Blockchain Companies Dominate the Forbes Fintech 50 List 2018 5 1309

The headlines have been dominated by the crypto world of late. Mostly, the record highs and plummeting lows of Bitcoin’s value and hackers syphoning off money from major ICOs. All this negative press is enough to make investors nervous, but it isn’t all bad news. In fact, as Forbes releases its Fintech 50 list for 2018, nine of the companies are blockchain.

The Impact of Blockchain on the Financial Industry

Beyond the concerns about digital currency, whether Bitcoin’s real value has been inflated, and major banks banning purchase of it with their credit cards; blockchain has further implications for the financial industry. In fact, blockchain technology could be the answer to many an outdated and inefficient solution in the banking world, revolutionizing how financial transactions are recorded and carried out worldwide.

The fact that blockchain technology can trace specific transactions and provide transparency make them music to the ears of agencies like the IRS and FBI. Blockchain doesn’t just drive efficiency, it changes the whole manner in which trust is federated between buyer and seller, government agencies and countries.

By using smart contracts, blockchain digitalizes and automates the information, removing various counterparties that were previously involved in that process, effectively cutting out the middleman and creating greater transparency. Let’s take a look at some of the companies causing a stir in the blockchain community:

The Bitfury Group, Amsterdam

The Bitfury Group make hardware and software that allows for Bitcoin mining and security. They also provide software that supports blockchain in supply chains for government and insurance, specifically working with the government of Georgia to transfer land titles to the blockchain.

According to Valery Vavilov, CEO & Co-Founder and one of the richest men in cryptocurrency, “The internet allows us to digitize information and transfer it globally, but it lacked a solution to digitize and securely transfer assets. The Bitfury Group utilizes the technology of the Blockchain to allow companies to successfully digitize their assets and safely transact them over the internet – making the world safer, simpler and more efficient.”

Chainalysis, New York

It’s bad news for would-be crypto criminals with companies like Chainalysis gaining protagonism. With customers including the IRS, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, this newcomer to the Forbes Fintech 50 is allowing major institutions and law enforcement agencies to trace specific transactions. This could mean an end to money laundering and illicit transactions.

Claiming to “protect the junction between finance and the decentralized internet,” Chainalysis is the leading provider of anti-money laundering software for Bitcoin, with customers racking up over $15 billion worth of transactions on their platform.

Coinbase, San Francisco

Widely recognized as the easiest and most user-friendly platform to start your journey into the cryptocurrency world, most people have been introduced to Coinbase by now. Trading in Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, this trusted tool offers customers digital currency wallets, and has already racked up over 10 million users, registering more than $1 billion in revenue and over $50 billion in transactions. Its Co-Founder, Brian Armstrong, also made the Forbes list of the Richest People In Cryptocurrency.

Shapeshift, Zug, Switzerland

They say it’s all about location, location, location, and Shapshift’s headquarters in a country famous for its financial institutions is no accident. Claiming to be the “safest, fastest asset exchange on earth,” users can trade in up to 70 different cryptocurrencies, without even setting up an account or having a wallet. How very Swiss of them.

With a focus on privacy, Shapeshift does not accept fiat currencies and does not link to any bank accounts. The benefits of this were accidentally showcased not so long ago when the company was hacked into by a disgruntled employee. No crypto was lost at all, due to the fact that the company does not hold onto customer funds.

As the fintech industry begins to reach something close to maturity, it’s clear that blockchain is leading the charge in 2018. With an emphasis on transparency, security, and privacy for those who want to keep their financial transactions under wraps, there’s a blockchain company out there to tackle most financial woes.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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Stakester Brings New Experiences and Royalties to Gamers with NFTs Comments Off on Stakester Brings New Experiences and Royalties to Gamers with NFTs 493

A cheat code NFT allows owners to accrue money, prizes and royalties in the context of popular games.

On Tuesday, Stakester announced its intention to launch a VIP pass in the form of NFTs that it says will enhance the experience for users of its popular gaming app. 

The app, which pairs gamers with real-life opponents, allows players to stake real cash and prizes on their competitive skills in popular games like FIFA 21 and Call of Duty: Warzone. It’s seen significant growth since its launch in 2020, and touts 100,000 members across 31 countries. 

With the forthcoming NFT drop, users will now unlock the potential for larger prizes, access to VIP arenas, and 50% of royalties on the secondary market.

“The NFTs embody Stakester’s vision of delivering electrifying gaming experiences through the thrill of competition,” says Tom Fairey, Founder and CEO of Stakester. “NFT holders will help us shape new, undreamt-of entertainment experiences as gaming becomes ever more powerful and immersive.”

Two levels of NFTs will be offered. At .1 and .25 ETH, respectively, the barrier to entry is high, but Stakester is hoping gamers will see the value of layered experiences and unlocking additional incentives with real-world value. 

“The idea of earning rewards, just like a normal reward scheme but built around NFTs, is totally fit for the future,” says Mike White, CEO and Strategist of immersive entertainment marketing agency, Lively.  “The whole idea of royalties is truly exciting.” 

Stakester’s 50% royalty incentive, Fairey believes, will create stakeholders out of the players on his platform.

 “As well as the increase in gaming utility, the NFT drops provide Stakester users with a chance to invest in the future of the company and, for VIP Legendary holders, there’s also an opportunity to benefit from a royalty share from certain competitions and to make a passive income from NFTs, regardless of whether they go up in value or not,” he says. “Stakester is one of the only platforms to offer this kind of bonus.”

White points out that Gala Games is doing something similar with Nodes which allow gamers to receive rewards like NFTs when they contribute meaningfully to the Gala Network.

He predicts that legacy gaming companies will be adopting similar NFT models, but the winners in the NFT gaming race are hard to predict, particularly since there’s so much attention around NFTs that it’s hard to differentiate between hype and long-term value. 

“I’m sure it will be an immediate success,” he says. “Will it be a long-term thing? We can only wait and see.”

Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 121

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

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