ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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National Currencies last breath?

Dec
18

The world of digital currency has gained massive popularity in the past couple of years.

Bitcoin has moved over $19,000, whereas, Ethereum is increasing in value every day and its price has crossed over $700. The continuing boom of cryptocurrencies might eventually lead to the next big step, i.e., the end of cash currencies.

Yes, you heard it right. Even the director and founder of Bitt, Gabriel Abed, is of the opinion that cash has been in the market for too long, and all the currencies will eventually be digitized.

 

Rise of the New Economic Age

All the cryptocurrencies, including Ether and Bitcoin, are basically issued by private organizations, groups, and individuals, they mine it through cryptographic protocols  and more and more countries are gradually heading in that direction.

  • Russia has recently announced its plans for a national digital currency called Crypto-Ruble.
  • China and Kyrgyzstan are following the lead.
  • In Japan, over 200,000 stores have been accepting bitcoin as a legal tender and some of the big banks are planning to create their own version of these cryptocurrencies.

In a highly innovative environment, efforts are being made to circulate digital currency in various economies. The Federal Reserve in the United States however, has no such plans of nationalizing the cryptocurrency.

 

Crypto-Ruble – A New Start for Better Russian Economy?

Putin is very strict about following law and order and despite the advantages of having a national digital currency, it has gray areas when it comes to its legal status. This is why he is a little skeptical about cryptocurrencies. Therefore, the aim of Russian official crypto-policy is to eliminate the chances of illegal transactions such as, human-trafficking, terrorism financing, and  money laundering, while at the same time using this technology to modernize the internal capital management of Russia. This is the main strategy behind crypto-ruble.

The crypto-ruble will serve as a connection between the real world and the crypto-world, which would enable the efficient tracking of capital flow in the Russian economy. Those who won’t be able to provide a paper trail of ownership will have to pay tax on crypto-ruble at the capital gain rates. It will encourage the development of low-cost crypto-payment systems, which allows the exchange of rubles for goods only in digital currencies where ownership can be tracked.

 

China Taking a Step to Cryptocurrency Implementation

People’s Bank of China has already created a prototype of a digital currency that may be circulating in the market in times to come, alongside Yuan. The country is testing possible scenarios in a simulated environment and running dummy transactions using digital currency with a few commercial banks in China.

 

Making Quantitative Easing Easier with National Cryptocurrency

The rise of new economic age with cryptocurrency as a national currency will make quantitative easing much easier. Quantitative easing is an economic concept, whereby the central bank purchases predefined amount of financial assets and government bonds to give a boost to the economy. By having a national cryptocurrency, it will be easier to execute the concept of quantitative easing.

 

Why is National Digital Currency a Better Idea?

Abed further added that nationalizing the digital currency is a better option as it is more transparent, immutable, and efficient. In fact, there have been talks between the Central Bank of Jamaica and Bitt to enable testing this technology. At the same time, the company has been running the active pilot programs in other Caribbean countries.

Jamaica is encouraging the FinTech startups by enabling them to operate in the country. The main reason behind these efforts is to foster innovation. A representative of the Caribbean Development Bank said that they do not want to be in a situation where regulatory authorities have a strong and dominant hand initially. He further said that the Caribbean can be used as a virtual space to test the new technology in a secure environment. These efforts will eventually enable them to take bigger steps in the future.

ICOs Surpassed Early Stage Venture Capital Funding

Sep
15

New startups that raised funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have now surpassed the early stage VC Funding for internet firms.

But before diving into it, it is important to know what ICOs are.

 

What is Initial Coin Offerings?

This is another way of raising cash.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain startup companies raise capital through ICOs by selling tokens of investors in exchange for equity funds. It is somewhat the same as Initial Public Offering in which stocks are issued in exchange for equity. Just like crowdfunding, ICOs provide a way to get funds from users by enabling them to have a share of the business. They get digital currency in exchange for the money they invest in the business.

 

Rising Popularity of ICOs and VC Funding

ICOs have gained massive popularity in the last few months among blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. In April this year, the total capital raised via these offerings was around $100 million and in May, the amount went up to about $250 million. The month of June turned out to be the biggest surprise when the total funding exceeded $550 million. According to Goldman Sachs, it was the first time that it performed better than seed and angel venture capital funding. Early stage and angel venture capital funding was less than $300 million in June.

In July, the offerings were a little more than $300 million, whereas, early stage and angel funding was just a bit higher than $200 million.

 

Popularity Among the Celebrities

ICOs have become so popular that even the celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather, have started jumping on board. In fact, Paris has been involved in it for over a year now and also met the COO of Ethereum last year.

 

Total Value of ICOs in 2017

The total value raised by 92 ICOs in 2017 is $1.25 billion. This is a really good number, given the recent boom of such offerings in the VC sector. There are so many firms that have used these offerings to raise money. For example, Tezos managed to get the capital of over $200 million by creating a new blockchain, whereas, another firm, Bancor secured $153 million via ICO.

 

Criticism and Scrutiny from Regulators

Despite the boom, this phenomenon has been under severe criticism and scrutiny from regulators and other authorities. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement in which it was mentioned that these offerings are exposed to money laundering and other terrorist financing risks, because the nature of these transactions remains anonymous. Another concern raised by the MAS was the collection of large amounts of capital in such a short time frame, which makes ICO vulnerable to high-level risk.

On the other hand, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in July this year that the security law of the U.S. will be applicable to this cryptocurrency. The experts are also showing concern over its legitimacy. They have highlighted that the sale of a cryptographic token makes the investor entitled to a certain share of profit in the firm, which can be considered as a violation of financial rules and regulations. The People’s Bank of China and a lot of other government departments have released a joint statement that people and firms that have raised money through ICO should also make arrangements to return that capital.

 

Firms Facing Increasing Risk of Getting Hacked

Despite all the boom and criticism, the risk of ICOs cannot be ruled out. A clear example of this is CoinDash that initiated an ICO, but ended up getting hacked in July. As a result, all of its funds got stolen. Although, it has gained popularity in the past few months, yet, the risks cannot be ruled out entirely.

 

Future of ICOs

The Chief Information Officer of UBS, Oliver Bussman, raised his concern and said that strict regulations and measures, as applied to IPO businesses, are required in ICO to safeguard the interest of investors. However, he is quite confident about this new mode of raising funds and expressed that such offerings will continue to happen in future. He said that as a new business model that is benefiting the blockchain technology, ICO will continue to sustain by combining hybrid equity ownership/currency and crowd funding.