European Union Unlikely to Regulate Crypto Market Anytime Soon

Finance Ministers Meeting

At a recent gathering of European Union (EU) finance ministers in Vienna, it became clear that there is unlikely to be any move to regulate at the EU level in the near future. The meeting came roughly 10 years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008, one of a series of events that arguably led to the rise of Bitcoin and suggestions for alternative, more transparent, economic systems.

The finance ministers have re-affirmed the EU’s desire to not rush any cryptocurrency regulation before a thorough analysis has been made. The agreement is the latest indicator that EU looks favorably on blockchain technology and is so far employing a very reasonable approach to regulations.

Danube River in Vienna at night.
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Image Credit: Tookapic via Pexels

The EU has already launched several blockchain initiatives. Apart from investment into blockchain-related research, the commission set up the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum. This body, led by veteran blockchain company Consensys, has the mission of monitoring blockchain initiatives in Europe, acting as a body of knowledge, and advising the EU on its potential role in Europe. As an example of this, the EU Blockchain Observatory is currently analyzing the impact of the recently-launched EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the blockchain industry.

Other investments made by the EU in blockchain technology include the Horizon 2020 Prize “Blockchains for Social Good,” which offers a total of 5 million Euros for blockchain solutions aimed at solving social problems.

These investments, coupled with the finance ministers’ recent announcement, are encouraging for the blockchain industry. While the cautious approach to regulation is very sensible, there have also been calls by some industries to remove regulatory uncertainty. Many companies feel that the current hands-off policy leaves them stuck with outdated regulations and ambiguity about the legality and compliance of their business models.

Small Member States Lead the Way

In the absence of EU-wide policy decisions, some smaller EU member states have taken the matter into their own hands and have created crypto-friendly regulations in their jurisdictions, aimed at attracting blockchain companies. Gibraltar, Estonia, and Malta are examples of countries which have managed to create ecosystems ideal for blockchain companies. Contrary to popular belief, the regulations created by these countries are not particularly lenient or characterized by authorities turning a blind eye. Instead, they provide transparency, security, and up-to-date legal frameworks aimed at protecting consumers while also stimulating industry.

It remains to be seen if the EU maintains its hands-off approach, follows the examples set by its smaller member states, or eventually imposes more restrictive EU-wide regulations. For now, the blockchain industry can take comfort in the fact that the EU is actually trying to understand the technology and its potential before regulating it.

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Dr. Stefan Beyer
Dr. Stefan Beyer is editor-at-large at BlockTelegraph and a Blockchain consultant and smart contract auditor. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 2001 with a degree in Computer Science and obtained a Ph.D. in 2004 from the same university with the title “Dynamic Configuration of Embedded Operating Systems”. Since then he has worked in computer science research in distributed systems, fault tolerance, ubiquitous computing and cyber security. He is currently working as head of research and development for a medium-sized cyber security company in Spain.

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Top ICOs: Where Are They Now? – Part 2

Money bags

“Real value is not measured in days or months, it is measured in years.” – Moshe Hogeg, CEO Sirin Labs

In our previous article, we looked at how the top three ICOs have fared since their blockbusting crowdfunding. The results, we noted, were a mixed bag, with some companies going off the grid almost entirely, and others making incremental progress toward their goals. Let’s see if the next three by amount in dollars raised fare any better.

ICO #4 – SIRIN LABS Token (SRN)

$157,885,825 raised in December 2017 at an initial token price of $0.47.

What it does:

Sirin Labs makes the blockchain smartphone. The phone solves for one of the biggest issues facing cryptocurrency, the fact that it’s extremely hard for an average person to use the technology as a payment method. The barriers to widespread usage on the customer end are numerous: difficulty of setting up and using a wallet, complex authentication methods, volatility, and few merchants who accept crypto, among others. In every way it’s less effective than swiping your debit or credit card. Sirin Labs’ phone aims to change that by acting as a storage and transfer device of bitcoin and other coins. The phone exists on its own blockchain, and transactions won’t require fees due to lack of mining requirements. Ultimately this is a project that wants to make cryptocurrency easily accessible to the common user.

 

How the project is doing as of writing:

Sirin Labs recently contracted Foxconn, maker of iPhones, Playstations, and suicide prevention nets, to manufacture their phone. Product cost looks to be quite high, hovering around the $1000 mark, but if other companies license the technology the price could come down. The release date is slated for November 2018, an encouraging sign that the company is making good on its promises, and a relatively quick turn around for its ICO. Numerous other startups are rushing to market with their own blockchain based mobiles, but none have received the attention of Sirin.

How the coin is faring as of writing:

SIRIN LABS Token (SRN) is currently valued at $0.106565.

ICO #5 – Bancor (BNT)

$153,000,000 raised in June 2017 at an initial token price of $3.86.

What it does:

Bancor enables the exchange of tokens without going through a middleman (an exchange). It attempts to address an issue at the heart of crypto: too many tokens, not enough people trying to buy and sell them. While major tokens attract lots of interest, the smaller ones go unnoticed, often languishing on obscure exchanges. Because most tokens serve a purpose beyond payment, like being used as a method of exchange on various blockchain platforms (so-called “utility tokens”), it’s a big problem if they’re hard to get due to exchanges not wanting to bother with small time players. Bancor’s mission, then, is to bring liquidity to altcoins on a massive scale. This is accomplished by using “Smart Tokens”,  the pluripotent stem cell of the crypto world. These tokens can change into any ERC-20 token, and then into any token that particular ERC-20 variant is connected with.

If that doesn’t seem worthy of over $150 million, you’re not alone. Many blockchain and cryptocurrency experts at the time dubbed the amount of money and hype “insane”.

How the project is doing as of writing:

Recently catastrophic. In July 2018, the company suffered a $13.5 million hack, leading it to freeze its own token, BNT. In an ironic twist, many in the community were more outraged at Bancor than the perpetrators of the crime itself. Despite doing much to preserve the health of the company, Bancor’s freezing and reclaiming of their token constituted a grievous sin in the eyes of many. How can a platform call itself ‘decentralized’ when it has that much power over its own coin? Nevertheless, Bancor soldiers on, promising to do right by its users who were burned by the hack. As of now, the exchange is still up and running.

How the coin is faring as of writing:

After some serious ups and downs, Bancor (BNT) is worth $2.01.

ICO #6 – Status (SNT)

$108,000,000 raised in June 2017 at an initial token price of $0.036.

What it does:

Status is a mobile Ethereum client that allows users to send, receive, and store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens. There’s also a messenger and a browser one can use to access the decentralized apps (DAPPs) that are Ethereum’s bread and butter. In essence this is an attempt to bring the Ethereum network to a wider audience through easy to use and familiar UX. All the technical material associated with blockchain and cryptocurrency is hidden under a glossy, user-friendly interface, similar in spirit to the approach of the first Macintosh, with a healthy portion of the iPhone App Store for good measure.

How the project is doing as of writing:

Currently in community Beta, Status is making progress. Recently, the company announced Nimbus, a new client that enables “sharding”, aka the parallel processing of transactions on the Ethereum network. The company’s goal is to serve as the primary portal into the Ethereum network for the mobile space, and if and when Ethereum does gain mainstream traction, Status will certainly reap the rewards.

How the coin is faring as of writing:

After a single climb in value in January 2018, Status (SNT) is holding steady at around $0.053591.

Again we find a mixture of peaks and valleys in regards to performance. While the amount of money raised by each company may seem like a golden ticket to success, it also brings with it intense pressure to do right. Only the future knows if they will prove themselves worthy of the hype.

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Billionaire Teddy Sagi Makes First Investment in Blockchain

Green glass, modern space

New Industries, New Opportunities

Both the fintech and blockchain industries have grown in leaps and bounds over the past two years, with several projects establishing a strong foothold on the world stage. It’s becoming more common to receive news of investment received by such projects. Recently, it was revealed that Teddy Sagi, an Israeli businessman famous for being the owner of London’s Camden Market, has substantially invested in Distributed Lab, a Ukrainian start-up. Sagi joins the list of billionaires keen on cashing in on these rising markets.

Teddy Sagi, currently ranked 6th on Forbes’ richest Israeli people, with an estimated net worth of somewhere around $3.6 Billion, is originally from Tel Aviv. Among other projects, he has invested in real estate, advertising, and payment processor ventures. However, Sagi is most famous for the acquisition of the parent company of London’s iconic Camden Market, a transaction that netted over £400 million in March 2014.

Sagi also purchased Alpha, a British brokerage firm which was later rebranded to “Tradetech Group” in August 2017.  He is the founder of Playtech, a gambling software developer and distributing firm based in the Isle of Mann.  Besides being a major entrepreneur, he is the majority shareholder at payment clearing firm Safecharge.

Camden Market, London
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Camden Market, owned by Teddy Sagi. Image credit: flickr.

More on Distributed Lab

Distributed Lab is a Ukraine based crypto and decentralized technology expertise center, headquartered in Kharkiv, Sums’ka Oblast.  Headed by CEO Vladimir Dubinin, the company uses blockchain technology to improve users’ trade experiences by representing assets as tokens. It offers its services to companies looking to add liquidity to their merchandising. It has developed its own “enterprise tokenization platforms” for four separate sectors: crowdfunding, remittances, investment funds and real estate.  Some of the high profile projects they are working with include a bitcoin wallet, an auction platform, and a gold based cryptocurrency called Bullion (CBX).

Implications of the Investment

Distributed Lab is Sagi’s debut investment into blockchain, and is expected to be a game changer in the start-up sector of this young industry. His entry  adds to the long list of millionaire and billionaire investors turning their attention towards blockchain projects, which in turn should result in an increase in the general awareness and acceptability of the technology.

As more attention falls on blockchain globally, and private investors flock like birds to a feeder, we’ve already seen the formation of several investment funds over the last two years, including Blackrock’s cryptocurrency team and Coinbase’s courting of hedge fund money. Indeed, cryptocurrency market and management services are in great demand, with several Swiss Private Banks starting to offer their services. A June 2018 study found that about 61% of cryptocurrency investment funds were created in 2018 alone, with an additional 140 entities formed in 2017.

Receiving the substantial backing of a reputed and well-known investor like Teddy Sagi is considered to be an important and safe option for blockchain start-ups. It is certainly regarded as more advantageous than crowdfunding, which is regarded as an unstable form of capital collection, especially for blockchain companies where regulation framework remains in flux.

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