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NEO Global Capital Interview

If you’re reading this, chances are you have experience or are interested in trading or investing in cryptocurrency assets such as NEO Global Capital

Chances are pretty high that a majority of our readers have invested a number anywhere between $100 to $10,000 in a mixture of assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and NEO. There’s also slim minority that has taken a walk on the wild side and invested in ICOs – some getting lucky, the bulk getting burnt.

Your decisions were likely fueled by news and impulse, and since your risk was relatively low, it didn’t take much convincing to place your orders

But what happens when that $100 to $10,000 figure is multiplied by 100x to 1,000x, in some cases 10,000x. And it’s your full-time job. And it’s not your money. The landscape changes a bit.

Cryptocurrency funds have a unique task ahead of them that involves navigating through a noisy and clamorous environment to get access to high-quality deal flows and investment targets. The stakes are much higher and reputation starts to matter.

CoinCentral connected with the team behind one of the world’s leading blockchain investment firms, NEO Global Capital, at their inaugural Boston meetup. The event featured heavy hitting figures from organizations such as Arrington XRP Capital, Pantera Capital, Block72, and, of course, NEO Global Capital.

The NEO Global Capital Fund I has a high-octane diverse portfolio of blockchain projects such as OntologyBluzelleZilliqa, Trinity, Mainframe, and Top.

The following interview provides some serious insights into the mechanics behind running an international blockchain fund, especially in the bear market that is 2018, from NGC Founding Partner Roger Lim.

Enjoy!


Can you tell us a bit more about what gives you a sense of a good investment opportunity? What specific traits are you looking for in the team, in the idea, in the technology?

NGC’s founding team has been involved in the blockchain industry since its early days, so we are fortunate to have worked alongside some of the early adopters of the technology. With time comes a better understanding of what industries are most in need of a digital overhaul, as well as where decentralized technologies will have the greatest impact, so our experience has certainly played to our advantage.

As such, we’ve developed a strong sense of which sectors will benefit most from blockchain; what stands out in terms of a projects founding team; and whether an idea is innovative and disruptive versus one that is similar to something that already exists and can really only offer incremental improvement.

That being said, NEO Global Capital has a well-rounded portfolio of investments, and we hope to continue supporting a variety of industries, including identity solutions; gaming; online content streaming; the financial services industry (i.e. banking, financing, payments, and exchanges); and so on.

We will also continue to invest in public chains, as well as privacy and security projects because we see them as strong examples of addressing a specific problem. Overall, it’s important to look at how competitive the market is for whatever that project is trying to solve.

Perhaps most importantly, we place a heavy emphasis on the strength of the team at the heart of a project: Does this project have strong leadership? What is their experience? Do they have high success rates from previous projects? A strong team is often the best indicator of whether or a not a project will succeed.

Could you tell us a bit about the fund’s relationship with NEO?

Our affiliation with NEO is a strategic one that allows NGC to fulfill its position as a leading investment firm. While NEO Global Capital is a fully independent entity, we are long-term believers in NEO and have created a dedicated fund aimed at fostering the growth of the NEO Smart Economy ecosystem. Through strategic capital deployment, project incubation, and utilizing all of our available resources, we believe that we can help accelerate the growth of the overall crypto market.

The NGC Fund I seems to be a newer fund compared to the NEO Eco Fund. Can you explain what are the differences between the two funds, in terms of objectives and potential investment targets?

The NGC Fund I is our for-profit fund, where we invest in the most promising and innovative projects related to blockchain. Our wider interest is in advancing the industry, so we invest in projects that have strong use cases and can help drive the mainstream adoption of blockchain.

Our second fund is the NEO Eco Fund and our goal here is to promote the growth of the NEO Smart Economy ecosystem. In alignment with our belief in NEO, we occasionally invest in projects that would specifically benefit from NEO’s infrastructure.

Overall, the goal of both funds is to help startups create lasting competitive advantages in an industry that’s become very crowded, very quickly.

NEO Global Capital

What kinds of short-term targets and goals do you typically agree with a startup firm once you have decided to invest? How do you go about agreeing on these targets?

Goals, objectives, and targets differ depending on the type of projects we are supporting. If it’s a public chain, for example, we would work with the project to identify gaps in the technical team, the roadmap, and milestones in advance of the mainnet launch. We are generous with our time for each of our investees; we want them to succeed, and if they wish to tap on the experience of any of our partners or reach out to our network, they have the full backing and support of the firm.

It tends to be typical that venture funds require a founding team to have a longer-term target that the company should be sold within a set period of time. Is it any different with NGC? What kind of timeframe do you work to for long term goals, and how do you define long term goals?

In general, token investments achieve liquidity a lot faster on exchanges than equity investments (months rather than years). Nevertheless, at NEO Global Capital we want all our investees to succeed whether we make a token or equity investment. We still hold tokens of many of our investments and we continue to work with them and expect them to continue their growth, development and to achieve the key business objectives over the coming years.

Are there any advantages to operating a cryptocurrency fund in a bear market?

In a way, bitcoin’s dramatic rise last year has solidified the blockchain industry: there is now an interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency that did not exist previously. As we move away from the crypto mania that ensued, the benefit of operating our crypto fund in a bear market is that most projects now come with good intentions.

This is not to say we have completely eliminated bad actors, but there were certainly more projects and players that emerged in the market at its peak when there was a greater opportunity for quick wins. Likewise, the current market allows investors to spend time researching, understanding a new technology or problem a project may solve — in a bull market, investors may act from a fear of missing out.

In addition to good valuations, the current market has produced stronger projects with experienced leadership teams, compelling use cases, and cutting-edge tech. We believe that the competitiveness of the market has not decreased in any way.

What separates a high-quality investment fund from a low-quality one?

A high-quality investment fund is one that makes educated and thoughtful investment decisions. One thing we are very proud of at NEO Global Capital is that our founding team comes from a varied background of crypto investment, traditional financial markets, emerging technologies, and mergers and acquisitions.

We would say that the best investment funds are those that are able to marry their crypto-specific knowledge with experience from more traditional verticals, thereby taking a more well-rounded and considered approach to investment.

A major component for any investor in the ICO space is access to deal flow. What gives NEO Global Capital an advantage here? Do you have any advice for smaller retail investors?

A strong reputation for helping projects post-investment is important and also entices more founders and entrepreneurs to want to work with us. We not only work closely with, but we welcome other funds to work with us to share deals, insights, and expertise. We strongly believe in collaboration and that a variety among blockchain investors (geographical expertise, background, and networks) brings diverse experience and immense benefits to a project.

As for retail investors, As Warren Buffet once said, “never invest in something you don’t understand” so definitely do your research, understand what you are investing in; and diversification is important. Cryptos are highly volatile and therefore risky, weigh up the risks before diving in.

Looking out on the wider market which is becoming very crowded. From the ICOs that have been completed so far in 2018, which ones stand out to you as being unique or otherwise interesting opportunities?

We think all the projects we have invested in have innovative teams and unique solutions to today’s problems within the industry. Ontology, for example, provides a solution to digital identity; Certik solves security problems in blockchain with formal verification; Hadron helps enterprises like NASA outsource their computation tasks with a large user and device population so that these tasks are done efficiently and timely. All hugely ambitious projects making immense progress and we look forward to supporting them in the future.

How does the NEO Global Capital team reach an agreement over which projects to invest in, or not?

While there are no hard and fast rules, a strong product, an effective business plan, and an ambitious, goal-orientated founding team would certainly be the cornerstone of what we consider a promising venture. Each of NEO Global Capital’s partners understands that investors are interested in seeing and investing in projects that are both unique and impactful, so we are often in agreement when it comes to whether to invest or not.

In your view, what is the outlook for the overall price of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies over the next 12 months? What are the crunch points that may end up turning the markets in one direction or another?

If I had to hazard a guess – I would say bitcoin could see new highs over the next 12-18 months. As regulations, standards, and infrastructure become more mature, I expect the market to react positively.

What would be your single best piece advice for any founders of an ICO or blockchain startup?

As the blockchain space becomes increasingly noisy, a recommendation we always make to founders and entrepreneurs is to consider whether or not they really need blockchain. Focus on the problem you are trying to solve and decide if blockchain is truly the solution.

What is the outlook for NEO Global Capital as we move to the end of 2018 and beyond?

Our primary interest lies in advancing the industry of blockchain towards mainstream adoption, so as we move towards the end of 2018, we will continue to strive towards that goal by investing in the most innovative projects; sponsoring higher education initiatives; and facilitating conversation between industry leaders and business professionals that will address what the industry needs, where exactly the market stands, and what steps can be taken in the New Year to advance the industry as a whole.

In line with this, we’ve recently invested in several key blockchain-focused initiatives in higher education: most recently at Berkeley and the National University of Singapore. We also held our inaugural meetup in Boston to discuss project funding and development, best investment practices, and emerging industry trends. We plan to do more of this as we wrap up the year, and hopefully into 2019.


This article by Alex Moskov was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Alex Moskov is the Editor-in-Chief of CoinCentral. Alex also advises blockchain startups, enterprise organizations, and ICOs on content strategy, marketing, and business development. He also regrets not buying more Bitcoin back in 2012, just like you.

In this article, we look at the World Bank blockchain initiative and the rising popularity of blockchain bonds. Even though this is a relatively new concept, banks and governments of all sizes are beginning to issue blockchain-based bonds and minibonds. Let’s examine these use cases and try to understand how these changes might impact the future of government fundraising.

Why Blockchain Bonds?

The first general government bonds were issued in the Netherlands in 1517. Since that time, this form of fundraising has played an integral role in public sector fundraising around the world. Traditional government bonds have served as a link between governments and citizens. Bonds of the past have usually been denominated in a given country’s own fiat currency. This, however, has already begun to change with the advent of blockchain bonds.

There are a number of reasons governments at all levels might want to use blockchain bonds over traditional bonds. For instance, utilizing blockchains can eliminate the need for third-party firms and financial institutions. In other words, blockchain technology has the potential to directly connect issuers (governments) and recipients (citizens). Now, let’s examine some relevant case studies.

World Bank Blockchain Bonds

In August 2018, The World Bank announced its plans to launch the world’s first blockchain bond. However, cryptocurrency will not be used as a form of payment. This is likely due to the fact that there isn’t a widely adopted, government-issued digital currency yet in existence.

Unfortunately, most of these options are regarded as Ponzi schemes. Therefore, fiat currency will be used. On August 10, 2018, the World Bank designated the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) as the sole arranger for a two-year bond. The organization aims to raise 50 million $AUD (the equivalent of $36 million).

Paul Snaith, manager of the World Bank’s Treasury Operations Capital Markets, has said that the institution is partnering with Microsoft in order to meet the technical demands necessary to create their software and platform. While World Bank blockchain bonds offer a promising step forward for investors, it’s important to note that anyone who purchases a bond will still follow the traditional path.

For instance, each individual purchaser still has to go through an official registration process. In addition, all cash will be transmitted separately from the blockchain through normal bond channels.

World Bank Blockchain

BNP Paribas Minibonds

The World Bank blockchain effort to become the first global issuer of blockchain bonds is quite an accomplishment, but it isn’t the only large financial institution working on such an initiative. BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank and the 8th largest bank in the world, also has a similar program in the works. In 2016, this bank started building and testing a blockchain platform to allow private companies to issue minibonds.

BNP Paribas Securities Services, the bank’s custody arm, is actively developing a solution that can maintain records of all minibond issuances as well as ownership changes. The bank also partnered with three French companies to further its eventual goal of real-world implementation. These included two renewable energy companies as well as an investment platform called SmartAngels, which worked on creating the first pilot platform.

According to a February 2018 article, Johann Palychata, head of blockchain at BNP Paribas Securities Services’ digital transformation department, said that more improvements are needed to integrate blockchain with existing market practices and stakeholders. Palychata also cited the need for regulatory changes to make widespread adoption a reality.

There haven’t been many updates regarding the possibility of BNP Paribas’ real-world implementation of blockchain minibonds. Nonetheless, BNP Paribas is also bringing blockchain innovation to other areas of finance like asset management. In January 2018, BNP Paribas Asset Management announced that it had utilized BNP Paribas Securities Services’ blockchain technology to conduct the successful trial of blockchain-based fund distribution in Luxembourg.

BNP Paribas Blockchain Bonds

Berkeley, California: First Blockchain Bond Municipality?

When it comes to bond issuance, most people likely first think of either international institutions like The World Bank or large banks like BNP Paribas. But local governments also have the authority and ability to issue bonds. Now, local and state governments across the globe are starting to implement a variety of blockchain solutions.

In May 2018, the city council of Berkeley, California voted to move forward on a project that would make it the first municipality to offer blockchain bonds. What makes this initiative interesting is the fact that it would lower the investment threshold for all investors. Typically, the minimum investment for municipal bonds is $5,000. In contrast, Berkeley’s program would allow people to buy bonds for much smaller amounts (i.e. $10 or $25) to support community projects.

This concept is similar to how cryptocurrency projects have reduced or even eliminated the minimum amount of funds required to participate in ICOs. Additionally, the city plans to issue the bonds in dollars. There is also the possibility that the city could create its own token, offering citizens two currency options.

Berkeley’s Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett told Bloomberg that circumventing Wall Street is one of the city’s motivating factors. If this initiative is successful, it could set a model where governments are no longer dependent on the services offered by traditional debt capital markets. For the city of Berkely, some possible initiatives include a muni-bond backed ICO for affordable housing. The city has already partnered up with a tech startup called Neighborly to make this vision a reality.

Berkeley University

Trends and Takeaways

Blockchain bonds and minibonds can change the future of bond financing. Governments and banks haven’t been quick to utilize cryptocurrencies in bond issuance or payments, but this could be a possibility in the future.

It’s yet to be determined whether governments and financial institutions are firmly in the “blockchain but not bitcoin” camp. Regardless if fiat or crypto is used, blockchain bonds create another potential use case for decentralized technologies. Most importantly, they represent a big step forward for the adoption of blockchain technology.


This article by Delton Rhodes was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Delton Rhodes:

I enjoy researching new, innovative, and interesting blockchain/crypto projects that have the potential to impact the world. Whenever I’m not writing, I’m usually playing sports or producing music.

Blockchain may not be a panacea to the all the world’s problems but there are many areas where it shows potential. Perhaps one of the most important is human rights. According to a 2014 report by Freedom House, only 40 percent of the world live in “free” countries. These are the nations that supposedly respect basic human rights. But a lot has changed since 2014, and not for the better.

A Snapshot of Human Rights Around the World

We often take basic human rights, such as freedom of speech or movement, for granted. Many of us forget that in some countries, simply speaking your mind can land you in jail–or even get you killed. While much of the world remains under the thumb of corrupt and oppressive governments, blockchain technology could provide at least the start of a solution.

The universal declaration of human rights from the United Nations covers a score of fundamental rights that all people deserve. Yet far too many citizens around the world do not receive them. Among the list of 30 articles are the rights to equality, freedom from slavery, discrimination or torture, and freedom of opinion and information.

An Amnesty report published this year revealed that many supposedly “free” countries are failing to comply with basic human rights. The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is one of the worst in the country’s history. The ongoing state of war in Yemen shatters all basic human rights to food and shelter. Turkey’s continued clampdown on journalists and political activists and Russia’s curtailing of freedom of speech are all in direct conflict with the human rights agreement.

We often associate human rights violations with developing countries and oppressive regimes. But the US, EU, and Australia all earned a place among the worst human rights violators on Amnesty’s list.

The EU and Australia were called out for their “callous” treatment of refugees, and Trump’s controversial travel ban borderline violates the human right to freedom of movement while discriminating on religious grounds.

Blockchain and Human Rights

With blockchain technology, we could track human rights issues more easily. This could bring transparency and accountability to both developing and developed countries. Very often, though, speaking about blockchain involves hypothetical use cases for some faraway date in the future. Yet there are many practical use cases of blockchain and human rights right now. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Right to Adequate Living Standard

From Zimbabwe to Venezuela, Yemen to Syria, people all around the world are unable to access their right to an adequate living standard. This means having food to eat, water to drink and not being forced to live in a conflict zone or in fear of persecution.

In countries where hyperinflation is wiping out people’s life savings, blockchain and human rights are starting to team up. Cryptocurrency is beginning to make a dent in the deepening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

With a national currency devaluing by 95 percent from one day to the next, more and more Venezuelans are turning to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dash as a solution. In fact, there are now over 900 merchants that accept payment in Dash across the country. The founder of Dash Venezuela told Coin Central:

“Venezuelans have been using cryptocurrency for years now to protect their capital from inflation. But now with Dash, it has opened a new window as a means of payment. It is an easy way to receive something that is stronger than the Bolivar and is within the law.”

Cryptocurrency further allows for micro trade and microlending. Since you can assign a value to the most minute quantity, the size of trade that is economically viable becomes smaller. Blockchain and human rights make a more compelling case as people around the world can finally access the banking system, start their own business, and buy and sell smaller amounts.

The Right to Participate in Government and Free Elections

Another of the UN’s articles is the right to participate in government and free elections. Yet this is willfully denied to many people. Electoral fraud is common around the world. Even in countries like the United States, self-proclaimed as ‘the land of the free’, significant aspersions were cast over the 2016 presidential elections.

The Kenyan elections of 2017 thrust bloodshed, controversy, and chaos front and center. There was a widespread sentiment that the election was rigged, and many Kenyans were unable to take part due to voter intimidation.

So loud was the clamor of voices crying out against the election that it led to a second one. But that was boycotted by the main opponent and the incumbent won by a surreal landslide with 98 percent of the vote.

But rigged elections and voter fraud aren’t by any means limited to Africa. They’re widespread around the world and even common in private companies and public corporations. Blockchain and human rights projects in this area are showing positive results.

People can vote from the privacy of their own homes, free from intimidation. And all votes are tamper-proof on the immutable ledger, akin to anonymous voting in a ballot box.

There are still some issues to be ironed out when it comes to blockchain voting. Verifying voter identity and making sure the same people don’t vote twice, for example. But countries like Estonia are already proving that it is possible. In fact, all Estonians have their own ID cards they can use to vote on the blockchain securely and quickly.

Blockchain and human rights

The Right to Freedom of Opinion and Information

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in December of 2017, a record high number of journalists were imprisoned around the world. The largest concentrations being in China, Turkey, and Egypt. Freedom of opinion and information is a luxury to many in these parts of the world. If a government doesn’t like a certain website, they can shut it down or monitor it. Wikipedia, for example, is censored or banned in many countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Turkey, and even France.

The very fact that blockchain provides us with a decentralized technology that is global and uncensored means that no one centralized entity or government can shut it down.

Privacy-focused messaging app Mainframe, and mesh networking startups Open Garden and RightMesh are working to provide censorship-resistant platforms to ensure continued, unbroken connectivity. Blockchain and human rights show endless possibilities when it comes to freedom of information.

Closing Thoughts

More and more blockchain and human rights use cases will develop over time. Of the 30 articles on the UN’s human rights list, blockchain technology has the potential to help with many.

With its correct use in identity management, we may be able to eradicate illicit slavery and human trafficking. And the ownership of land deeds recorded on a transparent ledger could put an end to the illegal seizure of land.

There are certainly many human rights problems to tackle. And it will be interesting to see how many cases blockchain technology is instrumental in.


This article by Christina Comben was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Christina is a B2B writer and MBA, specializing in fintech, cybersecurity, blockchain, and other geeky areas. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her surfing, traveling, or relaxing with a glass of wine.

Well into the second half of 2018 and it’s been a white-knuckle roller coaster ride for most. With Ether shedding 44 percent of its value in just two weeks and the media speaking of a Bitcoin bubble, is it possible to lose faith in crypto but remain bullish on blockchain? Apparently; if continued corporate statements like the UBS blockchain endorsement are anything to go by. But can you really separate cryptocurrency and blockchain?

UBS Bullish on Blockchain, Bearish on Bitcoin

CEO of Swiss investment banking giant UBS, Sergio Ermotti, came out with a bold claim recently. He said that blockchain was “almost a must” for business. UBS blockchain support is nothing new, however. Neither is their stance that cryptocurrencies are risky and will probably never become mainstream currencies.

UBS CEO Sergio ErmottiYet, when it comes to blockchain, UBS changes their point of view. The bank believes that blockchain technology can help companies become more efficient and reduce their operating costs across the board, from healthcare to finance. This implies a separation between cryptocurrencies and the technology that they run on.

But is it possible to separate the two? Furthermore, since the original vision of Satoshi was to send peer-to-peer electronic payments without the need for a middleman, UBS blockchain support could be misplaced.

Disrupt or Be Disrupted

“While we are doubtful cryptocurrencies will ever become a mainstream means of exchange, the underlying technology, blockchain, is likely to have a significant impact in industries ranging from finance to manufacturing, health care, and utilities,” UBS wrote in October of 2017.

Adding that, “Just as [the] internet has transformed our lives with email, e-commerce, or smartphone apps, we believe blockchain as an infrastructure technology can power future disruptive technologies through distributive ledgers, smart contracts, tokens or identity management.”

So, what about cutting out the middleman? The centralized authority taking its fees? UBS blockchain research does acknowledge a certain level of risk, although they limit this to technological shortcomings and an uncertainty as to which application will benefit the industry most. They fail to mention whether digital currencies will threaten fiat ones, or if central authorities will be cut out of the loop.

In fact, within the financial sector, UBS predicts that blockchain technology will have irreversible and positive effects. And UBS blockchain support doesn’t stop at words. The bank is also investing in research into distributed ledgers and smart contracts in its business model.

UBS currently holds a number of blockchain patents. Yet, despite Ermotti’s bullish stance, their blockchain activities are dwarfed by other large banks and credit card companies. The list includes American Express, BBVA, Mizuho Financial Group, Goldman Sachs, BNP, and Bank of America (who’s buying up blockchain patents like they’re expecting a war). Is this a bid to disrupt or be disrupted? Or a defensive maneuver to protect themselves against blockchain innovation?

Blockchain and Bitcoin Are One and the Same

Plenty of people criticize Ermotti’s point of view, seeing it as a convenient way of taking a politically acceptable view and a safe position. Leaving the door open without scaring away existing clients. Others believe that more than just convenient, it misses the point completely. After all, blockchain and cryptocurrency are one and the same.

Consider the Bitcoin network for a moment. The way it was created requires miners to believe that the value of the Bitcoin they are rewarded will increase over time (or at least, not decrease in value). Otherwise, there is no incentive or rational reason to invest in expensive mining equipment, electricity, and time.

Bitcoin mining company, Bitmain would benefit from an IPO

So, for those like UBS that are skeptical on Bitcoin, but busy singing the praises of blockchain, they may not fully understand. In an interview with Malta’s Steve Tendon, a member of the country’s Blockchain Taskforce and author of Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy, he expressed his concern with viewpoints such as the UBS blockchain one.

He argued that many regulators and institutions tried to draw a distinction between blockchain and cryptocurrencies, viewing crypto as a bad thing because of its criminal associations and scams, but blockchain as a positive technology with infinite possibilities.

“There is no way you can have a smart contract platform that is as sophisticated as the one that Ethereum has implemented today (but there will be others in the future) unless you also have a cryptocurrency that is being used to “pay” for the computation. So the distinction between cryptocurrency and blockchains are really artificial: they are just two aspects of the same coin,” he said.

Final Thoughts

Ermotti and the UBS team may be making headlines with their views on the transformative technology. Calling blockchain “crucial and disruptive” is all well and good. But frowning on Bitcoin at the same time may just be missing a trick.


This article by Christina Comben was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Christina is a B2B writer and MBA, specializing in fintech, cybersecurity, blockchain, and other geeky areas. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her surfing, traveling, or relaxing with a glass of wine.

Blockchain Remittance

Blockchain remittance firms are experiencing record growth thanks to an increase in global migration. As populations continue to migrate, the need to send money back to their home countries is growing. Blockchain remittance firms are providing this essential service at a reduced rate.

These international payments are vital to the livelihood of millions of people around the world. They’re primarily used for living expenses such as food, transportation, and education. Making these statements more tangible, East Asian countries received $129 billion in remittance payments last year according to the World Bank.

Remittance Stats

A recent study revealed that the remittance sector has grown to a staggering $585 billion industry. In 2017 alone, $439 billion was sent to developing countries, equating to around 700 million families living off of remittance payments globally.

Remittance payments have also become the main source of foreign income for many nations. According to a May report in Forbes, Mexico’s remittance payments have now superseded their oil industry to become the country’s main source of foreign income.

Mexico isn’t alone in their dependence on remittance payments. The World Bank released their 2016 remittance statistics in April of this year. The report revealed that remittance payments are now more stable than private capital flow in terms of international growth. This means that the remittance industry could be a smart investment in most parts of the world.

The High Costs of Sending Remittance Payments

Sending money internationally isn’t cheap, and non-profits such as the World Bank have been combating these high fees for years. Since 2008, remittance fees have declined 7.32 percent. This decrease saved migrants $90 billion in fees over the same time frame.

Whenever someone sends money internationally, numerous third-party organizations are involved in the transaction. Each verification step adds a small fee to the total cost. In addition, international conversion rates must be accounted for. World Bank reports have averaged these costs to be around 7.45 percent of each transaction processed.

Blockchain Remittance Fintech: Technology to Help Millions

Blockchain remittance companies are taking the industry to the next level by facilitating a frictionless experience for users. Traditionally, international money transfers can take days to complete due to the number of verifications that are required. Blockchain remittance companies provide instant money transfer services.

Remittance Firms: Abra

Africa relies heavily on remittance payments. Until recently, large financial firms, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, dominated the market. This changed when blockchain remittance companies began to spring up across the continent. Firms such as Abra are now changing the local markets.

The Abra platform allows users to transfer money for free across the globe. In addition to these cost savings, users are able to send transactions directly from their mobile devices. Abra offers a direct peer-to-peer money transfer technology that doesn’t require the use of any bank. And, the platform automatically deposits funds onto debit cards that it provides for users.

Remittance Payments via Abra

Abra is pioneering remittance FinTech with this all-inclusive approach. This non-reliance on the traditional banking system is important in developing nations because they often lack the means to implement the expensive infrastructure required to institute these organizations. By circumventing the current system, Abra users don’t have to worry about how to transfer money from blockchain to bank account.

Migrants are saving on fees and conversion rate costs by removing the middleman from the remittance system. These savings are too large to ignore, and now, industry leaders are researching this technology.

Blockchain Remittance on the Rise

For the first time ever, this year’s Global Money Transfer Summit (GMTS) will feature blockchain remittance FinTech. The GMTS is the largest international money transfer conference in the world. Every year, representatives from major financial institutions are chosen to speak at this event.

Among those invitees are representatives from Ripple, Stellar, and Cashaa. These popular cryptocurrency representatives will discuss the future of the money transfer industry and why blockchain technology is an essential path for the industry to travel.

Remittance Cryptocurrencies: Ripple

Ripple (XRP) was one of the first bank-focused cryptocurrencies to enter the market in 2012. Designed primarily for large international inter-bank money transfers, Ripple’s developers describe it as a real-time gross settlement system. The Ripple platform utilizes the XRP token to facilitate these global transfers instantly.

Ripple has managed to secure major partnerships with numerous large financial organizations including Fidor Bank in Munich, Bank of America, and Santander. In May 2015, Ripple became AML compliant after receiving a $700,000 fine from FinCEN for not complying with the Bank Secrecy Act. Today, the cryptocurrency remains in the top five coins in terms of market capitalization.

Remittance Fintech: A New Horizon

Blockchain technology is transforming the remittance sector, and Ripple isn’t alone in their quest to service the international money transfer industry. Today, numerous remittance-focused cryptocurrencies are available. You can expect to see further integration of this game-changing technology.

Now that the industry has openly acknowledged the benefits that blockchain technology brings to the table, the demand for blockchain-based remittance services is expected to increase significantly. This is great news for the millions of families that rely on this lifeline to survive.


This article by David Hamilton was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

David Hamilton aka DavidtheWriter has published thousands of cryptocurrency related articles. Currently, he resides in the epicenter of the cryptomarket – Puerto Rico. David is a strong advocate for blockchain technologies and financial sovereignty.

You’ve heard a lot about decentralization lately, but what exactly is decentralized internet? And what do people want when they seek it?

The internet comprises a network of networks, and if one piece fails, the internet as a whole still continues to function. You may have experienced times when you could not log into your internet account, for example. Perhaps a server crashed. Or maybe a cable disconnected. But when you logged in again you saw the internet continued to function without you. And so the world turns. The internet exists as a decentralized structure, to begin with.

Some aspects of the internet operate under a centralized authority, however. If you want to publish a new website, for example, you have to purchase a domain name from a provider because a central authority controls domain names.

But do people clamor for the peer-to-peer administration of domain names? Do people even think about domain name administration? Let’s take a closer look.

Infrastructure

The internet defines an infrastructure, similar to plumbing or an electric grid. A plumbing system maintains a reservoir of potable water and a network of pipes and controls. If a new house desires running water, a protocol exists to bring that house water. Thus it is with the internet.

Are users demanding new plumbing, though? When people turn their computers on, the internet connects, business transacts, everything functions normally, and that appears to be sufficient for most of the population.

The World Wide Web

When people talk about a decentralized internet, sometimes it sounds more like they’re referring to the world wide web. Tim Berners-Lee created the web in 1989, and it operates as a layer on top of the internet. It functions primarily as a user interface and provides browsers and links so people can navigate to websites.

You may be thinking that a decentralized internet could bring a better user interface then. But anyone experiencing the user interface of typical cryptocurrency wallets and blockchain sites might well be skeptical.

The web implemented a number of design choices reasonable people might well argue against. But centralization hardly ranks as an issue. Users freely choose their own browser. They decide if they want a browser from a large centralized corporation like Microsoft or Google or from a smaller product like Tor.

The Tor Project

Tor Browser

People who ask for a decentralized internet look for privacy and control of their own data.

Computer scientists founded the Tor Project in December of 2006 with the mission of enabling anonymous communication. Obviously, anonymous communication enforces privacy. Tor, an acronym for “the onion router,” protects against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The onion router provides anonymity with an algorithm of layers along the route of communication. Each layer only knows about the layer before it and the layer after it. The origin and final destination remain unknown to the intervening layers. In cryptocurrency, some privacy coins such as Monero implement a similar algorithm.

Tor publishes many products, including the Tor browser. The Tor browser builds on the same foundation Firefox uses, and Tor provides it as free and open source software. But nothing ever really comes for free.

Users of corporate browsers pay by allowing those corporations to harvest user data. Users of the Tor browser pay primarily with slower response times and a generally more cumbersome user experience. Besides, some websites require user login accounts, so you provide your identity to them anyway.

OpenBazaar

Open Bazaar Marketplace

Targeted advertising arises as one of the more annoying aspects of providing your personal information on the internet. Every purchase you make defines an exploitable aspect of your personality, and advertisers hound you ever after.

OpenBazaar provides an online peer-to-peer marketplace with no middlemen and no fees for using the platform. You buy and sell on OpenBazaar by downloading their app. This makes you a node on the network, and unlike traditional e-commerce sites, no central authority rules.

You can make payments with over fifty different cryptocurrencies. And your transactions are secure and anonymous.

To avoid scams and ensure customer satisfaction, OpenBazaar utilizes a feature of Bitcoin known as multi-signature escrow. The buyer and seller agree to a mutually trusted third party before transacting business. The payment goes to an escrow account. If the transaction satisfies both buyer and seller, the funds are released. In the case of a dispute, the trusted third party settles the matter.

Floating Above the Cloud

The internet reigns as a platform for conducting business, and consequently businesses move to decentralization through cloud computing. The cloud services organizations by providing virtual, configurable computing resources. This means companies don’t need to own their own servers and mainframes (known in the industry as “big iron”), and they do not need to purchase resources from a physical data center.

Cloud providers allow users to create and configure virtual computers in software. Users thereby create servers as powerful or modest as their needs dictate.

But the cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure own the massive amount of equipment required for this task. And although the cloud frees businesses of the need to purchase and maintain their own big iron and servers, cloud services are expensive.

Can Decentralized Blockchain Computing Replace the Cloud?

The simplest service provided by cloud computing has to be disk space for file storage. Put a file on a system on the cloud, then retrieve it later.

In a blockchain file storage scenario, a peer-to-peer network exists. Nodes with excess disk capacity lease disk space to customers. Customers then upload, store, and download files as needed. Users pay with cryptocurrency on a blockchain. Customer files are encrypted, preventing the host or anyone else from reading private data. The files are also broken into multiple parts and distributed across multiple nodes. This distribution also enforces privacy since a host only has a fragment of the user’s information.

Note that in this process, no centralized authority controls or sells the disk space. Peers sell available disk space to other peers.

Multiple companies now provide platforms for storage using decentralized blockchains. The Sia Storage Platform launched in 2015, and Siacoin powers commerce on their network. Similarly, Storj also provides decentralized storage and uses Storj coin. Finally, the Filecoin project developed by Protocol Labs represents another popular choice.

Decentralized Internet – Concluding Thoughts

To some extent, decentralization resides in the eye of the beholder.

The blockchain network for Bitcoin is decentralized in terms of the consensus algorithm. But given the cost of hardware resources and electricity, wealth is required to mine it. And simple common sense tells us the majority of Bitcoin wealth is centralized in a relatively few affluent early adopters.

When people speak of a decentralized internet, the gist of the matter seems to be the lack of privacy on the web, the lack of control over our personal data, and the desire for affordable resources.

No one product defines the decentralized internet, but blockchain technology provides at least some capabilities to achieve these goals in a variety of functional areas. Time will tell if the products on offer meet user expectations or not.


This article by Wilton Thornburg was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Wilton Thornburg is a software engineer, currently based in the greater Boston area.

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