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Bob The Magic Custodian
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
It is no doubt Grayscale’s booming popularity as a mainstream investment has caused a lot of community hullabaloo lately. As such, I felt it was worth making a FAQ regarding the topic. I’m looking to update this as needed and of course am open to suggestions / adding any questions. The goal is simply to have a thread we can link to anyone with questions on Grayscaleand its products. Instead of explaining the same thing 3 times a day, shoot those posters over to this thread.My hope is that these questions are answered in a fairly simple and easy to understand manner. I think as the sub grows it will be a nice reference point for newcomers. Disclaimer: I do NOT work for Grayscale and as such am basing all these answers on information that can be found on their website / reports. (Grayscale’s official FAQ can be found here). I also do NOT have a finance degree, I do NOT have a Series 6 / 7 / 140-whatever, and I do NOT work with investment products for my day job. I have an accounting background and work within the finance world so I have the general ‘business’ knowledge to put it all together, but this is all info determined in my best faith effort as a layman. The point being is this --- it is possible I may explain something wrong or missed the technical terms, and if that occurs I am more than happy to update anything that can be proven incorrect Everything below will be in reference to ETHE but will apply to GBTC as well.If those two segregate in any way, I will note that accordingly.
ETHE is essentially a stock that intends to loosely track the price of ETH. It does so by having each ETHE be backed by a specific amount of ETH that is held on chain. Initially, the newly minted ETHE can only be purchased by institutions and accredited investors directly from Grayscale. Once a year has passed (6 months for GBTC) it can then be listed on the OTCQX Best Market exchange for secondary trading. Once listed on OTCQX, anyone investor can purchase at this point. Additional information on ETHE can be found here.
So ETHE is an ETF?
No. For technical reasons beyond my personal understandings it is not labeled an ETF. I know it all flows back to the “Securities Act Rule 144”, but due to my limited knowledge on SEC regulations I don’t want to misspeak past that. If anyone is more knowledgeable on the subject I am happy to input their answer here.
How long has ETHE existed?
ETHE was formed 12/14/2017. GBTC was formed 9/25/2013.
How is ETHE created?
The trust will issue shares to “Authorized Participants” in groups of 100 shares (called baskets). Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create these baskets and they do it on behalf of the investor. Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 39 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here Note – The way their reports word this makes it sound like there is an army of authorizers doing the dirty work, but in reality there is only one Authorized Participant. At this moment the “Genesis” company is the sole Authorized Participant. Genesis is owned by the “Digital Currency Group, Inc.” which is the parent company of Grayscale as well. (And to really go down the rabbit hole it looks like DCG is the parent company of CoinDesk and is “backing 150+ companies across 30 countries, including Coinbase, Ripple, and Chainalysis.”) Source: Digital Currency Group, Inc. informational section on page 77 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here Source: Barry E. Silbert informational section on page 75 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here
How does Grayscale acquire the ETH to collateralize the ETHE product?
An Investor may acquire ETHE by paying in cash or exchanging ETH already owned.
Cash: The investor pays the subscription amount in cash and the Authorized Participant will use that cash to purchase ETH.
ETH: The investor transfers the ETH to the Authorized Participant, which will contribute the ETH in-kind to the Trust.
Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 40 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Where does Grayscale store their ETH? Does it have a specific wallet address we can follow?
ETH is stored with Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC. I am unaware of any specific address or set of addresses that can be used to verify the ETH is actually there. As an aside - I would actually love to see if anyone knows more about this as it’s something that’s sort of peaked my interest after being asked about it… I find it doubtful we can find that however. Source: Part C. Business Information, Item 8, subsection A. on page 16 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Can ETHE be redeemed for ETH?
No, currently there is no way to give your shares of ETHE back to Grayscale to receive ETH back. The only method of getting back into ETH would be to sell your ETHE to someone else and then use those proceeds to buy ETH yourself. Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Why are they not redeeming shares?
I think the report summarizes it best:
Redemptions of Shares are currently not permitted and the Trust is unable to redeem Shares. Subject to receipt of regulatory approval from the SEC and approval by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, the Trust may in the future operate a redemption program. Because the Trust does not believe that the SEC would, at this time, entertain an application for the waiver of rules needed in order to operate an ongoing redemption program, the Trust currently has no intention of seeking regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program.
Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the fee structure?
ETHE has an annual fee of 2.5%. GBTC has an annual fee of 2.0%. Fees are paid by selling the underlying ETH / BTC collateralizing the asset. Source: ETHE’s informational page on Grayscale’s website - Located Here Source: Description of Trust on page 31 & 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the ratio of ETH to ETHE?
At the time of posting (6/19/2020) each ETHE share is backed by .09391605 ETH. Each share of GBTC is backed by .00096038 BTC. ETHE & GBTC’s specific information page on Grayscale’s website updates the ratio daily – Located Here For a full historical look at this ratio, it can be found on the Grayscale home page on the upper right side if you go to Tax Documents > 2019 Tax Documents > Grayscale Ethereum Trust 2019 Tax Letter.
Why is the ratio not 1:1? Why is it always decreasing?
While I cannot say for certain why the initial distribution was not a 1:1 backing, it is more than likely to keep the price down and allow more investors a chance to purchase ETHE / GBTC. As noted above, fees are paid by selling off the ETH collateralizing ETHE. So this number will always be trending downward as time goes on. Source: Description of Trust on page 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
I keep hearing about how this is locked supply… explain?
As noted above, there is currently no redemption program for converting your ETHE back into ETH. This means that once an ETHE is issued, it will remain in circulation until a redemption program is formed --- something that doesn’t seem to be too urgent for the SEC or Grayscale at the moment. Tiny amounts will naturally be removed due to fees, but the bulk of the asset is in there for good. Knowing that ETHE cannot be taken back and destroyed at this time, the ETH collateralizing it will not be removed from the wallet for the foreseeable future. While it is not fully locked in the sense of say a totally lost key, it is not coming out any time soon. Per their annual statement:
The Trust’s ETH will be transferred out of the ETH Account only in the following circumstances: (i) transferred to pay the Sponsor’s Fee or any Additional Trust Expenses, (ii) distributed in connection with the redemption of Baskets (subject to the Trust’s obtaining regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program and the consent of the Sponsor), (iii) sold on an as-needed basis to pay Additional Trust Expenses or (iv) sold on behalf of the Trust in the event the Trust terminates and liquidates its assets or as otherwise required by law or regulation.
Source: Description of Trust on page 31 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Grayscale now owns a huge chunk of both ETH and BTC’s supply… should we be worried about manipulation, a sell off to crash the market crash, a staking cartel?
First, it’s important to remember Grayscale is a lot more akin to an exchange then say an investment firm. Grayscale is working on behalf of its investors to create this product for investor control. Grayscale doesn’t ‘control’ the ETH it holds any more then Coinbase ‘controls’ the ETH in its hot wallet. (Note: There are likely some varying levels of control, but specific to this topic Grayscale cannot simply sell [legally, at least] the ETH by their own decision in the same manner Coinbase wouldn't be able to either.) That said, there shouldn’t be any worry in the short to medium time-frame. As noted above, Grayscale can’t really remove ETH other than for fees or termination of the product. At 2.5% a year, fees are noise in terms of volume. Grayscale seems to be the fastest growing product in the crypto space at the moment and termination of the product seems unlikely. IF redemptions were to happen tomorrow, it’s extremely unlikely we would see a mass exodus out of the product to redeem for ETH. And even if there was incentive to get back to ETH, the premium makes it so that it would be much more cost effective to just sell your ETHE on the secondary market and buy ETH yourself. Remember, any redemption is up to the investors and NOT something Grayscale has direct control over.
Yes, but what about [insert criminal act here]…
Alright, yes. Technically nothing is stopping Grayscale from selling all the ETH / BTC and running off to the Bahamas (Hawaii?). BUT there is no real reason for them to do so. Barry is an extremely public figure and it won’t be easy for him to get away with that. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust creates SEC reports weekly / bi-weekly and I’m sure given the sentiment towards crypto is being watched carefully. Plus, Grayscale is making tons of consistent revenue and thus has little to no incentive to give that up for a quick buck.
That’s a lot of ‘happy little feels’ Bob, is there even an independent audit or is this Tether 2.0?
Actually yes, an independent auditor report can be found in their annual reports. It is clearly aimed more towards the financial side and I doubt the auditors are crypto savants, but it is at least one extra set of eyes. Auditors are Friedman LLP – Auditor since 2015. Source: Independent Auditor Report starting on page 116 (of the PDF itself) of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here As mentioned by user TheCrpytosAndBloods (In Comments Below), a fun fact:
The company’s auditors Friedman LLP were also coincidentally TetheBitfinex’s auditors until They controversially parted ways in 2018 when the Tether controversy was at its height. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is anything shady about DCG - I just find it interesting it’s the same auditor.
“Grayscale sounds kind of lame” / “Not your keys not your crypto!” / “Why is anyone buying this, it sounds like a scam?”
Welp, for starters this honestly is not really a product aimed at the people likely to be reading this post. To each their own, but do remember just because something provides no value to you doesn’t mean it can’t provide value to someone else. That said some of the advertised benefits are as follows:
Access to trading within a tax advantaged retirement account
Institutions can easily and safely get exposure to crypto in a more legal-friendly manner
Ease of use for those who are not very technologically savvy
Ease of access for someone who doesn’t want to set up a Coinbase account
Perceived trust in institutional platforms over something like Coinbase or Kraken
Degen traders who just want access to the volatility ETHE provides that have no interest in crypto beyond that
So for example, I can set up an IRA at a brokerage account that has $0 trading fees. Then I can trade GBTC and ETHE all day without having to worry about tracking my taxes. All with the relative safety something like E-Trade provides over Binance. As for how it benefits the everyday ETH holder? I think the supply lock is a positive. I also think this product exposes the Ethereum ecosystem to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it.
Why is there a premium? Why is ETHE’s premium so insanely high compared to GBTC’s premium?
There are a handful of theories of why a premium exists at all, some even mentioned in the annual report. The short list is as follows:
ETHE is NOT redeeming shares and as such doesn’t have an effective arbitrage mechanism
ETHE has a 1 year wait to be sold on the secondary market, again negating the ability to effectively arbitrage the premium
People may simply be willing to pay a premium for the benefits stated above.
Why is ETHE’s so much higher the GBTC’s? Again, a few thoughts:
ETHE hasn’t been around as long, so there is less secondary market supply to go around
ETHE was listed at an insanely high premium to begin with
ETHE might simply be more popular at the moment
Could just be sheer stupidity (investors think ETHE is a 1:1 ratio not 1:11)
Are there any other differences between ETHE and GBTC?
I touched on a few of the smaller differences, but one of the more interesting changes is GBTC is now a “SEC reporting company” as of January 2020. Which again goes beyond my scope of knowledge so I won’t comment on it too much… but the net result is GBTC is now putting out weekly / bi-weekly 8-K’s and annual 10-K’s. This means you can track GBTC that much easier at the moment as well as there is an extra layer of validity to the product IMO.
I’m looking for some statistics on ETHE… such as who is buying, how much is bought, etc?
There is a great Q1 2020 report I recommend you give a read that has a lot of cool graphs and data on the product. It’s a little GBTC centric, but there is some ETHE data as well. It can be found here hidden within the 8-K filings.Q1 2020 is the 4/16/2020 8-K filing. For those more into a GAAP style report see the 2019 annual 10-K of the same location.
Is Grayscale only just for BTC and ETH?
No, there are other products as well. In terms of a secondary market product, ETCG is the Ethereum Classic version of ETHE. Fun Fact – ETCG was actually put out to the secondary market first. It also has a 3% fee tied to it where 1% of it goes to some type of ETC development fund. In terms of institutional and accredited investors, there are a few ‘fan favorites’ such as Bitcoin Cash, Litcoin, Stellar, XRP, and Zcash. Something called Horizion (Backed by ZEN I guess? Idk to be honest what that is…). And a diversified Mutual Fund type fund that has a little bit of all of those. None of these products are available on the secondary market.
Are there alternatives to Grayscale?
I know they exist, but I don’t follow them. I’ll leave this as a “to be edited” section and will add as others comment on what they know. Per user Over-analyser (in comments below):
As asked by pegcity - Okay so I was under the impression you can just give them your own ETH and get ETHE, but do you get 11 ETHE per ETH or do you get the market value of ETH in USD worth of ETHE?
I have always understood that the ETHE issued directly through Grayscale is issued without the premium. As in, if I were to trade 1 ETH for ETHE I would get 11, not say only 2 or 3 because the secondary market premium is so high. And if I were paying cash only I would be paying the price to buy 1 ETH to get my 11 ETHE. Per page 39 of their annual statement, it reads as follows:
The Trust will issue Shares to Authorized Participants from time to time, but only in one or more Baskets (with a Basket being a block of 100 Shares). The Trust will not issue fractions of a Basket. The creation (and, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redemption) of Baskets will be made only in exchange for the delivery to the Trust, or the distribution by the Trust, of the number of whole and fractional ETH represented by each Basket being created (or, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redeemed), which is determined by dividing (x) the number of ETH owned by the Trust at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the trade date of a creation or redemption order, after deducting the number of ETH representing the U.S. dollar value of accrued but unpaid fees and expenses of the Trust (converted using the ETH Index Price at such time, and carried to the eighth decimal place), by (y) the number of Shares outstanding at such time (with the quotient so obtained calculated to one one-hundred-millionth of one ETH (i.e., carried to the eighth decimal place)), and multiplying such quotient by 100 (the “Basket ETH Amount”). All questions as to the calculation of the Basket ETH Amount will be conclusively determined by the Sponsor and will be final and binding on all persons interested in the Trust. The Basket ETH Amount multiplied by the number of Baskets being created or redeemed is the “Total Basket ETH Amount.” The number of ETH represented by a Share will gradually decrease over time as the Trust’s ETH are used to pay the Trust’s expenses. Each Share represented approximately 0.0950 ETH and 0.0974 ETH as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Weekly Update: 4th Parachute League on Crypto Leagues, $ESH on CoinBene, Sentivate + NordVPN, Wibson at EthereumBA…– 29 May - 4 Jun'20
Sup folks! Here’s Part III of VI of our May-June update catchup (29 May - 4 Jun'20): For this week's #fridayprompt Jason got Parachuters to talk about items "from your childhood that you hold very dear to your heart" and why. Super congrats to Evan (TheEnjineer) for winning this week’s Parena and taking home a cool 20k $PAR. Naj hosted a 2 part trivia in TTR for 10k $PAR in prizes. Peace Love held his “Big Trivia” on Sunday. Victor hosted one in Tiproom as well. The Crex24 exchange peeps were nice enough to add $PAR as one of the contenders in their latest vote-for-listing round. Parachuters put up a great fight even though we didn’t make it in the end. But it was fun. The 4th Parachute League with a prize pool of 100k $PAR will be going live on Crypto Leagues next week. Paper trade your way to glory! For Two-For-Tuesday Gian got folks to share music that had "bands or song titles whose name has a number in it" for 500 $PAR. Like always, Sebastian volunteered to set up the playlist. Enjoy! LordHades' collection of Turbo Cards were his entry to this week's #fridayprompt Matthew from aXpire wrote about LEDES and why it mattered for eBilling. This week saw 200k $AXPR burned as part of the monthly burn event. 2gether CEO Ramon Ferraz shared about some of the recent challenges that they had to overcome in order to keep the ship sailing. The latest #XIOSocial prompt was focused on Citizens and we got to know more about the people behind some of the active XIDs. Dash shared an update on the newest developments on the dApp. Birdchain team published an important reminder for everyone about avoiding scams. If you missed Voyager CEO Stephen Ehrlich’s crypto investment webinar last week, fret not. You can watch it here. The June interest rates look pretty enticing. Still considering whether to get into Voyager? This article might help. Josh from Switch was interviewed by Bitcoin.com exchange this week. $ESH got listed on CoinBene. Folks new to Fantom can watch this intro video for a quick roundup. Uptrennd’s $1UP token was chosen for HitBTC’s latest token listing poll. Uptrennd continues to feature among the top monetized social media platforms by monthly pageloads. For the latest news roundup, click here. The team also announced a partnership with Global Digital Assets to expand market reach and user growth. A new update to the Opacity platform was released this week. Click here to read the latest District0x weekly report. Hydrogen integrated identity verification solution IDology to its platform for KYC checks. Don’t forget to check out Hydro’s report on Payments as a Service (PaaS) and how it will play a key role in Fintech. The ecosystem is growing too with 26 companies applying for Hydro grants to build on the platform. Silent Notary’s Ubikiri released a crowdfunding solution this week. The fintech space continues to grow at breakneck speed: Source: Hydro’s PaaS report Harmony turned 1 this week and announced that Binance’s $BUSD stablecoin will be added to its mainnet. The first ever HRC20 token went live on Harmony as well. ThreeFold announced support for Open Staking on its grid. In addition to $KEY as mentioned above, $ONE was listed on Swapzone as well. Edge and Atomic Wallet will support $ONE as well. All foundational node tokens have been committed to Open Staking. 3.5+ Bn $ONE are now staked by 195 validators. Congratulations to the winners of the Flash Quiz from last week. The team also sat down for an AMA with CoinDCX. The latest community proposal was discussed in a fireside chat. And what a fun way to represent your team. Haha. Did I miss out something? Check out the news roundup in case I did. Intellishare will be creating a fund to support products on its mainnet in order to build the $INE ecosystem. Read the detailed May update for GET Protocol here. $COTI got listed on Indodax. The first recipients of COTI Staking 2.0 rewards received anywhere between 28% to 43% in annualized returns. Read all about it here. Another round of KuCoin staking was launched this week. And if you already didn’t know, node operators can set their own full node fee on the COTI network. DoYourTip’s $DYT token got listed on Txbit exchange with eight different fiat trading pairs. Woohoo! Yup, that’s the Harmony team. Good Luck figuring them out :D SelfKey published a guide to key concepts in crypto lending. Australian crypto-lending solution Helio Lending joined the Loans Marketplace. $KEY was added to My Crypto Stats tracker and Swapzone exchange aggregator. The May progress report was published as well. To keep track of the dev updates, you can also check CoinCodeCap. For a high level understanding of how data flows are handled by Constellation, watch this video explainer by Wyatt. All the moving parts of the Hypergraph ecosystem were listed out here. Pynk’s crowdfunding campaign (which went live last week) was overfunded by 133% of the target within 9 hours. The team also did an AMA with the community as the fundraise went on. If you missed it, you can watch it here. CEO Seth Ward’s thoughts on the effects of COVID-19 on the tech sector was published in a Business Leader article. CyberFM completed its May payments this week. Click here to watch Wibson’s presentation at the Ethereum Buenos Aires event from last week. Wibson Marketing Manager Fiorella Scantamburlo spoke about digital identity at the Latam Blockchain Summit this week. Plus, here’s a handy guide to find out if your Facebook account is truly private. Sentivate’s first technology partner was revealed – it is NordVPN. This was quickly followed by a significant update. The development on the Mycro Hunter App continues unabated. And with that, we have to close for this week! See you again with another update. Bye!
Kava "In The News" Media Tracker: This is a thread to track noteworthy Kava mentions within the news! This thread will not include "copy & paste" news - meaning, and article that was taken from somewhere else and republished. (Kava does like when that happens, but this thread is meant to track original stories only!)
Weekly Update: $WIB, $VID, $CHZ on ParJar, Pynk crushes Web Summit, XIO swap bridge, Sentivate reorg... – 1 Nov - 7 Nov'19
Hi folks! We are catching up real quick. Here’s your week at Parachute + partners (1 Nov - 7 Nov'19): Three new projects and their awesome communities joined the Parachute fam this week: Wibson, VideoCoin and Chiliz. Welcome! And if you missed, we also added Shuffle Monster, Harmony and CyberFM last week. #cryptoforeveryone is getting bigger by the day. Woot woot! In this week’s TTR trivias, we had Richi’s movie quiz qith a 25k $PAR pot. Charlotte's Rebus trivia in TTR on Tuesday had 25k $PAR in prizes for 10 Qs. Noice! Jason’s creative contest for this week was #artdeadmin: “draw/paint/sketch/whatever you imagine a group of the parachute admins doing together”. Click here to check out some of the entries of the TTR Halloween photo contest from last week. Doc Victor (from Cuba) hosted a Champions League wager round in tip room. And congrats to Victor (Anox) for passing his final Medical exams. We have 2 Doc Vics now. One from Cuba and the other from *redacted*. Some of the top #artdeadmin submissions. Insane talent! Jason’s running medal collection. Say what! Andy shared the latest standings in the Parachute Fantasy Football League (#PFFL). Clinton (7-2) is on top followed by Chris (7-2) in second place and Hang (7-2) in third place. So close! As we rolled into November, Parachute crew signed up for Movember. So now we have 3 teams from the Parachute fold, doing a no-shave November for men’s health issues: Parachute (Tony, Cap, Alexis, Cuban Doc Vic, Richi), TTR (Vali, Ashok, Tavo, Alejandro, Marcos, PeaceLove) and TTR-Ladies (Mery, Martha, AngellyC, Liem, Durby, LeidyElena, Charlotte). Show them some support peeps! This is all for charity. Show them some support folks! This week’s #wholesomewed was about “your most precious possession and give us the story of why it is so precious to you”. A whole lot of $PAR was given out for some real wholesome life stories. Best. Community. Eva! Two-for-Tuesday theme for this week: colors! As always, a melodic Tuesday thanks to Gian! And thank you Borna for writing about Parachute and ParJar on the Blockchain Andy blog. <- This is where Jose creates his magic. Respect / Cuban Doc Vic’s doggo, Symba, could easily be a TTR mascot. Good boi! -> This week at aXpire there were two separate $AXPR burns: 20k of last week and 200k of this week. Last week’s news recap can be seen here. Congratulations to the team for being conferred the honour of being handed a key to Miami-Dade County by Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez at the 2019 Miami-Dade Beacon Council Annual Meeting & Key Ceremony. aXpire's disruptive solutions like Resolvr (expense allocation), Bilr (invoice management) and DigitalShares (deal marketplace) help hedge funds and PE firms scale through better profit margins. How? Read here. Did you know that the 2gether Ambassador Zone lets you customise referral messages with a #PicOfTheDay while you earn some sweet 2GT rewards? Super cool! There was an upgrade to the platform this week that might have led to a temporary deactivation in withdrawals while the update was being deployed. CEO Ramón Ferraz’s interview by BeInCrypto was released. Founder Salvador Algarra travelled to an ABANCA event for a keynote speech on Fintech innovation. Next week he will be at Rankia's Blockchain and Crypto Tech gathering to speak on "Blockchain, from predicting the future to building it". CardRates’ feature article on 2gether came out this week. The BOMBX:XIO token swap bridge went live. The swap will be open till 15th December. Plus, $XIO is now listed on DDEX and Switcheo. There were some disruptions in the bridge from time to time because of heavy traffic. Hence, the team also set up a manual swap page as an alternative solution. And please be wary of scammers posing as admins to help with the swap instructions. For any doubts, always reach out to accounts with admin tags on the official Telegram channel. The first set of incubated startups will be revealed on the 22nd of November. Ever wanted to find out about the people who frequent the BOMB token chat? Well, the BOMB Board is running a "Humans of Bomb" series to feature some of the most active members. This week, say Hello to Gustavo. Key to Miami-Dade County awarded to aXpire. Cool! WednesdayCoin’s founder Mike floated the idea of making WednesdayClub open on all days. The nature of the $WED token will not change on chain. Just that it will be usable inside the DApp everyday. What do you think? Let him know in the Reddit thread. Birdchain’s $BIRD token was listed on Mercatox this week. A new monthly referral contest was launched as well. 50k BIRD tokens to be won. Nice! Want the SMS feature to be released in your country? Start promoting! A featured article on Chainleak capped off the week perfectly for Birdchain. $ETHOS, $AXPR (aXpire), $HYDRO, $BNTY (Bounty0x) and $HST (Horizon State) were added to the eToro Wallet. The airdrops for Switch’s various token holders were distributed this week. As mentioned earlier as well, $ESH and $SDEX are revenue sharing tokens. Winners of the John McAfee contest and trading competition were announced. Congratulations! Tron blockchain support will be added to the Switch-based McAfeeDex next week. The news was covered by Beincrypto, U Today, Crypto Crunch, Altcoin Buzz and Tron’s Justin Sun as well. The Dex was featured in a Forbes article about John McAfee’s views on Libra. The latest community contest at Fantom involves writing educational articles on the platform. If you have been following Fantom developments, then this would be a breeze. Also, USD 100 in FTM tokens to be won. Sweet! Check out the cool $FTM merch on display at Odd Gems fashion. Even though these are not official gear, they have the blessings from the project. CMO Michael Chen sat down for an interview with Crypto Intelligence India to talk about the upcoming mainnet launch. The crew also appeared for an AMA with Atomic Wallet community. The latest technical update covers "Golang implementation of Lachesis consensus" or Go-Lachesis in short. Check out its demo with 7 nodes here. Parachute presentation (WIP). That’s right. 500k transactions and counting. Wow! While the Uptrennd Halloween contest got over last week, AltcoinBuzz made a friggin amazing graphic! Don’t forget to follow the Ann channel to stay up to date with the latest from Uptrennd. Founder Jeff Kirdeikis also announced that he will be working closely with PrefLogic on Security Tokens. Jeff’s interview with MakerDAO Biz Dev Gustav Arentoft came out. After some upgrades on Uptrennd, withdrawals are live again. Instead of the weekly meme contest, there was a flyer contest this week. 5k $1UP prize pool for winners. Wicked! The latest community picked TA report was on ETH. And the crew reached Malta for the AIBC Summit. More pics next week! Did you know that you can get Opacity Gift Codes for various plans at ShopOpacity.com? If not, make sure to read up on the Opacity October update. Catch up on the latest at District0x from the District weekly. The District Registry was live demo’ed. Looks cool! Hydro crew travelled to the Web Summit in Lisbon to spread word on the project. They were also represented at the Chicago fintech science fair this week. For a summary of the last few weeks gone by at Hydrogen, you can read the Project update and Hydro Labs update. We have covered most of these in previous posts. For the latest scoop on Hydro Labs, there’s always the Ann channel. Silent Notary’s Ubikiri wallet is undergoing upgrades. One of which is, wallets will be auto-named after creation. A ton more upgrades to be released. Sentivate announced a reorganisation in the company in order to devote full focus on Sentivate. The parent company will close and all resources will move to Sentivate. Here’s another use-case story to emphasise the potential of Universal Web. In the latest community vote on Blockfolio, folks voted overwhelmingly Yes on whether they would like to see more explainer articles on web tech. Also, the epic shoutout from Scott Melker (The Wolf Of All Streets) has to be the best thing ever! Updated Sentivate roadmap for next 3 months Pynk travelled to the Web Summit in Lisbon (wonder if they crossed paths with Hydro and SelfKey teams) as an official delegate of the Mayor's International Business Programme and were featured by KPMG. How to catch people’s eyes in a Summit where everyone is trying to grab your attention? With LED back packs. Genius! Such a lit idea, that even Web Summit tweeted it. Woohoo! And then they rocked a series of pitches to get to the big stage. Wins in Round 1 and quarter finals ensured an entry into the semi finals on the main stage. Click here to watch their presentation. Great job guys! Business Insider Poland included Pynk in their list of 12 Fintech companies worth following. The latest Pynk Tank episode delves into deep fakes in political advertising. One of the upcoming features on the platform will be the addition of gold to the daily price prediction tool. Pynk has "absolutely no interest in Bitcoin fanatics, ‘bagholders’ or ANYONE who mentions moons or Lamborghini’s. It’s tacky". This vibes perfectly with Parachute. Read more on Pynk's guide to becoming a super-predictor here. Horizon State announced that it will be resuming business under a new management. Welcome back! The original $HST token will not be supported anymore. The team will be looking into how the token holders are included in the new system. DENGfans, don’t forget to check the mini-projects posted by Mathew in the Telegram channel. Look up #getDENG in the channel. If you’re proficient in excel and VB, get in touch. Shuffle Monster’s $SHUF token is now listed on Dex.ag which acts as a decentralised price aggregator. CyberFM distributed the $CYFM payouts for October this week. Total payout as of 1st Nov is USD 266k+ in crypto. Say what! Pynk’s LED back packs are a stroke of genius OST’s Pepo was the 19th most popular dApp on State of the DApps last week. This week it climbed to the 16th position. Upcoming features on Pepo include video replies, threads and debates. Stay tuned! OST crew was at the Web3 UX Unconference in Toronto to talk all things UX. Next week they will be at ETHWaterloo to present and judge the UX award there. SelfKey’s $KEY token got listed on Hong Kong’s Lukki exchange. Like Hydro, the SelfKey team also attended the Web Summit in Lisbon for networking. If you were there, hope you said Hi. Ever wondered how Distributed Identity keeps your information private and safe when blockchains are supposed to be public? Click here to find out how SelfKey does this. More insight was shared into the Chainlink partnership this week by Constellation CEO Ben Jorgensen. The team attended the Air Force Space Pitch Day where it was selected to pitch the platform to attendees. Go get’em! How and why does Constellation do things? Check out the Constellation Principles. The October update for Yazom covers news such as alpha build of the app nearing completion, ongoing deal negotiation with clients etc. And with that, we close for this week in Parachuteverse. See you again soon. Ciao!
An open letter to the community - We need to put our money where our mouths are and support decentralization and dApps
Hey everyone, As I'm sure you all know full well, early adoption of crypto is primarily speculative trading, so this post is gonna focus mainly on the problems with trading in this space right now (centralized exchanges, regulations, lack of investment products, etc), and how we can shift our mindsets as a community to put our money where our mouth is and rally behind startups doing the right things (decentralized exchanges, dApps, protocols and necessary infrastructure). Why? Because for the first time in history we have a disruptive new technology that can really change the landscape in every industry imaginable, and we are at the stage where we're planting the seeds of these new products and companies, so why not support the right ones so we can realize the future we're all envisioning? I recently wrote an article on this on Hackernoon here: https://hackernoon.com/its-time-to-address-the-massive-problems-of-centralized-exchanges-ac2cfb66bef8, but I thought I'd expand on it and share my thoughts on how to move this space forward in terms of getting more dApp adoption and usage.
Who uses dApps anyways?
Blockgeeks just published a report on dApp usage for those interested, there is definitely some growth but since the bear market it has definitely tapered off: https://blockgeeks.com/guides/report-dapps-november-2018/ It's obviously nowhere near mainstream adoption, but it's a great start, so there's hope! There's definitely a ton of things that should immediately be addressed and are of high importance IMO, so I'm going to lay them out:
First, we need to address the massive problems of centralized exchanges
Bitcoin aside, the crypto space as a whole is still pretty young, the current experience of trading crypto assets is understandably a fragmented experience with scattered pockets of liquidity, and a highly technical and high friction process. But the irony is that we have the technology to avoid the security flaws that plague centralized exchanges and the adoption of crypto - decentralized trading. There are a ton of centralized exchanges available to the public today, but a much smaller subset of these exchanges are properly regulated, not to mention trustworthy and reliable. I know the pro traders out there might say, "Well DEXes aren't fast enough, or I can't run bots on them yet". That's fair, but if you want to see them succeed some day, every trade helps. If it's a trade that you think is executable on a DEX, do it there instead of on a centralized one. That's how adoption happens, one user at a time. While industry pioneers like Coinbase have pushed the space forward and newer entrants like Binance raised the bar for the alt-coin trading experience, the industry still suffers from constant hacks and malicious acts. We need to stop relying on centralized trading/hot wallets as they are huge security risks As far as we know, over $1 billion worth of crypto assets have been hacked & stolen from centralized exchanges in 2018 alone. Here's the biggest incidents in 2018:
$500 million worth of NEM stolen from Coincheck — The 2nd largest exchange in Japan
$195 million hacked from BitGrail — Italian exchange and the first to list Nano (I myself was a victim of this)
$45 million hacked from Binance — One of the largest global exchanges
$40 million stolen in Coinrail hack — A boutique exchange in South Korea
$60 million hacked from Zaif — Exchange in Japan
The root cause of this is that centralized wallets are increasingly large honeypots. The nature of a centralized exchange dictates that some trusted third party is storing the crypto assets of its users to create a pool of liquidity, this being done mostly by aggregating funds into exchange-owned digital wallets where assets from users are pooled into. Millions of people could lose not just money but also their identity and data handed over to centralized exchanges as well. While we're still in a bear market this may not happen as frequent, but it's reasonable to be expect that in the next bull-run the frequency and severity of attacks will only rise and a scenario in which an attack as widespread as the recent 50 million user Facebook hack — where both private data and money were stolen — could happen. There's already plenty of exchanges that are careless with handling user identity, handing over your personal ID is not a trivial matter and exchanges should follow the best practices to store and secure them if they're asking for them.
Second, we need clearer, more sensible regulation that fosters innovation and protects investors
This may be an unpopular opinion around these parts, but sensible regulation is good for both the industry and users, to ensure exchanges coming online meet certain requirements, so we're not operating and trading in this wild wild west of shady exchanges. People who trade today need to have a pretty damn high appetite and tolerance for risk, not to mention an acute ability to discern legitimate investments from the rampant exit scams and phishing attacks. (Just see yesterday's thread about the guy's dad who bought into Onecoin on the advice of a "friend"). The vague stance on the part of governments also means many crypto startups operate in a regulatory grey area (I have first hand experience with this working in the space). The SEC only recently clarified that they view Bitcoin and Ethereum as not a security token, meaning it wouldn’t be subject to existing securities laws. IMO the current lack of regulatory clarity has lead to a low barrier of entry for operating crypto exchanges, however this is starting to change as seen with the recent EtherDelta SEC charges, they're clearly making a statement now that you need to follow the laws when you open an exchange. But we can do better, and push lawmakers to create more defined rules that we need to play by, and at the same time educate them so they understand not just the technology, but the implications and potential use cases and how we can get there while allowing companies to innovate, new startups to rise, all while protecting consumers. That way we'll have more legal clarity as the industry matures that is business friendly.
Third, we need a more diversified set of investment products/options for crypto. More wealth generated = more growth and adoption
Up until recently, you were only able to purchase tokens on their own from an exchange. Today, we are starting to see an emergence of basic index funds such as the new Coinbase Bundle and Bitwise. It wasn’t until late 2017 that we saw the introduction of Bitcoin Futures from CBOE and CME. We expect new companies to continue entering this arena, especially crypto ETFs (ie: Bakkt in Jan 2019 maybe?), as well as other attempts at index funds or derivatives. There's a bunch of teams doing great stuff:
Bitwise - They're one of the first crypto index funds
Hodlbot - Another index fund
Shrimpy - A way to automatically invest and rebalance your portfolio
LakeProject - Working on AI driven investments that automatically build a portfolio for anyone (R&D phase)
Lastly, we need to punish greed and reward companies doing the right things
While it’s not a problem particularly limited to centralized exchanges, it’s been reported that listing a token can cost as much as $3 million. In contrast, listing a stock on NASDAQ costs $125k to $300k plus annual maintenance fees. This is just one example of the greed exhibited by those who have leverage and the middlemen who stand to profit in between (consultants, brokers, ICO firms, etc). These high fees dampen innovation as they’re too great of a cost to bear for most token/ICO projects. This is crucial for most projects as they need liquidity to bootstrap their network and to remain favourable with the community that invested in them. At least 7 of the top 10 exchangesengaging in excessive wash trading from 12x to over 100x their true volume. Foul play Plenty of centralized exchanges have been suspected and accused of wash trading (creating fake volume), insider trading, and price manipulation. High user trading fees As centralized exchanges carry more risk, and have more opaque control of their platform, they often charge higher fees compared to a decentralized exchange. Withdrawal limits Centralized exchanges impose a withdrawal limit, as a security measure to limit the amount that can be withdrawn at once. However, there’s also a misalignment of incentives, as they stand to benefit when you keep your funds locked on their platform so they can maximize trading fees There's a bunch of great projects and base layer infrastructure that people should look into and support, not just the protocols but also startups building on top of them, some of my fav protocols include:
0x Project - Powering decentralized exchanges for tokens, NFTs, etc
Set protocol - These guys are building a protocol to allow anyone to easily bundle any assets to create more sophisticated investment products
dYdX Protocol - This allows anyone to integrate margin trading and derivatives in their dApp
Dharma protocol - This protocol facilitates lending in a decentralized way
Compound protocol - A money market protocol that allows hodlers to earn interest on their tokens
Cosmos Network - Working on blockchain interoperability and tooling around Ethereum and Web3
Personally I'm working in one of the many, many startups in the space trying to build on top of these decentralized infrastructures to give everyone a more seamless experience to access, trade, and use crypto. But you can imagine how hard it is to gain any traction much less build a sustainable business especially in a bear market like this, and when everyone has either completely lost their motivation or still flocking to centralized exchanges to chase pumps knowing full well the risks and unethical practices. Cool story, what are you doing about it? I work with a team called the LakeProject, and we're a group of people that came together because we believe that decentralized platforms will address a lot of these concerns, so we're putting our money where our mouth is and building them. If you want to help or learn more about what we're doing here's our site: http://lakeproject.co. We also built our first decentralized product here which is a trading platform built on 0x: https://trade.lakeproject.co
In conclusion - Vote with your money and your time, it makes a difference
I hope this post made sense and I made somewhat of a decent case (?) on why we need to shift our mindset from simply trading and hodling to proactively choosing where to participate, what dApps to use, and which startups to support. IMHO this is key for adoption and it will seriously help startups (like ours) to grow and be able to make a difference in the industry and push forward and pioneer a new paradigm of operating a decentralized business. I think everyone in the space right now is still learning and trying to understand how that might look in the future, but the more support and usage we get, the sooner we'll learn and the brighter our future will be. If you've gotten this far, thanks for putting up with my clickbaity title and reading this thread :)
Retailers Around The World That Accept Crypto, From Pizza to Travel
News by Cointelegraph: Jinia Shawdagor Earlier on, when Bitcoin (BTC) arrived on the scene, most cryptocurrency enthusiasts held on to their coins, as there were only so many places they could be spent. Nowadays, the list of marketplaces and retailers accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is significantly larger, providing crypto enthusiasts with more options for making real-world purchases. After all, with recognizable organizations like Microsoft and Wikipedia now accepting Bitcoin as payment, conversations about Bitcoin and the power of cryptocurrencies are becoming more prominent. Currently, several fast-food restaurants and coffee shops have started accepting Bitcoin as payment. This will likely provide traction for mass adoption as cryptocurrency payments become increasingly commonplace in day-to-day purchases. Granted, there are some jurisdictions that do not consider Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as legal tender. Despite this set back, even big tech companies like Facebook are coming up with payment systems that mimic cryptocurrencies. Here are some of the leading retailers, merchants and companies that will let you book flights and hotels, buy coffee or pizza, or even go to space with crypto.
Pay for a burger in Germany with crypto
The German branch of fast-food restaurant chain Burger King now claims to accept Bitcoin as payment for its online orders and deliveries, but this is not the first time Burger King has warmed up to Bitcoin as a form of payment. The company, headquartered in Florida in the United States, had its Russian branch announce in 2017 that it would start accepting Bitcoin payments, but it ultimately did not take off. The global fast-food retailer reports an annual revenue of about $20 billion and serves about 11 million customers around the world. If all its outlets move to accept Bitcoin as payment, cryptocurrency adoption would inevitably spread.
Spend crypto at Starbucks and other places
For crypto payments to gain traction, merchants need to implement systems that enable swift and easy cryptocurrency spending. Starbucks is one of the companies taking advantage of this concept through Flexa, a U.S.-based payment startup that is helping the cafe giant, as well as dozens of other companies, accept cryptocurrency payments. The company developed an app called Spedn that enables crypto holders to make purchases with merchants like Starbucks. The company’s CEO believes that by making cryptocurrencies spendable in the mainstream, commerce will realize the full benefit of blockchain technology all over the world. Crypto enthusiasts in Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto might already be familiar with Coupa Cafe for other reasons apart from its coffee and food. Through its partnership with a Facebook software developer, Coupa Cafe has been accepting Bitcoin as payment since 2013. Reports show that the cafe received a steady stream of Bitcoin revenue as soon as they started implementing crypto payments — a clear sign of how eager its customers were to pay in Bitcoin. Coupa Cafe is among the few physical businesses in Palo Alto that accept Bitcoin at the moment. The cafe owners believe that their collaboration with the Facebook software engineer will create more traction in terms of Bitcoin adoption.
Buy food with crypto
With over 50,000 takeaway restaurants listed on its United Kingdom-based site, OrderTakeaways is one of the surest ways to get a pizza paid for with crypto delivered to your doorstep. The company has been accepting Bitcoin payments for online takeout orders since 2018. And other similar services include the Korean platform Shuttledelivery as well as German-based service Lieferando and its subsidiaries in several other countries. Apart from online orders, crypto can also be spent at a regular Subway restaurants. As early as 2013, several Subway branches started accepting Bitcoin as payment. Now, for a fraction of a Bitcoin, a Subway sandwich can be purchased at select restaurants.
Pay with Bitcoin to tour space
Besides buying food and inexpensive, day-to-day items with crypto, a trip to space can now be bought with Bitcoin. That’s right. Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, started accepting Bitcoin as payment as far back as 2013. Although Branson’s predicted date for the first commercial flight has been pushed back several times, the company achieved its first suborbital space flight last year. Perhaps soon, people will be able to tour the moon on crypto’s dime.
Buy jewelry with Bitcoin
A brick-and-mortar American jewelry company called Reeds Jewelers accepts Bitcoin for both its physical and online stores. What’s more, if a purchase is worth more than $25,000, the company provides free armored delivery for safety. Other jewelry companies accepting Bitcoin include Blue Nile Jewelry, Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry and Coaex Jewelry, to name a few. A big advantage of purchasing large ticket items — like a diamond — with crypto is that it makes moving around large amounts of money cheap and effortless. Reports show that more Silicon Valley investors are buying jewelry with Bitcoin. Last year, Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry reported a 20% growth in crypto transactions, leading to a boost in the company’s sales. The company has been accepting Bitcoin since 2014.
Send and redeem gift cards with Bitcoin
Gyft, a digital platform that allows users to buy, send and redeem gift cards, was one of the first merchants enabling cryptocurrency adoption to gain traction in the real world. The mobile gift card app allows Bitcoin to be used to purchase gift cards from several retailers, some of which include Burger King, Subway, Amazon and Starbucks. The company has also partnered with popular crypto exchange Coinbase to enable users to buy gift cards from their Coinbase wallets.
Travel and pay in Bitcoin
If a traveler only has Bitcoin at their disposal, the following merchants will gladly offer services in exchange for it. TravelbyBit, a flight and hotel booking service, accepts cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Binance Coin and Litecoin (LTC) as payment. With a network of over 300 crypto-friendly merchants, the platform is one of the biggest supporters of crypto adoption. TravelbyBit can also alert you to upcoming blockchain events in order to interact with other crypto enthusiasts from around the globe. Other platforms to book flights with crypto include Destinia, CheapBizClass, CheapAir, AirBaltic, Bitcoin.Travel and ABitSky, among others.
Use crypto to book a five-star hotel in Zurich
If ever one finds themselves traveling to Zurich Switzerland, either BTC or Ether (ETH) can be used to pay for a stay in a five-star hotel in Zurich. In May 2019, five-star hotel and spa Dodler Grand announced that it will start accepting Bitcoin and Ether as payment. The hotel has partnered with a fintech firm Inacta as well as Bity (a Swiss-based crypto exchange) to facilitate the payment and conversion of crypto to fiat money. The hotel boasts an amazing view of the Swiss landscape among other enticing amenities that come with a five-star hotel.
Pay for electronics and more with crypto
For all the gadget lovers, there are a bunch of platforms that allow electronic purchases with cryptocurrency. Newegg, for instance, is an electronic retail giant that uses BitPay to process payments made with digital currencies. Even though one cannot get refunds for Bitcoin purchases, Newegg has a good reputation for quality items. Plus, the company boasts its being among the first merchants to support cryptocurrency adoption. Other platforms for gadget junkies include Eyeboot (a platform that sells crypto mining rigs in exchange for crypto), Microsoft, FastTech and Alza (a U.K.-based online store that sells phones and beauty products).
An ever-expanding list
It seems clear that more retailers are warming up to the idea of accepting cryptocurrencies. There is still a long way to go before full adoption can be achieved, but many companies have nevertheless benefited from being early adopters. Despite the volatile price movements of cryptocurrencies, all evidence points to a future cashless society that uses digital currencies, and crypto is leading the way.
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