Dec 102016

Olaf Hedge Fund A16z USV

‘Digital Asset’ trading is set to enter the mainstream financial industry with Polychain capital raising $10 million from venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. The hedge fund, Polychain capital, is run by Olaf,the first Coinbase employee who quit earlier this year to start his own venture. The round is the first venture capital money raised for a company that actively trades digital currencies on behalf of clients. The hedge fund was created to trade not just Bitcoin but also other cryptocurrencies or ‘digital assets’ on various exchanges.

The investment round would be the first for some of the venture capitalists active in the space. Traditionally, the venture capital industry have focused on technology-based companies in this space that help expand the digital currency ecosystem. However, this investment round is different in that the hedge fund is purely a financial entity that takes money from investors to trade in the cryptocurrency markets.

Wall Street Calling

The move will ring some alarm bells on Wall Street with Silicon Valley encroaching its traditional turf. In addition, although several investment firms like Fortress and Global Advisors have gone on record disclosing Bitcoin investments, there hasn’t been any talk of firms involved in the broader cryptocurrency market, including altcoins.

It is also telling that Olaf was the first employee at Coinbase and perhaps shared some of the ethos of the founders, who have been vocal about ‘digital assets’ or ‘appcoins’ or more recently ‘protocol tokens’. However, it is important for large companies like Coinbase to tread carefully due to the many pitfalls and scams that litter the space. Missteps by large companies may not be looked upon kindly by the investors.

In addition, a lot of these tokens use the ICO model to raise money which has its own pitfalls and can resemble stocks in certain cases. That may not go down well with the SEC that regulates stock issuances very strictly. There are also questions around price fixing and influencing markets unethically that might be illegal under the SEC or CFTC rules, so firms need to be careful not to be caught up in the crosshairs.

Besides the regulatory aspects, however, there is ample opportunity for smaller firms to trade other people’s money, and will likely be good for the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem.

‘Altcoins’ Gain Respect

The idea of providing investment exposure to the broader cryptocurrency market, not just Bitcoin, is not new of course. The latest venture towards this goal is ICONOMI that plans to launch two funds on the Ethereum platform. However, teams like ICONOMI lack any financial knowledge around trading and index-construction and therefore very unlikely to see any serious investor uptake. With Polychain Capital, Olaf might be able to convince traditional investors to give cryptocurrency a try.

Dec 072016

Circle ends Bitcoin buy

In a major blow to the way Bitcoin enthusiasts can buy Bitcoin, Circle, one of the best funded venture capital firms in the space has decided to end the ability to purchase Bitcoin through its service. Instead, Circle is referring customers and potential customers to Coinbase, once considered its competitor. Thus, Coinbase has become the best Circle alternative for those in the United States and rest of the world as well. Circle, led by Jeremy Allaire, is instead ‘pivoting’ to a ‘blockchain’ without providing any details. However, by the looks of their new marketing, Circle wants to pivot into being a ‘social payments app’, akin to Venmo.

For the Bitcoins already held by Circle, the owners can move them into a wallet they control, or leave them on the Circle app. They can also convert the Bitcoin into USD at Circle’s market rate.

Circle is the latest startup in a series of high-profile and well funded startups that were born as Bitcoin companies but have since pivoted into other areas. Chain, another Silicon Valley startup had done the same, pivoting from a Bitcoin API provider to a private blockchain solutions provider. It is unclear if this is a push from the startup founders or from the venture capitalists that back them during the initial growth stages and push for exit paths either through acquisitions or through going public.

For its part, Circle has remained a controversial company in the Bitcoin space. It charged no fees to buy and sell Bitcoin on its platform, thus helping many who were new to the space get their first Bitcoins. It also made it very easy to buy Bitcoin on its platform. However, its founder has gone on record criticizing Bitcoin and saying that he doesn’t believe it will last for a decade.

Circle was thought to be in competition with its other Silicon Valley startup, Coinbase. With Circle shutting its doors to Bitcoin, Coinbase remains the simplest way to purchase Bitcoin, other than on exchanges. However, be aware that Coinbase now charges 1.5% fees to buy or sell Bitcoin through its platform.

The other alternative US based investors have is to buy Bitcoin through exchanges like Gemini, or even Coinbase’s own exchange called GDAX.

Photo Credit: h-e-a-p

Oct 032015

Pre-debate Showing

New York’s Bitcoin Center, which previously closed its location at 40 Broad Street just steps away from the now largely historic New York Stock Exchange building, has re-opened in the trendy SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. The new location is at 25 Cleaveland Place, former restaurant and bar. The new location has a large outdoor space that would be hard to effectively utilize in the cold, however.

Run by the successful New York real estate investor Nick Spanos, the Bitcoin Center has held many trading and educational events in New York and also made its presence felt in several conferences in the city. The Bitcoin Center has contributed to the promotion of Bitcoin among New Yorkers, holding several educational and community events to promote Bitcoin and Bitcoin-related businesses in the city and inviting many startup founders, financial professionals and other experts to provide commentary on the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency space.  

The events organized by the Bitcoin Center in New York are completely free to the public. There are also regular in-person trading events that take place here, where people who are new to Bitcoin can get their first Bitcoins and also a quick lesson from the old-timers. The order books formed at these trading events are fairly accurate based on the market price of Bitcoin. In-person trading can also help with increased privacy, as Bitcoin trading gets centralized and monitored.

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Jun 162015

Coinbase, founded by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam in June 2012, has reached 3 million hosted wallets on its service. Coinbase is one of the most popular Bitcoin hosted wallet services, and recently became a popular Bitcoin exchange as well. The company also allows users to purchase Bitcoins directly with their local currencies and also helps merchants accept Bitcoin payments by giving them an option to convert the Bitcoins immediately into local fiat.

Coinbase 3M Wallets


Coinbase also reported 2.3 million users, along with 3 million wallets. Each user is allows an unlimited number of Bitcoin wallets on the service. Transactions among Coinbase users are off-chain and not broadcast to the Bitcoin blockchain, thus making transactions from this user-set hard to predict.

Coinbase has also raised more money than any other startup in the Bitcoin space, with a cumulative funding of $106 million. Coinbase reached its 1 million user mark last year.

Coinbase has expanded to several countries throughout the world, after starting out exclusively for US based customers. Still, its growth hasn’t been as impressive as some might have predicted, with a steady increase in users and wallets instead of the ‘exponential growth’ that many were expecting. Part of the reason for a slower than expected growth has to do with the recent Bitcoin price stagnation, which has slowed the number of new users entering the ecosystem.

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Sep 102014

Coinbase leaves out UK Germany

In a major announcement, Coinbase is expanding to 14 countries in all. Up until now, it was only available the US consumers. This is a big development, as Coinbase was always known for being one of the simplest ways to buy Bitcoin (until now that is. Circle is way better!) for the lay man. Coinbase made the right move, as it struggles to be ahead of the competition especially from Jeremy Allaire’s Circle. People in the Bitcoin community put up with a lot of issues with Coinbase, but as the industry evolves, that might be changing. To their credit though, Coinbase has never been hacked or lost user funds.

Here are the list of countries Coinbase is expanding into:
Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, and Slovakia.

What’s interesting is what’s missing: UK and Germany. It is a curious omission, and I am not sure why the UK is missing from the list, considering it is one of the largest Bitcoin markets out there, and London is a major financial and technological hub. Perhaps, if Scotland becomes independent, it would be more amenable to Bitcoin regulation!

Also, Germany is well known to be one of the most Bitcoin friendly nations, which took a stance initially not to regulate the hell out of Bitcoin at least at this stage. Germany also has the second largest Bitcoin nodes in the network, second only to the United States. Certainly, Coinbase would have at least considered Germany seriously.

The list of countries is definitely intriguing to say the least. For instance, they have Finland but not Denmark, Norway or Sweden. They have Latvia and Slovakia but not Estonia or Lithuania. They do have both Cyprus and Greece though.

Any theories out there why UK and Germany, the largest Bitcoin markets outside of the US were left out? Regulation?

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Jul 012014


Buying and selling Bitcoin and altcoins has become easier for Canadians, as Expresscoin is set to expand into Canada. Expresscoin will offer crypto currency payments through DebitWay a trusted third party that offers merchants INTERAC Online Payment services, which allow consumers to pay for goods and services online, directly from their own bank account in real time.

Expresscoin was founded in California in 2012 with the goal to make it easy for everyone to buy Bitcoin, especially the unbanked. This is why they have several options currently available in the US to transfer fiat, such as money order or cash deposit – methods that are geared towards people who might not have a bank account (to link to their Coinbase account, for instance).

“With DebitWay, expresscoin is dedicated to providing fast and secure transactions for our customers,” said expresscoin CEO and co-founder Will Wheeler. “We felt it only made sense to offer our safe digital currency retail service through Canada’s most trusted fiat exchange service so Canadian customers can participate in the digital currency economy and experience the same trust and security they have in their fiat exchange service with expresscoin.”

This is a major step for Expresscoin, especially because Canada has recently passed laws specifically targeting Bitcoin companies for regulation. Expanding to Canada gives Expresscoin another layer of legitimacy, since there are more well-defined rules regarding how Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are going to be regulated in Canada than the US. Expresscoin and Canadian subsidiaries have registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). Currently, Expresscoin will support Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin but promises to add more cryptocurrencies in the future. It’s one of the easiest ways to buy coins like Doge with fiat without going through an intermediate step of converting fiat to Bitcoin.

Canada is a fast growing market for both consumers and businesses and is taking the lead in several areas in Bitcoin (e.g. Bitcoin ATMs). It’s always good to see businesses trying to expand into Canada and gain a foothold of the market there which is fairly active. Expresscoin seems to be on the right track with this Canadian expansion.


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Jun 222014

Bitcoin Job Fair

There’s a Bitcoin job fair for all job-seekers and companies in the Bitcoin/cryptocurrency space on Saturday, June 28th 2014. This event is being organized by the New York Bitcoin Center, which has been hyper-active of late in conducting Bitcoin related events throughout New York City. It was only a matter of time before Bitcoin needed a job fair – the funding for Bitcoin companies has exploded this year, and there’s always going to be a shortage of skilled workers who truly understand this space. Both companies and job-seekers should greatly benefit from this Bitcoin job fair.

Sponsoring the event are Coinality and Plug and Play Bitcoin, two Bitcoin startups (I guess every Bitcoin company is a startup!) that are active in the job-search area related to Bitcoin and crytpocurrencies. Coinality runs a jobs board that is geared towards the Bitcoin community and brings employers and job-seekers together. They allow several types of employment relationships, from one-time assignments to full-time jobs. Plug and Play Bitcoin is a California based tech accelerator that’s active in the Bitcoin space.

New York Bitcoin Center is doing a lot for the community, in terms of hosting events and spreading the word about Bitcoin throughout New York City and beyond. It is great to see them host this Bitcoin job fair. New York is, after all, fast emerging as a tech startup hub. Several Bitcoin companies have a presence in the city, even if they are headquartered elsewhere. In addition, many New York businesses are opening up their doors to Bitcoin. Recently, every single vendor at the famous Lower East Side’s Hester Street Fair started accepting Bitcoin. Considering that New York is the home to several sectors of our economy, from finance to marketing, it is only natural for companies to search for talent in New York and for New Yorkers to want to work with these companies.

List of Employers at New York Bitcoin Job Fair

Here are the important event details:

Date and Time: 28th June, 2014 (Saturday), 12 noon to 5pm
Venue: New York Bitcoin Center at 40 Broad Street, New York (map)
Sponsorship Information/Exhibition Space: Contact Austin ( or Alex(
Media: Contact James (

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Jun 192014

Bitgo Series A Multi Sig Bitcoin Wallet

Bitgo, another Bitcoin wallet provider, raised $12 million in Series A venture capital funding. This is good news for startups looking to build the next generation of Bitcoin plumbing for the internet that will truly see the potential of what Bitcoin can do. Bitgo advertises itself as “world’s first multi-signature secure wallet” on its website. That’s an important feature for the future of Bitcoin and its security.

Up to now, secure wallets like Blockchain have relied on single signature ‘traditional’ Bitcoin wallets. Also, wallet sites like Coinbase rely on users trusting their central Bitcoin holdings (i.e., when you hold Bitcoin at Coinbase, you don’t hold the private keys to it but when you hold Bitcoin at Blockchain, you are the sole controller of your private keys). Bitgo offers a middle ground from the user’s perspective.

Bitgo requires 2 of 3 signatures to spend Bitcoin in its wallets. One is held on the user’s computer, one is held with Bitgo and one is held offline by the user. The utility of this setup is clear – for day to day spending, you just use your online key and Bitgo’s key (Bitgo will sign a transaction based on its own fraud-detecting algorithms. If someone has 100 Bitcoin and wants to spend them all, it might flag it for review, as it could be an attempt to steal the Bitcoin). However, if Bitgo goes offline or is hacked, then the user’s funds are still safe, because the attackers don’t have a second key to empty the wallets. In that case, the users rush to sign transactions with their online key and then fetch the offline key to provide the second key and transfer the money to a more secure wallet.

Bitgo’s wallet still provides the control that Blockchain provides. However, it does this through its multi-sig wallets. Multi-signature Bitcoin wallets will become more and more popular and increase in importance as Bitcoin enters mainstream commerce and people who aren’t too familiar with computer security start storing Bitcoin private keys on their computers. The goal is to make spending Bitcoin as seamless as possible, while also keeping the user in complete control of their money. This is a hard goal, but multi-signature wallets are the way to go forward.

The funding round for Bitgo consists of well-known figures in the Bitcoin world, from Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corporation to Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments. I think it’s an important milestone for Bitcoin companies.

However, it is a little concerning that a majority of Bitcoin venture capital funding is going into wallet services or services that allow you to buy Bitcoin. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Bitcoin can do. Where’s the million dollar funding for mining? Where’s the million dollar funding for creating the next generation protocols that can create and usher in the autonomous corporations that are only possible in a Bitcoin economy? I think we need more VC funding in bold ideas that push the envelope when it comes to what Bitcoin can do.

Photo Credit: TW Collins

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Jun 152014

Hester Street Fair Photo - NYC Bitcoin Fair

Hester Street Fair has attracted some of the best small local businesses, artisans and artists in New York every Sunday to New York’s lower east side. It has everything from delicious food to vintage jewelry to modern fashion. For this season, Hester Street Fair has transformed into NYC Bitcoin Fair. All the vendors there now accept Bitcoin, and today, June 15th 2014 was the opening of this fair.

Hester Street Fair Photo

I went around the fair, talking to people and asking them about their Bitcoin experience. There are a lot of interesting things to learn about the future potential of Bitcoin from small and independent businesses.

Hester Street Fair NYC Bitcoin Fair

Also, being at this fair with all these small businesses that are relatively new to Bitcoin but have adopted this technology quickly as they see the potential Bitcoin has to grow their business, gives me hope that the future of Bitcoin as a payment means is pretty bright. There were lots of small businesses that ship online and internationally, and it just makes sense to them to use Bitcoin. Also, the vendors were using BitPay as their choice of payment processor, which made the whole process incredibly easy for them.

Hester Street Fair Bitcoin Accepted Here

It was very interesting to see lots of these Bitcoin Accepted Here signs throughout the place.

The Hester Street Fair Vendors Accepting Bitcoin

Here are some of the vendors that I talked to. They all accept Bitcoin and you can go to their store (some online, some offline in New York City) and buy their products through Bitcoin. If you want to promote the use of Bitcoin, there’s no better way to do so than to shop with your Bitcoin at the vendors that you like. Be sure to check them out, and be sure to pay with Bitcoin!

Also, if I missed anyone, I apologize and it was totally unintentional, so just drop me a line and I’ll include you!

Calmer Sutra Tea

Calmer Sutra Tea at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

Calmer Sutra Tea (yes, I know the name’s clever!) makes some incredible teas and you can order them online. They are originally from Australia and recently expanded into New York City, so give them some love. Check out their website and order your teas.

Debra from Calmer Sutra Tea at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

Here’s Debra, passionate in equal parts about tea and Bitcoin. According to her, Bitcoin comes naturally to Calmer Tea Sutra as they have been dealing with international customers anyway. She believes Bitcoin would become more popular as people begin to realize how simple it is to use. Less than 5% of their sales were in Bitcoin, but lets hope that number increases in the future. Also, connect with them on Twitter or Facebook.

The Sugar Coup

Sugar Coup at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

How do you fancy some delicious Alfajores, all paid for in Bitcoin? Sugar Coup sells some amazing confectionery products (from a Peruvian confectionery tradition no less) and you should definitely check them out if you’re ever in New York.

Javinia from Sugar Coup at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

As a bonus, Javinia proudly displays her Bitcoin Accepted Here sign on her apron at the fair. Can’t miss it!

The Nomad Truck

Nomad at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

The Nomad Truck is NYC’s wandering fashion boutique with some great ladies’ fashion clothes and accessories all wound up neatly inside the back of a delivery truck that can be anywhere – even in your neighborhood, someday!

Jessie from Nomad at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

I think the idea is very neat, and Jessie accepts Bitcoin, so do go pay her a visit when you’re in New York. You can track where this awesome truck is going to be through their website, or through their social media channels. Check out the Nomad Truck on Twitter or Facebook to stay current on its location.


Heisel at Hester Street Fair

Heisel specializes in new materials, tailored for what people wear. It’s a very forward looking process, and uses fairly advanced technology and materials to make these products – a perfect addition to any Bitcoin enthusiast’s portfolio of things bought with Bitcoin. They already work on several cutting-edge products, 3-D printing, etc. Here’s a full list of their collections.

Sylvia and Scott from Heisel at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

They were also probably the only ones in the fair selling Bitcoin t-shirts, but don’t mistake them for ordinary t-shirts. Check out their beautiful ideas and creations at Heisel’s website or check them out at Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Here are Sylvia and Scott who make this possible.

Delicate Raymond

Delicate Raymond at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

Delicate Raymond, located on 73A orchard in lower east side in New York sells some interesting jewelry, and today, it was all up for grabs for $5 flat, paid in Bitcoin of course!

Melt Bakery

Melt at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

Melt Bakery sells delicious ice cream sandwiches and they started accepting Bitcoin just today! By around 1pm, they had made 3 sales with Bitcoin already – not too shabby. They don’t have Bitcoin at their store yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did very soon. Check them out on Twitter or Facebook.


Rosette at Hester Street Fair Bitcoin

Rosette is a lower east side New York restaurant that was present at the fair to showcase some of their cooking. It’s located on east broadway, in lower east side.


Bitpay at Hester Street Fair

BitPay is a Bitcoin payment processing company from Atlanta, which … oh who am I kidding? If you’re reading this, you probably know BitPay!

Overall, a wonderful Bitcoin fair. I would urge my readers to support these vendors by purchasing from them and paying in Bitcoin – it’s the only way to grow the community and reach.

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May 222014

Ripple Price DropBig news out of the Ripple community – the founder Jed has signed a PGP message stating he would sell his entire XRP stake (several billions of XRP) in the coming weeks. This was his exact message:

Hi Everyone,
I started working on ripple in the summer of 2011. I soon hired Arthur and David to help me. In 2012, I met Chris Larsen. He joined us about 5 months before ripple was launched. Chris, Arthur and I kept 20 billion XRP, of which 9 billion were mine. We gave the remaining 80 billion to OpenCoin.
I have given away and donated some of my 9 billion XRP to charities such as MIRI, Literacy Bridge, Give Directly, Mission Bit and others. I plan to start selling all of my remaining XRP beginning in two weeks. Because I have immense respect for the community members and want to be transparent, I’m publicly announcing this before I start. So just fyi…. xrp sales incoming.

This is a big development, obviously, and the information has been verified by the forum admin and by Jed sending 1 XRP from an address that holds 1.8 billion XRP.

Also interesting to note is that the announcement was made on XRPtalk and not on the official forum for XRP. This suggests a possible rift between Jed and the other members of the foundation/team.

Obviously, the market hasn’t been too kind to the price of XRP, and according to Coinmarketcap, XRP is now 7th, just below Dogecoin.

Ripple coinmarketcap

As with everything in the cryptocurrency space, speculation is rife about how or why this is being done and what the implications are. For instance, people have suggested that this was done to crash the price deliberately to buy up cheap XRP (my opinion: unlikely). However way you slice it, it has caused a big price crash in ripple, and it will probably remain volatile in the coming weeks.

This is a problem with pre-mined coins where a small percentage of people hold a disproportionately huge amount of coin. If the holders decide to dump, there is no recourse. Although I like the idea of Ripple, the distribution part could definitely have been done better. On the positive side, the Ripple community seems supportive of Jed and his decision. Like I said, watch out for that volatility in the markets. The incident is also sure to bring out more Ripple vs. Bitcoin debates.

Are you a Ripple investor/user? Share your thoughts.

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