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Development in Crypto Is Exploding Despite the Price

Cryptocurrency prices may be in the gutter, but how is the industry holding up? According to some sources, the answer is “surprisingly well.”

A Little Background

Digital currencies experienced solid bull runs in 2017. Bitcoin, for example, surged to nearly $20,000 by December of that year, while currencies like ether would spike to nearly $1,400. Unfortunately, the good fortune wasn’t built to last. Beginning in January 2018, prices started falling faster than anyone could have anticipated, and they haven’t let up since.

In November 2018, bitcoin dropped to the mid $3,000 range and lost roughly 80 percent of its overall value.

Things Are Stronger Than They Seem

With news like that, it might be easy to assume that businesses and investors alike would steer clear of crypto and label it a massive failure, but truth tells a different story. Blockchain – the “energy” behind cryptocurrencies – stands as a popular new form of technology that continues to attract developers everywhere.

Last August, ConsenSys – a blockchain software company stationed in New York – produced a list of 40 new Ethereum-based applications available for use. At the time, Ethereum had fallen in price by well over $1,000 and was trading in the low $200 range, yet the currency’s blockchain remained one of the most attractive in existence for the creation of new apps and digital tokens.

Killer Applications Built on Blockchain Are Coming

Among the applications available was a web browser known as Brave. Developed by Brave Software in 2015, the browser implements a blockchain-based advertising system that gives users control over which ads target them. Users can choose the ads they view while performing searches and are subsequently rewarded with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) – the official cryptocurrency of Brave – depending on their decisions.

The goal of Brave is to give internet users more control and ownership of their private data. Versions of the browser were released in late 2018 for the Android and iOS phones, as well as Mac and Windows-based computers.

A New Kind of Coin…

Ethereum is also paving the way for new stable coins that could potentially make volatility a thing of the past. A stable currency is one that’s pegged to a reputable asset or fiat money, such as gold or the U.S. dollar. Thus, its less susceptible to market threats like inflation. Many institutional players have been hesitant to get involved in cryptocurrencies thanks to their fluctuating prices, but stable coins are designed to alleviate some of the worries that come with crypto investing.

Among these currencies is USD Coin (USDC). As an ERC-20 token, USDC is compatible with Ethereum smart contracts. The currency is a joint venture between U.S.-based exchange Coinbase and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments company Circle and is programmed to be compatible with all United States money transmission laws.

Other stable coins built on the Ethereum blockchain include True USD (TUSD), Paxos (PAX) and Gemini Dollar (GUSD), the official currency of the Gemini Exchange in New York. All these coins are regulated, transparent and fully audited, allowing them to provide many of the same banking services and trade abilities as traditional finance institutions and bringing a higher level of legitimacy to Ethereum and the cryptocurrency space.

Video Games Revamped by Blockchain

Ethereum is also paving the way for new gaming experiences with applications like Gods Unchained and CryptoKitties. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, both platforms give collectors, gamers and crypto fans something to enjoy.

CryptoKitties, for example, is one of the first examples of blockchain technology being utilized for leisurely purposes by offering players the chance to buy and sell virtual cats they’ve bred themselves. Released in 2017, CryptoKitties experienced the height of its popularity in December of that year. Activity surrounding CryptoKitties clogged the Ethereum Network; transactions exploded to an all-time high, causing Ethereum’s speed to slow down significantly.

Gods Unchained is similar in that allows players to collect special items, only this time, the products are digital trading cards – not cats. Players purchase and sell cards accordingly with the goal of building the most powerful decks they can. These decks are then used to declare war on other collectors via video game settings, with winning players earning in-game rewards.

A professional tournament will be held later this year. The last person standing will be eligible for a $1.6 million prize accumulated partially from the company’s ongoing deck sales.

Seeing Money Differently

But it isn’t just decentralization and blockchain power that speaks to the true testament of cryptocurrency. Many are still intrigued by the prospects of digital money and the change it can bring to the globe’s financial infrastructure. Last December, bitcoin was at its lowest point in over 15 months and was trading for about $3,400. The currency had undergone a stagnant summer and fall season after dropping to the $6,000 range and remaining there for roughly five months. Though small declines and spikes would occur along the way, nothing lasted long, and bitcoin always managed to find its way back to the $6,000 comfort zone.

After bitcoin fell to just over $3,000, December brought news of a startup in Sydney, Australia. Known as, the company had developed a new cryptocurrency debit card that stored both bitcoin and ether tokens. Customers could then use these cards at bitcoin ATM machines in their areas or at participating retailers. A linked bank account proved unnecessary with the card, and customers could enjoy its services without inducing fees.

Despite the sinking prices of both bitcoin and ether, CEO Danny Ariti says that the number of users has grown faster than anyone could have expected.

“We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response, and the uptake has been far beyond our expectations,” he stated in an interview with “The card program has given us some great insights into just how broad of a demographic this technology attracts. We’re seeing applications from hobbyists and professionals, some as young as 18 or as old as 80. The market never ceases to surprise us, and it’s great to see such a broad range of people making use of our platform.”

So, What’s Attracting People?

Ariti says his team is now working to expand the card’s capabilities by adding more digital assets to its repertoire. He commends that while crypto prices were best in 2017, they prevented people of limited financial means from entering the space and taking advantage of the industry’s benefits.

Now, however, he says that prices have been lowered to where more people can feel relaxed, which explains the growing number of new entrants to the market despite the ongoing bearish conditions.

“We’re receiving a large amount of inquiries, which is refreshing as we’re seeing interest and an increasing number of new adopters,” he explains. “The recent price drop has had a surprisingly positive effect in that it is allowing those who were priced out of the market during December 2017’s bull run to enter the market at a price point they feel comfortable with.”

Bakkt Exchange & Fidelity’s Custody Can Be Massive For Crypto: Here’s Why

At press time, cryptocurrency prices are trapped in a downward slump that has seemingly lasted more than 13 months. Beginning in January 2018, bitcoin – which had previously been trading for over $19,000 – began experiencing drops that ultimately caused the currency to lose over 80 percent of its value and slip into the $3,000 range last November. Bitcoin went from a year of consistent gains in 2017 to some very big losses, and thus far, the trend has refused to let up…

Big Things Keep Happening

But that hasn’t stopped developments in both cryptocurrency and blockchain from entering the market. Among the biggest ones that enthusiasts have shown excitement for are Bakkt – a new trading platform designed to ease conditions for retailers willing to accept cryptocurrencies as payment – and Fidelity Investments, who’s new crypto custody division has opened for business.

First introduced last August, Bakkt has endured something of a “rocky” debut. Though rumors swelled in October 2018 that the platform would emerge for business the following month, things remained on hold until last January, when Bakkt launched its bitcoin futures trading.

How It All Works

The project is a joint venture between the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), coffee king Starbucks and leading software company Microsoft. Bakkt is slated to provide new scalable trading options for institutional players interested in cryptocurrencies, along with regulated custody services to properly store customers’ BTC funds. By attracting institutional investors, Bakkt may bring bitcoin a level of legitimacy it’s only dreamed of and usher in waves of new money that could potentially lead the bulls back to the crypto pasture.

Bakkt will also allow retail players to have greater stakes in digital assets. While customers will not actually purchase items with cryptocurrencies, Bakkt will convert these assets into fiat to alleviate the threat of volatility and enable corresponding sales.

Some Added Benefits

Bitcoin sold on Bakkt will be added to custody, ensuring funds remain safe and secure. Bakkt futures contracts are also alleged to be settled within 24 hours, meaning whatever bitcoin is purchased is usually part of one’s stash the next day.

All this could bear huge potential for the crypto market. For starters, the bitcoin futures daily volume for both CME and BCOE combined is hovering at around 9,000 BTC. Institutional volume could expand greatly through Bakkt to rival even the totals held by global exchanges. In addition, investors could transition their activity from OTC markets to Bakkt given the latter’s stronger clarity and security regulations. This can lead to less volatility and greater liquidity.

Bakkt will also offer regulated initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs became a major source of concern in 2018. Many have proven fraudulent or phony over the last 12 months and have resulted in more than $500 million worth of investors’ funds being stolen. Thus, organizations like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have taken a much firmer position in the establishment of ICO regulations and are dishing out some big punishments to companies that don’t play by the rules.

Bakkt is slated to attract more capital funding through ICOs by enforcing stricter laws surrounding trading and selling practices.

A New Way to Trade Crypto

On the other side of the coin is Fidelity, which is also slated to assist the cryptocurrency market through the release of its new trading division devoted to cryptocurrencies. Known simply as Fidelity Digital Assets, the company will offer institutional players custody services similar with those of Bakkt. It will also provide professional advice and a fully-regulated crypto trading platform.

Fidelity’s crypto branch came to fruition last October. While it only covers about five percent of the $7.2 trillion in assets the company presently handles, that amount still surpasses $350 billion.

Paving the Way for the Future

BKCM CEO Brian Kelly believes that Fidelity could set two trends. The first is that it will attract more institutional players to the field with the appeal of hedge funds, endowments and pension plans. Fidelity is giving a “stamp of approval” to an otherwise widely speculated asset class, which could alleviate some of the fear and hesitation amongst professional traders.

The second is that other investments firms may decide to take on cryptocurrencies and offer similar services to their own customers, which could expand the market even further. Kelly explains, “Custody has been a very big hurdle, and having somebody like Fidelity put their stamp on it and say, ‘yes, this is a new asset class and we’re going to custody this’ – I believe they even said they have some insurance… That is a step closer.”

The Retirement Crisis is Real, But Can It Be Avoided?

Experts predict a coming retirement crisis, and at this point, it’s just a question of when.

These days, it’s more expensive than ever to retire, and the simple fact of the matter is that most Americans simply don’t have enough money saved. That trend doesn’t seem to be getting any better either: whether due to wage stagnation or the rising costs of living, an increasing number of people haven’t increased the amount they’ve saved compared to last year.

Fortunately, there are ways to beat the challenges facing those saving for retirement today, but first it’s best to understand the current landscape that makes doing that difficult.

Retirement Accounts in Bad Shape – Or Nonexistent

What’s causing the retirement crisis? An alarming amount of Americans are simply unprepared for the financial realities of retiring. The executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Retirement Initiatives, Angela Antonelli, told PBS Frontline that “The reality is as we look at what people have put away for retirement today they haven’t put a lot away for those who are age 65.” According to a report from PBS Newshour, nearly half of retirement aged Americans have less than $25,000 saved. Worse still, another twenty five percent have less than $1,000 saved.

 A Bankrate survey took a look at American financial security and found some answers. Reporting that Americans didn’t invest in retirement because incomes compared to last year either stayed the same or actually dropped, the survey also cited federal data that shows real wages have barely budged in decades — both major contributors to the retirement crisis.

Touting analysis by the Pew Research Center, the survey went on to say that based on the current average hourly wage, purchasing power is the same today that it was in 1978 after adjusting for inflation. This, alongside increasing housing costs and rising prices for consumer goods means that more Americans are feeling the pinch.

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst with, says that  “Stagnant income and rising household expenses mean there is little financial wiggle room for many Americans.”


Source: Seeking Alpha

Benefits of Portfolio Diversification

How can people avoid the retirement crisis? A diverse portfolio is one smart strategy. 

Diversification, defined by Investopedia as “a technique that reduces risk by allocating investments among various financial instruments, industries, and other categories,” the goal of diversification is to maximize return by investing in different areas that would each react differently to the same event.

That is, having a diverse portfolio made up of unrelated investments would offer protection against a volatile market. A dip in the stock market, for example, would expose an investor who had diversified their savings into, say, real estate and cryptocurrency, to less risk  than an investor who had only invested in mutual funds stocks, and bonds. According to research conducted by Ark Invest and Coinbase, “Bitcoin is the only asset that maintains consistently low correlations with every other asset,” making it a strong candidate for portfolio diversification. 

Cryptocurrency and Retirement

Despite market dips, many experts think that the long term outlook for crypto is positive.

Although it’s now been pushed to early 2019, major players including Starbucks, Microsoft, and a few others are working together to create a major cryptocurrency platform called Bakkt, which experts say is a giant vote of confidence in the future of digital currency.

“This is huge news,” CEO of BK Capital Management Brian Kelly told CNBC’s Fast Money. Kelly also manages blockchain-focused BKCM Digital Asset Fund.

“They’re talking about getting this into your 401(K). They’re talking about in your … Fidelity or TD Ameritrade account, you’re going to be able to buy a bitcoin ETF, a bitcoin mutual fund. It expands the universe,” Kelly said.

With a move that brings cryptocurrency as far into the mainstream as a Grande Frappuccino, digital coins gain a level of institutional trust they didn’t have before, as well as an air of legitimacy among everyday consumers, potentially leading to even more widespread adoption.

Will this lead to a steady upward climb for crypto once the correct market corrections settle down, making it a safer bet for retirement? Some experts are bullish.

“Traditionally volatility scares most investors no matter the asset class,” Christopher Bates, a former member of the NYSE, told Forbes. “Bakkt will draw resources from reputable companies with knowledge in fields of risk management and technology to create a federally regulated platform. Once investors feel at ease trading in a regulated environment volatility should ease.”


Five Surprising Industries Where Blockchain Technology is Underway

We’ve been long used to thinking of blockchain technology as the tech of the future, but the reality is that it’s very much part of our present lives. An array of widely varied industries use it daily, for purposes as mundane as tracking data input at international borders or as glamorous as helping artists realize the true value of their works. Blockchain implementation is only expected to grow as more industriesbecome aware of, experiment with, and adopt the technology into their business practices.

It’s little wonder that blockchain technology is seeing such widespread adoption. The fact that it’s an immutable public ledger makes it attractive for those seeking transparency in record keeping and secure information sharing across different kinds of databases. As both governmental organizations and private industry call for increased blockchain use, the technology becomes a larger part of the economy, and as it does so, it becomes utilized in ways one might not have expected.

Let’s take a look at five of the most surprising uses of blockchain.

Food Safety

Our food passes through many hands, often literally, before we buy it in our supermarkets. Globally, one in ten people become sick via foodborne illness, and more than 400,000 people die. Tracking food to ensure it arrives safely can be a life or death prospect, and the supply chains that manage that shipment vary widely, and, like healthcare, so do their record keeping practices. A test conducted by Walmart found that by applying blockchain, the time it took to trace a package of mangoes to the store from the farm it was sent was cut down to a mere two seconds – a process that sometimes took days or weeks. Speed like that may save lives when it comes to food recalls.


If you’ve ever enjoyed a holiday in Europe and traveled by train, you know that the downside of the relative ease of the Eurostar train system is multiple border checks, especially between London and Amsterdam. This popular route may become even more so now that the Dutch government is looking into a way to use blockchain to check traveler data once and then share that information securely with United Kingdom authorities.


There are few other industries where advanced technologies and techniques are more in contrast with inefficient and outdated record keeping. Add to that fact that the record keeping methods and databases themselves are widely different between types of medical centers. Thanks to the blockchain, patients, hospitals, and insurance companies can now share access to their networks without compromising data security. Meanwhile, prestigious institutes of learning like Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai are developing teams to explore biomedical uses for the tech.


A standing issue for artists of all types has been the lack of an easy way of establishing a direct connection with their audiences. Musicians, in particular, have long needed to use intermediaries to both promote their work and collect revenue from it. Now, artists have a chance to keep more of their money by cutting out middlemen and collecting payments directly. Prominent names like Imogen Heap have started to use blockchain to license their work directly, and former members of acts as notable as Guns N Roses are touting token services like ArtBit to receive payments directly via a cryptocurrency.


The transparency inherent to blockchain lends itself perfectly to applications where the public has a vested interest in data and results. That’s why government organizations worldwide are using the tech to track everything from land titles in the nation of Georgia to environmental issues like the trading of carbon offsets in China.

These uses for blockchain aren’t what we’ve traditionally come to expect. But as the technology becomes more familiar to a wider range of industries, we should become used to seeing it implemented in new – and often surprising – ways.


Why Bakkt Launch May Be a Crypto Game Changer

Backed by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Microsoft, and Starbucks, crypto startup Bakkt is scheduled to go live on December 12, pending regulatory approval from the Community Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).  The startup, which has the larger mission to transform Bitcoin into a global currency with broad usage, could be the launch the crypto world needs to be catapulted to the next level. Here are a few reasons why.

Greater Security

Jeff Sprecher, Intercontinental Exchange chairman and CEO and his wife Kelly Loeffler, an ICE Executive and CEO of Bakkt, believe that despite skyrocketing consumer interest, there are valid reasons that explain many financial institutions have not invested in crypto so far.

“Two things are missing,” Sprecher said. “Trading on an official exchange, and safe storage for digital currencies on an institutional scale.” Bakkt would provide the first fully-integrated package combining a major federally-regulated exchange, as well as as the clearing and storage overseen by the exchange.

Furthermore, the company’s first crypto product, a physically-sorted futures contract, is designed to attract institutional investors by resolving two of the issues that led to the rejection of the past 10 ETFs– lack of trusted price formation and reliance on futures markets and derivatives.

“A critical element to price discovery is physical discovery. Specifically, with our solution, the buying and selling of Bitcoin is fully collateralized or pre-funded. As such, our new daily Bitcoin contract will not be traded on margin, use leverage, or serve to create a paper claim on a real asset. This supports market integrity and differentiates our effort from existing futures and crypto exchanges which allow for margin, leverage, and cash settlement,” Loeffler said.

By combining an approved custody solution with a regulated exchange that has the capability to monitor cryptocurrency fraud and manipulation in market exchanges, Bakkt seems likely to appeal to institutional investors.



Increased Scalability  

Bitcoin’s current capacity is about seven transactions per second, which is far too slow to operate at the enterprise level. Bakkt has a solution to address this.

“Our system would operate on a layer above the blockchain, and we’d keep our own omnibus ledger apart from the blockchain,” said Loeffler, describing a methodology similar to Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. By only reporting transactions leaving or entering the ICE exchange (rather than between asset managers within the ICE exchange) to the blockchain, the system will be able to operate at a warp speed and accommodate requests at the enterprise level.

Driver of Institutional Adoption

Many industry experts believe that the launch of Bakkt will be instrumental in driving industry leaders to the space.

“Traditionally volatility scares most investors no matter the asset class,” Christopher Bates, a former member of the NYSE, told Forbes. “Bakkt will draw resources from reputable companies with knowledge in fields of risk management and technology to create a federally regulated platform. Once investors feel at ease trading in a regulated environment volatility should ease.”

In the meantime, all we can do is wait for the exciting startup to (hopefully) launch next month.

white house-ripple

Trump Administration is in Talks with Ripple

In a recent interview, Ripple’s Chief Market Strategist Cory Johnson revealed that Ripple had been in regular talks with the Trump administration, meeting with both regulators and politicians.

“There’s clearly a lot of homework going on. The White House in particular seems to be thinking about what it means to have 80% of bitcoin mining taking place in China and the majority of ether mining taking place in China, “ Johnson said. “When you look at XRP, there is no mining, so from a foreign-control aspect or from an environmental aspect, XRP is a very different beast. And in conversations we’ve had with the administration, they seem to get that and think it might matter.”

While it is not perfectly clear what this means for Ripple’s trajectory in the short and long term, it suggests, along with other recent announcements, rising momentum for both the the XRP currency as well as for the real-time digital payment platform.



Recent SWELL Conference Generated Excitement

Former US President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote speech at Ripple’s two-day SWELL conference in San Francisco earlier this month, where he praised the possibilities of the blockchain. “This whole blockchain deal has the potential it does only because it’s applicable across national borders and income groups, the permutations and possibilities are staggeringly great,” Clinton said.

The SWELL conference also brought announcements that three companies — Mercury FX, Cuallix, and Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union are now using xRapid, which enables XRP to carry out transactions in “a matter of minutes.” This marks the first time XRP will will be used in commercial application by financial services firms.

“I’m really excited to bring the product into the market at a time when there is a lot of skepticism about digital assets and their real use case,” said Asheesh Birla, Ripple’s senior vice president of product. “Here’s something where we’re finding a ton of value and providing a ton of value to our customers to move money more efficiently.”

Upcoming Bakkt Launch Could Have Major Impact

Amidst all of the excitement surrounding Ripple, there is a larger launch scheduled in a few weeks that is projected to be the biggest crypto event to happen this year: Bakkt. 

The International Continental Exchange (ICE), which is the driving force launching Bakkt, describes the cryptocurrency startup’s mission “to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility.” With a timeline to begin testing and onboarding in November, and trading and warehousing in December, Bakkt, too, could help drive the momentum for Ripple and other cryptocurrencies as 2018 comes to a close.