🤷 Opinions Alexander Goborov

Struggling Economies in South America Forcing LocalBitcoins Boom

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Economic alternatives such as Bitcoin are being snapped up in South America as many countries on the continent face financial uncertainty
Struggling Economies in South America Forcing LocalBitcoins Boom
Contents

Alexander Goborov, Darryn Pollock

Venezuela has been at the forefront of a cryptocurrency adoption wave as it is one of the few countries globally to have a government-backed coin, called the Petro. However, the Petro is just the tip of the iceberg for a continent that is having widespread economic issues.

Failing economies and hyperinflation across most of South America’s nations have seen an influx in trading volume for peer-to-peer site LocalBitcoins where individuals trade Bitcoin with one another as an alternative to their native currency.

So, while Venezuela may have the Petro, and their president’s desire to push it, there are a lot of citizens who are stocking up on a decentralized alternative in preparation for worse things to come.

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Big drive in crisis-riddled Venezuela

A look at the current trading volume of LocalBitcoins in a number of South American countries shows an obvious influx, even more so than at Bitcoin’s peak in volume during the December 2017 crypto bubble.

In Venezuela, the spike only really began in March of 2018, when the South American country started to truly feel the hyperinflation of its native currency, the Bolivar, which added to other major social and political problems of the nation. Since March though, the figures have been growing exponentially as more and more people look to the decentralized site to stock up on an available currency of value. Currently, the trade is peaking at close to 1.25 billion bolivars, which is over 19 million US dollars, a serious sum, indeed, that the Venezuelans have invested in Bitcoin this October.

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Similar situations in crisis countries

But, it is not just Venezuela that is seeing this influx in LocalBitcoins trading. Others, such as Argentina, whose Peso is also under threat at the moment with inflation striking it hard, have recently started to contribute to a giant surge in LocalBitcoins trading. Last week alone, the Argentinians put close to 8 million Argentine pesos into Bitcoin purchases, which is roughly a quarter of a million US dollars.

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Bear in mind that here we are talking about Argentina’s average citizens residing in a country with a comparatively low standard of living. Undoubtedly, these figures are indicative of major local fiat to crypto movements, as they are, crucially, of Argentina’s willingness to re-enter the crypto market in a big way.

Along with the two aforementioned countries, this pattern is also clear in Colombia, Peru, and Chile, all of whom are struggling right now, having entered an economic crisis period with their local currencies becoming extremely frail.

After some far-reaching turmoil comprised of inflation and general socio-economic instability, the Colombians have also decided to join the crypto race and bought close to 8 billion pesos worth of Bitcoin this month, which is roughly 2.5 million US dollars.

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This month’s Bitcoin purchases in another South American nation, Peru, are currently peaking at close to 3.5 million Peruvian sols, which is over 1 million USD, an impressive amount for those who support themselves mainly through agriculture.

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Despite the fact that, compared to neighbours, Chile is considered to be a wealthier country with its standard of living approaching that of Spain, here, too, we see some local fiat to crypto movements. Likely as a result of the economic crisis that started last year, the Chileans spent close to 150 million pesos on Bitcoin last week, which is roughly the same figure as the one shown by Argentina, around a quarter of a million US dollars.

image

What comes next is yet to be seen. One thing is self-evident: as of today, South Americans seem to have more faith in cryptocurrency than the rapidly-becoming-valueless paper money issued by their Central Banks.

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🤷 Opinions Aliya Prokofieva

The Deceptions of Space, or the Not-So-Great Combinators

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The Hollywood-worthy twists and turns of the space exploration business serve as fair warning to potential investors
The Deceptions of Space, or the Not-So-Great Combinators
Contents

It is generally believed that outer space is the realm of honest business. However, like any field where big money is involved, the cosmic sphere breeds its own combinators – some are great, and some underwhelming. Some bring to market projects that are clearly unrealizable, earning points for cheap self-promotion. Others engage in open robbery, taking advantage of the overly credulous public.

“One Mars”ian Chronicles

In 2013, an unknown company by the name of One Mars launched a crowdfunding on Indiegogo, with the “modest” goal of creating an inhabited station on Mars. Investors were invited to contribute toward the first stage of the program: the launch of the landing station and satellite mission in 2018. The total amount required was set at $400,000.

The fact that the budget of similar Martian projects amounted to billions of dollars didn’t seem to faze investors. The project collected 78 percent of the goal, or $313,744.

The year 2018 arrived. In a March interview, the founder of the company Bas Lansdorp said that despite slight financial difficulties, the first phase of the project was successfully completed, and the second phase was set to begin in 2019.

So, what had One Mars accomplished in those five years? Conducted an online registration for enthusiasts who wanted to participate in the program (gathering 202,586 applications). Collected entry fees, which ranged from $5 to $73, depending on country of residence (4227 payments). That’s it. Oh, yes: also, every year, Lansdorp dutifully announced the postponement of the project for 1-3 years.

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What next? The participants have been gathered, all that remains are mere trifles:

  • launch a reconnaissance mission with a landing station and a rover;
  • send several missions for the delivery of building blocks to be used in the construction of the station (the blocks themselves also have to be created first);
  • consecutively deliver several groups of settlers to Mars.

It is not surprising that One Mars is not getting anywhere and never will.  What is surprising, is that so many people were able to take this nonsense seriously.

They were not concerned that a startup with $300,000 is puffing out its chest and entering a market populated by government agencies and international consortiums with a total capital in the tens of billions of dollars.

They were not bothered that the technology required for establishing a protected living station on Mars which could house humans self-sufficiently did not exist in 2013, nor does it exist now. In fact, it is a mystery what these people were thinking.

In the context of such glaring inconsistencies, allegations that One Mars was insufficiently thorough with selecting participants and paying for their interviews are particularly absurd. It’s akin to a serious discussion of the technical challenges of an automobile when only its horn is available for inspection.

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True Detective

The second story can readily serve as a script for a suspenseful drama series. HBO and Netflix are clearly missing an opportunity here.

Episode 1

It began beautifully. In September of 2014, the non-profit company Spaceship Earth Grants announced the launch of a worldwide competition, the winner of which would go to space – free of charge. In the course of four months, anyone could register for the program by paying an entrance fee of $15 to $90, depending on the level of their country’s financial well-being.

In order to deliver the winner to space, the company was planning to use the services of the space tour operator Virgin Galactic – later, this was replaced by a vague statement to the effect that the journey would take place "on any ship that will be available." The participants were promised one space flight per every 50,000 applications.

It would seem that at this stage it would be easy to understand who we’re dealing with. Virgin Galactic sold space voyage tickets for $250,000 apiece. Given the formula "one per 50,000" and the average amount of the entrance fee ($50), it's easy to calculate that in an ideal scenario, the founders of Spaceship Earth Grants planned to collect at least $2.5 mln and keep 90 percent of that amount as profit (not counting insignificant expenses for internet PR).

But the principle of “free lunch” worked: several tens of thousands of people from all over the world applied to the program.

Over the course of six months, the organizers listlessly moved the participants through rounds of preliminary screenings and on June 12, 2015 suddenly announced a merger with the similar Rising Star program run by the Kruger Cowne company. SEG participants were encouraged to re-register on the site of the new program.

After that, Spaceship Earth Grants quietly left the stage. On Oct. 3, 2015, its Facebook account produced the last squeak of joy over the selection of Rising Star finalists, and hasn’t shown any signs of life since. Curiously, it still has 22,466 followers – either they didn’t bother unfollowing, or they remain believers in the possibility of a free lunch…

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Episode 2

The second participant of the combination, Kruger Cowne, comes to the fore.

The business model on which the Rising Star Spaceflight Contest was based was a carbon copy of the one used by Spaceship Earth Grants.

The only difference is that Kruger Cowne’s technical partner was XCOR Aerospace which had been working on the creation of the Lynx jet spacecraft, capable of climbing up to 100 km above the Earth's surface.

The Rising Star program went further: having joined its clientele with the participants of Spaceship Earth Grants, the organizers held a semi-final round of applicant selections, and announced the results at the youth forum One Young World on Nov. 25, 2015. The lucky winner was 24-year-old Hussein Manaver from the London suburb of Ilford.

Episode 3

It seemed that in just a little bit of time, and the fairy tale of The Little Prince in Space would become a reality. But then, it was time for the third act of the long game.

After six months, in May of 2016, XCOR Aerospace announced that it was suspending work on the Lynx spaceship and letting go 3/4 of its employees. In 2017 the company was declared bankrupt. In short, they all died.

According to the laws of the drama series genre, at the end of each season, there should appear an element of suspense, hinting that the next season is just around the corner. This rule has been followed in our story, as well. After XCOR’s bankruptcy, most of its assets went to the non-profit organization Build a Plane, which, by a strange coincidence of events, is not occupied with engineering and development, but ... with educational space programs for young people.

Any spoilers for the second season?

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EOS vs. Ethereum: The Bitter Rivalry Re-Examined

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EOS and Ethereum are continuously at loggerheads: here we attempt to deduce why
EOS vs. Ethereum: The Bitter Rivalry Re-Examined
Contents

Ethereum and EOS just don’t seem to be on the same page and agree on most things crypto, apart from unanimously declaring that the Blockchain itself is our virtual future. Of late, there have been scandals and accusations, but where is this all coming from? Is there more that meets the eye? Turns out yes, there is.

A Bit of History

Ethereum was established in 2015 by the Russian-Canadian programmer Vitalik Buterin. The company very quickly ended up among the market leaders, becoming the second most valuable currency by market cap with around 22 billion USD. EOS got officially launched much more recently, only this year, but the company is already the fifth in the world by market cap with around 5 billion USD.

Importantly, one of EOS’s founders, Daniel Larimer (the other being Brendan Blumer of Block.one), already possessed a substantial amount of crypto experience as he had previously founded both the Steem Blockchain, along with its native coin of the same name, and Steemit, the corresponding social networking platform, back in 2016.

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ERC-20 Tokens

What some may not remember is that EOS actually started out as an Ethereum Blockchain-based ERC-20 token company. Similarly to how, say, Electrify.Asia are conducting their business at present, EOS used Ethereum—having gathered around one billion USD from token sales—to gain the necessary momentum before they launched their very own EOS Blockchain.

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This means two things. One is that Ethereum was used as a crypto springboard of a sort whose services were let go of when they became redundant. And two, Larimer and Blumer were savvy or even devious enough to use not the Steem Blockchain, ready at hand, but the more powerful one by Ethereum, though it belonged to a different camp. Today, EOS has both its own Blockchain platform / EOS altcoin and its own working EOSIO token with a similar purpose to ERC-20. So yes, it is possible that Ethereum views EOS as a younger neighbor from across the street who has now suddenly started playing on the same team with the big kids… and winning, too.

The Punches Being Thrown

While both networks are solid, both have their drawbacks of course. The EOS team has been fairly vocal in pointing out or at least hinting at Ethereum’s technological problems and problems-to-be. For instance, traffic congestion for Ethereum is not that unusual with some reports of longer confirmation times having been publicly voiced already. Another one of Ethereum’s problems, which is, in fact, the cause of the first one, is scalability: because of how the platform is modelled, expanding it is bound to create all sorts of jams and delays, and, crucially, not let the network grow properly beyond a certain point. This dilemma is said to be noticeably less pronounced on the EOS Blockchain because of how the latter one is built.

Also, unlike Ethereum that charges its participants fees in the form of “gas”, EOS charges its users nothing whatever. Instead, the network asks for some power and bandwidth in exchange, which are proportional to the resources required to undertake that particular action on the platform. This was also publicly noted by those who side with EOS.

It didn’t take much time for the Ethereum team to return the favor which culminated in a serious accusation this past summer from Ethereum’s DApp developers, among them Justo. Conveniently enough, this accusation also single-handedly explained why Ethereum’s network was getting congested and gas prices were jumping up and down:

“Myself, and many other high profile Ethereum application developers made a prediction that EOS would, in all likelihood, attempt to attack the Ethereum network gas prices to validate the launch of their platform.”

And further, after it had allegedly happened, in response to how one can be sure it was indeed EOS:

“EOS has been attacking the network on and off every time something they do doesn’t run properly… It started one month running up to the mainnet release. It was predictable and very clearly orchestrated… Follow the wallets. If you don’t think EOS is doing it, then who has 2 million dollars a day to attack Ethereum, and also owns EOS tokens?”

Daniel Larimer’s cold and succinct response can be seen below:

Larimer Message

The Most Recent Scandal

Earlier this week, Ethereum went a step further and plainly accused EOS of not being a Blockchain company altogether, a claim of immodest proportions. A research study conducted by the Ethereum-funded company ConsenSys and its partner Whiteblock concluded that EOS had been built using a model which is profoundly different from the universal standards of today’s Blockchain technology. Whiteblock’s CTO (Chief Technology Officer), Zak Cole, who is also one of the published report’s authors, proclaimed:

“EOS token and RAM market is essentially a cloud service where the network provides promises for computational resources in a black box for users to access via credits. There is no mechanism for accountability due to the lack of transparency on what block producers are able to create in terms of computational power.”

This has resulted in a heated discussion on Reddit with many users taking a stand in support of either of the two companies.

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Epilogue

The rivalry now seems like the result of bad blood right from the very beginning. Predicting what is going to happen next is difficult, but most likely things are only going to get more wound up. The market is ultra competitive and billions of dollars are up for grabs. On the plus side, perhaps a by-product of this rather nasty exchange will bring the users better and cheaper technology; after all, as the late Henry Ford once said, “competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs”.

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Alexander Goborov

ICO Monthly Totals in 2018: USD

June gathers almost 6 billion USD in ICO funds
ICO Monthly Totals in 2018: USD

ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering, a term which is heard pretty much non-stop today in the fast-paced world of cryptocurrency. In many ways, ICO is very similar to the older term IPO (Initial Public Offering), in which members of the public are offered to purchase shares of a company. Accordingly, ICOs are essentially a form of crowdfunding needed to allocate enough monetary resources in order to support and secure a new crypto unit release.

The first cryptocurrency to use this method of funding was Mastercoin in 2013, followed by Ethereum in 2014, and then Waves in 2016. Alas, the ICO scene is shrouded in scandal with some crypto minds allegedly fleeing their investors with stuffed pockets; however, billions of dollars are still being raised every month by new, legitimate crypto players.

The graph below shows what the ICO situation is like right now. The year started with January gathering almost 2 billion US dollars in ICO funds; March saw over 4 billion; and June, this year’s record so far (and likely to remain so), saw close to 6 billion dollars in funding.

After the subsequent wane in the late summer and early autumn, October has gathered around 350 million US dollars in its first ten days. Let’s wait and see how this crypto year wraps up as Christmas is fast approaching.

ICO Total 2018

 

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Liberland’s Vít Jedlička: “We Are Building Our Civilization On the Boats”

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President of Liberland speaks on how to get to his country and what is to expect
Liberland’s Vít Jedlička: “We Are Building Our Civilization On the Boats”

Vít Jedlička is a Czech politician more known as President of Liberland, a libertarian nation located in Europe, between Serbia and Croatia. Somewhat close ideologically to the views of American politician Ron Paul, Jedlička is always on the go, promoting his country based on cryptocurrency. I met Jedlička at the Blockshow conference in Berlin, where we talked about his country’s progress and how one can participate.

Cyril Gilson: Could you describe your country geographically?

Vít Jedlička: Liberland was founded between Croatia and Serbia on a plot of land which is seven square kilometers. So we are three times larger than Monaco for example. It was purposely made there because this place was not occupied by any other country for more than 26 years. Since the split of Yugoslavia, neither Croatia nor Serbia claimed this piece of land which was a very interesting spot. We saw a very great opportunity in that. So we went there, we stuck the flag, we declared the creation of a new country. Of course, we are having some issues with our neighbors, but I think we will be able to resolve them sooner or later.

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CG: You bought the land, right?

VJ: No, no, you cannot buy it. It was not claimed or owned by anybody, that was the special thing about it. So we claimed it. You cannot actually build a country by buying land, it doesn’t work like that. Especially if you are doing it from scratch it’s almost impossible. That someone is going to sell you a piece of land with a sovereignty. Historically there is no such precedent that will be done, at least in modern history let’s call it that way.

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Cyril Gilson: Tell me what the latest news is in your country, what is going on?

Vít Jedlička: We are growing enormously! We just reached, I think, 520,000 people that are registered and interested for citizenship, with almost 250,000 people eligible citizens out of the group, which is a nice development in the three years since we started. It means the idea is viable, and actually we are growing faster than we were growing at the beginning.

So it’s kind of cool to have an almost half million people nation in support of the creation of the freest country on the planet. That’s something we know works, it attracts prosperity, it attracts capital and makes people happy and prosperous when they are living in a free environment.

We wanted to build a freest society.

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CG: Some people think that it’s possible, with all this money, all these billions that are cryptocurrency enthusiasts and investors have they could just buy out. There are ideas circulating, let's buy an island, like in Puerto Rico for instance, some people from the community bought huge pieces of land, not only land like the airport I think. They bought some part of the seaport.

Vít Jedlička: But still they are not claiming sovereignty. The thing is we are sovereign from the very beginning.

CG: What’s currently on this piece of land besides the flag?

Vít Jedlička: We actually do have some issue with Croatia. When they announced we will renovate the buildings, they came with bulldozers and leveled them down. We do have some issues in that sense. But on the other hand we are building whatever we can on the river next to Liberland, so can host up to 200 people now for different events. So we are strongly present in the area, with some 10 boats now that are in the area that we can use. We had a very nice celebration of the anniversary.

So, for now, we are building our civilization on the boats next to Liberland.

It has two advantages. First of all, we don't have to deal with the problem of flooding, which comes three from time to time, because everything is on the boats already. Second of all, we don’t have to deal with the police of Croatia because they respect the neutrality of Liberland waters. They cannot do anything as long as we are basically on the river.

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CG: Do you do tours? How can one get to Liberland?

Vít Jedlička: Yeah! Easy, the best way is to take Air Liberland from Prague and it will fly you directly next to Liberland on one of the green fields. Then you can take a boat tour.

CG: Do you do guided tours or just inviting people?

Vít Jedlička: Usually we do conferences, so its bigger groups of people coming together, they are of course getting some program pre-planned. But guided tours will be available also at some point. Right now, there is this bigger boat, which was sponsored by our supporters, where we can host 100-150 people easily. There will be a restaurant, there is already a small space, there will be co-working space which we will launch in one month from now. There will be plenty of things that people can do there already.

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CG: What does your community do besides gatherings, what other projects?

Vít Jedlička: For example, we have mutual recognition with Somaliland. Right now as we speak I had a meeting with one of our representatives, our Dubai representative, that is pushing things forward in Somaliland. He is also very strong there because he is responsible for infrastructure development there. They are the country that recognized us first.

We have our embassy there now in the capital there, in Hargeisa. We are working now because we signed the memorandum of understanding with their government, we are working on energy, on Blockchain technologies.

For example, housing, with this governments. We are planning a big second official visit with Somaliland to push things forward.

There is great potential to push the country forward especially in the area of tokenizing everything and improving their basic lighting system.

There is where we see great value that we can add to the whole country and push it forward a couple years ahead. Ahead of even other existing countries because it’s easy to implement things in these countries from scratch.

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CG: Do you expect more countries like this appearing in the future?

Vít Jedlička: Yeah, we have a couple more state visits lined up with other regularly recognized countries this year.

CG: Where?

Vít Jedlička: I cannot tell you because this is a sensitive issue, but I think we can successfully repeat the cooperation that we started with Somaliland with many other countries. Especially Africa and Central America I can tell you that.

We will be the first country that whenever you pay taxes you get something back. Everyone that has contributed to Liberland so far got merits for it. We will also have that as a tradable token. So people will pay taxes and they be able to benefit from it in the future. So it’s not just a voluntary tax system it's a tax which rewards people that pay taxes. These tokens will be good for voting, so you will be able to make decisions with them. I think it’s an interesting concept.

On the other hand, we have a decentralized justice system. We also want to be a leader in that sense. I think that can attract a lot of new people to Liberland.

But also it can help a lot of people that for example cannot settle disputes for many years in other countries they can come to Liberland and have a much faster solution for their issues.

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USA: Biannual History of Weekly LocalBitcoins Volume

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The latest figures show that the United States is currently trading at around 7 million USD per week on LocalBitcoins
USA: Biannual History of Weekly LocalBitcoins Volume

LocalBitcoins is a Bitcoin trading platform that was established back in 2012. It is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, and remains one of the most popular virtual places among those who wish to trade Bitcoin on a peer-to-peer basis. We have recently brought you Struggling Economies in South America Forcing LocalBitcoins Boom which examined how Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Chile heavily contributed to the increased trading volumes on the website. Now, it’s time to look at the United States.

As was previously shown, the United States is the global leader by the number of Bitcoin nodes, the number of people who own cryptocurrencies, as well as the number of crypto billionaires/millionaires. We thought it would be interesting to also see how the US is doing on LocalBitcoins, so here it is, the history of weekly LocalBitcoins volume, organized biannually (i.e. six month averages or two quarters combined):

image

2013: A modest start with around 100K USD per week, followed by a sharp climb in the second half of that year to over 1 million USD per week.

2014: Around 2 million USD per week in the first six months, close to 3.5 million USD per week in the second half of the year.

2015: A continued climb, around 4 million USD per week in the first half, followed by a further increase and the figure growing to almost 5.5 million USD per week in the second.

2016: Both biannual averages show weekly volumes between roughly 6.5 and 7 million USD.

2017: A reach for the figure of 8 million USD per week in the first two quarters and a further leap to 9.5 million USD per week in the second half of the year, during the last Bitcoin bubble.

2018: An expected drop to around 8.5 million USD per week in the first half (note: unlike Latin America, the US is not a struggling economy), followed by a further decrease to the current figure of around 7 million USD per week in the second half of this year.

We hope you found this list useful. Stay tuned for more to come and be sure to also check out these:

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