Canadian Bunz gives you BTZ

2018041003135713

Canada has a tradition of coming up with interesting community-oriented solutions and a report from The Globe and Mail about Bunz, a Toronto-based online barter market, illustrates the kind of innovative thinking that comes out of this country.

The group has launched a cryptocurrency called BTZ (pronounced ‘bits’) for use by its members. BTZ is an acronym for Bunz Trading Zone and it became available to community members on 9th April.

Each member of the barter platform has been given 1,000 BTZ and they can exchange them with each other, or use them to pay for goods and services at the 100 merchants on the Bunz site. It is estimated that the 1,000 BTZ is worth about three or four cups of coffee, but even in this smallish community, the cryptocurrency value can fluctuate.

Sascha Mojtahedi, CEO of Bunz, told the Toronto paper, “We know the technology works … but we haven’t really seen a viable use case that the mass market can get behind. I think we’re going to be the first example of that.”

The Bunz concept started off as a small Facebook group organised by fashion designer Emily Bitze. She was looking for a place to swap unwanted items with friends. Selling items for cash wasn’t part of the idea; it was completely focused on the barter system. As simple as it may sound, it was an idea that took off through word of mouth and by 2016, Bunz had its own website.

However, the lack of cash transactions posed a problem for the enterprise, because without it there was “no obvious income stream” says its CEO. He hopes that by launching the BTZ cryptocurrency, more users will join the platform. As he told Cointelegraph:

“You have to be able to reward people with cryptocurrency that they’ve earned as a result of their passive involvement in the network and then enable them to use it with their peers and merchants. It gives us the room to create new models that people may not have thought of.”

Mojtahedi came from a financial background at the Dominion Bank and it is also notable that Bunz has attracted institutional investors such as Fidelity Investments. Bunz users have completed more than a million transactions, with 2.3 million items currently on offer in more than 200 cities around the world. BTZ from Bunz could be an interesting crypto ecosystem to watch as it develops and we may see other similar schemes emerging in the future.

 

 

 

 

Has George Soros changed his mind?

World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos

Back in January 2018, the multi-billionaire announced that cryptocurrencies were a ‘bubble’. He hasn’t been the only one to say this, of course. However, in the last week he seems to have quite radically changed his mind about this, as his ‘family office’, valued at $26 billion, has announced via Bloomberg and other media outlets, that it plans to trade digital assets.

Soros Fund Management, which is based in New York, and its macro investing division headed by Adam Fisher, got the green light internally to trade in digital currencies, although Bloomberg says he has yet to actually make a trade.

When Soros spoke at the World Economic Forum at the beginning of the year, he was scathing about crypto and claimed it could never function as a viable currency. He also said: “As long as you have dictatorships on the rise you will have a different ending, because the rulers in those countries will turn to Bitcoin to build a nest egg abroad.” This is similar to the many, many commentators on cryptocurrencies who have tried to tarnish the reputation of Bitcoin and other altcoins by connecting crypto with either the nefarious dark net, or with those who seek to beat the system in some way.

However, he didn’t predict what would happen to the cryptocurrency in the first quarter of 2018. The precipitous drop in the Bitcoin market cap sent some, like hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, scurrying away from trading in cryptocurrency. For example, Novogratz decided against setting up a crypto fund, but has pursued links with a merchant bank that focuses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology ventures.

But other hedge fund managers in macro investing have been turning towards it as hedge fund profits slide. John Burbank is one example, He closed hi main hedge fund and “plans to raise $150 million for two funds investing in digital currencies,” says Bloomberg.

And Soros has been betting on cryptocurrencies, even if it is by a roundabout route. At the end of 2017, his firm acquired a large stake in Overstock.com, which is an online discount company. It accepts payment in cryptocurrencies and was the first major retailer to do so. Overstock then announced it would launch a digital currency exchange and an ICO, but this awakened the SEC last month, and it is investigating the proposals. Consequently, Overstock’s share price dropped.

Nevertheless, let’s remember that George Soros had, and still has, skin in the game, whilst warning the world that Bitcoin et al, are in a ‘bubble’.

There’s another way to look at Crypto Tokens

Ethereum-ICOs-Bitcoin-Ethereum-Comparison

Crypto tokens, and their ICOs, have taken a fair amount of bashing in the media over the past few months, but a paper published by two researchers from MIT and University of Toronto, argues that utility tokens might have a “valuable price discovery role,” according to Coindesk. It also suggests that tokens that act as ‘true commodities’, which the report authors attribute to Bitcoin and Ether, could offer the same service.

When you look at crypto tokens form this perspective, it looks like consumers could turn out to be the biggest winners, provided the tokens are correctly designed.

The paper, called, Initial Coin Offerings and the Value of Crypto Tokens by Christian Catalini (MIT) and Joshua S. Gans (University of Toronto) explores how entrepreneurs can use initial coin offerings — whereby they issue crypto tokens and commit to accept only those tokens as payment for future use of a digital platform — to fund venture start-up costs. It makes interesting reading for ICO entrepreneurs, because as the paper’s synopsis states, “the ICO mechanism allows entrepreneurs to generate buyer competition for the token, which, in turn, reveals consumer value without the entrepreneurs having to know, ex ante, consumer willingness to pay,” amongst other things.

In fact, it goes so far as to claim that in the future, tokens will “empower consumers to choose an optimal price for a service collectively.” It also looks at the benefits of tokens, including the aforementioned benefits of entrepreneurs being able to test the token fundraising model with consumers to see how it goes. This could greatly minimise risk for ICO startups and their founders.

As we have seen, regulatory bodies like the SEC have started to show more interest in ICOs and the remarkable sums of money they are capable of raising. However, Gans, told Coindesk: “”The problem the regulators have is they don’t know what the goals are. Instead the regulators are coming in saying ‘I don’t really know how the market should be working, but it smells terrible.'”

This new paper and its authors want to start a new conversation about “the right way to think about tokens so that societies could rationally consider the correct approach to managing them.”

It’s a more helpful and sane approach than the ‘just ban them’ rhetoric that is coming from some corporate entities and other organisations. It is not against regulation; that is necessary for transparency and consumer comfort. As the guys admit, they have no idea how the ‘token economy’ will play out, but they have laid the groundwork for more research and more balanced thinking. That’s a good start.

 

 

 

Dutch court says BTC does have ‘transferable value”

U5dsdEthppjXp5dd5LS58CyRcaV3x4A_1680x8400

A Dutch court has made a very important judgement that could positively affect all Bitcoin (BTC) holders. The court ruling came in respect of a plaintiff who was owed 0.591 BTC according to court document, which was released on 20th March.

The plaintiff, Mr. J.W. De Vries lodged the complaint against Koinz Trading BV back in early February. Koinz is not a public company and had already been ordered by a court in the Middle Netherlands jurisdiction to pay Mr de Vries proceeds from mining, the 0.591 BTC, or make a penalty payment of up to €10,000.

It seems that Koinz failed to comply with the court’s demands to pay de Vries in BTC, and as a result were told, “pay up or be declared insolvent.”

What is interesting for those of us involved in the world of cryptocurrency, is the Dutch court’s statement with regard to Bitcoin having “all the characteristics of a property right”, and that therefore any claim to transfer of BTC under property rights is legitimate. The court text reads as follows

“Bitcoin exists, according to the court, from a unique, digitally encrypted series of numbers and letters stored on the hard drive of the right-holder’s computer. Bitcoin is ‘delivered’ by sending bitcoins from one wallet to another wallet. Bitcoins are stand-alone value files, which are delivered directly to the payee by the payer in the event of a payment. It follows that a Bitcoin represents a value and is transferable. In the court’s view, it thus shows characteristics of a property right. A claim for payment in Bitcoin is therefore to be regarded as a claim that qualifies for verification.”

The court also found that there was indisputably a contract between Koinz and Mr de Vries and that because the contract detail was set in Bitcoin, Mr de Vries should be paid in Bitcoin. As Cointelegraph states, “The court considers the legal relationship as a civil obligation to pay.”

The Dutch court’s decision is a step towards recognising Bitcoin as a legitimate currency, however not everyone is going in the same direction, The G20 Financial Stability Board (FSB) also issued a report on 20th March suggesting it is sticking with defining cryptocurrency as ‘assets’ and not a currency as the Dutch court ruling suggests. G20 claims that crypto “lacks the traits of sovereign currencies.” Mark Carnet, Governor of the Bank of England seems to agree with the FSB, because he made a similar statement last month, saying that in his opinion, “cryptocurrency has thus far failed to display the traditional characteristics of money.” He also said, “nobody uses it as a medium of exchange.” That’s not quite true Mr Carney, as the Dutch court judgment and others using BTC to pay for goods and services indicates.