We hope our readers had a very happy holiday (or happy end-of-December if you don’t celebrate Christmas)! This week: Asia becomes the early leader in blockchain, big businesses get even more serious about blockchain, blockchain + games = adoption and some big funding news.
Keep your eyes on Asia
The investment arm of Korean tech giant, Kakao (the Uber + Facebook Messenger + everything else of South Korea), has cemented its partnership with Orbs (this newsletter’s owner) with an investment in Orbs’ blockchain infrastructure. Orbs will invest the proceeds in R&D, which is good news for Kakao, since Orbs also has a previously announced technology partnership with Kakao’s own blockchain subsidiary, Ground X. It has been a busy month for Orbs, with news of a development deal (Korean | English) with major Korean bookseller, Yes24 and the release of the Orbs local testing environment, Gamma, in preparation for the early 2019 release of the Orbs mainnet.
In China, the Hangzhou Internet Court has announced its adoption of a judiciary blockchain to fight plagiarism and help with copyright disputes. According to Judge Wang Jiangqiao, “all digital footprints stored in the judicial blockchain system – authorship, time of creation, content and evidence of infringement – have legal effect”. Blockchain will now be used as a way to time stamp a person’s work instead of using screenshots as done in the past.
Orbs’ Ethan Chernofsky spent two weeks in South Korea and Japan and came back inspired. According to Ethan, blockchain is rapidly progressing in Asia compared to the West. South Korea is leading the way with the biggest companies planning for real traction in 2019.
Big names using blockchain
According to Bloomberg, Facebook is working on a stablecoin to be used for money transfers within WhatsApp, starting in India. Perhaps this direction should’ve been expected since Facebook’s head of blockchain, David Marcus, is a former PayPal exec. India is a good starting point since it has 200 million WhatsApp users and leads the world in money transfers with $69 billion worth of incoming transfers in 2017. The article notes that Facebook has yet to figure out its complete crypto strategy or custodial structure.
Bloomberg columnist, Lionel Laurent, basically trashes the Facebook stablecoin as anti-crypto. He argues that crypto was invented to free us from data-hoarding profiteers and that Facebook, which makes so much money from selling its users’ data to advertisers, is essentially using crypto as a tool to lock users into its network once they start using the coin.
PayPal is another internet giant dipping its feet into blockchain. Cheddar reports that PayPal is using a blockchain-based employee incentive platform where employees can earn tokens for innovations and contributing ideas. The tokens can be traded between employees and viewed on the company-only ledger. Employees can redeem the tokens for silly experiences such as poker tournaments with company execs, coffee with the CFO and martial arts with the CEO.
First there was Sirin Labs and Pundi X and now we have HTC and Samsung throwing their hats into the crypto-phone ring. Rumor has it that Samsung is following HTC as its Galaxy 10 phone will have built-in cold and hot wallets, according to SamMobile. Samsung has denied these rumors.
German car manufacturer, Porsche, recently completed a $170 million loan with banking giant, BBVA, using…. blockchain! The use of blockchain for taking loans means better traceability, decreased operational risk, immutability and faster processing, according to bank officials. Porsche seems to be one of the more blockchain-friendly enterprises out there as they also announced in March a deal with IoT startup, XAIN.
Bad news! Venezuela has large-scale crypto adoption!
It turns out that perhaps for the first time in history, the elderly are technology’s early adopters, though not by choice. Coindesk reports that Venezuela’s government is replacing the bolivar as the currency of pension payments with petros, the state cryptocurrency. This is very problematic for pensioners since the petro is not widely accepted in Venezuela and converting the petros to bolivars is difficult. This is one the many planned and implemented forced usage of the petro – probably not what Satoshi had in mind.
Are games the killer app?
RoboCache, the blockchain-based video game marketplace, has announced that it signed up 22 publishers and 700 games for its platform. What makes RoboCache so interesting is that 1) it gives publishers and developers 95% of the proceeds and 2) users can re-sell their games through the platform, with the publishers getting a cut.
More good news for games – Atari is teaming up with Animoca Brands to make blockchain-based versions of the popular games/series Roller Coaster Tycoon and Goon Squad. Both games have tens of millions of users between them. The games will use non-fungible tokens which are great for collectibles.
I give you fiat, you give me bitcoin
Awards and loyalty app, Lolli, has announced that Sephora agreed to join its list of brands to offer bitcoin rewards through the app. Other partners include Walmart, Jet, Booking.com and GoDaddy as well as ~500 others, according to the Lolli website. Shoppers simply download Lolli’s browser extension, make purchases at Lolli-partnered retailers and get rewarded with bitcoin (Lolli gets a percentage of the sale).
Movers & shakers
- Orbs, the hybrid blockchain, announced that Korean tech company, Kakao, has made an investment in Orbs’ blockchain infrastructure as part of a larger partnership.
- Nomics, the startup indexing data about how crypto is traded, raised $3 million is a Series A round that included Coinbase Ventures and Polymath.
- Layer1, which invests in and builds blockchain protocols, raised $2.1 million in a Seed round from Peter Thiel and Digital Currency Group, among others.
- Vitalik Buterin donated $300 thousand in ETH to three Ethereum-based startups – Prysmatic Labs, ChainSafe Systems and Sigma Prime – as a reply to their tweets.
- Bitcoin payments processor, OpenNode, raised $1.25 million from Tim Draper. OpenNode uses the Lightning Network for its bitcoin-only system.
- Public blockchain, Waves, raised $120 million to roll out a private blockchain to enterprises and governments.
- Abacus, the Y Combinator alum for automated compliance of tokenized securities, raised $2 million from Y Combinator and Coinbase, among others.
- NuID, the blockchain authentication startup, raised $2.5 million in a Seed round.
- BlockFi, the crypto lender that had previously raised over $50 million, raised $4 million in convertible debt to offer new products such as crypto savings account and crypto-backed credit cards.
- Vakt, the blockchain startup building a commodity trading platform which counts BP and Shell as users, received $5 million from Reliance Industries in exchange for 5.56% of equity. Reliance is an Indian conglomerate with 2018 revenues of $60 billion.
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