Over the past 18-24 months, there has been a flurry of activity directed towards better integrating debit cards into the global cryptocurrency ecosystem. With this has come talk about the use of smart contracts – computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract – as a means of providing card users greater control and security over their funds.
In an announcement destined to further ignite advancements in this space, Switzerland-based Monolith Studio announced on April 20th the launch of TokenCard. TokenCard, an innovative crypto-based debit card powered by smart contracts, brings the VISA payments network to Ethereum so that token holders will be able to use Ether as well as other ERC20 tokens to purchase items in places that accept VISA debit cards.
TokenCard will launch its ‘creation’ of a new ERC20 token, called TKN, on May 2nd. TKN holders will have a pro-rata share in the accumulation of different Ethereum tokens that accrue to the ‘TKN Asset Contract.’ The technical details of this are shared in-depth in the TokenCard/Token Platform Whitepaper v1.0.2
Monolith Studio, the creator of TokenCard, is a web startup that’s working to solve the problem of how to bring Ethereum into the real world.
Says Mel Gelderman, co-founder of Monolith Studio and the mind behind TokenCard: “We are witnessing the birth of the biggest shakeup in financial history with the introduction of the Ethereum Economy. TokenCard is a platform that brings this new kind of economy to the general public through a clever trifecta of technology.”
Here’s how it works: Users select a Contract Wallet through TokenCard rather than having to deposit funds outside of their control. TokenCard VISA debit cards then can be used to draw funds from this contract wallet using Ether and almost any ERC20 token.
Users have access to a Token App to operate their Contract Wallet and manage their TokenCard, giving them a top-tier mobile banking, multi-asset spending experience. By way of example, users could pay for their afternoon lunch with Ethereum tokens and can even split the bill between for example 50% REP, and 50% ETH. And all while remaining in full control of their assets.
When asked about how TokenCard makes life easier for consumers, Gelderman points to how Ether users currently need to undertake a whole range of steps that include withdrawing, depositing, and creating wallets and accounts. He says that TokenCard streamlines the experience from beginning to end offering a one-stop solution for the problems that have pestered Ethereum users
He goes on to note that TokenCard also represents a quantum leap in terms of security as a deposit-less platform. Here, users store their assets not with TokenCard the company, but in a Smart Contract Wallet that they themselves issue and control. They can then grant the TokenCard a defined allowance such as $100 dollars a day.
Aside from providing a solution for the underlying Ethereum community, TokenCard says Gelderman is uniquely equipped to improve upon the entire spectrum of regular debit card and banking services. Markets like international remittances and asset management are ripe for innovation using Ethereum technology, and TokenCard is well-positioned to reach these new thresholds as a revolutionary financial solution.
In terms of the long-term vision for TokenCard, Gelderman had this to say in closing: “We envision a world where TokenCard outcompetes the traditional banking competition on all levels from user interface to security to flexibility. As for the much bigger picture, at Monolith we’re dedicated to ushering in the Ethereum Economy, and TokenCard is just what is needed right now to get us there.”
Officially announced on April 17, Dash’s Director of Finance, Ryan Taylor, has been appointed CEO of the Dash Core Project. The appointment comes as Dash founder Evan Duffield announced on that day that he’s transitioning to an advisory role, officially departing from day-to-day duties at one of the world’s fastest growing and prominent cryptocurrency projects. The appointment was unanimously agreed upon by Duffield and the Dash Core, the democratically-elected body responsible for the development, marketing and expansion of the Dash ecosystem.
Dash Core CEO Ryan Taylor has been a key contributor to Dash since mid-2014. He left a traditional Wall Street career in March 2016 to join the Dash Core full-time helping accelerate Dash’s progress in becoming a blockchain industry leader and global payments network. Before joining Dash, Taylor was a hedge fund analyst covering a global stable of payments industry investments for the private equity and public market funds of a $20 billion investment firm based in New York, and previously served as an Associate Partner in McKinsey & Company’s Business Technology Office in New York.
While no changes are being made to the Dash blockchain governance, voting and treasury model, today’s appointment provides the Dash Core organization with an experienced leader in the financial services industry. Taylor’s responsibilities will include leading organizational growth, maintaining the project vision, and overseeing communications with Dash partners and investors.
Evan Duffield said, “Since the beginning, my ambition was to create a sustainable and resilient blockchain project without any singular points of failure. This announcement has been in the works for many months, and I am proud to have helped Dash become the extraordinary project it is today.”
Duffield added, “For the last several months, daily operations and technology development at Dash Core have been led by now-CEO Ryan Taylor and CTO Andy Freer. Our most recent software upgrade – deployed in February – was developed and released without my hands-on involvement. Thanks to the Dash Core, our developers, advisors, master node operators and every single user around the world, the upgrade was the smoothest yet.”
Duffield plans to focus on other projects aimed at expanding Dash’s ecosystem but will remain available to offer advice and consultation to the Dash Core and its developers.
Newly appointed CEO of the Dash Core Ryan Taylor said, “Evan is one of the most gifted minds in blockchain and fintech. He created something that will have a permanent and lasting impact on many people across the world in a rapidly evolving economy. The Dash Core team is committed to ensuring that we follow the grand vision Evan laid for Dash. Today, we have extensive resources in place to deliver that vision. Dash is fast becoming a popular payment option for many thousands of people around the world, and we look forward to announcing further progress in the near future as we create compelling and relevant solutions aimed at everyday people.”
In the first quarter of 2017, the Dash Project announced several milestone partnerships and the implementation of the highly anticipated Sentinel software upgrade which is a stepping stone towards an industry-first decentralized payments system called Evolution.
Taylor said, “The beauty of a blockchain-based project is decentralization, the dispersion, and distribution of functions and powers. Since its inception, Dash has been the benchmark of decentralized success; our unique governance model ensures an ownership mindset that is designed to improve the state and functionality of the Dash network and increase the network’s value. Together with Evan, we built the world’s first self-sustainable decentralized autonomous organization with a substantial organic budget, and there’s so much more to come.”
Dash has a full pipeline of integrations in place and high-level business partnerships in progress. Now headquartered from Arizona State University’s SkySong Innovation Center, the Dash Core team recently announced its plan to add over 20 new positions, including development, customer support, infrastructure support, marketing, and administration.
This announcement comes as Apple officially approved Dash for inclusion in wallets on the iOS App Store by way of Jaxx Wallet.
The Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study is a new research report on emerging trends in alternative payment systems and digital assets. Curated by principal researcher Dr. Garrick Hileman, Economic Historian at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics, this is the first study of its kind to comprehensively examine the growing global cryptocurrency industry and its key constituents, including exchanges, wallets, payments, and mining.
Hileman is best known for his research on financial and monetary innovation, particularly distributed ledger technology (blockchain) and cryptocurrencies.
This is the first known study to systematically examine key cryptocurrency industry sectors through the collection of empirical, non-public data. Survey data was gathered from nearly 150 cryptocurrency companies and individuals, covering 38 countries from five world regions. The study looks in-depth at key industry sectors which have emerged and the various entities that inhabit them.
Below are 17 of the major findings from the study:
Here is a full report of the Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study.
Talk to John Adair and you quickly realize that life is about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. A former automotive technician and father of two, Adair’s life was forever changed in 2016 with the passing of his wife to cancer. Today, in addition to caring for his two daughters, he’s championing a mobile tool called *thisApp with the hopes of boosting merchant acceptance of bitcoin in the U.S. and beyond.
Below is a brief interview with Adair as he briefly shares about his matriculation through the University of Hard Knocks, early evolution in the tech world and what sparked his desire to create thisApp.
Tell us a little about your early interest in the tech world
My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I have been doing programming on and off ever since. I went to Lawrence Tech University (LTU) in the early 90’s. At that time I heard about the encryption program PGP but never got too involved in cryptography. In fact, I got side tracked into engineering due to my math skills and the need for engineers in our local area.
What happened next?
I live in Michigan and like many Michiganders, my job was closely related to the automotive industry. So I went to work in the design and engineering of automotive conveyor systems. I’ve also dabbled in equity markets and for a time considered myself an options trader. Then, the 2008-2010 financial meltdown left me without a job for a protracted period of time. I decided that being in debt was my biggest mistake and that the market was rigged. So because my wife was working, I went back to LTU and completed my degree in Information Technology.
When did you discover bitcoin?
I heard about Bitcoin on CNBC in 2013 and quickly recognized the application of it would change the world. My wife pointed out, that the problem with Bitcoin was — and still is (IMO) — the lack of places to spend it. A term used quite often back then was “on-ramps and off-ramps” and the solution I created called thisApp eliminates both.
So when did you begin to pursue the creation of it?
I originally came up with the *thisApp concept back in June of 2014 and created the first video. From there, I found my first developer Leo Wandersleb who now works with Mycelium, and then another lead developer Mohammad Rafigh.
How long did it take you to launch it?
Well, the development of it slowed substantially when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. She eventually succumbed to the disease in early 2016, leaving me with a 3 and 5-year old. To say the least, I learned a lot about things which I never wanted to learn about: How vulnerable life is. How ridiculous the fees are associated with fund-raising for good causes. And how cancer research funding is so screwed up (and rigged). I am hoping that thisApp forms a solid platform to solve some of these problems.
And how did you come up with the name *thisApp?
In computer programming there are reserved words and ” this ” is one of them. If there is an asterisk before ” this “, it means that it is a pointer. So *thisApp is a pointer to Bitcoin, or any blockchain technology, or even to the idea that the community will come up with ideas to solve problems. If you see *thisApp without the asterisk, then it is a reference to our particular implementation. If I start a sentence with *thisApp though, I like to add the asterisk instead of capitalizing the first letter.
What exactly is thisApp?
*thisApp works like an old school gift certificate but rather than a piece of paper being used as the token to redeem, it allows users to take advantage of digital tokens known as bitcoin credits to make purchases at local merchants. This video best explains how it all works:
So it makes use of a digital gift certificate of sorts?
Correct! Gift certificates are commonplace, everyone knows what they are and how they work. One difference between a gift certificate and a certificate used by *thisApp involves a token being used to redeem the product or service. And all through the use of the bitcoin blockchain which is significantly better ledger than a piece of paper or excel spreadsheet that the merchant might maintain
It appears that merchant adoption is key to making all of this work
Absolutely! In my opinion, there are three reasons why merchant is hesitant to accept bitcoin. One, they are really unaware of how many bitcoiners there are. Secondly, merchant’s don’t want to deal with the volatility of holding onto bitcoin. In other words, they want to accept bitcoin but risk-free. And thirdly merchant’s don’t want the headache of implementation. Most small businesses, unfortunately, have few resources for IT deployment.
So what sort of benefits can a merchant accrue by accepting bitcoin?
The primary benefit of a merchant in accepting bitcoin is in reducing their credit card fees, therefore, increasing profit margin. A secondary benefit for a merchant in accepting bitcoin through *thisApp is that they can incentivize user’s to frequent their establishment on a more regular basis.
What’s your gameplan for getting more merchants interested in it?
For me personally, bitcoin becomes much more valuable when I go and get all my favorite places to start accepting bitcoin. *thisApp is a decentralized solution to both acquiring bitcoin and accepting bitcoin whereas the payment processors are centralized on-ramps and off-ramps. As I get merchant’s accepting crypto, and so do other users of *thisApp all over the world, we could see rampant merchant adoption in the next 12 to 18 months. *thisApp currently supports roughly 160 fiat currencies and only bitcoin.
And bitcoin enthusiasts?
The benefit to a bitcoiner depends. If you’re a 5th grader, then you’ll benefit because you can get bitcoin with *thisApp rather than having to persuade your parents to set up an account with a payment processor or meet a stranger off the street through localbitcoins. If you’re older, then maybe the previous two issues are not a concern. But by using *thisApp, everyone is promoting the idea that bitcoin and the acquisition of it is supposed to be decentralized.
What’s your long-term vision for *thisApp?
Many say bitcoin is not backed by anything. This is true. But, if people want to see merchant adoption at their favorite stores, then they will need to provide a risk-free environment for the merchants to become familiar with conducting bitcoin transactions. Until then, expect merchant adoption to remain lackluster.
What are you learning during your ongoing development process involving *thisApp?
The last week of March 2017, we had a booth at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas to promote Bitcoin Pizza Day (i.e., May 22nd) and launched thisApp into open beta. About 70% of people had never heard of bitcoin but most were very interested, especially in cutting out credit card fees.
One of the biggest concerns of pizzeria owners was that they believe few people where they live have bitcoin to spend. This is because, over the last few years, most bitcoin enthusiasts have stopped attempting to get brick and mortar businesses to start accepting bitcoin. I hope that bitcoiners will take a look at *thisApp and then start encouraging pizzerias and other merchants to begin accepting bitcoin while educating them on how Bitcoin works.
Any final thoughts?
Let me says this. Of the 30 percent of people who had already heard of bitcoin at Pizza Day, most of them loved *thisApp. We even got high-fives from some, but of course, there was one hater. That’s just part of the journey.
In the crypto world, Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs seem to be the rage these days among both startups as well as investors. With funding being vital to a successful business launch, ICOs offer an alternative to traditional venture capital and crowdfunding campaigns. They also provide a viable option for investors looking for new ways to secure a healthy return on their money.
So what exactly are ICOs? According to the website Investopedia they are defined as:
An unregulated means by which funds are raised for a new cryptocurrency venture. An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is used by startups to bypass the rigorous and regulated capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks. In an ICO campaign, a percentage of the cryptocurrency is sold to early backers of the project in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies, but usually for Bitcoin.
Sasha Ivanov, founder and ceo of the blockchain-powered custom tokens platform Waves, says there are several benefits of an ICO campaign over a traditional fundraising strategy. The first is that you can fund a project without the strings that come with other forms of investment. VCs, he says, will always want a degree of control, and often desire to own a significant proportion of your company. And a bank loan, he notes – if you can get one – means you have to pay the interest every month, whether your company is generating revenues or not. If you can’t pay, you default and lose your business too.
Crowdfunding, says Ivanov, provides a startup with the ability to receive money up-front to develop and market a product, but without the same kinds of conditions that so many entrepreneurs and small businesses find unappealing or untenable.
Another advantage according to Ivanov is that a crowdfunding campaign like an ICO means that your investors as people are also one of your biggest assets.
“Their interests are aligned with yours. They are your testers, your feedback groups, your first customers, your evangelists. As a result, every dollar you raise from them comes with additional value built in.”
TaaS: A Coin Offering Use Case
TaaS, a tokenized closed end fund (CEF) dedicated to blockchain assets has an initial coin offering that began on March 27, 2017 and will run until April 27, 2017.
TaaS Co-Founder Konstantin Pysarenko believes that the biggest challenge in setting up an ICO is the lack of a single, shared success story that everyone can refer to.
“2016 was the first year of the ICO boom with the potential of ICOs being recognized. So many talented and bright entrepreneurs are joining this phenomenon and developing an infrastructure to help startups conduct ICOs successfully. However, the problem is that most of them act as freelancers and not as entities so advancing to a more organized, cohesive environment is definitely something that is yet to come,” says Pysarenko.
He notes that since there is no standardized legal framework among blockchain-tolerant countries, TaaS had to go through many jurisdictions to determine needs and future requirements. TaaS, he says, eventually chose Singapore because it is one of the most progressive countries in terms of keeping an eye on the development of new technologies.
His greatest hope for the TaaS ICO campaign? “That we can fully deliver the message to all interested parties that TaaS is a first-of-its-kind project delivering transparency to its investors through a Token-as-a-Service business model. We intend to use the funding for active trading in the blockchain markets, as well as for building Kepler, a portfolio management and risk analytics platform.”
Possibilities and Cautionary Tales
Joe Ciccolo, Founder of BitAML, a firm that provides AML compliance solutions for digital currency startups says that while crowdfunding regulation should certainly be top of mind for new ICOs, the greater concern would be securities regulation.
“There’s no wait-and-see here. The ‘Howey Test’, which derives its name from the famous Supreme Court case, is a four-prong analysis used to determine if one is offering or participating in an investment contract. Whether we’re talking about leasing orange groves, digital assets, or anything in-between, the Howey Test is the tried and true litmus test to determine if one is offering securities,” said Ciccolo.
Ciccolo sees the ICO space as unchartered territory. “Domestically, ICOs must first conduct the ‘Howey Test’ to determine if they are offering an investment contract. If so, they are subject to securities regulation.”
In terms of global ICO campaigns launched outside the U.S., Ciccolo responds: “These are subject to the laws and regulations of that particular country. It’s important to know, depending upon the circumstances, that the U.S. government could exercise what’s called ‘extraterritorial jurisdiction’ should the ICO have ties to the United States, including U.S. customer base or company officers.”
Concludes Ciccolo: “Potential investors should certainly do their homework before participating in any investment, whether it’s an ICO funding round or a traditional asset. ICOs are new, exciting, and intriguing, so there’s likely a fear of missing out. Investors need to step back, remain disciplined, ask questions, and do their research.”