financial pyramid. According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Ignatov and his sister misled investors all over the world, and as a result, the people invested billions of dollars in a fraud scheme. They are accused of building a billion-dollar cryptocurrency company, based entirely on deception. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney, Jr. said:
“OneCoin was a cryptocurrency existing only in the minds of its creators and their co-conspirators. Unlike authentic cryptocurrencies, which maintain records of their investors’ transaction history, OneCoin had no real value. It offered investors no method of tracing their money, and it could not be used to purchase anything. In fact, the only ones who stood to benefit from its existence were its founders and co-conspirators.”
Despite all hardships, One Coin Limited continues to work. If you check out their website you will find everything there: a meaningless text about the benefits of a “revolutionary” token and other signs of a high-quality international project that deceives people. QuadrigaCX It’s not possible to take your savings to the grave, right? More than 100,000 clients of QuadrigaCX are ready to argue with that. So let’s try to recount the details of this strange story. QuadrigaCX was created in 2013 and was Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. In December 2018, Gerald Cotten (founder and CEO of the QuadrigaCX) and his wife — Jennifer Robertson, were in India on their honeymoon. During this trip Cotten suddenly passed away from Crohn’s disease. After his death, it turned out that Gerald was the only one who had access to cold wallets of the exchange platform. Changpeng Zhao (Binance CEO) comments this situation on Twitter:
“That’s sad. There are many solutions to split private keys or signing to achieve 3/5, 5/7 etc. Never neglect security. Also, never have CEO carry private keys. Bad on many levels.”
On January 25, 2019 (that is, almost two months after Cotten’s death) a special meeting was convened to appoint QuadrigaCX’s new directors. As a result, the inconsolable widow Jennifer Robertson, her stepfather Thomas Beazley and Jack Martel were elected to take charge of a company. By the way, this meeting was held by a conference call as the widow was very busy by hastily selling the property of her deceased husband. Indeed, there was something to deal with: a yacht, a plane, and several houses. Also, dearly departed managed to take care of his Chihuahuas by opening a special trust account for them in the amount of $100,000 (which is interesting, as Cotten did not show such forethought about the clients of his company). It’s worth to mention that the clients of QuadrigaCX had problems with the exchange for a long time — mainly related to the withdrawal of funds. The first wake-up calls took place in March 2018, when press reports negatively about delays in the withdrawal of funds the total amount of which exceeded $100,000. But that’s all just moonshine compared to the fact that in June 2017 the exchange platform lost about 15 million Canadian dollars — as explained to the community, due to a bug in the smart contract. As a result, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) froze about $22 million in QuadrigaCX accounts. This happened in November 2018, and for all users, it would have meant the end of a remarkable business but Mr. Cotten wasn’t explaining the problems to customers, wasn’t trying to solve them, and so on. He had just married and went on a honeymoon trip to pass away exactly two weeks after freezing the accounts. As the inconsolable widow stated in her testimony:
“To the best of my knowledge, most of the businesses of these companies was being conducted by Gerry whenever and wherever he and his computer were located”.
In February 2019, the head of Coinbase — Brian Armstrong unveiled the results of an independent investigation into the QuadrigaCX. He reported on his Twitter account the following:
“Sequence of events suggests this was a mismanagement with later attempt to cover for it.”“This implies that at least few people inside Qadriga knew that they were running fractional. If so, then it’s possible that untimely death of their CEO was used as an outlet to let the company sink”.
Brian Armstrong stressed that QuadrigaCX users started complaining about problems with withdrawing money long before Gerald Cotten’s death. Thus, the company management decided to invent a story about private keys on the laptop of the CEO to hide the financial insolvency, one of the reasons for which could be inefficient management. Nowadays, the Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX is officially bankrupt. Users of the closed Quadriga are now leading legal battles in order to recover their funds. The total amount of which is about $190 million in crypto. The exact circumstances of the disappearance of user deposits remain uncertain. Do you think the story with QuadrigaCX was Exit Scam or Mismanagement? Bitfinex One of the largest crypto scandals of the year broke out on April 30, 2019. The New York State Attorney General’s Office has filed serious accusations against the biggest exchange platform — Bitfinex. According to Leticia James, the exchange platform used the reserves of Tether, an affiliated company to cover up a loss of $850 million. Questions to Tether have been in the air for a long time. In January 2018, the critics of the main stablecoin assumed that the company, in fact, produced more coins than it actually could sustain. Some critics accused the Bitfinex in fraud and manipulation of Tether’s rate and influenced through it on the price of Bitcoin. So what’s up with the Bitfinex? Investigators of the prosecutor’s office claim that the lost money belonged to the clients and iFinex corporation. That is why, back in October 2018, Bitfinex started having problems with the withdrawal of the funds: the clients complained about long response time and a delay in receiving currency. According to the authorities, Bitfinex transferred $850 million to Crypto Capital Corp., the payment company. The Tether reserves were used to fill the gap, but this information was not disclosed to the public. According to the first data, Tether provided funding in the amount of at least $700 million for this purposes. Withdrawing this amount of currency severely shook faith in the idea that Tether tokens are indeed fully backed by dollars. And then Bitfinex had extraordinary difficulties in satisfying the withdrawal demands from the platform since Crypto Capital refused to process withdrawals or simply could not return any funds. One of the senior Bitfinex executives opened a can of worms by writing the following:
“Please understand all this could be extremely dangerous for everybody, the entire crypto community. BTC could tank to below 1k if we don’t act quickly.”
Soon after it was known about the serious accusations against companies, Bitfinex’s users began to panic. They started buying Bitcoin and trying to get rid of their assets in USDT. As a result, BTC was trading $350+ (6.75%) more expensive than the crypto market average. Tether and Bitfinex published a joint statement on their official blogs in response to the allegations of missing funds. The posts allege that the companies did not receive any preliminary warnings, as well as that lawsuits from the New York Prosecutor General’s Office were “riddled with false assertions”. According to the latest information, Bitfinex is supposed to release its own token and attract $1 billion in Tether through IEO. What do you think about these scandals and scams? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
BitcoinTaxes Podcast: Crypto Audits w/ Alex Kugelman
BitcoinTaxes Podcast Link TLDR; Alex Kugelman, a tax controversy lawer, discusses crypto audits and how to avoid them. Highlights: IRS audits are a real possibility for anyone who has traded cryptocurrencies. Our guest today is Alex Kugelman, a tax controversy lawyer with an abundance of knowledge concerning cryptocurrency audits. He's here to share his expertise on IRS cryptocurrency audits, including risk reduction strategies as well as enforcement predictions and misconceptions. Alex Kugelman specializes in IRS audits. His experience includes four years of Federal government court experience at the U.S. Tax Court and a U.S. District Court.[00:40] Alex: I'm an attorney out in California. I clerked for a US District Court judge and as well as the United States Tax Court. I've been in private practice exclusively doing tax controversy work for the past five years or so. I kind of got involved with crypto towards the end of 2016. I tended to represent clients mainly with compliance & disclosure issues with respect to cryptocurrency. I just really like it. Really interesting area. The Coinbase summons in 2018 played a major role in Alex's interest in crypto audits.[01:19] Alex: What started me into the crypto space was when the IRS first issued summons for Coinbase. We started getting some interesting calls regarding that. And at that time I thought to myself, this might be an interesting area. So I started following the actual summons enforcement proceeding at the District Court here in San Francisco - from there kind of worked with people under different types of compliance, including international disclosures. Now we're starting to see some of the first cryptocurrency audits come through. First, let's get a brief rundown of how IRS audits work.[02:00] Alex: It is important to understand the IRS as an administrative agency and all different layers of it. So when it comes to an audit the term that the IRS uses is an examination and there's three basic levels. The first is a correspondence exam. That's where you get a letter that says, dear taxpayer, so-and-so reported that you had $100 of interest income that wasn't on your tax return - we're going to increase your tax. If you want to challenge that, you can. And that's basically termed an under reporter notice. That's probably not going to be a cryptocurrency audit if you get that notice. The next one is an office exam. That is someone in the local IRS office sending you a letter that says, we have selected a certain tax return for audit and we're going to look at these issues. We'd like you to call us to schedule an appointment. That's going to be usually a tax compliance officer that is doing that. The third and probably the most serious level of exam is a field examination. That's also going to be a local IRS representative, typically a revenue agent. There, the revenue agent may come to your work or ask come to your work or business to kind of conduct the audit. All three of those are going to start the same: a letter that's sent to you at your most recent address provided to the IRS. Cryptocurrency audits follow a similar protocol.[05:40] Alex: I think it's likely that most crypto audits are going to start with one of two things happening. One is that there is information from the Coinbase summons that is inconsistent with what was on a taxpayer's tax return. I think for someone who's involved with that issue, they're going to have a good sense of that one because they should've gotten an email notice from Coinbase. Or two, the audit notice is going to identify older tax years - 2013, 2014 or 2015 because those are the years that the information related to. Another reason I think people will get audited is going to be because information on the return is incomplete, in the sense that the taxpayer or the cryptocurrency owner reports some transactions, without enough detail to figure out the actual cost basis. Does reporting your data in an aggregated fashion increase your chances of being audited?[06:45] Alex: I mean one - to the extent that there's going to be a lot of taxpayers - a lot of people use TurboTax, right? If that's the way TurboTax is preparing all of those returns, it would seem to me you're kind of in a herd of people like that. And at least it's consistent with what a lot of people are doing. The second part of that is going to be at least those people who have prepare the returns in that manner, they're going to, or should have, the underlying data. So even if it's an aggregate reporting of each asset class as opposed to each individual trade, if there ever were questions then you're going to have your CSV files, you're going to have your Bitcoin.tax exports, you're going to have all the information that you need to back that up. Alex is an advocate of over-reporting your information to the IRS.[09:30] Alex: I'm a big proponent of over-reporting - and I don't mean paying too much tax. I just mean including too much information. Because at some point there's kind of two ways that your returned can be flagged: a computer flags the return for some reason or there's a special unit or a person who actually flags it. At the end of the day, a human being will be looking at that return and deciding whether it actually is going to go all the way through to an audit. I want them to completely understand what's being reported, why it's been reported, and if there's too much information, that's fine - it's less likely that someone's going to have more questions. A crypto audit is very likely to be a field exam - and it's important to hire a good rep.[11:00] Alex: It's very likely going to be a field exam, which means you're going to have a revenue agent - and those are kind of the best of the best auditors for an IRS audit. And remember - an IRS audit is a civil matter. It is not criminal at this point. Again, it's unlikely that it will become criminal. It is, however, the highest level of audit you're going to get. If you're going to hire a representative, which you have every right to do, you should contact that person, let them know what's going on and probably have them interface with the auditor. You should receive, as part of the opening notice or letter, the information document request - which is identifying what things to bring for the auditor. Also, it'll tip to what topics might be important. For example the typical things you're going to see will be bank statements, financial or asset account statements, which I view as requesting exchange statements or exchange CSV files. Any documents that show the cost basis for your cryptocurrency trades. Audits are more art than science.[13:35] Alex: The auditor has a fair amount of power. So if you play real hardball - that's not going to prevent the auditor from expanding to other years. So when you get that audit notice ,and let's say that you're going to deal with this yourself, the first thing you want to kind of figure out is what are the areas that I wouldn't want to go into, and what are the areas that I don't have good records? That will help guide the way to respond or what information to pull together. The reality is, and let's just be honest here - for most people reporting cryptocurrency gains, they have all of the information. The IRS does not have much. They might have some records from Coinbase, but it's not as if they have a treasure trove of third party data. The burden is really going to be, in every audit, on the taxpayer to prove their tax return is correct. It's difficult to say how lenient the IRS will be regarding past years.[15:35] Alex: I think the way that I would look at it is that maybe the standard of of records required to really substantiate older years might be a little bit lower for older years as opposed to now because it's different now. There's a lot better information provided by some of the exchanges. There's a lot more software out there to help you, especially for people who are newer to crypto. You should have access to all your bank records. You should still have a lot of emails, reflecting on-ramping off-ramping, or other purchases. You should be able to kind of pull this all together. I can understand when we have clients who come in and are early adopters and they're missing chunks of information. So I do think that in those types of circumstances, yes, I think there would be a little bit of leniency. But I don't think if you're asking, hey, I reported my gains in 2017 but I never really did it 14, 15 or 16 - I don't think that's going to be viewed very favorably. It is possible to substantiate your data without all of your records.[19:00] Alex: I think the first thing is, I mean, outside of cryptocurrency and just generally in audits, how many people have complete records to support everything on their tax return from three years ago? Right? It's just not the reality. The best source of information in a lot of these cryptocurrency clients are the clients themselves. They kind of know what they did and they can remember. There's some who take good notes and other people don't, but as you go through and ask people: what exchanges have you've been on, what type of coins, if you bought any ICOs, have you ever sold for actual US cash, and have you ever bought goods or services? As you talk through things people tend to recall what happened. We use that information and we cross check that against bank statements, as well as CSV files, to pick out what those transactions look like. Most people have some sort of records, at least reflecting the transfer in and the transfer back out of that exchange. So you can use historical data and historical pricing information to essentially estimate what that transaction would have been. And then what we do is we provide a written statement summary of what we're doing and why we're doing it. The other big one that we see all the time - and anybody listening to this, please hear this, do not trade for your friends on your exchange accounts - because that type of commingling causes such major problems. Essentially you are walking into those taxable gains just because you're allowing someone access to the exchange to make sales. If you need representation for an audit, get representation.[23:00] Alex: My general rule is that I think experienced representatives are really important. I probably would not hire the CPA that prepared my return unless they were: one, experienced with being a representative in audits. And two, you felt comfortable that they weren't going to go in there with a conflict of interest. But I do think if you're worried about going into audit - hiring a skilled, and experienced rep is really, really important. If they're experienced with this, they should understand the appropriate ethical standards and go in there and essentially help resolve portions of the audit and move it to a resolution that you can deal with. Taxpayers actually have a lot of leverage in an audit. And that sounds crazy to say, but there is a lot of truth to that. And so as you're kind of working through the audit itself, you want to make sure that you're not just agreeing to something to be done with it. You're not agreeing to something just because you think that you'll get in more trouble or get a worse result otherwise. There are important risk-reduction strategies you can utilize to avoid a crypto audit.[28:15] Alex: The first thing that you really want to do, is just assess; for those of you that are really worried about an audit - just assess what it is you've actually done over the years. When did you start trading, what exchanges were you on, do you have records that reflect on-ramping and off-ramping? And that's going to be your bank account statements. Do you know where you've been, what exchanges you've been on? For foreign exchanges, there may not be as much of that AML & KYC compliance, but I really believe that you do have reporting requirements under FATCA for FBAR and something called an 8938, which if you listen to the podcast with Tyson, he kind of explains what that is. But it's basically if you have ownership of a foreign bank account or asset, you have certain reporting requirements, whether you've had income or not. You want to make sure you at least track when you've actually exchanged crypto for cash or vice versa. That's partly because that's one of those areas where when people can get in trouble with some sort of federal investigators - because those types of transactions can be potentially considered money laundering. For those who believe that they've used like-kind exchange rules to defer taxable gains -you should look on your tax returns to see if you filed the form 8824, which is where like kind exchanges are actually reported. That kind of goes back to the over reporting issue I was talking about before. I think that if you didn't report the actual trades that you're taking like-kind treatment for in past years, I don't know that you've actually taken like-kind treatment to be frank with you. I think, objectively, that might be viewed as just not reporting certain transactions. You want to make sure that you address these issues sooner rather than later. 1099-K forms can be misleading - to the recipient and, potentially, the auditor.[32:40] Alex: A 1099-K is actually a merchant processing third party information returns. And it really is typically associated with people who have credit card sales - so it's going to reflect a gross amount and typically on a monthly basis. It shows the gross amount and what I've seen too is that sometimes transfers actually get caught into that amount as well. So it's not even just gross sales or purchases - it may have other information. So the 1099-K can be really inflated. That's why reconciling that against accounting records is really, really important because that is one of those issues that I think could lead to an exam. To those who think crypto isn't beholden to tax laws: you are not correct.[37:38] Alex: The current commissioner of the IRS is Charles Rettig, and he's a really well known practitioner in tax controversy. I know from people that know him well, that he's actually mentioned Reddit as one of the reasons that cryptocurrency enforcement is his number one enforcement priority right now. The other person that I've seen speak a couple of times is the head of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit. His name is Don Fort and every year he does a presentation at the National Tax Controversy and Criminal Tax Conference. The last two years cryptocurrency has been number two and number one on his list. As much as the IRS lacks the funding and the manpower that it needs for all the enforcement, the IRS CI are really, really good and they are probably best agency at dealing with cryptocurrency enforcement issues. I really think that it's gaining steam and I think once the audits from the Coinbase summons kind of get going, I think it's going to be a really scrutinized area. I think the people who have gone through the cost and the pain of disclosing and amending returns and doing everything they can will be happy that they did in a couple of years. I think the other people are going to be sweating it out - I don't know if it's ever really worth it to be honest with you. I would recommend people do their best to get in compliance. In summary: do your best to report your crypto gains and losses - and don't try to pull one over on the IRS.[42:36] Alex: For people who have potential issues with past years, one is getting a consistent record and just amending your past years, so they're consistent. For people who have the foreign account issues - let's just say, for example, had an account with Binance, and that Binance account was never reported. The IRS has disclosure programs that allow you to amend certain returns, pay the tax that you report and pay a penalty, which would be 5% of the the highest account value that you have. For people who don't want to deal with this, I think taking evasive steps is the best way to get the worst result possible. One of the things that I learned very early in dealing with audits and tax compliance, is that you can always make things worse. I think you really just want to address it and resolve the issue while you have a good opportunity. We may see criminal prosecution of some of the "big fish" tax evaders from the Coinbase summons.[46:43] Alex: Yeah, and I think the two things that I'm fairly certain we're going to see: one is we're going to see the IRS use the information provided by Coinbase to start auditing the biggest account holders from that period. I think that's very likely. Probably the second one that I would say is very likely is that you're going to see limited criminal prosecutions related to cryptocurrency. And these are going to be people that have some sort of level of notoriety, whether actually famous or maybe famous in the cryptocurrency world. That's typically how the IRS and Department of Justice uses limited resources to prosecute criminal tax tax crimes. Alex is a great guy to reach out to with any audit-related questions, crypto or otherwise.[48:50] Alex: You can go to my website: www.kugelmanlaw.com. You can email me at [email protected]. I have clients all over the country, international clients. If you need any sort of help, whether that's representing you, or at least doing the nitty gritty audit investigation, we're always willing to talk to people and help them out as best we can. If you enjoyed our podcast, be sure to check back frequently for more great discussions about a range of topics in the crypto space. If you have any questions for Alex Kugelman, or want to schedule a consultation with him, he can be reached via his website www.kugelmanlaw.com, or via email at [email protected]. If you would like to request a topic for an interview, or have any questions related to this podcast, be sure to reach out to us at [email protected].
Consensus Network EP36: Buy, Borrow and Die: Bitcoin Style
Catch the full episode: https://www.consensusnetwork.io/podcastepisodes/2019/10/5/ep36-buy-borrow-and-die-bitcoin-style-1 Buck: Welcome back to the show everyone. Today my guest on Wealth Formula Podcast is Zack Prince. He's Founder and CEO of BlockFi. BlockFi bridges the gap between blockchain and the basic financial products that you're used to including interest-bearing accounts and loans. Zack, welcome to Wealth Formula Podcast. I think you we might have had you on before as a Consensus Network replay but first time on Wealth Formula Podcast specifically, so welcome. Zac: Yeah, excited to be here, Buck. Thanks for having me. And it's good to chat with you again Buck: Yeah so remind me how you got into this you know Bitcoin stuff in the first place, I mean you were as I understand you were a traditional finance guy right so where did the blockchain part come in? Zac: Sure so I was I was working at a company in the FinTech world that provided data and technology solutions to institutional investors that wanted to participate in some of the new online lending platforms, whether they were real estate platforms or consumer lending platforms, and I kind of became the FinTech guy amongst my friend group and people would ask me you know should I invest in these real estate deals on fund rise or buy loans from Lending Club and I started writing a blog to share the information more efficiently with my friends basically and I started expanding a little bit writing about Robo advisory and some other things that were going on in the FinTech space and that's what led me to Bitcoin, and this is back in early 2015. I didn't start BlockFi until 2017 because I started following the market in the background, still working in traditional financial services in FinTech and then in early 2017 it started to feel like mainstream adoption was starting to happen in the crypto ecosystem. I'm started going to some meetups in New York City because at a certain point my wife said Zac, you're talking about crypto all the time and you're talking to me about it and I don't want to talk about it so you should find some other people to talk about this with. And the meetup composition started to change and in 2016 when I started going to these meetups it was the early crypto adopters you know libertarians, computer scientists and then in early 2017 I started to see some venture capitalists, some guys who had just left their job at Wall Street still wearing a suit, some more entrepreneurs and it was a really exciting time in the ecosystem, things like the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance were getting announced which had participation microsoft and a lot of other you know fortune 500 companies and I had started to believe in it. I was drinking the kool-aid a little bit so I decided to find a way to get involved in the space full-time and that's what led me to start BlockFi. Buck: So I have to imagine that the response you got from the traditional finance people around that time when you started talking about the blockchain space and when you started being more and more involved with that was probably not a very positive response initially or did you did you experience some of that sort of you know rejection initially to what you were doing? Zac: Yeah absolutely. But you know throughout my career this is now kind of the third emerging technology industry that I've worked in. I was originally an advertising technology starting like you know 15 years ago and I was in FinTech specifically the online lending side of FinTech which in its early days was called peer-to-peer lending and now in crypto. So having to do a lot of education explain it you know why something isn't crazy and it might work and here's why and here's the value proposition and here's what it is, I've gotten very used to that and comfortable with it. But yeah there were a lot of people who are like you know I've heard Bitcoin is only used by drug dealers and money launderers. I've heard that I'm supposed to care about blockchain and not Bitcoin. And you know at BlockFi we’re providing financial products into the market so it's a heavily regulated business so we also had to communicate with regulators. We had to explain to state regulators, federal regulators why what we were doing with Bitcoin and other cryptos than when you're doing these same types of things with assets that they're more familiar with. Buck: So when you were talking to people back in, I don't know I guess 2016/17 and it's not a long time ago, it's only two years ago, but I have to imagine that the response or the you know the approach that people take to you when you speak to investors is very different. Has it become more mainstream in that regard for you know for big money investors? Zac: It's absolutely become more mainstream you know the end of 2017 Q3/Q4. Point was going on that parabolic run it started to get covered everywhere, I mean it was on CNBC every day it was in Bloomberg New York Times Wall Street Journal. If you were paying attention to the financial industry and markets you heard about Bitcoin at that time if you hadn't heard about it before. So from a baseline of awareness perspective it got a lot better and then in 2018 you had a number of positive developments for the sector including one that I think is probably the most noteworthy which is that Bitcoin futures were listed on the CME the institutional investor perspective that's massive. You now have a well regulated well known super trustworthy venue where you can get exposure to this asset class, you also had companies like Grayscale bringing products to the market which are accessible to certain types of investors and their low bridge accounts and you started to see some adoption from companies like FinTech companies like Robin Hood and Square making Bitcoin available on their platforms. So the conversation has absolutely changed a lot and it's become less about whether or not this is something that's going to continue to exist whether or not it's something that was just a bubble and is going to die and now it's more about ok how is it going to get used how big could it get what are the interesting applications of it and what could have potentially disrupt in the traditional financial ecosystem. Buck: So you know we had obviously following this you know pop in 2017, you know I actually like you kind of really got into this early 2017 so timing was pretty good I guess now regards. Good or bad depending how you look at it but I was there before before the parabolic move. And then we have you know then we followed this up with a crypto winter and and you know who knows if we're done with it, I guess we certainly are much better off than we were. You know a unit buddy it's funny Zac I don’t know if you remember this but I was about to, we'll talk about BlockFi specifically in a minute but, I was about to use BlockFi for borrowing because I like this idea of borrowing you know collateralized debt and collateralized debt on assets and buying something else. So I was about to do it and then Bitcoin lost a clip and I was like literally and I remember I was just emailing with somebody somebody over there and I was like sorry dude I guess I just sold it, I just sold all that Bitcoin I had and you sent one email back to me and it said “capitulation” but it you know and so now we're looking back at these we go down from 3,000 back up you know been sort of flirting around this 10,000 and it seems like we're kind of maybe that we're stuck there, maybe we're kind of out of winter, maybe we're in a holding pattern but it seems like to me that since that two years not only is the awareness increase but the development of the ecosystem itself is so much further advanced than it was in 2017. Is this an unusual case where the technology and maybe even the infrastructure is actually outpacing the price? Zac: You know it's really hard to say. I would argue that in some ways it's typical. In other industries that showed a lot of promise where investors could you know participate maybe a little bit ahead of the adoption curve you saw crazy price run ups with the tech bubble and you know ‘99-2000 being the one that's kind of top of mind in recent memory and then on the other side of things, are we behind where the price should be now? It's really hard to say because this is kind of like a commodity type asset built on a payment network and valuing that is challenging and there's not a perfect model for for doing it today. It's not as easy as something that's cashflow producing but I'm incredibly bullish. I'm on record as saying at the beginning of this year that Bitcoin has only had one year in its 10-year existence where it had a lower low than the year before and parted this year around the low price for 2018 and I predicted that we would in the year had a higher price than where we started the year pretty soon and now we're up and you know around 300 percent from where we started the year. As that happens in investing is people frequently look at things on a year-to-year performance basis and when people are looking at Bitcoin even if all we do is stay around 10 K from here when they're looking at how Bitcoin performed rather than other relative to other assets at the end of 2019 it's probably going to look fantastic. And you also have an event coming up and in the summer of next year called The Halvening where basically the supply that's produced by miners is going to get cut in half and so if you believe in the stock the flow type models of valuation for Bitcoin that is usually a very big driver of price appreciation. Buck: I believe May of 2020, right? Zac: That's right. Buck: In May of 2020. Can you just talked a little bit about that just so people know because people hear about it, I've been talking about it but I don't think that it really explained it. Zac: Yeah and you know I'm not I'm not a computer scientist so I can explain it in a you know in a very simple… Buck: No one else here is either. Zac: So basically the way that new Bitcoin is created is through this process called mining. And it's analogous to mining gold except instead of finding a place in the earth where gold exists and then getting your trucks and mining equipment and digging it out of the ground, the way bitcoin is mined is using this computer program and there is now specialized computer hardware that's built specifically and optimized for mining Bitcoin. And you have this network of machines around the world where the input is energy into the mining hardware and the output is new Bitcoin and those miners are what provides the power for the payment network a Bitcoin to run and when we say that there is this event called The Halvening, what that basically means is that the output that's built into the Bitcoin program that the miners are receiving as their payment for contributing energy to the network, is going to get cut in half. So the miners are going to have the same you know relative input but the amount that they're receiving is going to get cut in half for that input. This should, if the demand side for Bitcoin remains equal, it should drive up the price and historically Bitcoin has had three of these Halvening events in its lifetime so far I believe and around each Halvening you have seen you know six months before or six months after a pretty material run up in price. Buck: Yeah so it also goes along with that sort of that the entire idea that Bitcoin unlike you know other assets including gold is it's a deflationary asset ultimately and and that's one of the things that makes that happening really significant. Apart from and I have one more question before we get to block five which is apart from the Halvening, you know thing that's happening, what is maybe the biggest development or upcoming thing that's coming up that makes you the most bullish on the future of Bitcoin or blockchain in general? Zac: Sure so I think I wouldn't actually point to any one specific thing, I would point to two broad trends. So one is institutional adoption and participation in the asset class and the other is better ramps for retail participation into the asset class and just focusing here you know on the US market because it really is an international story but just in the US market. In September we should have Bakkt launching their futures platform. Bakkt is owned by ICE, the Intercontinental Exchange, and there's a big core difference between their futures and the current futures that are available on the CME in that futures on Bakkt platform are going to be physically settled so that means that actual Bitcoin is going to be needed to facilitate the trading on Bakkt’s platform which does not happen on CMEs exchange so that's that should be a very positive catalyst in terms of demand for physical Bitcoin that could have an impact on the price. Also on the institutional side this year I believe earlier this year, the first pension fund made an investment into an asset management vehicle that was focused on investing in Bitcoin and private equity opportunities in the Bitcoin and blockchain sector. So that will be a trend. Buck: Which pension fund was it? Zac: It was in North Carolina so I think it was like the North Carolina Firefighters and the group that raised the money from them was Morgan Creek Digital it’s actually invested in BlockFi by Anthony Pompliano Twitter and Mark Yusko so that's on the institutional side. And then on the retail side you've seen FinTech companies like Square and Robin Hood offer Bitcoin trading to their users. But soon you will also have companies like TD Ameritrade E-Trade and others offer Bitcoin to their users sometimes be a partnership sometimes because they've built it directly. You also at some point might see progress made in terms of an ETF getting approved that would give retail investors in the US market exposure to Bitcoin in a really easy and familiar way. All of those things are tremendously positive catalysts and the caliber of people working on them only continues to increase. Talent was attracted into the sector very, very rapidly these days. Buck: You know one question that leads me to is that all of this is happening with Bitcoin for the most part. Are alt coins in your opinion is that market coming back or is that something that we're gonna see probably select you know group of tokens projects emerge and then the rest will kind of just get left in the dust, what do you think? Zac: I mean I'll tell you exactly what I'm doing with my portfolio and then I'll provide a bit more color. So my asset allocation in the crypto side of my investing is I'm like 90% Bitcoin 5% Ethereum and 5% B&B; which is the Binance right. So I'm super bullish on Bitcoin. I think that you know there's a chance that Ether makes a comeback specifically I think that a lot of the stable coins that have been launched have been built on Ethereum if you're not familiar with stable coins it's basically the concept of a dollar but on a blockchain which could be really really powerful because it creates the opportunity for the delivery of US dollar denominated financial services at a global scale not using the traditional banking rails. And then B&B; I mean Binance is the biggest and most successful exchange they have a history of innovating, creating new products, going fast and so I'm taking a bit of a flyer with them but I'm 90% Bitcoin. I don't think that I'm not bullish on any of the other all coins frankly I struggle to see you know the big upside I have heard whispers in the community that there's kind of like a new wave of altcoins 3.0 might emerge, you know could see some some good returns similar to what some of the ICOs did in 2017 but it's not an area of focus for me. So that's my view. Buck: Yeah let's talk about BlockFi. Remind us exactly what BlockFi is. Zac: Sure so we're a wealth management platform for crypto investors. Today we have two products that we offer. One product is analogous to a savings account from a traditional bank where you're able to earn interest on your holdings except on BlockFi, the assets instead of being dollars are bitcoin and Ether and we don't have FDIC insurance so it's not exactly the same risk profile as a savings account at a bank, but conceptually you're able to hold Bitcoin and an account with BlockFi and earn interest on it paid in Bitcoin every month. That's one product that we have. The second product that we have which you are alluding to earlier offers our clients the ability to borrow dollars secured by the value of their cryptocurrency and it's analogous to a securities backed loan or a liquidity access line in the traditional world except instead of securities we're taking Bitcoin or other digital assets as collateral and lending it rates as low as four point five lending USD that rates as low as four point five percent a year. Buck: I wanna pick these apart a little bit if you don't mind. In terms of this savings account first of all is it just bitcoin or is it bitcoin, Ethereum? Zac: We actually support three assets in the interest account currently Bitcoin, Ether and GUSD which is the stable coin from Gemini. Buck: Got it. And talk about the interest because it's not one flat interest rate right it's different depending on how much cryptocurrency actually is held? Zac: Correct so there's a tiered interest rate structure. Currently on Bitcoin for balances up to ten Bitcoin, we offer a six point two percent annual yield and for balances above ten Bitcoin it's a 2.2 percent annual yield. On Ether, for balances up to two hundred Ether it's a 3.3 percent annual yield and balances above two hundred Ether is 0.5% annual yield and for GUSD the stable coin it's an eight point six percent interest rate with no tier so yeah those are the different rates. Buck: Why did, I mean was it just a matter of like an issue with people dumping like a thousand Bitcoin and trying to get six you know 6% of that, was it just too hard to you know make that a long-term part of the business model or why did the higher levels end up changing to a lower rate? Zac: Sure so I wanted to function of market conditions and to it's a function of supply and demand. So we launched the interest account in March of this year. We were just starting to come out of the bear market and one of the things that happened as we switched from being in a bear market to being in a bull market is the futures switched from being in backwardation to contango which basically means that our institutional borrowers the groups that we lend to that enable us to pay the rate to depositors had less of a need they had less demand to borrow and they were willing to pay lower rates to borrow crypto than they were when we were building and planning to launch this product. The second thing that happened is we were surprised to the upside in terms of the level of interest that we received from depositors and especially depositors with very large sums of cryptocurrency. So to give you an example you know within a day or two of making the product available publicly, we had a number of groups that were depositing 5, 10, 15, 20 million dollars worth of Bitcoin and so the supply-demand that we have to manage is, the amount that we have on deposit relative to the size of this market that will borrow Bitcoin size of the market that will borrow Bitcoin is partially a function of market sentiments partially a function of number of trading venues and the liquidity profile and it's partially a function of you know BlockFi’s efforts in terms of sales and client development relationship management. So the supply side got a little bit ahead of the demand side on deposit and how much there was available to borrow so we made a few tweaks. We want to keep the 6%, 6.2% rate on Bitcoin available to as many people as possible for as long as possible so that's why we went with the tiered structure where we made it available on balances up to 10 and reduced it for balances above that. Buck: Got it and the interest on that, when you say 6.2 percent that six point like it's all denominated in Bitcoin, you're not paying cash out right? Zac: Correct so to use round numbers to provide an easy example you start on January first with a hundred Bitcoin in an account, by the subsequent January first you will have 106 point 2 Bitcoin in your account. Buck: Yeah and that that's kind of neat too because then you're you know you're also getting potentially the upside of that you know I mean they made 6% but if you if you're really bullish on the market you could be potentially looking at a lot more than 6% on your money. How about in terms of the, is there like a you know do you do it sort of a month-to-month or six month or month you know year-long contracts for these things? Zac: It's month-to-month. So the rates are subject to change on a monthly basis. We provide notifications at least a week in advance before the end of one month on what the rates will be for the subsequent month and people are able to you know withdraw any time without penalty. We reserve up to 7 days to process withdrawals but we've never taken more than one business day to process a withdrawal so they're pretty quick but not instant for security reasons and yeah it's pretty flexible. Buck: How about the lump in the lending side how does how does that work? So now I've got like 10 Bitcoin and so I would deposit that I guess and you guys I understand that maybe that that goes into like a Gemini account or something, is that still how it works? Zac: Correct so we have a partnership with Gemini for custody. So when you log into a BlockFi account you'll have a deposit address. When you send Bitcoin to that deposit address it actually goes directly into storage with Gemini. Gemini was the first custodian in the crypto sector to receive insurance against cyber hacks on their platform. They were also the first custodian to get to complete a SOC 2 compliance audit and they have a really long track record of custody billions of dollars worth of crypto without ever having any issues. So it goes directly to Gemini and then you're able to interact with block-wise platform to take any actions that you might deem necessary. So you can view your interest payments you can withdraw you can deposit more you can also take out a loan. So in terms of taking out a loan, if you have ten Bitcoin that's worth roughly a hundred thousand US dollars at this point in time, you can borrow up to fifty percent of that value in a US dollar loan which can be funded be a wire or stable coin and then the structure of those loans is that you make interest-only payments on the amount that you borrowed throughout the duration and you can prepay at any time without penalty. Buck: And what's the typical you said it was four point six. Zac: We have interest rates as low as four point five. The interest rates on borrowing USD vary according to your initial loan to value ratio. So if you have a hundred thousand dollars worth of Bitcoin we actually have three loan-to-value ratio options. You can borrow at a 50 percent initial loan-to-value ratio which would mean you're borrowing 50k, the interest rate on that will be eleven point two five, if you borrow thirty five percent of the value so 35k the interest rate is seven point nine, and if you borrow twenty five percent of the value of the interest rate is four point five percent per year. Buck: Got it. In terms of you know the technical, so you basically pay that on a month-to-month basis and then in terms of contracts, are those also month-to-month loans or how does that work? Zac: Those are one-year term loans well now it's the ability to renew without repaying the principal at the end of the term at current rates and our rates for those loans have always come down so far. So it's a one-year term loan BlockFi committed for a year at that rate your payments stay the same but you can prepay at any time without penalty. Buck: Right. When do you do when would you do an actual sort of I guess a cap will call like what loan-to-value because you can go up to say you're borrowing at you know you're borrowing at the lowest rate you know you're at 4.5% you're borrowing see you know just for round numbers 100 Bitcoin you borrowed or you said 10 Bitcoin hundred thousand dollars but you only borrowed twenty-five thousand dollars at four point five percent, what if Bitcoin you know loses 50 percent of its value then what happens? Zac: Well you wouldn't have a margin call based on on that example. If your loan to value ratio hits 70 percent that's when we have a margin call and the way the margin call works is our clients have the option to either post more collateral, pay down the loan using USD or some of the collateral that's posted for the loan or take no action. If they take no action there's a 72-hour window where we'll wait to see if the price recovers, if it does then no action is required, if the price keeps going down further then we will initiate a partial collateral sale to rebalance that LTV to a healthy level at the end of that window. Buck: So in terms of the clients that you see doing this kind of stuff, I mean who are you seeing borrowing because you don't have a cap I mean you can on the borrow side, I mean and the rates don't really change like if you're depositing a hundred Bitcoin you're getting the same rate differences as somebody who's depositing ten for borrowing right? Zac: That's right. Buck: So who are the people who are putting I mean what are these businesses that are putting are using these loans who are the typical clients? Zac: Sure so it's a mix of retail and corporate. On the retail side we actually did a survey recently on use cases and the number one use case about a third of our borrowers expressed is that they were using the funds that they borrowed to start a business, which we were really excited about. So the other popular use cases were investing in real estate, investing in other types of traditional assets like stocks and bonds, home improvement, larger purchases, vacations were all used cases, paying down higher cost debt was another use case, and then on the corporate side the loans are used for operating capital. So we have some mining companies that borrow from BlockFi. Other types of companies who you know maybe have crypto denominated inventory like exchanges or crypto ATM businesses our frequent borrowers from BlockFi and our loan sizes rearranged from you know as low as five thousand dollars all the way up to seven figures. So it's a pretty diverse group of borrowers. Buck: So recently it sounds like you guys partnered with another company called Casa. What is Casa and I guess how does that benefit both companies? Zac: Sure. So Casa is a leader in fighting self sovereign storage solutions for cryptocurrency owners so if you're alone that owns Bitcoin and to use a gold analogy. If you want to own gold but you keep it in your vault or in your backyard you want to have physical possession of it yourself if you want to do that same type of custody with Bitcoin. Casa has a solution that makes that really easy. Our partnership with Casa provides mutual benefits to clients on either side. So Casa clients are able to receive some discounts in terms of accessing BlockFi products and vice-versa BlockFi clients are able to receive discounts in terms of accessing kasam products and over time we'll build some things in to the user experience specifically on Casa’s platform that will make it you know a bit more seamless to interact with BlockFi products while you're on their platform. In general that partnership strategy is something that you'll see more of we think there are in the ecosystem that are specializing in areas that BlockFi's not focused on and doing things where we can provide benefits to clients on both sides is a win-win for us then and our clients. Buck: Last thing I want to ask you about, last time I spoke to you, you had talked about the idea of potentially Bitcoin backed credit cards meaning like you know getting Bitcoin back instead of miles or dollars back. You guys any closer to that, because I definitely want one of those cards. Zac: I'm so glad you brought it up. We're definitely closer, but we're not you're not going to have the card until like Q3 of next year probably. It's getting worked on, these things you know for better or worse they take a long time launching a credit program is no small feat you know we're working on it. We've identified some of the key partners that we'll be working with to bring that product to market it is going to happen and I share your sentiment like I wish I had it now. Buck: Yeah seriously that'd be great. Well listen it was great talking you. So it's BlockFi.com and it's spelled like block and then fi and tell us you know tell us the process of doing is pretty simple okay how long does it take to apply for these things… Zac: Yeah I mean nothing takes any time really. So you could come in and start earning interest and get a loan from us all in under five minutes. And we also have a client service team that's super responsive in in terms of communication however you want to communicate with them, over email, over the phone, over text message so you know don't don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're also on twitter. My twitter handle is BlockFiZac and our company twitter handle is @therealBlockFi so we're very active on those platforms and happy to chat with you there as well. Buck: Zac Prince, thank you very much for being on Wealth Formula Podcast today. Zac: Thanks for having me, Buck, I appreciate it. Buck: We’ll be right back.
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