Tighter Regulation May Be Around the Corner for ICOs 6 175

Even the most bullish commentators on the future of cryptocurrency and the rise of ICOs won’t be surprised to learn that the clampdown is coming. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ICO community is starting to feel the warm breath of the SEC on their necks. The commission is said to have “issued dozens of subpoenas and information requests” to companies that have raised funds through ICOs and token sales, as well as a number of prominent advisers.

What is the SEC Looking for?

Specifically, the SEC is currently requesting information. They want to know more about the sale structures and the presale elements involved. Some frowned-upon action has certainly taken place, including large discounts for investors with deep pockets, or for early adopters.

The amount of money raised by ICOs so far is simply astounding. In 2017 alone, almost $6 billion was raised in token sales, with a further $1 billion in the first two months of 2018.

The Need to Rein in the Wild West

So far, the financial world and regulatory bodies, including the SEC, have been lenient on ICOs, yet the cry for regulation has been heard on several occasions. There are plenty of opportunities for scam artists to steal investors’ money currently, and the galloping volatility of crypto has dented many an investor’s pocket. Regulation would perhaps be of benefit to all, provided that the SEC doesn’t clamp down too hard on this burgeoning area.

Regulation could also help to give credibility to cryptocurrency and extend its chances of being widely adopted. Pyramid schemes, such as BitConnect, would no longer be able to occur, and some standard practices would be put into place. This would also prevent anyone with an internet connection and a white paper from requesting funds, while separating the ICOs shrouded in marketing hype from those that have a viable idea and solid plan.

Currently, the SEC is looking into several token sales and will be watching out for any wrongdoing, although, no specific guidelines have been released as of yet. Many a tech team behind a high rise ICO will be watching in anticipation, as the SEC have already warned that security laws may have been violated last December alone.

Regulation is the Name of the Game for 2018

It’s not only the SEC that is getting heavier handed with ICOs. Governing bodies around the world have also been shining the spotlight on crypto and token sales. The EU will be discussing how to monitor crypto at the next G20 Summit in Argentina this year, while Japan is also in the process of establishing a regulatory framework for ICOs, in order to prevent scam teams and pyramid schemes.

Not only will these measures apply to Japanese ICOs, but they will extend to ICOs targeting Japanese investors. There are also plans to revise the April 2017 Bitcoin Payment Law. Austria and Germany aren’t staying behind, with plans of clamping down, and India is considering banning cryptocurrency completely, following China’s lead.

Whatever the future holds for ICOs and cryptocurrency, one thing is certain: the activity that was going on behind the scenes is now out in the open and token sales will not go on unnoticed or unobserved any longer.

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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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Kenya Looks to Blockchain for Affordable Housing Project 8 259

The “Silicon Savannah” is moving deeper in direction of tech. The Kenyan government has announced a plan to manage the property allocation and funding of 500,000 affordable housing units with blockchain technology.

The units, which the government aims to build by 2022, will be set aside for households with an annual income below 100,000 Kenyan Shillings, about $990 USD. The World Bank estimates Kenya’s gross national income per capita at $1,290, according to Business Daily.

Blockchain will help ensure that the affordable housing is in fact going to those who fall below the average income bracket. Land title fraud has caused problems for Kenyans, as land grabbers target homes and even schools for illegal sales and development. Blockchain’s ability to store verifiable proof of title could help safeguard against fraudsters.

“Kenya will use blockchain technology to ensure the rightful owners live in government funded housing projects,” said Principal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga, speaking with the World Bank on Monday.

Hinga said the plan will be financed by the National Housing Fund, which will raise over $59.5 million per month to get the project underway. But Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia said it will take $31.7 billion to build a million homes, each of which will cost between $3,000 and $30,000. Macharia called for support from private sector financing.

Under the financing plan, working Kenyans will contribute 1.5 percent of their salary, which will be matched by their employers. “On affordable housing one should not spend more than 30% of their disposable income for housing,” Hinga tweeted yesterday. “Anything above 30% is not affordable.”

A Trustless Relationship Between People and Government

The initiative represents a considerable push to solve housing and title problems for the nation’s lower income families. But how will the government decide to whom the housing units will go? With so much talk about financing underway, people are already calling on the government to outline a plan for how they’ll distribute the affordable housing units.

The government will need to deliver the housing projects in a time when, Hinga acknowledges, the public is skeptical. Earlier this year $78 million went missing in a corruption scandal involving the National Youth Services. Where there is little trust between the people and their government, Kenya hopes to establish transparency through the blockchain’s distributed ledger system.

Kenya’s Move Toward Tech

In March, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology appointed a blockchain taskforce to explore the ways the nation could use blockchain technology in the public and private sectors. They called it the Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence taskforce, and by September its chairman, Bitange Ndemo, was calling on the government to tokenize the economy.

Ndemo also proposed government implementation of blockchain to certify the authenticity of retail goods, so consumers can be sure of where their food is coming from, for example.

Governor of Kenya’s central bank Patrick Njoroge has also voiced support for the use of blockchain technology to strengthen service delivery, although he’s opposed the use of tokens and digital currencies.

But the affordable housing initiative could be the Kenyan government’s first real world implementation of the blockchain.

There’s an Inflatable ‘Bitcoin Rat’ Staring Down the Fed 91 518

Someone has put a giant inflatable rat outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

It’s covered in Bitcoin code, printed in rainbow colors, and is apparently a piece of installation art aimed at subverting the federal institution that controls the US dollar. Or is it pale, puffed-up pariah a commentary on Bitcoin bros themselves? Or does it have something to do with Warren Buffett, who earlier this year called Bitcoin “rat poison squared”? According to CoinDesk, who first reported on the inflatable rat, the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.

The artist behind the puzzling prank is Nelson Saiers. He describes his own work as “mystifying” and “singularly original”, notwithstanding the long history of rats being inflated as protests or used as economic and political icons in art and entertainment around the world.

“It’s art, so I hope they’re entertained by it,” he said, apparently implying that art is entertainment. “It’s informative, I hope people will learn [and] I’m hoping it’ll at least help people understand bitcoin better and be kind of faithful to what Satoshi would have wanted,” he added, citing the mysterious pseudonym of Bitcoin’s founder with a touch of reverence.

A $50 Million Artist

Saiers, a phD in theoretical mathematics, was a hedge fund manager who did that thing where you give up all the money to chase your dream of being an artist.

His financial experience includes a stint as managing director at Deutsche Bank’s prop trading desk, before becoming CIO of Saiers Capital, the hedge fund that bears his name. His creative career gives credence to the theory that working as an artist is more and more a privilege of the very wealthy.

CNBC estimated Saiers’s wealth to be around $50 million at the time of he departed from the financial industry to pick up his paintbrushes.

The Rat Joins a Tradition of Sculpture-as-Commentary in FiDi

The Bitcoin rat, which stands on Maiden Lane, isn’t the first pop up sculpture to grace Manhattan’s financial district. Last year, Kristen Visbal’s 50 inch bronze ‘Fearless Girl’ statue made waves by staring down the famous ‘Charging Bull’, to the outrage of ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica. The 3.5 ton ‘Charging Bull’ itself was left on Wall Street in the middle of the night when Di Modica originally created it, obstructing traffic and drawing the curiosity of passers by.

When Saiers placed the Bitcoin rat, he initially set it up on private property and was promptly ushered off by security guards, who he says were good natured about the situation. He expects the sculpture to be more temporary than the aforementioned Wall Street bronzes, and will probably only be around for a few days.

A Critique of the 2008 Bailouts

The placement of the rat on Maiden Lane seems to be no accident, but rather a reference to the Maiden Lane Transactions, more commonly known as that time when the Fed bailed out the big banks after they all caused the 2008 market crash. The Bitcoin crowd’s antipathy towards the Fed and the big banks is palpable in Sairs’s rat sculpture, and while a more specific meaning eludes, perhaps the success of the piece depends upon its ability to start conversations about the state of finance.

We’ll leave it to the viewers to decide who’s the rat—the Federal Reserve, or Bitcoin itself—and what that means for the future of currencies.

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