Is there an Uber IPO conspiracy?

I ask this question, because there are rumours floating around that suggest the US government and General Motors (GM) are in cahoots to suppress Uber’s $120 billion IPO and promote Lyft.

I first came across the idea via a CCN article by Nicole Grinstead. She has provided an excellent infographic explaining the race between Uber and Lyft, or should I call it a battle, that has been ongoing since Lyft launched in 2012. It shows that in 2015, Lyft got a major influx of investment from China, and in the following year it entered into a partnership with GM. This was intended to improve their share of the ride-sharing market, and advance GM in the autonomous car sector. However, in August 2016, Lyft’s former Chines partner bought Uber China, ending the relationship. In December 2018, Lyft filed for an IPO with the SEC, and later the same day, Uber also filed for an IPO. And so the battle lines were drawn.

The Lyft-Uber IPO battle

Now they are embroiled in an IPO race that is happening in Japan as well as the USA, mainly because the largest investors in Uber and Lyft are based in Tokyo. Lyft is much smaller than Uber, and it is estimated that its IPO will take place this week. Lyft’s co-founder John Zimmer recently claimed that he isn’t worried about beating Uber to an IPO. Maybe, Grinstead writes, that’s because he knew that Lyft’s victory in the rivals’ race to debut on the stock market was guaranteed. She also remarks that if Lyft can get to an IPO first, it will have an advantage over Uber and could topple Uber from its place as market leader.

More competition for Uber

However, Uber faces bigger issues than the Lyft IPO. In February, Daimler and BMW announced their additional $1.13 billion investment in their joint venture to compete with ride-hailing companies. BMW CEO Harald Krueger made a statement outlining a five-prong plan to offer services ranging from ride-hailing and vehicle charging to parking and car-sharing, or in his own words, “To form a single mobility service portfolio with an all-electric, self-driving fleet of vehicles that charge and park autonomously.”

US government and GM in possible conspiracy?

But let’s get back to the conspiracy. As Grinstead says, “GM’s 9% ownership of Lyft could provide cause to suspect a government conspiracy to promote FUD about Uber.” Furthermore, while the US government sold the last of taxpayers’ GM shares in 2013, the government’s 2009 bailout of GM could be said to indicate that the government now wants to ensure GM’s ongoing profitability. And as Grinstead also remarks, GM and the government have been linked in sufficient conspiracies before now to make interference in the Uber IPO not beyond the realms of possibility. Grinstead concludes by saying, “Evidence to support this conspiracy is anecdotal at best. Nonetheless, if Uber is facing secret government opposition, it may be the biggest hurdle standing between them and $120 billion.”

All you have to do is follow the money, because in the end that is what it is all about for the government, GM and the two competitors — Lyft and Uber.

Is Google making the blockchain searchable?

I came across an interesting article on Forbes the other day by Michael del Castillo. He tells a story about data scientist Allen Day, a former Google employee, who while looking at some of the tools he developed there, saw something puzzling. What he saw was “a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum.”

Day was able to look into its blockchain and see a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” Although Day has no idea who created the AI, he suspects “they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.”

Day also remarked that he didn’t believe this was the work of a single exchange, but is rather a group effort. Part of Day’s job is anticipating demand for a product before it even exists, and in the light of what he has seen, he believes that making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing.

Let’s not forget that Google made the Internet more usable, bringing it billions in revenue, and if Day is correct in his predictions it could have another major pay day by making the blockchain searchable. Del Castillo says if it does, “the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.”

Day has already been working on this with a team of open-source developers, who have been loading data for bitcoin and ethereum blockchains into Google’s big data analytics platform called BigQuery. And, with the help of lead developer Evgeny Medvedev, he created a suite of sophisticated software to search the data.

Day is hoping that his project, known as Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) will bring Google’s revenues from cloud computing services up to the level of Amazon and Microsoft. Google is some way behind both of them, but it will struggle to match Amazon’s revenues of $27 billion from cloud services, because Amazon has been in the blockchain game since 2018 with a suite of tools for building and managing distributed ledgers. And Microsoft got into the space in 2015, when it released tools for ethereum’s blockchain. These two companies are focused on making it easier to build blockchain apps, whereas Day wants to reveal how blockchains are actually being used, and by whom.

Day has been demonstrating how his Blockchain ETL could function by examining the hard fork that created bitcoin cash (BCH) from bitcoin. “I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the legitimate use cases are for blockchain,” Day says. “Then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”

Day is now expanding beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Litecoin, zcash, dash, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin are being added to BigQuery.

It seems Google is waking up to blockchain and is now powering ahead by filing numerous patents related to the blockchain. The company is also encouraging its developers to build apps on the ethereum blockchain, and GV, Google’s investment division has made some investments in crypto-related startups.

Is the JPM Coin another attempt to kill off bitcoin?

The announcement of the launch of JP Morgan’s ‘native’ cryptocurrency, the JPM Coin, was one of the biggest news stories of the last week. It was a big surprise, because alongside economist Nouriel Roubini, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s chairman and CEO, is one of the biggest crypto ‘haters’ around. Dimon has said many things about bitcoin including calling it a “fraud”. So, how come ‘his’ bank, one of the biggest in the world, is launching a cryptocurrency?

Dimon once said he would fire any employee he found trading in cryptocurrency, and yet here we are in a situation where the bank itself plans to use the JPM Coin to facilitate international transactions at greater speed and at a lower cost.

Needless to say, quite a few people are affronted by the move. It could be interpreted as a positive sign that the major financial institutions are finally coming around to the idea of cryptocurrency, but more than a few responses to the JPM Coin announcement suggest that there is a band of crypto defenders who see it as nothing more than game play by an institution that is upheld as one of the ‘bad guys’ of the 2008 financial crisis.

Others point out one very important fact: the JPM Coin isn’t a cryptocurrency in the purist sense; it’s a stablecoin or a centralised cryptocurrency. Several writers have wondered why JP Morgan simply didn’t use XRP for their transactions, as Ripple’s token does exactly what the JPM Coin does. Others say the JPM Coin could potentially kill off XRP. Also, as Dante Disparte observes in his article at Forbes, “few centralised cryptocurrencies have been successful,” and he suggests JP Morgan’s move into “into digitally minting its own cryptocurrency” may be a foolhardy enterprise.

He also points out that even if it is seen as a welcome move, then it must be accompanied by certain prerequisites. He writes: “This is a welcome move, provided of course large enterprises get the right combination of ceding control, augmenting transparency and reducing friction that blockchain-based business models entail.” However, as he adds, it will be difficult for a banking behemoth like JP Morgan to follow through on these, because its success is built on “opacity, complexity and asymmetries of information inherent in the market and its business model.” It is a case of smoke and mirrors at its institutional finest!

Furthermore, it is not the case that Jamie Dimon has had a change of heart about bitcoin: indeed, it is more likely that the intention behind JPM is to kill off bitcoin, Dimon’s bête noir, and possibly take down some other altcoins with it.

5 ways blockchain can save the environment

Blockchain technology is primarily associated with cryptocurrency, smart contracts, fintech and so on, but there are ways in which this new technology can solve environmental problems, and could potentially reverse climate change.

Blockchains they are particularly interesting for environmental causes, because they make it possible to track and verify transactions and interactions without a centralised authority. We can use this to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency of environmental projects.

Here are five examples of how it could be used.

  1. Recycling

People are often not incentivised to participate in recycling. And, as most cities are responsible for their own recycling programmes, there is no way to compare their effectiveness. A recycling program on the blockchain could encourage participation by giving a financial reward in the form of a cryptographic token in exchange for depositing recyclables like plastic containers, cans, or bottles. These schemes already exist in some parts of Europe.

  1. Energy

Traditional power grids are centralised, which can create inefficiencies in energy distribution, like having unused surplus. A peer-to-peer blockchain based energy system would reduce the need to transmit electricity over long distances, and thus reduce loss and energy storage requirements. It could also encourage companies and people to get returns from investing in renewable energy.

  1. Environmental charities

It can be difficult to track how money donated to a charity is spent. Blockchain technology can ensure that money intended to be used as a reward for conservation, or a payment to a specific cause, does not disappear into the wrong places.

  1. Carbon footprint tax

Currently, the environmental impact of each product is difficult to determine, and its carbon footprint is not factored into the price. Consumers are given little price incentive to buy products with a low carbon footprint. A blockchain-based reputation system could give each company and product a score based on the carbon footprint of the products they sell.

  1. Consumer incentives

It can be difficult for individuals or companies to see the direct effects of their actions. Therefore, the incentives for acting in an environmentally sustainable way aren’t always clear, especially in the short term. Blockchain technology can be used to track data, such as carbon footprints and incentives created that encourage people and companies to act in a sustainable way through tokenised rewards for specific actions.