Tag Archives: bitcoin

Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have proliferated across travel, retail, financial services, and other economic sectors. The average U.S. household participates in 29 different loyalty programs, according to the 2015 Colloquy Loyalty Census. The result is a maze of point systems and redemption options, with cumbersome processes for exchanging points among program partners. Loyalty programs are ripe for some kind of disruptive innovation that would make them easier to use.

Blockchain may just be the answer. Best known as the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain enables a ledger of transactions to be shared across a network of participants. When a new digital transaction occurs (for example, a loyalty point is issued, redeemed, or exchanged), a unique algorithm-generated token is created and assigned to that transaction. Tokens are grouped into blocks (for example, every 10 minutes) and distributed across the network, updating every ledger at once. New transaction blocks are validated and linked to older blocks, creating a strong, secure, and verifiable record of all transactions, without the need for intermediaries or centralized databases.

For consumers juggling an array of loyalty programs, blockchain could provide instant redemption and exchange for multiple loyalty point currencies on a single platform. With only one “wallet” for points, consumers would not have to hunt for each program’s options, limitations, and redemption rules.

All loyalty programs are vulnerable to a blockchain revolution, but the travel industry is perhaps the most at risk. Travel loyalty programs tend to be complex and multicurrency, making them different from retailers, which typically run simple discount programs, or from banks, which offer cash back or a single currency that can be spent easily across a range of merchants. In some cases, travel loyalty program points differ by journey component (flight, car rental, hotel, dining), leading to fragmented point collections, and a typical “breakage” rate (meaning the share of points not redeemed) of 10%–20%, in our estimation. Plus, it can be difficult for the average person to accumulate enough points to earn a meaningful reward.

The Benefits of Disruption

Many industries have experienced disruption, due to technologies that successfully reduced inefficiencies and frictions, often disintermediating established players in the process. Large travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, know this from painful experience: They pay billions of dollars in commissions each year to Priceline, Expedia, and other online travel agencies (OTAs), which have transformed how consumers book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Blockchain-based loyalty platforms could be another such disruption.

Both small startups and large-scale technology companies are eyeing the possibilities this presents, and some are teaming up. IBM, for example, is partnering with startup Loyyal to develop blockchain infrastructure for loyalty and rewards programs. Travel companies with loyalty programs, whether stand-alone or part of a larger alliance, will have to figure out how to respond.

Early adopters could benefit considerably. First, blockchain could help relieve a large balance-sheet liability that many in the industry are facing. Loyalty programs have long relied on cobranded cards and partnerships to sell points and generate incremental revenue. But the number of airline seats and hotel rooms available for redemption in recent years has been limited by near-record occupancy and load factors. The result has been a growing volume of unredeemed points, which new accounting standards have turned into a headache: Revenue attributable to the value of loyalty points must be deferred until the miles are redeemed.

Adopting blockchain would enable companies to rapidly add and maintain loyalty partnerships without adding complexity to their programs. A robust, frictionless partner network could mean many more redemption options outside of the core travel product, thereby creating a much-needed release valve for these growing balance-sheet pressures.

Second, blockchain would enable businesses to break out of the loyalty program mold of narrowly defined, one-size-fits-all programs and redemption processes filled with customer hassles. Consumers increasingly expect personalized (not merely segmented) travel offerings and digitally enabled one-stop services; the growth of OTAs is in part a testament to that. Blockchain would allow both large and local partners to be added seamlessly, making the crafting of on-trend offers much easier, while virtually eliminating the back-end irritations of point redemption.

Caveats for Adoption

What shape are blockchain-based loyalty networks likely to take? Initially, each loyalty program might look to develop its own solution, but over time smaller loyalty programs might choose to band together to compete more effectively with larger ones. Ultimately, we expect to see the development of four to six blockchain-based loyalty networks, each anchored by a major airline, a major hotel chain, or a group of smaller travel companies. Options for building and maintaining the blockchain platform could include a joint venture with technology partners or with network providers such as banks or payment card processors.

Of course, the introduction of one or more blockchain platforms unifying multiple loyalty programs could pose a number of risks. Such platforms would add a transaction layer between consumers and program operators and merchants, likely generating a small per-transaction cost, which could grow over time, much like OTA fees. Customer data, a loyalty program’s most valuable asset, could become available to other network participants, even competitors. Currency devaluation is another risk in what is essentially an open marketplace for points trading.

To reduce these risks and avoid having their loyalty programs become commoditized, travel companies should get in on the ground floor of blockchain platform development. Participating in the initial structuring of commercial agreements and partnerships will be essential to protecting critical loyalty program components, including currency value, customer data and relationships, and transaction costs.

For any travel company considering an investment in blockchain, a few rules will be essential. First, they will want to participate in defining how currency is exchanged between programs — that is, how currency exchange rates are set, and any transferability rules. Second, they should seek to maintain exclusive control over their data, ensuring that only loyalty points, and not associated customer information, enter the transaction stream. Third, they should require guarantees that the platform is and will remain unbiased. Otherwise, traditional travel intermediary tools, such as paid search placements and exclusive promotions, could force companies into pay-to-play arrangements to ensure competitors don’t gain an advantage.

Travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, recognized too late the power of OTAs to disrupt the industry, and have been paying for that misstep ever since. The nascent state of blockchain for loyalty programs offers an opportunity to realize the value of disruption and shape its future impacts — if travel companies don’t wait too long.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Global Supply Chains Are About to Get Better, Thanks to Blockchain

Global Supply Chains Are About to Get Better, Thanks to Blockchain

 

When an E.coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets left 55 customers ill, in 2015, the news stories, shutdowns, and investigations shattered the restaurant chain’s reputation. Sales plummeted, and Chipotle’s share price dropped 42%, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since.At the heart of the Denver-based company’s crisis was the ever-present problem faced by companies that depend on multiple suppliers to deliver parts and ingredients: a lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains. Unable to monitor its suppliers in real time, Chipotle could neither prevent the contamination nor contain it in a targeted way after it was discovered.

Now, a slew of startups and corporations are exploring a radical solution to this problem: using a blockchain to transfer title and record permissions and activity logs so as to track the flow of goods and services between businesses and across borders. With blockchain technology, the core system that underpins bitcoin, computers of separately owned entities follow a cryptographic protocol to constantly validate updates to a commonly shared ledger. A fundamental advantage of this distributed system, where no single company has control, is that it resolves problems of disclosure and accountability between individuals and institutions whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Mutually important data can be updated in real time, removing the need for laborious, error-prone reconciliation with each other’s internal records. It gives each member of the network far greater and timelier visibility of the total activity.

How Blockchain Works

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Why Inbound Marketing is so Important For Your Business

Why Inbound Marketing is so Important For Your Business

Simply put, inbound marketing is creating and sharing useful, compelling and fantastic content with potential and established clients. It’s inviting them into your way of thinking and business culture. This way of communication is a full access pass to your expertise, know how, and story. Both established and new customers become part of your company’s journey, sort of a VIP, behind the scenes pass.

Traditional marketing is a one-way conversation – the marketer talking ‘at’ the potential customer. Inbound marketing is an invitation to an ongoing dialogue in which you can communicate with your customers in both a professional and congenial fashion.By publishing the right content in the right place, your output becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. Now that’s marketing people can get involved with. Inbound equals interactive.

Over the past five years, inbound marketing has become the most effective marketing method for doing business online. SEE INFOGRAPHIC BELOW. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of purchasing ads, buying email lists, and hunting down leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they inherently want to be. They want to become part of your story. Inbound marketing helps you work smarter with your money than traditional outbound marketing. Whether your company is big or small, inbound is 10x more effective for increasing:

  • Website Traffic
  • Sales
  • Lead Generation
  • Customer Loyalty

By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and needs, you naturally attract inbound traffic to your website/business where you can then convince, close, and satisfy them over an extended period of time.

Delight Your Customers

The inbound way provides remarkable content to first time visitors, hot leads, or existing customers: Just because someone has already written you a check doesn’t mean you can forget about them! (It costs businesses 6-7x more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. KissMetrics). McKinsey’s research tells us, “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated”. Companies who embrace inbound marketing continue to engage with, delight, and (hopefully) upsell their current customer base into happy promoters of the organizations and products they love.

Ways to Delight Customers:

Surveys – The best way to figure out what your users want is by asking them. Use feedback and surveys to ensure you’re providing customers with what they’re looking for.

Calls-to-Action – These present different users with offers that change based on buyer persona and lifecycle stage.

Smart Text – Provide your existing customers with remarkable content tailored to their interests and challenges. Help them achieve their own goals, as well as introduce new products and features that might be of interest to them.

Social Monitoring – Keep track of the social conversation. Listen for your customers’ questions, comments, likes, and dislikes – and reach out to them with relevant content.

Content To Delight Customers:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Newsletters
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • eBooks
  • VIP Passes
  • Exclusive Offers
  • User Reviews
  • Compelling Announcements (Free shipping, Discounts, Special Offers, Surprises
  • Humour
  • Putting a fun spin
  • Interview satisfied clients

Converse With Your Customers

Make sure you have strong consistent social media presence where you are sharing and delighting your customers with your fantastic content and timely communication and response. This is the perfect outlet to connect and converse with your customers! All these different forms of inbound marketing are an on-going, multi-faceted conversation. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes your company easy to be found, and draws customers into your overall message and business practices. Modern, up to date, effective marketers make their way into the hearts and minds of their customers. In contrast, outbound marketing hits them over the head with obtuse, generic information.

Inbound marketing educates, informs, and eventually convinces customers to interact with, believe in, and spend money on your product or service. Inbound marketing can make your business stand out amongst the grey masses a.k.a. all of your competitors on the internet (that’s a lot). Remember, as stated before, by publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. Now that’s marketing people can love.

So Are You Delighting People? Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • Are you solving peoples’ problems?
  • Are you providing recommendations and being helpful?
  • Are you enthusiastic, warm, and fun?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. In contrast to outbound marketing, where marketers attempt to find customers, inbound marketing earns the attention of customers and makes the company easy to be found.

Why is Inbound Marketing Hot Today?

We live in a word of information abundance and attention scarcity – and the pace of information creation is accelerating. According to IBM, we now create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Buyers today are more empowered. The web provides them with instant information gratification. They can access detailed specs, pricing, and reviews about goods and services 24/7 with a few flicks of their thumbs. Meanwhile, social media encourages them to share and compare, while mobile devices add a wherever/whenever dimension to every aspect of the experience.

"Inbound Marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.” Because of this, traditional marketing tactics based on “renting” attention that others have built — and interrupting the buyer in the process — are becoming less and less effective.

 

 

“Although it varies greatly with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they will engage with a vendor’s sales rep.”

Time for Inbound Marketing!

To replace outdated “renting attention” marketing tactics, companies are deploying new methods geared at building awareness, developing relationships and generating leads. In short, inbound marketing attracts customers to you so you are not chasing them down. It helps prospects find your company in the early stages of their decision-making process, leading to a stronger influence on their future buying decisions.

Why You Need Inbound Marketing to Survive

Inbound marketing offers numerous benefits. When utilized effectively, it can:

  • Shape a brand preference and influence future purchases. 
  • Generate social media shares and inbound links.
  • Put customers in the driver’s seat.
  • Help fuel search engine optimization efforts.
  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Enable customers to engage with your brand at their point of need, 24/7.
  • Generate qualified leads for less money (when compared with traditional marketing).

Unlike traditional marketing initiatives, inbound efforts build upon themselves over time. For example, a strong piece of content offers many immediate and long-term benefits. It brings attention to your company when launched and will continue to resource your clients as long as it stays on your site. As the content gains more exposure, it can then become an ongoing source of inbound traffic via search engine optimization (SEO), social shares and word of mouth.

“The key is to create a strategic content strategy tailored around your personas and the stage of the buying cycle they are in. By doing this, you are providing valuable content geared directly towards that specific visitor. This helps move them down the buying cycle, answer their objections and build trust. All of these factors result in short sales time, more qualified leads and an easier sale for your sales team.”

Types of Inbound Marketing:
What Makes For a Successful Campaign

There is no single inbound marketing tactic that works well on its own. Here’s what Bill Faeth shared with us about healthy inbound marketing ecosystems. “Inbound marketing can’t be segmented into separate categories, with each section holding independent power. While we rely on SEO to draw in visitors from organic search, that SEO doesn’t work if there’s no content. Without social media, blogs don’t reach new, interested people. And SEO, content and social media are all completely useless without a lead generation process in place.” Most successful inbound marketing campaigns incorporate all or parts of the following elements:  

SEO

Search engine optimization is an integral part of effective inbound marketing. Using effective keyword analysis, well-structured site design and other SEO “best practices” to launch your company to the top of search results will ensure that your content is being seen by the right audience and bring in the right leads.

Blogging

By far the most common form of inbound marketing, blogging can play a powerful role in driving traffic and nurturing leads. Additional resource: The Social Marketers Blogging Cheat Sheet.

Social Media

With 67% of online adults using social media to share information, you can’t afford to neglect widely popular online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Live Events and Webinars

Take inbound marketing to the next level with online webinars and live events. And there’s much more: Videos, whitepapers, eBooks, e-newsletters, public speaking… Any opportunity to share valuable content is an opportunity to practice inbound marketing.

How to Initiate Your Inbound Marketing

When it comes to inbound marketing, the more you invest, the greater your return. Creating killer content is more about brains and commitment rather than budget. Don’t throw money at it – put your head and heart into it!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Identify your target audience and learn all you can about them. You can’t write content to inform your customers until you know what makes your audience tick.
  • Determine your unique, compelling story. Why should your audience listen to you?
  • Choose your delivery platforms. Will you blog? Tweet? Use Facebook? Pinterest?
  • Create and execute your content calendar.

It is important to create a schedule that will consistently turn out fresh and relevant content to continue to engage your audience. Keep in mind that your theme should be focused on customer issues, not on your business. “Rather than focusing on ‘enough’ content, marketers should be focused on publishing quality content. Content that educates their audience and builds brands and authority.  The right content will be shared, increasing your reach, increasing awareness, increasing trust and increasing leads. The wrong content will lose followers and damage your reputation.”
And don’t forget to set aside time for analysis on a weekly basis. This step will aid you in understanding how effective your inbound marketing efforts have been and how they can be improved.

Put Marketing Automation to Work

Inbound marketing cannot be relied on as the sole means of generating business. To achieve a more balanced approach, combine inbound efforts with outbound activities such as lead nurturing, lead scoring and other components of marketing automation.

Marketing automation empowers inbound marketers with tools and strategies to convert fans and followers to leads and customers. Automation accomplishes this by cultivating relationships with leads which are not yet ready to buy (most often via targeted email campaigns). Automation also enhances your inbound efforts by helping you separate legitimate leads from the not-so-legitimate ones. Furthermore, connecting marketing automation to your customer relationship management (CRM) system makes certain none of your leads get lost in the shuffle. Leveraging marketing automation with your inbound marketing campaign is like throwing fuel on your marketing fire.

Learn to Quantify Your Success

When measuring the success of your inbound marketing efforts, there are a plethora of metrics to choose from. Whether you decide to look at SEO rankings, inbound links or number of articles published, you’re sure to derive some insight into how your campaigns are performing. However, don’t get caught up in basing your decisions on marketing activities alone. For instance, having 5,000 followers on Twitter might sound impressive, but this number doesn’t offer too much insight in terms of real business results. Instead, you should be looking to financial metrics that show how marketing helps your company generate more profits and faster growth when stacked against your competitors.

One of these valuable metrics is organic traffic, which involves people finding your website by means other than typing in your URL or searching for your brand name. So, say you are a staffing company and a prospect types “local staffing solutions” into a Google search. If your company name pops up high in the results, then you’ve benefited from a successful organic search. Tracking how much of this traffic converts into leads will give you an idea of how you might need to adjust your marketing strategies. Taking it a step further, you should be tracking the trends (not just the hard numbers) so you can see how quickly your online presence is improving. Some marketing automation solutions have this type of useful functionality built right in.

Conclusion:
Make Inbound Marketing Work For You!

In our fast-paced society where the Internet and social networking shape our daily decisions, customers are exposed to more information than ever. This phenomenon is not only making them more educated but also is causing a change in buying behaviors. As a result, B2B and B2C marketing efforts must be adjusted to respond to this shift.

Today’s businesses are realizing that outbound efforts alone are not enough to produce profits. Instead, inbound marketing techniques need to be utilized in order to attract more leads and foster better brand preference. To be successful in inbound marketing, businesses need to introduce a disciplined approach to content creation, introduce marketing automation tools that can help them nurture and score leads, and optimize how these leads flow through the sales pipeline. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Marketo’s Customer Engagement Engine. With our prior solution, we had the right content but we couldn’t attain the level of focused delivery that Marketo gives us. Now we can offer targeted content and speak to prospects directly.” – Shantel Shave, Director of Demand Generation, Hootsuite [Source]. “Marketo RTP Content Recommendation Engine auto-discovered our content, analyzed the content performance, and then utilized predictive analytics to recommend relevant content to inbound prospects.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Some Top Companies Accepting Bitcoin

Some Top Companies Accepting Bitcoin

Since Bitcoin’s inception 8 years ago many merchants and retailers have warmed up to the currency and use it today. This article will list the 5 best places to spend your Bitcoins.

Dell

Dell started accepting Bitcoin in 2014, it is one of the largest personal computer companies in the US. Dell’s Bitcoin payment option is integrated with Coinbase and it is built right into the checkout page. When you’re ready to make a purchase, add your items to your cart, fill out your shipping details and choose Bitcoin as your payment method. After the order is submitted, you’ll be taken to Coinbase to complete your purchase.

CheapAir

                

Cheapair is a New York based company founded in 2005. It provides a service similar to Expedia which allows you to book flights and hotels. They first started accepting Bitcoin in 2013 and have never stopped since. Just like with Dell, Cheapair’s bitcoin payment system is integrated straight into their checkout page and is powered by Coinbase.

Overstock

Founded in 1999, Overstock is one of the largest American retailers based out of Utah. It offers a variety of products ranging from home decorations to computer hardware. The checkout process is similar to Cheapair’s and Dell’s and is integrated through Coinbase. When the company first started accepting Bitcoin in September of 2014 it because the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin.

In fact, Overstock’s CEO was so intrigued with Bitcoin that he decided to take it a step further by opening up his company’s stock to be publicly traded on the blockchain. As a result, they also became the first publicly traded company to issue stock over the internet.

Steam

Initially released in 2003, Steam is a digital distribution platform which offers a variety of PC games to more than 89 million gamers. It is considered the largest video game distributor owning roughly 75% of the market. It first started accepting Bitcoin in April of 2016 as they partnered with Bitpay. The checkout process is just the same, you simply select the Bitcoin payment option and Bitpays API will take care of the rest.

One potential reason that Steam partnered with Bitpay rather than Coinbase is because Steam has a higher focus on international users while the companies above focus on the domestic market. While Coinbase might be one of the more compliant companies in the US, Bitpay has a smoother integration overseas.

eGifter

eGifter is a New York based company founded in 2011, the youngest company on this list. The reason it ranks so high is because it opens up an opportunity to spend Bitcoin and dozen more places. eGifter provides a gift card buying and sending solutions to users and businesses. You can purchase a gift card for yourself, for a friend, or you can even start a group gift.

The best part is that eGifter accepts Bitcoin! Some of the stores that you can purchase gift cards for include: Amazon, Target, eBay, Adidas, Dominos, and much much more.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin ETF Rejection Reinforces Faith in Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin ETF Rejection Reinforces
Faith in Cryptocurrency

When SEC announced the rejection of Bitcoin ETF, a huge drop in Bitcoin price was expected. But nobody expected a sudden recovery soon after.

Bitcoin ETF or Not.

Bitcoin ETF easily qualifies as one of the “buzzwords” of 2017. The much-awaited SEC ruling on Bitcoin ETF left many people disappointed after the regulatory body weighed against it. However, the incident has also presented Bitcoin in a new light.

Bitcoin price is known for its volatility due to various influencing factors. These external factors fuel speculation, driving demand against supply. As the cryptocurrency matures, the room for speculating is gradually reducing, and need-based demand has taken over the driving seat, influencing Bitcoin price.

The renewed interest among investors in light of the potential approval of Bitcoin ETF by the SEC was considered to be the reason behind increasing demand in the recent days. It was also predicted that the failure of ETF approval would lead to a massive drop in demand, driving the digital currency’s price down by hundreds of dollars. When the SEC announced its decision, people were expecting the cryptocurrency market to face a huge shock which might take a while to recover.

These speculations partially came true. Bitcoin’s price following the SEC announcement fell by close to $200. But surprisingly, the digital currency price recovered soon after to reach close to the earlier held levels. The quick bounce-back wasn’t expected by many people, just like the time when the Chinese government cracked down on the country’s Bitcoin platforms. The effects of external factors on Bitcoin price has reduced drastically in the past few months, showing resiliency.

These two examples — Chinese market volumes and Bitcoin ETF, were both expected to have a long-term effect on the digital currency. But thanks to the active community, effects were negligible, which has, in turn, increased the credibility of Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency has proved to be more stable than ever, giving it a chance to grab the “mainstream currency” title.

The failure of SEC to approve Bitcoin ETF may have proven to be more beneficial for Bitcoin than expected. The cryptocurrency has gained the faith of people, irrespective of whether they are part of the Bitcoin community or not. It will help Bitcoin further expand its community and emerge stronger than ever. Eventually, it will also influence regulatory agencies to approve the use of Bitcoin like any other currency.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Here’s what’s next for bitcoin after the SEC killed the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust

Here’s what’s next for bitcoin after the
SEC killed the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday rejected a proposed rule change that would’ve allowed for the creation of the first bitcoin exchange-traded fund—a decision that has followers of the world’s largest cryptocurrency wondering what happens next. In its ruling, the SEC said it was unnerved by the lack of regulation in a market that is largely based outside of the U.S., and was worried about the potential for market manipulation.

Fortunately for investors who were hoping to buy into the fund, Friday’s decision won’t necessarily preclude the approval of other proposed bitcoin ETFs. Two other companies are vying to become the first bitcoin-focused ETF, but what might happen next is unclear. The New York Stock Exchange filed a proposed rule change with the SEC on Jan. 25 to allow the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust to trade on its ETF exchange, NYSE Arca. The agency now has until Friday, Sept. 22 to issue its ruling. Barry Silbert, the chief executive officer of the Digital Currency Group, Grayscale’s parent company, declined to comment on the Winklevoss decision.

NYSE Arca filed another rule-change proposal to list shares of the SolidX Bitcoin Trust, another product vying to be the first bitcoin ETF, back in July, but it is unclear what is happening and representatives for SolidX couldn't be reached for comment. One factor that differentiated the Winklevoss proposal from its rivals was the mechanism for tracking the bitcoin price. The Winklevosses planned to use pricing data gleaned from Gemini, a digital-currency exchange launched in late 2015 that commands less than 1% of the bitcoin market.

Both the Grayscale and SolidX proposals would peg the price to the TradeBlock bitcoin index. Grayscale’s proposal is widely viewed as the favorite within the bitcoin community, largely because of shares its trust GBTC, +5.88%  already trade over-the-counter, often at a premium to bitcoin’s net-asset value.

But some have expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest at Grayscale. In a comment letter filed with the SEC, Jeffrey Wilcke, a representative of the Ethereum Foundation, pointed out the relationship between the Grayscale trust and CoinDesk, an online news service that covers the digital currency market. Both Grayscale and CoinDesk are owned by DCG. Wilcke couldn't be reached for comment.

Jerry Brito, chief executive director of Coin Center, a bitcoin advocacy group, said the SEC’s concerns about regulation create a “chicken and egg problem.” “How do we develop well-capitalized and regulated markets in the U.S. and Europe if financial innovators aren’t allowed to bring products to market that grow domestic demand for digital currencies like bitcoin?,” he said in an emailed statement.

When asked about what’s next for bitcoin, Chris Burniske, blockchain analyst and products lead at ARK Invest, said it is “clear that the SEC still has a way to go in terms of getting comfortable with the bitcoin markets.” Bitcoin market experts said the Winklevoss’s could modify their proposal to address some of the agency’s concerns, but that they would need to start the process again from the beginning, and that BATS would need to issue a new proposed rule change, which the agency would then have a maximum of 240 days to consider.

For their part, the Winklevoss brothers say they remain committed to bringing “COIN” to market. “We began this journey almost four years ago, and are determined to see it through. We agree with the SEC that regulation and oversight are important to the health of any marketplace and the safety of all investors,” said Tyler Winklevoss in an emailed statement.

Bitcoin US-BTCUSD  sold off sharply after the decision, with the price of a single coin losing $250 in a matter of minutes. But it quickly bounced back and was trading down 6.3% on the day at $1,116 late Friday in New York, according to the CoinDesk bitcoin price index. Spencer Bogart, the head of research at Blockchain Capital, said this is evidence that the ETF presented “no change to bitcoin’s compelling fundamental growth story.” “The drivers of bitcoin demand remain as strong now as they were two months ago before the ETF fervor arrived,” he said.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

U.S. regulators reject Bitcoin ETF, digital currency plunges

U.S. regulators reject Bitcoin ETF,
digital currency plunges

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday denied a request to list what would have been the first U.S. exchange-traded fund built to track bitcoin, the digital currency.Investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have been trying for more than three years to convince the SEC to let it bring the Bitcoin ETF to market. CBOE Holdings Inc's Bats exchange had applied to list the ETF.

The digital currency's price plunged, falling as much as 18 percent in trading immediately after the decision before rebounding slightly. It last traded down 7.8 percent to $1,098. Bitcoin had scaled to a record of nearly $1,300 this month, higher than the price of an ounce of gold, as investors speculated that an ETF holding the digital currency could woo more people into buying the asset.

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that can be used to move money around the world quickly and with relative anonymity, without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government. Yet bitcoin presents a new set of risks to investors given its limited adoption, a number of massive cyber security breaches affecting bitcoin owners and the lack of consistent treatment of the assets by governments.

"Based on the record before it, the Commission believes that the significant markets for bitcoin are unregulated," the SEC said in a statement. "The commission notes that bitcoin is still in the relatively early stages of its development and that, over time, regulated bitcoin-related markets of significant size may develop." The regulators have questions and concerns about how the funds would work and whether they could be priced and trade effectively, according to a financial industry source familiar with the SEC's thinking.

"We began this journey almost four years ago, and are determined to see it through," said Tyler Winklevoss, CFO of Digital Asset Services LLC. "We agree with the SEC that regulation and oversight are important to the health of any marketplace and the safety of all investors." The Winklevoss twins are best known for their feud with Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg over whether he stole the idea for what became the world's most popular social networking website from them. The former Olympic rowers ultimately settled their legal dispute, which was dramatized in the 2010 film "The Social Network."

Since then they have become major investors in the digital currency, which relies on "mining" computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles. The first to solve the puzzle and clear the transaction is rewarded with new bitcoins. Solutions to the puzzle come roughly every 10 minutes. Advocates of the currency and the technology it relies on to document transactions, blockchains, were dismayed by the ruling. "How do we develop well-capitalized and regulated markets in the U.S. and Europe if financial innovators aren't allowed to bring products to market that grow domestic demand for digital currencies like bitcoin?" asked Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, an advocacy group.

Spencer Bogart, head of research at Blockchain Capital, said bitcoin's price could fall as much as 20 percent but that its long-term adoption will continue. A Bats spokeswoman said the exchange is reviewing the SEC's statement and would have no further comment. There are two other bitcoin ETF applications awaiting a verdict from the SEC. Grayscale Investments LLC's Bitcoin Investment Trust, backed by early bitcoin advocate Barry Silbert and his Digital Currency Group, filed an application last year. SolidX Partners Inc, a U.S. technology company that provides blockchain services, also filed its ETF application last year.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Despite Similarities, Is Blockchain Really The Next Internet?

Despite Similarities,
Is Blockchain Really The Next Internet?

 

The Blockchain versus The Internet

The Blockchain is often touted as the next Internet. A technology so important that it will revolutionize the way we live our lives. There is no lack of interest in Blockchain amongst big technology companies, financial institutions, governments and even the members of the public. The impact of the Internet on our daily lives is now so complete that it would be impossible to think of a world without it. Canada and Germany have even declared the Internet as “essential for life.”

Yet, we are not at a stage where Blockchain has assumed a similar role. So what will it take for Blockchain to get there? What steps does it need to assume a similar significance?

Making things work with each other

The Internet of today is universal. We do not really have to think twice about plugging things into it. At the moment we have different Blockchains, some of which are open-source public Blockchains and we also have private Blockchains and the interoperability between Blockchains simply has not reached the level of the Internet. As an example, if a user of Blockchain A wanted to buy an asset on Blockchain B, it would be difficult in the present scenario. A common format like the Internet’s TCP/IP would make things considerably easier. Then there is also the sticky problem of how Blockchains will communicate with legacy systems of yore.

The need for speed

Blockchains still have the issue of moving sludge up the pipelines. As an example, Hyperledger can only handle around 1000 transactions per second. Bitcoin transaction rate per second is limited to seven. David Gilbert of IB Times writes in his article: “The problem relates to how transactions are processed on the Blockchain, the decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin.The average time it takes for a Bitcoin transaction to be verified is now 43 minutes, and some transactions remain unverified forever.” Blockchain systems need to evolve to instant or near-instant levels to reach ubiquity.

Blockchain cauldron has too many cooks

It is basically a question of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The more participants in a Blockchain network, the difficult it becomes to change things. We have seen splits and hard forks, we have seen an inability to change things because of the lack of consensus, etc. It can get quite unwieldy to maintain a network or to scale it up in order to stay relevant with the times. This is a question that Bitcoin will have to face in the future as well. However, on the Internet side of things, the evolution of governance has been done by a number of global bodies such as ICANN, the UN and others.

Who do we trust?

It took the Internet a while to emerge as a reliable platform. This, of course, has required the intervention of government and some legislative effort across the world. The established financial networks of today enjoy a level of trust among consumers, merchants, and bankers as well. Blockchain systems have yet to garner the same level of trust as these established players.

The stench of geekdom

The Internet, in the beginning, was a geek heaven – bulletin boards, terminal sessions, etc. The interface was simply not appealing enough for the common user. It was the World Wide Web that changed the Internet and made it more accessible to the average person on the street. Blockchain, unfortunately, still reeks of geekdom. We need an interface that will make Blockchain indispensable to everyone and we need it sooner rather than later.

As Dominik Zynis, advisor to Wings.ai, says with regard to Blockchain and the WWW:

“The World Wide Web democratized the content lifecycle (creation, distribution, rating, consumption). For example, we no longer get our news from two or three channels, instead, we get our news from friends and associates sharing on places like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. Likewise, Blockchain technology can democratize the money lifecycle; however, to do that Blockchain technology must enable and empower the unseen and unimportant.”

He goes on to say: “Just like companies like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and others capitalize on the long-tail of content creation empower cat owners to distribute cat videos, so too must Blockchain technology through projects like Counterparty creating PepeCash and BANCOR Network creating local coins enable the long-tail of coin creation.” While Blockchain is getting there, we are still far away from the day when it will be ever present. What we need is interoperability, simplicity, and standards that everyone can agree on. It is perhaps a matter of time.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The gospel according to Blockchain, or is it the other way round?

The gospel according to Blockchain,
or is it the other way round?

Startup promises permissioned Blockchain-validated truth database

 

Analysis Startup Gospel Technology is evangelising the use of Blockchain to secure and verify shareable data.

Blockchain technology provides a way of doing this, claims Gospel, which says it's found a simpler way than any alternative methods. The early stage firm was founded in December last year by CEO Ian Smith, who was a co-founder, owner and CTO of Butterfly Software, a company IBM bought for an undisclosed amount in September 2012, for its data centre storage planning and migration tool software.

Smith, who was a storage transformation consultant at Dell before founding Butterfly, spent three years at IBM, finishing up as worldwide VP for flash and software-defined solutions. In May 2016, he became the owner and managing director of Kingwood Estate, an English vineyard making sparkling wines in the Thames Valley near Henley On Thames. The idea behind Gospel Technology is that a business has information chains with its suppliers, contracting agencies, partners, customers, regulatory authorities and so forth.

If it supplies information to other businesses then it has no control, except maybe contractual, over what that business does with it. An HR department could send hundreds and thousands of employee names to a travel agency which arranges business travel and that agency could send some or all if it to airlines who could do the same. As soon as the information leaves the originator’s premises, then, in today’s internet-connected world, there is effectively no control over its privacy, security, validity and correctness. This is where the firm claims Blockchain can provide the validity and correctness – and its product can the security and privacy.

Gospel Tech claims it’s is “pioneering the use of this immutable [Blockchain] record system to fully automate 'trust' into the interconnected global systems of the forward-thinking enterprise.” It is building an Enterprise Trust Fabric built on the Linux HyperLedger which features record immutability, cryptographic provenance and decentralised consensus. Gospel says it has enhanced the blockchain technology to enable it to operate with the stability and scalability essential to large enterprise businesses that operate in cloud-like environments. It enables the privacy, security, control and validity of a centralised system in a decentralised environment, it says.

Gospel claims its fabric offers:

  • A clear and transparent world state of data assets and key trust indicators within the ledger,
  • Real Time identification of abnormal behaviour and data breaches,
  • An immutable history of key trust indicators,
  • Scheduled erasure policies based on absolute expiry dates within the ledger.

Overall target use cases are business exchanging any kind of digital information that needs to be trusted and private, and the Internet of Things. Smith wrote an introductory article about the firm on LinkedIn in January, in which he said the “Enterprise Trust Fabric is based on a private, permissioned blockchain that has been engineered and enhanced by Gospel technology to deliver a platform that rethinks trust and confidence in a world that is essentially perimeterless and trustless.” We might expect more news from the firm later this year.

What is a blockchain?

As we generally understand it – meaning blockchain experts, be gentle – a block chain is a distributed database (digital ledger) holding a chain of data blocks in which the first block is composed of its data contents plus a prefix which is a hash of the data in the block. The next block in the chain has a data hash prefix which is a hash of the entire preceding block, and so on through the chain. It is a hashchain within a hashchain. Any data added to the chain of linked data blocks is appended. Nothing is deleted or over-written or has data inserted between existing data items. Data is immutable, which is great where that absolutely needs to be the case, and the blockchain can represent a proof of work.

In Bitcoin, a monetary transaction happens once and is spread throughout the database and its users in real time. A unit of the cryptocurrency, once spent, is spent and cannot be spent again. The acknowledgement of a bitcoin transaction between users is faster than the acknowledgement of cash transactions between bank users with cheques and simpler than digital transactions between banks. Bitcoin can disintermediate banks from financial transactions between users.

The verifiability and trust of blockchain transactions happens because parties involved compute the blockchain; each having a copy of the blockchain. Everyone thus verifies and audits transactions. Gospel reckons that in private sharing environments, less system overhead is needed to reach consensus because it can rely on fewer nodes being needed to arrive at a believable consensus. Reading and writing data to a blockchain database is CPU-intensive and network intensive and becomes more so as blockchains get longer and larger in number and users.

What is a hash?

In Blockchain a hash is a cryptographic number function which is a result of running a mathematical algorithm against the string of data in a block and results in a number which is entirely dependent on the block contents. What this means is that if you encounter a block in a chain of blocks and want to read its contents you can’t do it unless you can read the preceding block’s contents because these create the starting data hash (prefix) of the block you are interested in.

And you can’t read that preceding block in the chain unless you can read its preceding block as its starting data item is a hash of its preceding block and so on down the chain. It’s a practical impossibility to break into a blockchain and read and then do whatever you want with the data unless you are an authorised reader. A blockchain database is thus organised quite differently from a relational database.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member