What are Companies Doing With All That Blockchain? 5 1078

Bitcoin smashed everything up last year. The little known digital currency skyrocketed so high it dominated headlines by the holidays. But by now we’re seeing what wasn’t so clear in 2017: the revolutionary magic isn’t Bitcoin itself, and it’s not even necessarily cryptocurrency. It’s blockchain technology.

The decentralized ledger at the heart of all blockchains dramatically shifts the distribution of power. Like open source software, it democratizes products, business and transactional relationships. We’re still finding out what it can and can’t do. But here are some of the major ways businesses are leveraging blockchain technology right now.

Financing Through ICO

Instead of groveling for venture capital or launching an IPO, companies built on blockchain are launching ICOs. The result is an armada of businesses big and small developing their own branded currencies. These currencies will, hopefully, theoretically, gain in value like company shares. As the company profits, early investors profit. Everybody’s happy. In theory.

However, 46 to 59 percent of 2017’s ICOs have already gone belly up, and some critics are arguing that launching an ICO is putting a millstone around your company’s neck.

Despite the haters, new ICOs are coming out every week, in virtually every industry imaginable. The finance industry has the biggest slice of these: 14.2 percent of all ICOs are finance related. The remaining 85.8 percent are scattered across dozens of industries, from entertainment to education, all seeing ICO disruption as well.

It’s still anyone’s guess if ICOs have staying power as a business strategy. Time will tell. There’s a theory that ICOs will be short lived this year due to SEC interference, and token offerings will have to take some other form. But for now, ICOs just keep rolling on out.

Smart Contracts

Among the most powerful blockchain advantages for businesses to embrace are smart contracts. Ethereum pioneered this feature, and made it available for companies to use and modify according to their needs. The way it works is pretty simple: person number one specifies a list of conditions; if person two fulfills the conditions, they’re automatically paid in tokens. If they don’t, the tokens are automatically withheld. Kind of like an escrow vending machine. This decentralizes a lot of legal processes, and in many cases removes the need for judges, lawyers and paperwork.

By now, building smart contracts into your ICO is par for the course. The open source, customizable nature of smart contracts makes them useful in ways only limited by the vendor’s creativity. But imagine, for example, standard housing leases replaced by smart contracts. That’s what Rentberry is working on. The result would be a smoother, decentralized experience for both tenants and landlords.

Next Level P2P

The gig economy is still booming, but it’s old enough to be hitting some obstacles. One of the biggest problems with gig economy companies are the companies themselves. How many times did Uber get into hot water last year and make headlines for the wrong reasons? But suppose you could use a ridesharing app that didn’t have a company like Uber at the center of it. Suppose, in other words, it was truly decentralized and P2P.

That’s the idea behind A2B, a fully decentralized taxi token. There are ICOs popping up to challenge AirBnB, too, as well as many other gig economy heavyweights. Why does this matter? Because blockchain technology takes the P2P idea one step closer to full democratization. People transaction with people, unburdened by a centralized entity. The term “sharing economy” might even come back into style.

What Companies Aren’t Doing

These are just a few examples of how companies are using blockchain technology to shake things up. But there’s also reason to consider the companies who are doing nothing with blockchain. Major tech leaders like Google, Amazon and Facebook haven’t bothered to pick up on blockchain technology. Their ambivalence could be a significant red flag. Considering their historical eagerness to get their hands dirty with innovative tech, their silence about crypto is deafening.

Block, Step and Gone

New technologies incite experimentation, failures, and discoveries, and the blow up of blockchain is no exception. Those companies that hit on truly innovative and productive uses will get the early adopter bragging rights. Those that tank will help us rough out the boundaries of what’s possible with blockchain. And those that sit on their hands could miss out. All of this is valuable. And it’s pretty exciting, too. But while 2017 was the year of Bitcoin, it looks like 2018 will be the year of the blockchain revolution.

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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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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 51975

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. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 48970

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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