How Companies Are Making Cryptocurrency More Usable 4 435

With each new day, there seems to be another discovery when it comes to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. What we once thought of as a mere system for creating bitcoin has become the hottest topic in town. From fixing issues with the supply chain to revolutionizing the financial and medical worlds, there’s no end to the blockchain’s capabilities.

It’s kind of like the app store. Apple created a life-changing technology and then opened it up to a world of creative genius coming from different places. Now our smartphones can be used for everything from measuring our heart rate to monitoring our babies. And the same is happening with the blockchain.

With around a dozen ICOs appearing each day, we’re starting to see some incredibly creative ideas. Whether they’ll go the distance or not is another question. With 90 percent of apps deleted or unused after one month, ICOs also face some pretty tough competition–and a few stumbling blocks when it comes to taking their ideas off paper. So, let’s take a look at some ways of making cryptocurrency more usable.

Removing the Need to Convert Cryptocurrency to Fiat

Zeex (a sister company of Zeek group gift cards) has come up with an interesting idea. One of the greatest challenges with buying crypto right now comes when you want to spend it. Not every store accepts bitcoin and the cost of converting to fiat can be unattractively high. That’s why Zeex is currently launching a protocol that will provide the ability for cryptocurrency holders to purchase items and services without the need for fiat conversion.

Guy Melamed, Zeex CEO & Co-Founder, explains, “Zeex targets one of crypto’s biggest problems and enables the growing audience of crypto holders to buy at major brands without the need to convert to fiat and with no fees.”

Gift cards is already big business. In fact, the global gift cards market reached $679,743 million in 2016, and is set to value some $3,003,320 million by 2023. Zeek is already an established VC backed startup with more than 300K customers, who use the company’s app and marketplace as a way to trade store credit they don’t want or need. That includes credit notes, gift vouchers, gift cards and e-vouchers.

Working with All Major Retailers

Powered by Zeek’s gift card platform that works with 350+ merchants, including Amazon, Foot Locker, and Starbucks, Zeex users will be able to make purchases using cryptocurrency. They can shop on Amazon using digital cash without the need for a traditional-crypto money conversion. There are no additional fees and it’s a simple, private, and secure procedure.

Through their platform, Zeex aims to connect the booming gift card market with the massive need for liquidity options in the crypto market. Pretty creative idea. How did they come up with something like that?

Melamed says, “We needed to find a creative payment method that would:

  1. Leave the traditional thinking and skip conversion to fiat altogether.
  2.  Avoid centralization and make sure no middleman can manipulate or stop the platform

By using the rails of virtual gift cards and placing a complete off-chain product on the blockchain, we managed to do just that and create a simple way for crypto holders to buy at the biggest brands, even if they don’t accept crypto.”

Combatting Crypto’s Infamous Volatility

Beyond converting crypto to fiat, another problem with cryptocurrency is that it’s incredibly sensitive to price fluctuation. How do you pay for goods that value $10 one day, $150 the next, and $1.50 a week later?

We’re starting to see the emergence of companies providing a solution to this problem. UbiquiCoin has emerged as one of the first decentralized currencies to take a two-coin approach to allow for crypto to be widely used. On the one side, they have a transaction coin at a stable rate that merchants everywhere could rely on. On the other, an investment coin that functions as their investment vehicle.

Unlike Bitcoin and other popular coins, UbiquiCoin is designed to be used for making daily purchases. From coffee and groceries to paying utility bills, it’s exempt from price volatility.

We’re yet to discover just how extraordinary cryptocurrency and the blockchain will be in our lives. The technology is still in its infancy and experiencing some teething trouble. With companies like Zeex and UbiquiCoin smoothing out the problems, we could soon be able to use cryptocurrency more widely.

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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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VEZT Wants You to be Able to Own Shares of Your Favorite Songs 5 894

Mr. Cheeks has been producing music since the early 90s, under the mentorship of his late uncle, the legendary Gil Scott-Heron. He started with the Lost Boyz, won a Grammy for his work with Stephen Marley, and has released a handful of solo albums since.

Now, royalties for his singles will be available to his fans, thanks to the blockchain. Mr. Cheeks’ songs will be available on a platform that allows fans and investors to claim a slice of the rights to pop music they believe in. When the song is licensed for use, in advertising or film for example, you, the investor, get a cut.

It’s made possible through an app called VEZT, which is positioning itself to revolutionize the way music relates to money as the world’s “first music rights marketplace.” VEZT partnered with a long time Mr. Cheeks producer, Bink, to offer shares of the song “Lights, Camera, Action” which is currently available on the company’s website.

The Problem of Selling Music

Mixing music and markets is an old problem. How should musicians get paid? Who pays them? What about their support teams? How do we keep track of the flow of money and make sure everyone’s fairly compensated? Among the music world’s financial obstacles, one of the biggest issues is navigating licensing and royalties.

In Austin, for example, one of America’s most proficient music hubs, almost a third of musicians make less than minimum wage, and 70 percent are earning less than $10k per year on their work. That’s below the poverty line even for a household of one. It’s been like pulling teeth trying to get royalties from companies like Spotify, who generate income off their songs. Meanwhile even more expensive lawsuits pile up, or go completely unpursued from lack of funds, as marketers continue to ape good music with copyright infringing fakes. It’s a constant headache for musicians, producers and labels, and it makes it prohibitive to eke out a living in the music world.

Under VEZT’s model, royalties are simple. Music is intellectual property owned by the artist. The artist can sell a portion of those rights to fans, who become investors when they purchase a percentage of shares. Fans and musicians make an agreement to co-own the songs they both care so much about. If you love a song and want to see it do well, you invest. If it does well, you have a share in the artist’s success. Royalties are split based on percentage of ownership.

The concept comes from cofounders Robert Menendez, a former Wall St. financial trader/analyst, and Steve Stewart, an industry regular with entrepreneurial tendencies, whose accomplishments include ushering Stone Temple Pilots to fame in the early ‘90s and managing the band for a decade. They say they founded VEZT as part of a vision to “detangle a lot of the financial problems in the music industry, and connect fans more directly with the music they love.”

And now, they’ve expanded across the Pacific from VEZT’s headquarters in Los Angeles, and opened an office in South Korea.

‘The Perfect Environment’

“The fans of music in Korea are quite possibly the most enthusiastic and active fans on the planet,” says Stewart. “Combine this with a robust tech community and a government leading the way in adopting blockchain technologies and you have a perfect environment for VEZT.”

The ROK’s new legislation legitimizing crypto exchange, Dapps, and blockchain systems will take the peninsula farther into a brave new technological world, where many others have so far feared to tread. Combined with their now-world-famous maximalist pop industry, and it’s not hard to see why VEZT moved in.

Construction recently finished on their new 2500 square foot office in the Gangnam district of Seoul. VEZT has enlisted a host of professionals to their C-Suite, including veterans of major Korean record labels, Kpop producers, marketing and PR executives and, of course, tech experts.

Fixing Music With Blockchain

If their model works in Seoul and LA, VEZT could bring a more harmonious rhythm to an industry still trying to find its groove in the digital age. The world needs music, and musicians need to get paid. As with anything blockchain, cutting out some of the middlemen could be the Occam’s razor with the solution. When fans are directly invested in their music, everyone will want to see it succeed.

Oxford Faculty are Building the World’s First Blockchain-Based University 3 893

The academic hive is abuzz with blockchain activity. Students looking to formally study blockchain technology can now do so at a number of prestigious universities, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, Georgetown and MIT. The blockchain bug has even made its way into the ivy league at Cornell and Princeton Universities.

“The courses are often jam-packed, and most have waiting lists,” CNBC says of blockchain classes at Berkeley, which also has a student club devoted to the block. The club is so popular it turns away 96 percent of applicants, according to CNBC. Most students, they say, are more motivated to improve the world than they are to make tons of money.

Across the pond, faculty from Oxford are going beyond just offering classes and developing what they hope will be the world’s first decentralized, borderless, blockchain-based university, called Woolf University.

The Borderless Blockchain University

Woolf University’s vision is a school where students can ‘show up’ to a class by checking in on the app. The app executes smart contracts that track the student’s academic history and financial aid, automatically pay the professor, and bypass innumerable bureaucratic hurdles usually relegated to lengthy paperwork processes.

For about half the cost of regular tuition, a student in Brooklyn could take a class in Yoruba from a professor in Nigeria and earn an EU degree.

‘The World’s First University ICO’

Woolf University’s founder Joshua Broggi, who also serves on Oxford’s Faculty of Philosophy, has just announced what he’s calling “the world’s first ‘university ICO’.”

“Woolf will use a blockchain to enforce regulatory compliance, eliminate bureaucratic processes, and manage the custodianship of sensitive financial and personal data,” the announcement says.

“Our ultimate aim is for this to be a driver of job opportunities and security for academics, as well as a low-cost alternative for students,” Broggi told Forbes.

Private sale of tokens is open now, and crowd sale will be August 30th through October 10th. Token sales are not available to citizens of China, the United States, or Iran.

Stanford is Taking Blockchain in a Different Direction

Oxford isn’t the only place expanding their blockchain vision beyond 202 classes.

Last month, Stanford announced their Center for Blockchain Research (CBR), which endeavors to develop new blockchain based technologies at one of the world’s top research institutions.

Led by professors Dan Boneh and David Mazières, the center’s first five years of research are backed through partnerships with some of crypto’s big names: the Ethereum Foundation, Protocol Labs, the Interchain Foundation, OmiseGO, DFINITY Stiftung, and PolyChain Capital.

The focus of the CBR will be blockchain as it relates to computer engineering, and its potential impacts on global business. “This is a fascinating area of research with deep scientific questions,” said Boneh. “Once you get into the details you quickly realize that this area will generate many PhD theses across all of computer science and beyond.”

A Global Watershed

Last fall the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts announced that they now accept tuition payments in Bitcoin. In April, the world’s first masters degree in cryptofinance was launched in Brazil. Universities in Moscow, Copenhagen, Cambridge and Cumbria are also researching blockchain’s now and future uses.

These developments, when taken together, could indicate a global watershed moment in the marriage of academia and blockchain tech.

Blockchain and Academia are Transforming Each Other

With the global academic world switching on to blockchain’s potential, and with projects like the CBR and Woolf University taking shape, the world of academia could be at a transformative threshold. Woolf students could conceivably find themselves learning about the blockchain through a blockchain supported infrastructure, while Stanford grads could be taking what they learn in blockchain courses and applying it to doctoral research in the CDR.

We can expect this to transform academia. It’ll transform the blockchain, too.

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