Banks of future will be a financial product marketplace

Today when we think of loan or a financial product, the first thing that comes in our mind is bank. You want to have mortgage, go to banks, you want to have credit card, go to bank, you want to make a deposit, you go to bank, you want to wire, you go to bank. Though many may argue that they use online banking but that’s still a bank and unless there is a very strong reason for you to go to a 3rd party, you try to consolidate financial matters through one single institute & the first choice is bank.

Their brand power, accessibility & trust factor is unprecedented. 3rd party vendors are not more than your corner convenience store where you go when you need something in emergency, but weekly/monthly grocery is through Walmart or any big retail store. While price is certainly a factor, availability everything under one roof is also very convenient. Same is the case with bank however as opposed to big shop pricing discount services at bank are often expensive as opposed to 3rd party. There is a premium to exchanging currency or do a wire transfer. Though lot of it is attributed towards the fact that they can charge that premium without churning a big chunk of their business, but the other factor is high operational expense that they’ve to occur. While our parents were used to banks, we’re using a combination of services to well fit our need, but it’s diluting the dependence on bank. As the shift grows banks have to take a different approach competing with startups & they’re well poised to do so.

While they’ve the customer base, well capitalized and have the infrastructure & regulatory clearance.  They however may lack the thirst to innovation & are slow to move. I however think that the best approach for them is to partner up with startups & built a marketplace.

Now while banks have their own arrangements and partnership for every product they offer, they do operate more like a close loop system, but I think it’s time to change it. They should instead turn into a hub to offer multiple services. May be like Amazon but white label. At the moment they’re operating more like United Airways but what if they shift their model to Expedia with a white label badge. You want to transfer money from A to B, you’re presented with 2 options. Be there in 4 hours, it’s cost $10, be there in 2 days, cost $1. On backend banks have APIs of startups which provide those services and banks can use those startups to find the most efficiency way to perform a specific service. Win for banks and win for customers. Customer churn rate will reduce and banks will keep their branding.

There has been recent cases where banks have partnered up with startups providing them the branding but if they do it well, they should just actively pursue it as a business line. I don’t expect big banks to buy into this idea soon, but the one that does will emerge as a winner and won’t provide space to startups to displace them.

My bank of future will have very few branches and will have partnered up with 100s of startups offering services and competiting for best quality & cost.

Let’s see who that’ll be in 5-10 years

2019-05-22T21:47:21+00:00May 22nd, 2019|

Decentralized Open Finance

I wrote about Trust & it’s importance in the last blog post here. I’ll try to cover more on Open Financial also known as decentralized financial systems AKA DEFI. You can pickup thee term as per your liking but as much they’re interchangeable they’re also subset of each other depending on the reference that you apply.

An open system can be decentralized or centralized depending on your definition of centralization & same with openness where it could have so much high barrier to entry so it’s not truly open. Example is being a bitcoin miner where you can’t participate unless you run a very sizeable operation. Theoretically it’s decentralized but there are couple of entities that control majority of the hashing power.

Trust in finance is super important & that’s the basic of any transaction.

When you look at all the financial system around us, we believe they’re open, but they’re not regardless if they’re in developing or developed country. They’re operating more like silos. They do interact but with permission very inefficiently. If you had to transfer money from one bank to another bank in us, it’s quite doable but you’re at the mercy of bottle necks involved in every party involved in the transaction.  I still have restrictions in performing multiple tasks that require branch visit. We do have SWIFT, Interac, SEPA & other systems which are comparable to protocols but they’re inefficient with no visibility into the process.  There’s a reason why majority of the world is unbanked because cost of banking is high. There is an argument that unbanked don’t need a bank because they are poor but in fact they’re poor because of barrier to financial tools.

To bring down cost of banking or access to other financial tools, unbundling of the system has to be done & DeFi makes it possible. I’ll give you example of how that can be done. Right now if you look a the process of loan origination, there are mainly 3 parties at a financial institute that make it happen. They’re

  • Debt Raiser
  • Debt Issuer
  • Underwriter

Debt issuer makes the business case for the loan, while underwriter assess & approves the risk & loan, and debt raiser finds the money to fund the loan. Though they all belong to same institutes but there is a friction between them since they’re responsible for their own departments. Now hypothetically what if all three work independently and are able to scout outside their institute, that’ll ultimately benefit the customer. Chances of success are much higher due to participation of more and more players. Now the biggest pain point here is trust. Would they trust each other now that they’re dealing with outsiders ?

That’s where DeFi & protocols become important. Now I’ve simplified it a lot, but this is how it’s supposed to work. E-Mail is based on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

(SMTP) which is common across the globe so your interface can be whatever you like it be but for transmission it has to follow SMTP standards.

I’ve been particularly excited about Decentralized exchanges & protocols which empower small players to build interesting applications. ERC20 based tokens on top of ethereum were a success which lead to thousands of applications being built serving different used cases. While different chains don’t talk to each other at the moment, but that’s going to change in coming days.

No one size fits all and that’s the case with financial apps too. Needs are different based on demographics so niche apps are required to serve them well. While protocols are scary for the majority but  there isn’t any neeed to be paranoid about the utility. What percentage of people around us knows how does SMTP work. They just use gmail, Hotmail etc.
It wasn’t possible to transact online without using a 3rd party. Decentralized exchanges make it easy. Now we have tools to hedge, lend, borrow that are gaining popularity on the internet as well. I am very excited about this development because it opens up the financial world to everyone with internet access, which is billions of us. Local, national, international all can enjoy the tools without any discrimination. 

Coming back to trust issue where I laid the importance of trust in financial transactions. Protocols make this job easy & playing field for every participant. As long as you satisfy the protocol rules, you’re in. Your app doesn’t need to have a track record of centuries or decades to participate. Rules of pedigree are broken here.

 Status quo enjoys the trust, regulatory barriers & support of the top movers & shakers but soon their kingdom will be challenged. There’ll be a revolt by the millennials where they’ll move to alternative options which probably will be built on decentralized financial system which is open, non-discriminatory and fair to to every one. It’ll be a war where incumbents have to innovate, competitive to a very rare breed of smart and intelligent engineers globally who’re building tech apps to serve the customers much better.  I expect majority of the incumbents to give up or find intelligent ways to build partnership & integrate into the decentralized system.

Some of these things might look alien, tails from utopia but there is serious work in progress where transactions are growing with more and more participation from community and institutes alike. Tech companies have tendency to go parabolic once they find market fit & I expect this the case here as well.

2019-05-12T19:23:43+00:00May 12th, 2019|

Why Bitcoin isn’t compatible with Security Tokens


Bitcoin is considered to be too sacred when it comes to critisism in cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin minimalism has developed a cult culture where anything that comes remotely close to taking away the dominant position from bitcoins in cryptocurrency is hit with criticism. While I don’t disagree with the BTC dominance, it is hurting the growth of ecosystem. Altcoins also known as shit coins have diluted the space but they’ve a reason to exist.

My involved in the industry span over 7 years &  have witness bitcoin narrative being sold shifting from transfer of value to store of value. Ethereum was at one time referred to as bitcoin 2.0 though the function & use case was totally different. As much as I love bitcoin, matter of fact is that bitcoin wont’ work with security tokens & there has to be a different chain to accommodate this use case.

Here are few of the reasons why Security tokens have a different trajectory from bitcoins.

  • Decentralization

Bitcoin is decentralized & there isn’t any restriction on who can own, transfer or mine bitcoin. There is absolutely no KYC or filter to censor any one. With STs, there is a set of regulation that gets tagged along & impossible to be imposed with bitcoins. If some thing can’t be audited & controlled, it won’t fly with regulations.

  • Perception Issues

Bitcoin till date have kind of stigma attached to that which has refrained multiple brand names and status quo to stay away due to additional risk that may have a bad reward/risk ratio in their books. For STs,  blockchain should come clean with no prior baggage

  • Non-Recoverable

There is a sizeable quantity of bitcoin that are lost forever due to one reason or another. Similarly there has been incidents of hack or private keys loss. In traditional world, if you lose your certificate you can get a duplicate, but in blockchain if it’s gone once, it’s gone forever. STs must have a mechanism to reverse & fix these transactions

  • Limited Functionality

Reason why Bitcoin is now referred to as storage of value is due to limited functionality. There is very little which you can do with your bitcoins. Yes there has been forks to improve some of the desired features or sidechains, but overall it’s like running a bullet train on existing track. You’re losing efficiency.  STs need creative functionalities which will need an entirely new chain

  • Lack of KYC

With STs every stakeholder is identified, and this process is enforced. With BTC that’s not possible and there isn’t any discrimination between any of the participants.

This list isn’t exhaustive but just gives a rough overview why there would be a new chain(s) that will serve the next layer of Security tokens. Once this has been realized among the industry, there would be more R&D into developing those protocols.

2019-05-12T18:03:01+00:00April 15th, 2019|

IEO – Initial Exchange Offering – A Detailed Guide


While general consensus about ICO is that the days of ICO (Initial Coin Offering) are over post 2018 crash, IEO (Initial Exchange Offering) is generating similar kind of buzz wave.  I can see lot of co-relation between ICO & IEO when it comes to FOMO, interest, price manipulation etc. Major difference between IEO & ICO is IEO is supported by an exchange while ICO has to get listed on an exchange. Due to ICOs performing really bad in 2018 mainly due to lack of liquidity IEO does covers that portion rally well. While there are only handful IEOs executed, results are very encouraging for initial buyers with returns resonating to ICOs in early days. I expect it to follow the same hype cycle of ICOs but on a relatively smaller scale.

Let’s cover this more in detail.

What is an IEO?

Initial exchange offering is administered or conducted on the platform of a digital exchange also called cryptocurrency exchange on behalf of the startup that looks for funds for its newly issued tokens.

While ICOs generally use their own website or 3rd party tools to conduct the token sale process which isn’t link to exchange. Post-sale, exchanges get involved where they determine if they want to list the token or not. Through IEO, exchange listing risk is mitigated.

This facilitation however come with a price tag which is either a fix fee or percentage or combination of both depending on the arrangement between token issuer & exchange they’re using. Generally the fee structure varies from 50k USD to 500k in fixcost  plus 5-10% of the total sale.

With struggling exchange business, this can provide much relief to their operations if done correctly however they won’t like to conduct lot of them to keep the scarcity.

How are IEO and ICO different?

While I’ve mentioned the major difference between ICO & IEO, here are the fine prints

  • In case of ICO, fundraising is conducted at the token issuer’s website while IEO makes use of the platform of the digital exchange that conducts the token sale.
  • The crowd sale counterparty for ICO is the project developer but in IEO, it is the cryptocurrency exchange.
  • The smart contract is managed by the company or startup conducting the token sale for ICO and in case of IEO; it is the cryptocurrency exchange that manages the smart contract.
  • In ICOs, the marketing budget needed by fundraising companies is significantly high. The project would have to invest many resources to get the attention of the public and investors. In Initial Exchange Offering, the marketing budget is relatively low as the exchange actively markets the tokens of the startup.
  • There is no screening required before a startup can launch an ICO but is required in IEO and the exchange screen the company before it allows it to fundraise on its platform.
  • Another difference is that only after the funding gets completed, ICOs mint their token while tokens are generated by the project and sent to the exchange platform in case of IEO.
  • IEO promises higher Liquidity, transparency and protection than does ICO.
  • Vested interest of exchange provide some level of oversight over the project.

Liquidity crisis for ICOs

“When Binance?”is possibly one of the most asked question in telegram channels because investors are looking to offload their purchased tokens for multiple returns and moving onto the next one. As if running the project itself isn’t a hard task, exchange listing consumes both human & financial capital.

Creating a token is super simple but listing it is super hard specially on big exchanges. Though there are probably more than 300 exchanges globally, 1% of them own 90% of the volume & that’s where the competition comes in. Not just that exchanges are charging for exchange listing fee, the volume need to be significant else there is a danger that the token will be delisted. To avoid that firms do pay up for market making, which isn’t just ethically & legally questionable but also financially expensive. Orphan tokens end up in decentralized exchange or tier 3rd exchanges where volume is close to nothing. As per few reports only 1 out of 5 tokens was able to be listed. Number for tier 1 exchange is probably 1 out of 15.

It cost anywhere from $100,000 for tier 2/3 to $3M for tier 1. There has been claims of charging $5M – $8M during the bull markets as well. Exchange rather than specifying it as listing fee, they call it due diligence cost. In all honesty, they’ve to perform the due diligence because they can get into trouble by offering something that could be fraudulent.

State of IEO:

The first ever cryptocurrency exchange that embraced IEO was Binance and launched its IEO platform Binance Launchpad. BitTorrent (now bought by TRON) conducted a token sale on Binance Launchpad in January and raised $7.2 million in a short span of 15 minutes & generated 4X returns within days . Fetch.AI was the second IEO on the same platform that hit a hard cap of about $6 million in 22 seconds. The Binance Launchpad was a success and how could other exchanges miss out such a lucrative opportunity (they charge listing price and a percent of the fund raised) as they started launching their own IEO platforms.

The Singapore based major exchange Huobi jumped into the ring by launching its own IEX platform. However, to look different from its competitors and to attract more investors, they named their fundraising model DPO Direct Premium Offering and is prominent for allowing users purchase crypto at a price lower than the market price. KuCoin wanted to “reveal the hidden blockchain gem” and launched their KuCpon Spotlight. The Malta Based exchange OKEx announced about the launching of their platform OKJumpstart for holding IEOs on March 13. Bittrex IEO is an upcoming IEOs scheduled to be launched in the first week of April.

ICO vs. IEO. Which one is preferred?

Back in July 2013, Mastercoin held the first ever ICO initial coin offering which was vigorously followed by many Blockchain projects fundraising in the same way however ICOs have many flaws slowing down the progress of fundraising and this engendered the need for other means of fundraising like STOs Security Token Offerings and now IEOs which has actually created a buzz in the crypto world.

Some people might argue that IEO is the same old wine in a new labeled bottle but that is not true. Though both IEOs and ICOs share the same rationales of IPOs Initial Public Offerings, both are fundamentally different. What makes IEO unique is that the project has to pass through a comprehensive assessment by the exchanges in order to curb problems face by ICOs-Scams. This way, IEO becomes riskless for investors to put in their money unlike what the scenario had been during the ICOs craze when investors would invest in any ICO including those who could offer even a white paper. This is the reason why majority of crypto experts prefer IEO over ICO.

The case of RAID IEO is a best example here. Bittrex had recently cancelled the IEO for RAID project just hours before the start of token sale. The reason behind why Bittrex cancelled IEO for RAID was the termination of partnership between the e-gaming data analytics platform OP.GG and RAID. Bittrex considered the partnership between the companies an important part of the project and the termination of the partnership simply made the token sale redundant and not in the interest of the consumers of Bittrex.

Major Advantages of IEO

The biggest advantage of IEO for the team/project is quick access to vetted investors and hence funds just like the companies that after launching their IPO initial public offerings get their name listed on NASDAQ exchange and get access to funds. Couple of days ago I read in an autonomous research that ICO issuers have no other option but to pay an amount anywhere from $1 million to $3 million to get their tokens listed on an exchange. Further adding, there are additional costs as well like they have to spend on running marketing campaigns and hiring advisors. Since exchanges still charge high listing fees and share in the funds raised for conducting IEO, the startup/team behind the token get time to focus on the project development and not on marketing and fundraising.

It is an open secret that exchanges earn a lucrative amount of money in the form of listing fee and share in the funds raise which further depend on the size of the platform. In addition, IEO participants after creating an account on a particular exchange might still roam around and ultimately become regular costumers.

Finally investors who participate in IEOs face the least risk. They simply create an account on an exchange and can participate and purchase tokens in any IEO launched on the exchange instead of creating many accounts and dealing with a number of wallets on different exchanges. Leading exchanges such as Binance make sure the projects pass a vetted process of assessment before the token sale gets conducted on the exchange because they do not want to loose costumers by getting their reputation spoiled by cooperating with an illicit or fraudulent project which means there is always a higher degree of trust in case of IEO. However, in case of ICOs, you could be at risk if you are not good with spotting scams and dubious projects. A legitimate exchange will never host scams so if you are a member with one, you would face the least risk. Initial Exchange Offerings IEOs allow investors to take part in Initial Coin Offerings ICOs with low risk.

Challenges for IEO

  • Non-compete between exchanges

When a token is launched independently there isn’t any affiliation with a specific exchange so it can be listed on multiple exchanges exposing itself to lot of users. My concern is that if a token was sold through a specific exchange there may be reluctance for other exchanges to list it specially the competition one. While goal of crypto is to build an open financial system, this may lead to a silo approach.  

  • Lack of volume

While IEO does guarantees exchange listing, it doesn’t guarantee a volume. If the volume drops a lot, there is a delisting risk.

  • Regulatory risk

While they’re marketed as utility tokens, there is a chance that they’re a security in multiple jurisdiction. In that case they would have be classified under Security Tokens, which I’ve covered in detail here.

  • Delayed liquidity

While there is a guarantee that it’ll be listed on exchange, the firm offering the token may delay listing due to any factor. Major factor would be product not being ready or bear market.

  • Lack of lock-up period

In case of traditional IPOs, there is generally a lockup period for early investor but so far there isn’t anything like this in IEO.  This can create a pump & dump scheme, so buyers beware & don’t buy into any hype.

How to become an IEO participant?

You need to follow five steps to take part in IEO.

  1. Throughout the last year, the fame of ICO has dwindles to great extent but they still are the main mediums for fundraising for many cryptocurrency projects. So first of all you need to be sure if an IEO is going to take place by checking the website of the startup/development team.
  1. You need to know about the exchange that will conduct the IEO. If you are already registered on the exchange and have a wallet, you move on to the next step. If not, you need to create an account on the exchange in order to participate in IEO because a token issuer may sign an agreement with only one out of many exchanges and in that case, you would have no other option but to create an account on the exchange.
  1. You need to complete your KYC Know Your Costumer which is an anti money laundering AML procedure. Once you are registered with an exchange, you would have to go through a sought of verification procedure to reduce security risks. You need to do it as soon as possible because it may take the exchange some time to get your identity confirmed.
  1. Now you need to find out the crypto option that is available. You normally have the options for ETH Ethereum and BTC Bitcoin over the exchanges except for some in the likes of Binance who go with their own tokens.
  1. Finally, you need to wait for the time until your Initial Exchange Offering IEO starts. Make sure you are present minded and do not miss the token sale for it might only last for couple of minutes or may be less (the case of Fetch.AI).

IEO! The next fundraising boom?

Back in 2017 & 2018, ICO engendered a fundraising boom in the crypto space but a notable number of ICOs were conducted by scammers, looted investors who blindly trusted every ICO and this was the sole reason why ICOs lost their glory and prestige. In addition to ICOs with dubious nature, ban on ICOs in countries like China, Macedonia, Nepal and Ecuador exempted a big source of funding for the startup and companies who wanted to fundraise for their tokens. Since IEO ensures provision of high level trust, security, project credibility and instant fundraising, it is no doubt going to engender the next fundraising boom in the crypto space and hence will become the standard model for raising funds.

Conclusion:

Having said that, one might argue that there is nothing like a perfect crowdfunding model/mechanism because since Mastercoin till the present day IEO, we have been seeing so many crowdfunding mechanisms with ICO the most prominent among all but due to the arrival of IEO, even ICO looks in hot water. Things can change. We have seen things getting flipped 180 in matter of days. Who knows about the future? The life span of IEO could be shorter than that of ICO as well. It depends on how advanced the new crowdfunding mechanism is. A more advanced CFM than IEO will no doubt dwindle the prospect of survival of IEO. But for now, the perks and benefits promised by IEOs are way too lucrative to be ignored and as a result, it will take priority over ICO but I still think STOs are the way to go for any similar offering.

2019-04-11T10:09:30+00:00April 3rd, 2019|

Token Velocity & How to preserve your token price

T

The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position with respect to a frame of reference and is a function of time. Simple example is car travelling at 100 mph. Though it’s a concept of kinematics, relevance can be derived in economics and more specifically in tokenomics.

In tokenomics, price of token is directly linked to usage. However, usage isn’t the only metric & this is where velocity comes into play. Gyms operate on a 100X principal to be profitable. They’re looking to get 100 times memberships than the capacity because they know not everyone is going to show up at same time, but if they do they’ll in trouble. What if a single membership is valid for 1 person at any given time & people can share it. This will lead to 99% drop in their memberships collapsing their 100X model.

Basic premise with respect of membership is that it’s linked to an individual person vs individual usage & isn’t transferable. In case of tokens, this model does have a flaw because they’re so easy to transfer. Take an example of gym where a company issued 1000 tokens for a gym with a capacity of 10 people. Now there is an intermediately company which bought 10 tokens & setup a rent-seeking program where users can rent whenever it’s needed. In this case, gym business has been screwed. None of the users have incentive to hold membership because they can borrow it whenever they want.

This is where the concept of token velocity comes. Since the basic promise behind holding a token is that you get something in return. Now the question is whether these returns are perpetual or one time. If it’s one time, then there isn’t any incentive for the owners of the tokens to hold them but if they can be flexed over time, they would have incentives to hold them as long as they see the benefit.

Similar to automotive mph term, here it’s uot which stands for “usage over time”. More usage in a short span of time leads to higher demand & lower usage over the same time would lead to lower demand. Usage is directly correlated to demand & result into price changes.

One Time Returns could be:

–    Accepting cryptocurrencies to facilitate customers or attracting a new set of customers. Seller don’t have to hold it because the benefit has been reaped & is one time only

–    Accessing a network to perform a single usage action without preserving your history. Example would be buying a concert ticker which is one-time event. You may attend other concerts but there would absolutely no correlation between both of them

–     Proof of Work (PoW) tokens, miners can immediately sell it because the output has been achieved

–     Transfer of value where a company requires a payment in specific token and you only purchase it for that specific payment.

Perpetual Returns:

–       Stake in decisions that you’re passionate about. More like a voting power. Example would be uber drivers earning tokens & have a say in the company policies based on how many rides he has completed and similar rights for the riders.

–       Right to participate in a network without transfer privileges. Example is having a membership to a club where you can’t transfer your membership. If you decide to give it up, it’s burned and never available again.

–       Identity management in the network. You may use Facebook once a day however you want to preserve who you’re & despite the concert example given above your identity does matters

–       Novelty or exclusivity where there are only a specific number of people allowed into the network. Once it’s closed, you can’t participate anymore.

–       Pedigree building where companies incentivize long term holders. More like a loyalty give away. So, if you’ve a token of a movie theatre for 5 years, you’re allowed to book the best seat

–       Profit Sharing. If the network is growing and sharing the economic upside with the token holders, they’ll hold the tokens to reap the benefit. It’s similar to dividend paying stocks

–       Price appreciation. If there is an economic upside with holding tokens that’s based on fundamentals, users would like to hold the tokens. All praise to the rising sun however it does lead to plateau or crash after a while if the fundamentals aren’t there.

–       Secondary benefits such as discount at a restaurant if you hold a specific gym membership

–       Discounted network spent where if you earn tokens within the network & spend it back into the network, you get a discount. Example would be Airbnb allowing host to get 100% off on the fees AirBnb charges if you spend you don’t withdraw your earning.

–       Discount on company products if you’re holding their tokens. So if you’re amazon token holder, you get 50% discount on the profit that amazon makes off that sale

Summary:

Since tokens do allow frictionless transfers, they would come up with schemes to reduce token velocity. With higher token velocity, they’ll struggle with building an ecosystem and it’ll have a negative impact on their pricing. It’s the network strength & demand that can allow them to decrease token velocity. Ultimately if a token is so strong that it does start acting as an asset class that’s where the companies will be able to grow exponentially. Companies will have to look into the velocity problems to encourage long term holders for non-speculative reasons.

2019-05-12T18:03:15+00:00March 27th, 2019|

51% attack – Biggest Flaw of decentralized proof of work network

Biggest selling point of bitcoin & cryptocurrencies is decentralization & open contributor network (mining) where any one can contribute to the network hash power to reap the benefits, it does opens up the opportunity to bad actors who can take over the network & bend it accordingly. Once they’ve the control of network, they can pretty much do anything they want. These kinds of attacks are not easy in bigger networks such as bitcoin but smaller networks are very much vulnerable to it.

Imagine a single financial institute having control of the entire world ledger where they can manipulate the information & enforce new rules. They can send fake deposits that appear real or deprive any one of their balance.

Yesterday, Ethereum Classic suffered a 51% attack where approximately 1 Million worth of ETC tokens were fraudently transferred on the network. This fraud in specific is “double-spent”, where a single transaction is spent more than once. You can think of it as counterfeit currency that looks 100% as original. This devalues the existing token value since now you’ve more supply that was produced illegitimacy & negatively impacting the tokenomics.

Bitcoin so far has been safe from such 51% attach though there were many potential opportunities. It however has impacted coins with much smaller market cap, because it’s easy to control it. Again, take an example of taking over a small company vs large company. You can purchase a small company stake for much cheaper over large company. Protections in case of small networks are generally small as well.

Easier solution to avoid double spent is by having longer confirmation threshold. While speed is an essence & experience, at times recipients are okay with 1-2 confirmations, but in this case they’ve to rely on 6 confirmations in majority cases. If the network is busy, it may take hours or even days for a transaction to clear. Imagine every bill verified at a toll booth through counterfeit currency checker. There is a tradeoff between experience & protection.

Decentralized networks operate on a trust level where every contributor is expected to act in good faith & by design if 51% of the contributor decide to change something, rest have to follow. This is a limitation in any proof-of-work network. If you remove this clause, it pretty much removes the basic promise of proof-of-work network.

Going a bit deep, I’ll try to explain how it actually happens. Miners are the driving force in any proof-of-work (PoW) network. Their goal is to support the network by validating & storing every transaction on the shared network. This shared network is referred to as “blockchain”. If one of the contributors have got the 51% power, means he has simple majority on the network. He can now forge transaction history, add a new fake transaction or reject any upcoming transaction. Consider it as equivalent to a ruling party with simple majority in the parliament who can rewrite anything they want. Actually, worse than that because here you don’t even know who the ruling party is who can come, conquer & leave without any indication of their identity.

This forge or chain manipulation is also referred as “chain reorganization”. Every chain reorganization has two attributes. depth & length. Depth is number of existing blocks which were replaced & length is number of new replaced blocks.

In all honesty, it’s very difficult to carry on similar attack for long so generally they last anywhere between couple of minutes to hours with rare exception of more than 24 hours. Once there is any suspicious activity detected, major merchants or recipients stop accepting transactions on that network till things have figured out. Once the attack is over, blockchain is resynced excluding all the fraudulent transactions.

Victim in this case is the recipient if he delivered the product with the assurance that the funds are legit. Once the blockchain is reverted back to original form, that transaction doesn’t exist anymore. This also has a major impact on the confidence that users have on the network & can be used to manipulate the prices. Imagine you’ve a massive short position that’s not in your favor & you’ve to cover short. You may be better off by attacking the network rather than covering your short due to margin call.

With smaller networks, it’s very cheap to conduct such activity & interestingly in many cases it’s less than 0.1% of the network value that can bring it to knees.

This also may define a new model for valuations where networks would be valued at multiples of cost of 51% attack. I’ll cover cost of such attacks in next post along with the market cap they’ve. Subscribe to my mailing list to be informed.

2019-05-12T18:03:38+00:00January 8th, 2019|

Bitcoin ATM ( BTM) – Killer Usecase for Bitcoin

5  years ago, we installed the first bitcoin ATM in Toronto at Decentral. These 5 years passed by quickly. I am humbled by the people I met, experiences I had & opportunities I got through that experiment. 

That venture started as a fun weekend project that turned into a business. Today it’s a thriving company. I’ll cover that story later but today I’ll write about why I think Bitcoin ATM is a killer use case for cryptocurrencies.

It’s fairly easy to buy bitcoins in today’s age & date however it wasn’t the situation in 2013. We had disasters like MTGox in addition to some shaddy exchanges which wanted you to transfer funds to an offshore entity. At time it used to take months before you can see your money in bank account. Bank accounts were also getting shut down for just dealing with an exchange.

Idea behind Bitcoin ATM was very simple. It’s a simple machine that converts fiat into bitcoins & vice versa. It was considered one of the most unpopular startups due to it’s nature. Like here everyone is building next generational cryptographic solutions & here we were cranking steel boxes with cash recyclers. In the utopia world of crypto, it was hard to make an impression & was laughed upon.

5 years passed by & today there are over 4,000 BTMs serving performing millions of transactions every year. For majority of people, their first interaction with bitcoin was through Bitcoin ATM. I do often come across stories of how people use these machines. It’s one of the most important component of the entire cryptographic currency movement. 

I still to date believe that one of the most weakest link in the decentralized financial world is traditional banking. Today if banks shut down any exchange bank account, they’re done. Building an exchange using a bank is like building an AirBnB in the lobby of Marriot

Here are some interesting use cases around how these Bitcon ATMs can do more than just 

  • Bank Account                                                                                         
  • People can buy stable coins through it & store it in their wallet. Banks are generally only interested in banking the top 1% so there is a big number that can be served.  
  • Infrastructure as a Service                                                                  
  • These BTMs can be used to offer services to unbanked directly from these machines. Companies can built applications targeting this market segment & BTM can serve as an intermediary 
  • Money Transfer                                                                                   
  • Despite digitisation majority of the money remittance is done in cash. 80% of the expenses for a money transmission company are due to location & KYC. BTM can slash these expenses by 95% 

If you look at any financial institute, they’ve to dependent on SWIFT or central bank network for transfer of fund. Through BTMs foundation of an independent financial system that be laid which can be built parallel to legacy. This system have it’s own rail tracks allowing more flexibility. There is a bigger opportunity to build a network of BTMs which can perform any function that any other financial institute can perform.  

These BTMs can have  cash recycler and in an ideal scenario there isn’t any need to replenish or fill up the cash. They can independently operate & replace any branch effectively improving profitability 5X. 

Have you ever used a Bitcoin ATM or is there a Bitcoin ATM nearby yours ? Also what else do you think these BTMs can do ? 

2019-05-12T18:04:03+00:00January 2nd, 2019|

Cryptocurrency is only for Geeks !

Thoughts of storing your cryptocurrency wallet is a scary one for the majority. There has been countless stories on how people funds were stolen with no chance to recover. Have you even looked at the process to send bitcoin from one person to another. 

Number of digits that you’ve to write is insane. It’s literally impossible to type them & then only option is to copy/paste. I even still till this date, have to verify couple of times & also sweat till the funds arrive in the right place.

From trading cryptocurrencies, storing or sending funds & understanding the basic concept, we are missing out on a very wide audience due to complexities involved. Not many people go out to make their life miserable in pursuit of a better solution. As many have spoken about similarity between internet & cryptocurrency early days, I’ll recall my experiences here as well. 

I got my first computer on June 9th 1998 which was a Pentium I with MMX technology. I vaguely remember the specs which were a 28.8 kbit/s, 2GB HDD, 4MB graphics card & a nice casing. I remember I had to source & wait for individual items since I was living in Peshawar. 

Most interesting was the idea to get connected to internet. 

Getting an internet connection was fairly straight forward but there wasn’t many free email or website providers. I remember registering a domain in 1998 through network solutions who sent me a bill later. There weren’t too many options when it come to free email & my ISP ( internet service provider) was proud of offering one for a very low monthly fee. 

Here are some interesting things that I can recall

  • Internet was by the hour in addition to monthly subscription fee
  • There was different pricing for off-peak  & peak hours. 
  • I had to pay my landline company every-time I initiated a connection
  • You can’t use the telephone line while you were connected to internet
  • There was a minimum usage once I connected to the internet so even if I logged in for 2 minute, i’ll be charged for 15 min.
  • There was a famous handshake sound produced whenever the connection was being established. I hated it since I didn’t want any one want to know. 
  • I wasn’t sure if I’ll be able to get through since the ISP had a fixed capacity. It wasn’t uncommon to hear  & very frustrating
  • It took 30-60 seconds to connect. Not to mention it took couple of minutes to turn on my computer
  • Internet speed was around 14.4 kbit/s. In comparison today I am using 1gbps internet. 14.4 28.8 kbit/s is 0.0000144 gbps. It took over 90 minutes to download a 10MB file. Today it’s less than a second. 
  • While Internet explorer was the default browser, I preferred netscape navigator. Netscape is considered to be “best tech product of all time”. I’ve gone from Firefox, chrome to Brave now. 
  • There was no wi-fi so no more using the internet in the washroom.

Interestingly there are still couple of million dial-up internet users in North America today.  To be honest, it wasn’t a great experience to use internet at that time, but it grew exponentially because it offered something never before. You can send emails, get updates in real time and do a video conferencing. 

I got introduced to internet when it was already penetrating into house hold however still the experience wasn’t the greatest but the alternatives were even poor. In early 90’s it was super limited to a small group of geeks who had to jump hoops to get anything to work.They were versed with the concepts of TCP/IP, FTP, SMTP, POP3 , HTTP, IMAP etc, but it’s not something that was a barrier for me to enter. 

Internet was written off by many pundits around that time but it has totally redefined how we live our lives. It has removed barriers in building and sharing ideas. It’s very easy to imagine now how you can order a taxi from your phone, but it looked like a fairy tales 2 decades ago. I am confident that blockchain will be able to remove barriers to build innovative financial products for the masses. Technology has direct co-relation with the improvement of human lives & once the impact reaches globally, we’ll live in a much better world.

We’re still in early days of discovering & solving problems for the financial world. Blockchain is an important component of that discovery. It’s an evolution & I am excited to experience it. We’re getting better day by day !

How many of you experienced the dial-up internet. What’s your favourite memory ?

2018-12-29T16:28:42+00:00December 22nd, 2018|

HODL – Worse Use Case ?

HODL is a term that got popular through a forum post where a person claimed to hold the bitcoins forever once the markets crashed. HODL stands for Hold On for dear Life on in simple word never selling them. Now either it was intentional or unintentional, HODL did become famous in the cryptocurrency industry. 

 King Leonidas from 300

Out of the total 17M bitcoins in existence, 9M haven’t moved in the last 12 months. This represents around 53% of the total bitcoins but I am confident that this number is close to 75% in actual. It’s not possible to get the data on individual users who store their bitcoins on the exchanges

Source : Bitinfo Charts

While HODLing does promote the message of hope & avoid capitulation in bear markets, it isn’t right for the network bitcoin. Bitcoin network runs due to support from miners who mines bitcoins in hope of getting bitcoins in return.

If the blocks are solved exactly 10 minutes apart, all the bitcoins will be mined by 2140 which is 122 years from now. Margin of difference actually would be +/- 10 years.

I suspect if we go that far but for a moment let’s consider we did. In that case, there are no more bitcoins to be mined so miners make money by validating transactions. Now imagine every one is HODLing and there are no transactions happening at all. There isn’t any incentive for miners to exist because the economic incentive has collapsed. 

Bitcoin network strength depends on the hashpower supporting network and with the departure of miner, there isn’t any network or just a weak network. HODLing is celebrated & cheered upon in the industry, however it’s a threat to the fundamentals of cryptocurrency.  

If you consider bitcoin a instrument for Storage of Value then HODLers are the #1 or Most Valuable Users ( MVP) for bitcoins. 

While HODL certainly make sense to avoid the panic attacks in tough markets, it doesn’t make sense over life time of any other asset that doesn’t generate dividend. Real estate being the #1 fav HOLDing asset. 

So while times are time, don’t panic & when times are great, it’s always good to take off some profits off the table. Capitulate & HODL both are bad from economical point of view 

What’s your strategy when the times are great or when they aren’t that great !

2018-12-14T14:26:09+00:00December 15th, 2018|

Blockchains Tourists – Time to Pack up !

2018 has been the worse year for blockchains if you look at the price. Unfortunately, measurement of success in this industry has been measured by market cap. It has roughly lost 85% of its financial value within12 months which may be among the worst performance for any asset in the modern history. There are many other indicators showing all time worse situation for the industry. Question is it all over for blockchain or we can recover from here.

Capital preservation is the #1 reason behind success of wealthy people. If you look at the chart below, it shows how much gains are required to make up for the loss. Summary is It’s much difficult to make up for a loss.

Gains required to makeup for the loss occured

If you look at the history of bitcoins, it has been pronounced dead 100s of times. I’ll do a blog post on death announcements vs price action some later day. Bitcoin has lost 85% or more around 5 times now in last 6 years. Defying every traditional law of finance, it has however recovered strong every time. This exponential rise isn’t alien in the tech world and hockey stick pattern is fairly common.

I got into bitcoin purely because of FOMO 7 years ago. I couldn’t resist staying out while watching everyone around me flaunting about their crazy gains. For me it was unreal & there was no chance I was going to lose. Sadly, I bought my first bitcoins at All Time High (ATH). Bitcoin crashed the very next day losing 50% of the value. I’ll be honest I was really upset over what just happened and pessimism was at all-time high. Fear of losing everything almost made me sell it, but then I figured I’ve already lost 50%, what if I lose the another 50%. Bitcoin at that time was already up by some crazy 12X or so, so there was a hope it can do it again. That was almost 7years ago when bitcoin dropped from $260’s to $40’s.

Looking back, it seems very easy to make the decision toHODL, but it’s not an easy choice when you’re in that moment.  It’s very simple to classify the early bitcoiners as lucky but as a matter of fact, they’ve scars all over them. Perseverance in the end paid off for majority of them, but it was super difficult back then.

Bitcoin is lucky enough to have a cult following composed of libertarians, economic freaks & tech geeks who’re in for ideology rather than monetary benefits. This bear market has little impact on them. While everyone is hurt, they’ll continue to BUIDL. With every price rise, there has been a new set of people who come in but as things start to fall apart, they’re the first to pack their bags. In case of a disaster, it’s the tourist who leave first. Habitants stay and focus on rehabilitation.

Photocredits ” by James Nachtwey

Cryptocurrency is going through its tough time when it comes to valuations however adoption is all time high. There hasn’t been a time in history when there were this number of intelligent brains working on brilliant ideas. I’ll call it crypto winters where majority of the project don’t have enough resources to survive. It would be a litmus test that’ll differentiate the boys from men. Let’s see how long this survive & most importantly who survives.

Terms Used:

  • HODL – Hold on for Dear Life. A term very popular referring to holding on the bitcoin regardless of whatever is the price.
  • BUIDL – Derived from HODL meaning Build for Dear Life. Meaning keep on building regardless of whatever is the price
  • FOMO – Fear of Missing Out which makes you take an irrational risk without any due diligence in fear of missing on a massive potential upside
  • ATH – All time high means you’re the sucker who bought at a price at which you may not be able to offload.
2018-12-13T21:54:12+00:00December 11th, 2018|