Posts by CryptoDude

    LedgerX Reveals Bid to Beat Bakkt to Physical Bitcoin Futures Launch


    Cryptocurrency derivatives provider LedgerX plans to become the first U.S. firm to offer physically settled bitcoin futures contracts.

    The company announced Monday that it has filed for a designated contract market (DCM) license, which would allow LedgerX to offer physically-settled bitcoin futures products to its customers. Unlike the cash-settled bitcoin futures offered by CME Group (and previously, Cboe), customers would receive the actual bitcoin underlying a contract after it expires, rather than the U.S. dollar equivalent.

    And perhaps more notably, LedgerX can target retail investors with its new offering, said Juthica Chou, who serves as both chief risk and operating officer at LedgerX.

    “We’ll be able to service customers of any size, we won’t be restricted to [institutional clients],” Chou told CoinDesk.

    Once approved, LedgerX will offer bitcoin, bitcoin options and bitcoin futures to retail customers through a new platform, dubbed Omni.

    Omni, built on LedgerX’s existing infrastructure, will act as the provider for both custody and trading services. LedgerX’s original platform first received regulatory approval to launch in July 2017, though the platform itself only went live later that year.

    The new platform will also utilize LedgerX’s existing institutional liquidity pool to “offer retail customers a top tier experience from day one,” Chou said.

    Launching a retail platform with futures offerings has “always been our plan,” Chou said. The company first began offering physically-settled derivatives products in October 2017, trading $1 million in its first week.

    “Once the platform had proved stable and we got an operational cadence, we filed for a license with the CFTC,” Chou said, adding:

    “For us this is a philosophically important move because bitcoin is available to everyone and we … really wanted to make our derivatives products available to all investors as well.”

    Regulatory roadmap

    The company filed for a license to offer futures contracts in November 2018, and has been engaged in a “constructive dialogue” with the CFTC since, Chou said. However, she could not comment on a timeline for when the CFTC might approve LedgerX’s application, or on what sort of reception the firm is expecting from customers.

    The CFTC has already granted LedgerX two licenses, allowing the firm to act as a Swap Execution Facility (SEF), which is the company’s exchange platform, and a Derivatives Clearing Organization (DCO), which is the clearinghouse.

    LedgerX’s DCM application is therefore just an additional license on top of its existing permissions. Operationally, the company is already set up to provide futures services, According to Chou.

    She continued:

    “We’re custodying [bitcoin] in the same way that we currently do, we’ve obviously been live and operational for more than a year and a half, and we have a license from the CFTC, the DCO license, that allows us to custody bitcoin.”

    Since its launch, LedgerX has provided institutions with regulated physically-settled bitcoin swaps and options products, and claims some 200 different firms as customers.

    While CME and Cboe both began offering cash-settled bitcoin futures in December 2017, no company has launched a physically-settled equivalent to date – though that’s not for lack of trying.

    Several major firms plan to launch physically-settled bitcoin futures contracts, including Bakkt, the firm built by New York Stock Exchange parent Intercontinental Exchange; Seed CX, the crypto exchange backed by Bain Capital Ventures; and ErisX, a startup backed by brokerage TD Ameritrade.

    However, all of these firms, too, are awaiting their own regulatory approvals, giving LedgerX a shot at being the first to go live with an actual product.

    “This is a natural evolution and it stems from the fact that we’ve been operating a physically settled market for more than a year and a half so it’s been a natural [extension],” Chou said. “We’re always excited to be the first.”

    Juthica Chou image via CoinDesk archives


    Major Japanese Fintech Firm Halts Plans to Launch Crypto Exchange, Citing Bear Market


    Money Forward Inc., the operator of one of Japan's most popular personal budgeting apps, has resolved to halt its plans to launch a crypto asset exchange. The development was reported by Cointelegraph Japan today, April 15.

    As previously reported, Money Forward had established a dedicated subsidiary in May 2018 for its crypto exchange project. It had intended to launch a crypto media platform, followed by a crypto exchange and the construction of a digital assets remittance and settlement system.

    Today’s announcement reveals that the company’s board of directors has opted to cancel the procedure of applying for official registration for the exchange and to postpone development of its planned crypto exchange business.

    Cointelegraph Japan cites the board’s announcement, which contextualized the decision to halt the project within the context of the company’s first quarter consolidated losses for the fiscal year ending November 2019. The board stated that:

    “The virtual currency market has cooled rapidly and the downside risk of profitability has been increased by continuing the business.”

    In addition, the announcement cited the growing international debate surrounding virtual currency platform hacks and the risks of money laundering. The board further stated that the costs of establishing a robust system for consumer protection, as well as ensuring convenience for traders, have risen considerably amid the changing business environment.

    Aside from halting planned crypto exchange development, the board also ruled that the service provisions of Money Forward’s crypto media platform Onbit will end on May 31. Meanwhile, the announcement affirmed that blockchain technology development and research will continue.

    Cointelegraph Japan further reports that Money Forward’s subsidiary had secured second tier membership within the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) earlier this year. The membership tier is designed for businesses who are seeking to apply for an official crypto exchange operating license from the country’s Financial Services Association (FSA).

    As previously reported, the JVCEA is a self-regulatory crypto exchange association that formed in March 2018 in order to help establish industry-wide investor protection standards. The organization was granted formal self-regulatory status by the FSA in October 2018.

    Earlier today, Cointelegraph reported that another JVCEA Tier 2 member, crypto startup FXCoin, has secured investment from Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings. FXCoin, which is run by a Deutsche Bank veteran, reportedly aims to launch a licensed crypto exchange.


    BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes Reveals Plans to Open Crypto Options Platform


    Arthur Hayes, co-founder and CEO of major crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX, has revealed that the firm is hoping to open a cryptocurrency options platform in the medium term. Hayes made his remarks during an interview on the Venture Coinist podcast on April 12.

    Hayes — a former equities trader for Citigroup — indicated a rough timeline for the prospective launch, stating that:

    "We hope to possibly have our own options platform in maybe 12 to 18 months."

    Hayes hinted at aspirations to innovate options listing, saying “we have somebody working with some university professors on a complicated new way of doing this."

    Options are a type of financial derivative that give a buyer the right — but not the obligation — to buy or sell an asset at an agreed price in future. They are designed to serve as strategies for hedging, protection or speculation in different market conditions.

    BitMEX was founded in 2014 and currently sees close to $1.1 billion in daily traded volume, making it one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges by reported volume. As a derivatives-only platform it is, however, not included in CoinMarketCap’s price and volume averages for Bitcoin (BTC).

    As previously reported, Hayes has recently predicted that Bitcoin will get back to the $10,000 price point this year, anticipating the market recovery will begin in early Q4 2019.

    Alongside its trading platform, BitMEX also conducts research into the crypto industry, in January releasing a report on the impact of the 2018 bear market on ICO projects’ token holding valuations.

    That same month, the exchange refuted media reports that had alleged it was closing United States and Québec residents’ accounts due to a regulatory crackdown, claiming they were inaccurate and sensationalist.


    ING Bank Is Bringing Bitcoin 'Bulletproofs' to Private Blockchains


    ING’s blockchain team is testing a privacy technology called “bulletproofs,” the latest in a series of seemingly unlikely cypherpunk experiments at the Netherlands-based global bank.

    Developed and refined by hardcore cryptographers at Stanford University, University College London and startup Blockstream, bulletproofs are designed to hide the amounts being transferred in bitcoin transactions, which are normally visible to anyone. But banks have privacy concerns about blockchains too, since they don’t want to expose competitive or sensitive client data to rivals.

    One early solution was zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), a way of proving possession of a secret without revealing the secret itself. Over the past year or so, ING has explored ZKP variants such as range proofs (where a hidden number is proven to be within a certain range) and zero-knowledge set membership (where alphanumeric data can be validated within a specified set).

    But ZKPs eat up a lot of computation and so potentially slow down a blockchain. Now, ING sees bulletproofs as a much more efficient, therefore applicable, version of these proofs.

    The bank found bulletproofs turn out to be “roughly ten times faster than other range proofs, for a single range proof,” said Mariana Gomez de la Villa, global head of ING’s blockchain program.

    And when aggregated together these proving schemes gain efficiency. Gomez de la Villa gave the example of a cryptocurrency exchange using range proofs to show it has enough funds to pay all its clients if they want to withdraw their money at the same time.

    In this case, “bulletproofs would allow a solution that is 300 times more efficient than other alternative range proofs,” she said.

    While a lot of this stuff is academic, ING is now looking to where it can apply the tech. Potential uses touch on the need to obey the Europe Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); for instance, ZK set membership can prove an individual belongs to a given EU member state without disclosing any other information about their identity.

    Meanwhile, academics and cryptocurrency scientists seem encouraged, if a little bemused. Blockstream mathematician Andrew Poelstra told CoinDesk via email:

    “When we developed bulletproofs in 2017, we did not expect such an uptake. We’re very excited and proud whenever we see the technology being applied to real world problems, if a little surprised its found a use-case in traditional banking!”

    Trade and trolls

    ING is also looking at applying ZKPs to the testing out of trade finance blockchains, an innovation which in turn looks ahead to a world of blockchain interoperability, said Gomez de la Villa.

    “We are setting up a whole [ZKP] shop to help developers find these use cases and are in contact with some of our customers to ensure they have a good understanding of how they can leverage these open source projects that we have,” she said.

    To illustrate how the bank’s blockchain projects might apply ZKPs, Gomez de la Villa said imagine tracking a commodity from its origin and keeping the certificate of origin throughout the supply chain but without disclosing the supplier, price or the quality of the commodity.

    Looking ahead, this could involve that commodity touching several distributed ledger networks (interoperability is something ING is thinking about now, given the bank has close ties with R3, ethereum-based oil and gas consortium Komgo, and recently IBM’s MineHub on Hyperledger Fabric).

    “We need to ensure that the specific properties of the commodity worth passing along the chain in terms of semantic (meaning and interpretation of the fields) and the syntactic (format and fields) remain intact,” said Gomez de la Villa, “and at the same time being able to hide the ones that do not need to be passed on along the value chain but still are useful to record for other purposes.”

    Proving the bank has reached the highest levels in this field, ING takes part in the annual ZKProof Workshop alongside the team behind cryptocurrency zcash, Blockstream and QEDIT. The bank also said it compares notes with the likes of JPMorgan, another enterprise consumer of zero-knowledge cryptography, to help make the tech a reality for clients.

    Gomez de la Villa said:

    “Everybody helps each other, everybody bounces stuff with each other and the important thing is not what you have learned but it’s more like how do you apply those learnings.”

    But not everybody likes the idea of a bank getting involved with technology seen as the reserve of privacy-driven libertarians for use on public blockchains. Gomez de la Villa said her social media has been trolled by certain people claiming the bank “just copy and pasted” the technology.

    “There are people that are quite anarchist about it and they are obviously 100% pro-bitcoin and they believe that indeed they are doing all this to circumvent financial institutions,” she said.

    However, Gomez de la Villa is unfazed by her trolls, concluding:

    “I like it. Cause that means that it matters.”

    Enigma decryption pic: Shutterstock


    Bitcoin Hovers Near $5,100 as Top Cryptos See Mixed Movements


    Sunday, April 14 — the top 20 cryptocurrencies are reporting mixed movements on the day by press time, as Bitcoin (BTC) hovers near the $5,100 mark.

    Market visualization courtesy of Coin360

    Market visualization courtesy of Coin360

    Bitcoin has seen nearly no change on the day, trading at around $5,098 by press time, according to CoinMarketCap. Looking at its weekly chart, the current price is also nearly a percent lower than the price at which Bitcoin started the week.

    Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    The overall institutional investment in Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange decreased this past week, according to data published by the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission on April 9.

    Ethereum (ETH) is holding onto its position as the largest altcoin by market cap, which is at about $17.3 billion. The second-largest altcoin, Ripple (XRP), has a market cap of about $13.6 billion by press time.

    ETH has seen almost no change over the last 24 hours, down a fraction of a percent. At press time, ETH is trading around $164. On the week, the coin has also seen its value fall by nearly two percent. Ethereum’s current price is also about 12% lower than $184, the mid-week high it reported on Monday.

    Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    Ethereum (ETH) core developers are considering implementing more frequent and smaller hard forks, according to the most recent developer’s call.

    The price of the second-largest altcoin Ripple lost about half a percent over the 24 hours to press time, and is currently trading at around $0.325. Looking at the coin’s weekly chart, however, its current price is 9.5% lower than what it reported one week ago. This week, Cointelegraph reported that major Japanese bank Resona will withdraw from Ripple-powered blockchain payment project MoneyTap on May 13.

    Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

    Among the top 20 cryptocurrencies, the only one reporting notable gains is Tezos (XTZ), which is up almost 10%.

    The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies is currently equivalent to $173 billion, which is over three and a half percent lower than $179.3 billion, the value it reported one week ago.

    As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, new analysis from cryptocurrency exchange Binance concluded that Bitcoin prices and altcoin prices could have already hit their lowest point.


    Indian IT Giant Tech Mahindra to Use Samsung's Nexledger Blockchain: Local Media


    Samsung SDS has reportedly agreed to cooperate with Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra in an attempt to enter the overseas blockchain market, The Korea Times writes Sunday, April 14.

    SDS, the systems integration arm of Korean tech behemoth Samsung, allegedly plans to expand the use of its Nexledger blockchain platform in India, the United States and Europe.

    As per the agreement, the two companies will reportedly seek more business opportunities in the region. Moreover, Samsung SDS will cooperate with Tech Mahindra on further Nexledger updates.

    Nexledger, a blockchain security platform launched in 2017, has since been used in finance, manufacturing, logistics and other areas. For instance, the solution was trialed by the Korea Customs Service in its export customs logistics services. Forty-eight different organizations, including public agencies, shipping and insurance companies, also joined the test.

    More recently, Samsung SDS announced it is launching its own blockchain accelerator technology, Nexledger Accelerator, following a successful test with Hyperledger Fabric. The solution reportedly improves transaction processing speed.

    In March, parent company Mahindra reportedly trained 70% of its employees to deal with new technologies, including blockchain, AI, Internet of Thingsand cybersecurity.

    Moreover, Mahindra has previously used IBM blockchain technology in order to create a solution for discounting invoices between its auto division and suppliers. According to IBM, the company is also investigating the use of blockchain to track parts and improve auto recalls.


    IMF and World Bank Launch Quasi-Cryptocurrency in Exploration of Blockchain Tech


    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have jointly launched a private blockchain and a so-dubbed quasi-cryptocurrency, the Financial Times (FT) reports on April 12.

    According to the newspaper, the asset called “Learning Coin” will be accessible only within the IMF and World Bank. The coin has no money value and thus is not a real cryptocurrency, the FT underlines.

    As the FT has learned, “Learning Coin” was launched in order to better understand the technologies that underlie crypto assets. Its app will serve as a hub where blogs, research, videos and presentations are stored.

    During the test, the World Bank and IMF staff will earn coins for achieving certain educational milestones. The institutions will allow them to redeem the assets gained for some rewards, which will allow them to learn how coins can be used in real life.

    Per the IMF, the banks and regulators across the world have to catch up with crypto technologies that are rapidly developing. The FT quotes the IMF as saying:

    “The development of crypto-assets and distributed ledger technology is evolving rapidly, as is the amount of information (both neutral and vested) surrounding it. This is forcing central banks, regulators and financial institutions to recognize a growing knowledge gap between the legislators, policymakers, economists and the technology.”

    Moreover, after the test, the World Bank and IMF reportedly might use blockchain to launch smart contracts, combat money laundering and enhance the overall level of transparency.

    Earlier in April, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that blockchain innovators are shaking up the traditional financial world and have a clear impact on incumbent players. She also noted that the potential of blockchain-based technologies and assets is embraced by regulators and central banks, who recognize its positive effect.

    Meanwhile, a World Bank official expressed a more skeptical point of view. According to Aanchal Anand, a Land Administration Specialist in the bank’s Global Land and Geospatial Unit, there is too much hype over blockchain, which causes unrealistic expectations.


    Indian Banks Consider Promoting Blockchain Tech Use for Payments


    The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is considering implementing blockchain technology to increase the strength of digital transactions, Indian business magazine Business Today reports on April 14.

    The initiative of ten banks, under the aegis of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), aims to improve the NPCI by implementing distributed ledger technology, the publication underlines.

    The NPCI, an umbrella organization that operates retail payments and settlement systems in India and includes 56 national banks as stakeholders, was set up with the guidance and support of the Reserve Bank of India and the IBA. The NPCI will focus on developing blockchain tech in the payment domain for boosting digital transactions, the article states. It also says:

    "NPCI intends to develop a resilient, real time and highly scalable blockchain solution. It is proposed to develop this solution using an open source technology/ framework/solution."

    As Cointelegraph wrote in July of last year, five major banks from each BRICS member, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of distributed ledger technology for enhancing the digital economy.

    Back in last fall, experts in the blockchain field held debates during the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, underlining that blockchain technology will replace the world’s current payment systems, as Cointelegraph reported.


    Young Africa Looks to Crypto for Payment


    Data from Google Trends shows that Lagos, Nigeria ranks as the number one city based on the volume of online searches for Bitcoin (BTC). While this data may indicate a high level of interest among the city's approximately 21 million people, it has yet to equate to tangible adoption of the emerging trend of technology.

    But that is changing, as a growing movement among young people frustrated with existing payment systems looks for alternatives.

    Bitcoin as a dollar substitute

    For the most part, “Lagosians” who are aware of the existence of Bitcoin see the top-ranked cryptocurrency as a substitute for the United States dollar. BTC exists for them on a spectrum that lends itself as a viable substitute for foreign currency.

    Payment companies like PayPal do not allow Nigerians to receive money transfers from abroad, thanks to the notoriety of internet fraudsters in the country — and the companies that offer such services usually charge high fees.

    Thus, it is common to see the city's growing freelancing community beginning to pivot toward cryptocurrency payments. Many of the youth in the city, having battled with underemployment or unemployment, have sought to try their hands outside the traditional working environment.

    The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that Nigeria's unemployment rate rose to above 23 percent in 2018. In a city like Lagos, many young university graduates can be seen making a living as freelancers, offering services from copywriting to website design and even computer programming.

    Given that many of their clients are based abroad, there can be issues with receiving payment for the work done. However, with a BTC wallet and a plethora of local exchange services, these freelancers can receive payments easily from clients spread across the globe.

    Apart from freelancers, business owners are also using Bitcoin, as well as other crypto-focused platforms, as substitutes for foreign currency and banks. Companies like BitPesa offer easy access to liquidity, which can be a hassle to businesses in frontier markets like Lagos, especially in the context of foreign trade.

    In a private message to Cointelegraph, Victor Alagbe, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Blockchain Strategist at OneWattSolar, an energy startup looking to leverage blockchain technology in boosting renewable energy adoption across Africa, said:

    “I see crypto taking up a strong position in the remittances space. It’s often cheaper, less stressful (in terms of documentation) and faster to send and receive crypto. Many younger folks in the diaspora are now leveraging crypto to send money back home. Some techies working remotely are also getting paid in crypto.”

    In 2001, the government at the time introduced mobile telecommunications technology to the country. In the 18 years since that landmark event, mobile telecoms have become a significant sector in the nation's economy, contributing 10.5 percent of its gross domestic product as of mid-2018.

    Nigeria has over 100 million active internet subscriptions, mostly on mobile platforms. Bitcoin as a payment technology leverages on this access to the web, allowing tech-savvy Nigerians to participate in the growing cryptocurrency trend.

    Bitcoin underutilization

    While the peer-to-peer (p2p) trading aspect of the emerging BTC narrative continues to take shape in Lagos, there is a massive underutilization of the technology itself. Even with the potentially paradigm-shifting aura attached to cryptocurrency, Lagos — and, by extension, Nigerians — seem content to focus only on BTC as a dollar substitute without diving deeper into the technological ramifications of broader Bitcoin adoption.

    Data from Bitnodes, which tracks the global Bitcoin nodes distribution, shows that there are virtually no nodes in the country. Yes, Lagos leads the way in online BTC searches. But only a handful of people run actual Bitcoin nodes.

    This reticence for a broad-based adoption isn't entirely down to apathy toward the technology itself, but is, instead, a representation of the lack of proper infrastructure on which to support a vibrant digital economy. In a city that lacks constant electricity supply, the fact that people aren't running Bitcoin nodes hardly comes as a surprise.

    Concerning Bitcoin underutilization, Alagbe opined:

    “There’s still a whole of lot education that needs to go into helping people understand the relationships between Bitcoin (crypto) and its underlying Blockchain technology. However, the Nigerian market is likely to focus on crypto to the exclusion of other applications of Blockchain inasmuch for as long as there’s profit to be made in the speculative side of cryptocurrency.”

    Another startling indicator of Bitcoin underutilization in the city comes from the lack of retail acceptance of the cryptocurrency. While metropolitan areas in the United States, Europe and parts of Asia have increasingly seen more retail adoption of BTC as a payment means, Lagos rarely registers on the map, as indicated by Coinmap.

    The OneWattSolar COO highlights this same trend, declaring:

    “In my opinion, Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) is still seen as a speculative play to make quick gains. You can see people trading huge sums of Bitcoin on platforms such as Remitano but you’ll be hard pressed to find a business that accepts crypto as payment for products or services.”

    At the time of writing this article, Coinmap reports that there are more than 14,600 venues that accept Bitcoin payments across the globe. Only South Africa registers any significant BTC adoption in the retail scene as far as Africa is concerned.

    Once again, Nigeria risks falling behind the rest of the world in the race to embrace the emerging digital landscape. While other megacities obtain first-mover advantages in being at the forefront of the emerging digital revolution, either by ignorance or the absence of requisite basic infrastructure, Lagos continues only to associate with the basic aspects of BTC adoption.

    Bitcoin and the allure of get-rich-quick schemes

    Over the last decade-and-a-half, Nigeria has gained notoriety for being home to internet fraud. While this image continues to be inimical to the aspirations of honest and hardworking Nigerians, it has also contributed to many people casting a jaundiced glance in the direction of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.

    This situation hasn't been aided by the fact that BTC began to come into public consciousness after the debacle of the Russian Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM) scam. For the most part of 2016 and 2017, many characterized BTC as the "new MMM."

    In a private chat with Cointelegraph, Joseph Samuel, a blockchain analyst, web designer, and team leader at “Humane Love,” a Lagos-based charity project on the EOS blockchain spoke about how some Lagosians tend to conflate and confuse Bitcoin and MMM, saying:

    “Many Nigerians got to know about Bitcoin during the MMM Ponzi scam. As a result, they tend to see Bitcoin as another fraudulent investment scheme. However, with proper education, this misinformation can become a thing of the past.”

    In so doing, they missed out on the massive profits gained by early adopters during the late 2017 bull rally. With BTC almost eclipsing the $20,000 mark in late 2017, having begun the year trading below $1,000, the usual opportunists came out of hiding to evince designs of fraudulent schemes centered around Bitcoin.

    For Samuel, the city still has time to catch up to the rest of the world, declaring:

    “Lagos is a mega city filled with some of the smartest people in the world. Unfortunately, the fear of the unknown prevents many from adopting newer technological breakthroughs. Once they become more amenable to change and realize what Bitcoin represents, Lagos will become a major hub in the developing digital economy.”

    Organizations like the Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN) and the Nigerian Blockchain Alliance (NBA) have been at the forefront of combating cryptocurrency scams in Lagos and other parts of the country. Together, these institutions collaborate with agencies like the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF) to prevent the proliferation of Bitcoin-related criminal activity.

    Bitcoin and the 2016 recession

    Historical charts from Coin Dance shows a massive increase from 2016 in Bitcoin trading volume on Localbitcoins — a p2p BTC trading platform. This marked increase was no coincidence, as 2016 saw the country's economy go into its worst recession since 1987.

    Around that time, many local digital payment companies in the city also began to pivot to Bitcoin. New businesses also sprang up, offering avenues to purchase the cryptocurrency. Cointelegraph spoke with Adekemi Bitire, a marketing executive at IBIC Exchange, an over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin exchange in the Yaba area of Lagos, about the BTC adoption trend in the city. Bitire explained:

    "Over the course of my involvement in the Bitcoin OTC scene here in Lagos, I have observed an exponential increase in the number of people adopting BTC trading. More people are getting into the business, earning steady commissions, and improving their standard of living."

    Bitire elaborated on the expanding demographic of BTC adoption in the city:

    "Apart from university students and out-of-college freelancers, we are also seeing mid-level employees of companies in the city using Bitcoin as a way of creating another revenue stream to augment their monthly salaries."

    Bitcoin as an avenue of escaping weaponized poverty

    The present-day reality in Nigeria is one many believe is firmly entrenched in the weaponization of ignorance and poverty for the sole purpose of disenfranchising the majority. The ruling oligarchy, while enjoying the commonwealth of the people, propagates a message of "living within one's means," a euphemism, some say, for the glorification of poverty that simultaneously casts aspersions on the desire to achieve economic and financial emancipation.

    Within that alleged construct of this tyrannical state-sponsored weaponization of poverty lies a veritable tipping point for greater Bitcoin adoption in Lagos and other places in Nigeria. The core principle of BTC lies in libertarian ideals that are at odds with the socialist politics of mass economic disenfranchisement.

    Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that about 31 million of the country's population own bank accounts. Figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) show 83 million registered voters. The fact that the total addressable market for business in Nigeria is 63 percent less than the total number of eligible voters paints an alarming picture.

    Bitcoin is a multi-billion-dollar market that encompasses more than a cross-border payment system. It represents the ability to build a decentralized global market infrastructure free from censorship. Thus, there exist a myriad opportunities for greater BTC adoption in a mega city like Lagos.

    With such a high percentage of unbanked and underbanked people, especially in rural areas, increased BTC adoption presents a viable alternative to traditional banking services. Places in Southeast Asia that suffer from the same problem are already showing a considerable increase in cryptocurrency adoption.

    Greater emphasis on creating more user-friendly methods of making BTC payments could see the technology spread to rural areas where the people might not be as tech-savvy as their urban counterparts. The bulk of unbanked and underbanked people live in these impoverished, rural settlements, as it is in most other places in the world.

    Increased BTC adoption can help to create an expanded set of "means" within which ambitious and upwardly mobile people who pursue legitimate livelihoods can improve their standard of living. This outcome will, however, remain unattainable if the allure of BTC remains firmly rooted in the realms of being a "side hustle."

    Victor Alagbe of OneWattSolar encapsulates the need for a more broad-based approach to Bitcoin and blockchain technology in Lagos, Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, declaring:

    “I think the fact that the Nigerian market is interested in crypto is good for the eventual mainstream adoption of Blockchain technology. Blockchain introduces trust in inherently trustless environments such as ours; hence, when Blockchain-powered projects (DApps) that are not overly bundled with crypto hits the mass-market, they’ll probably be quick to gain traction.”

    There are far larger social and economic implications at play than Bitcoin as a dollar substitute. By creating useful technological and financial products and services centered on Bitcoin, the top-ranked cryptocurrency could potentially create far greater utility for Lagos — and Nigeria as a whole.


    Former Coinbase Exec Appointed Head of Sales and Marketing at Fidelity


    Digital assets trading and custody platform Fidelity Digital Assets has named a former Coinbase executive the head of Sales and Marketing, according to a press release published on April 10.

    Christine Sandler — who previously served as head of institutional sales at American major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase — has joined Fidelity as its head of Sales and Marketing. In this role, Sandler will reportedly lead the expansion of Fidelity Digital Assets into new markets, as well as take responsibility for institutional customers service.

    Sandler’s former experience also includes Head of Equity Electronic Sales for the Americas at Barclays Investment Bank, and Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sales for NYSE Euronext. She also served as Head of Electronic Sales at investing and wealth management firm Merrill Lynch and worked as a buy-side trader.

    Fidelity Digital Assets went live in the beginning of March, with a select group of clients. The company said then that “we are live with a select group of eligible clients and will continue rolling out slowly.”

    Fidelity Digital Assets head Tom Jessop said at the time that the company is still working on various parts of the platform. He noted that while some users have been on the platform since January, others may wait until September, as it “really depends on the facts and circumstances of each client.”

    Earlier today, Cointelegraph reported that Mike Blandina, a former engineering executive at PayPal and Google, has joined Bitcoin (BTC) trading and custody platform Bakkt as its chief product officer. Blandina will now lead the firm’s efforts to converge a trusted ecosystem for digital assets with payments use cases in order to help Bakkt bring real applications to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.