Chinese Crypto Leader Li Xiaolai Suddenly Retires 0 96

One of China’s most prominent Bitcoin investors has announced his retirement from the crypto world. Billionaire Li Xiaolai is the founder of BitFund, a crypto venture capital firm that has fostered a slew of Bitcoin-related startups.

Li’s announcement of his decision to withdraw from cryptospace—and investing otherwise—came unexpectedly via his page on Chinese social media site Weibo.

“From this day on,” his post reads, according to TechNode’s translation, “I, Li Xiaolai, will personally not invest in any projects (whether it is blockchain or early stage). So, if you see ‘Li Xiaolai’ associated with any project (I have been associated with countless projects without my knowledge, 99% is not an exaggeration), just ignore it.”

Li is a former school teacher, and claims to be the first person in China to openly trade Bitcoins, rather than hiding behind its famous anonymity. Now, retired from both teaching and investing, he says he’s not sure where to go next. “I plan to spend several years to contemplate on my career change. As for what I’m doing next, I’m not sure just yet.”

Li closed his post by expressing that he still maintains a long term optimism about the blockchain.

Li’s Ventures Grew Crypto Capital, Controversey

Through BitFund, Li has incubated a number of blockchain related startups, including an off-chain wallet called Bitfoo, the crypto exchange YUNBI, and HashRatio, a miner manufacturing company. Li organized 2014’s Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing, back when you could get a BTC for as little as $440, and years before China instated its full ban on cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this year, Li also acted as managing partner of Hangzhou Xiong’An Blockchain Fund, a billion dollar fund backed by the Hangzhou government. Li stepped down after fellow venture capitalist Chen Weizing introduced a series of accusations against him.

Included in the eleven accusations, which Chen broke on social media and messaging platform WeChat, were a supposed debt of 30,000 BTC that Chen says Li failed to pay on time. Li published a point-by-point response to Chen’s accusations, addressing the 30,000 BTC debt by saying “it’s not true… Chen is just muddying the water.”

Though Li called them “defamations,” and Chen did not offer supporting evidence for his allegations, Li said Chen’s antics “brought material and negative impacts on the reputation of Xiong’An Blockchain Fund” and that his resignation would “let the Hangzhou government continue its push for blockchain development.”

Li was the subject of controversy on another occasion when, in a candid conversation he did not know was being recorded, he outed several influential organizations as scams and said that the best way to succeed in blockchain, even if your project is worthless, is to get famous and build consensus.

The State of Crypto in the People’s Republic

All crypto and blockchain related websites are blocked by the Chinese government, and citizens are forbidden from engaging in crypto transactions. The People’s Bank of China released a statement on August 24th warning against ICOs, which they consider to be “illegal fundraising, pyramid schemes, and fraud.”

But the rules have been difficult to enforce, and crypto still enjoys an active user base in China. Beijing Sci-Tech Report, China’s oldest technology publication, is now the first Chinese publication to accept BTC as payment from its subscribers. Chinese crypto channel cnLedger announced in a tweet on September 25th that Ethereum Hotel, China’s first hotel to accept ETH as payment, is open for business in Sichuan Province.

A Crypto Landscape Without a Leader

The sudden exit of Li Xiaolai from the Chinese crypto scene could have caveats, or greater implications. Weibo users expressed their support and gratitude following his announcement, but some also speculated that his choice of words leaves room for Li to continue investing in crypto indirectly, perhaps through funds or corporate entities. Whether that will be the case or not, for many, his resignation marks the loss of a public blockchain leader.

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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes and makes films in the Pacific Northwest.

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Kenya Looks to Blockchain for Affordable Housing Project 0 93

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.

Christie’s is Now Dealing Artwork on the Blockchain 0 109

International art dealer Christie’s has announced they’ll be tracking art transactions and storing encrypted registrations on the blockchain. The 250 year old London based auction house is keeping things interesting by partnering with Artory, a blockchain registry for the art market.

This November, Christie’s will unveil An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection at their Rockefeller Center showroom in New York. The collection includes work from modern American masters such as Georgia O’Keefe, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Edward Hopper.

Christie’s estimates the value of the collection over $300 million. Every sale from the auction will include an encrypted certificate of sale, via Artory, and a permanent record of the transaction chiseled in block. Christie’s expects this to be a major boon to collectors and investors.

“Our pilot collaboration with Artory is a first among the major global auction houses, and reflects growing interest within our industry to explore the benefits of secure digital registry via blockchain technology,” Says Christie’s CIO Richard Entrup. He calls the upcoming auction “an ideal platform for our clients to experience this technology for themselves and to explore the advantages of having a secure encrypted record of information about their purchased artwork.”

Artory CEO Nanne Dekking adds that they’re “delighted to work with Christie’s on this industry-leading collaboration”, and pleased to be able “to show the art world how digital encryption technology can benefit buyers and collectors in the future.”

The Blockchain Has Unique Benefits For Art Dealers and Collectors

It isn’t the first time we’ve seen art for sale on the blockchain. DADA.nyc is a blockchain-only dealer for digital-only arts. They create scarcity by limiting the number of editions of digital works, and using the blockchain for proof of that scarcity and authentication of the work’s origin and ownership.

A Singapore startup called Maecenas had the idea of “fractionalizing” artworks into shares which can be bought and sold on a distributed ledger. You could, for example, own 6 percent of a Warhol. Your money goes to the gallery or individual that owns controlling shares, and your investment appreciates along with the piece.

Verisart is a blockchain system for creating secure digital certificates and detailed, “tamper-proof” records for art and collectibles. Systems like these promise to solve some of the art world’s oldest problems: forgery, devaluation, theft, and the difficulties inherent in proof of ownership and transaction histories when relying on a paper trail.

With art transactions inscribed into the blockchain, prospective buyers can verify the piece’s authenticity, and can see the history of the artwork and its valuation, without encountering any personal details about previous buyers and sellers.

The First Major Collection to Be Auctioned on the Block

This is the first time a major art dealer will sell a collection using a blockchain platform. Prior to the November auction, a portion of the show is touring the west coast, with showings in San Francisco October 16th-20th, and in Los Angeles October 23rd-27th.

Barney A. Ebsworth, the late modern art enthusiast whose collection will be auctioned at Christie’s, was an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Art News listed Ebsworth among the World’s 200 Greatest Collectors, and Art & Antiques called him one of America’s Top 100 Collectors.

His home outside of Seattle was designed by award winning architect Jim Olson with the express purpose of housing the art collection. It included a den built around the 1929 Hopper masterpiece Chop Suey, “where Ebsworth wanted to see it as he read his morning paper.”

Chop Suey (pictured above) is one of the last Hopper paintings in the hands of a private collector. According to Artlyst, Ebsworth promised the painting to the Seattle Art Museum, where he was a member of the board. But his family has decided to sell it instead. The painting is estimated to fetch around $70 million.

Christie’s Continues to Pursue a Tech-Forward Reputation

Just halfway into 2018, Christie’s had already sold $4.04 billion in artwork and collectibles. They hold 350 auctions per year, selling artworks ranging from the hundreds to the hundreds of millions of dollars. While these sales primarily take place at their 10 showrooms, in New York, Geneva, London, Hong Kong, Milan, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam, Zürich, and Shanghai, Christie’s previously explored online-only sales with the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s collection following her death in 2011.

Other major dealers, like Sotheby’s, are no strangers to the value that blockchain can bring to their industry. If other art dealers follow suit with auctions on distributed ledgers, there could soon be widespread implementation of the blockchain’s trademark security and transparency for the benefit of the art world.

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