Crypto — Coming Into Its Own

By Jenny Shaver 

A look at indicators of industry maturity and assessing the right kind of investment risk.

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(This article is adapted from a keynote speech delivered at the April, 2019 Crypto Invest Summit.)

I often get asked, whether it’s by former colleagues, or people I meet at social events, or even my dad, “Why would people invest in crypto? It seems risky.”

Depending on your investment strategy, sure, it’s risky. But…it’s a different kind of risky than it was even two years ago.

So, what’s changed?

Crypto asset performance isn’t correlated to any other asset class. It doesn’t move with fiat inflation or commodities prices. It’s not tied to the performance of a company like a security. That inherently creates risk but also opportunity for significant gain. This is a risk that we as an industry weather and accept.

The perceived risk my dad is referencing has less to do with crypto asset volatility and more to do with the perception that the crypto industry reflects the lawless, undisciplined behavior and unbridled speculation akin to the caricature of the wild west.

This perception is inaccurate.

I was having a conversation with a colleague about this very topic and he said,

“Our industry isn’t in a state of chaos like The Wild West. Our industry is more analogous to The Space Race.”

John F. Kennedy said of The Space Race, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Blockchain technology attempts to solve previously unsolvable problems. The complexity of the technology and the nascent nature of the regulatory framework, requires new and emerging expertise. It requires risk takers to set new precedents.

This pursuit has resulted in a pouring in of talent and capital which have given rise to increasing competition and meaningful industry advances. We are seeing this manifest via several indicators of industry maturity.

Broader Adoption

Despite the crypto winter, or bear market, or whatever we want to call 2018, we saw a nearly doubling of the amount of individuals who hold crypto assets. A survey published by Forbes suggests that crypto holders are skewing older and more affluent than previously thought.

UTXO analysis conducted by Delphi Digital suggests that most crypto holders who held a position longer than five years largely sold off their holdings, partly contributing to the downturn, but clearing the way for new investors seeking engagement with new types of products.

From an institutional perspective, traditional financial services and crypto financial services are converging. We are seeing validation of crypto assets in traditional companies incorporating crypto services or blockchain infrastructure.

Institutional adoption also extends to partnerships and service providers for crypto companies. Just in the past 12 months, I have seen an increased willingness of vendors and service providers to work with crypto companies. Companies who were saying “no” to providing services for us 12 months ago, are now actively trying to work with us.

Compliance

US-based crypto companies have made significant strides to create risk and compliance programs that are comparable to traditional financial institutions.

This includes a robust KYC/AML program, customer data protection standards, SOC compliance, compliance monitoring of blockchain addresses, and dedicated resources to oversee compliance programs.

As our industry attempts to navigate its purpose of removing barriers for transferring value, even regulatory barriers, compliance programs at this stage of our industry maturity, are a necessary step for broader adoption and mitigation of regulatory risk.

Insurance

Insurance has been a hot topic as of late because it’s a relatively new advancement in our industry. But it’s meaningful.

The fact that insurance providers are willing to underwrite affordable insurance policies for crypto-specific operations is a strong indicator that we as an industry are demonstrating the safety of holding crypto assets.

I urge investors to ask critical questions about the specifics of insurance programs — the coverage amount, incidents covered, and the claims and payout process and timeline.

The good news is that as our industry continues to prove itself, the competition amongst insurance underwriters will increase, which, in turn, will drive down costs.

Market Data Integrity

Our industry is dealing with our own data integrity issues just like any other high volume, high velocity industry.

Recognizing these gaps and the dependence on reliable market data to drive participation, there has been a surge of data research companies dedicated to improving the quality of market data.

The recent incident of BitWise calling out CoinMarketCap for overstating trading volumes, is a great example of our industry’s maturity in this area.

This is significant not just because companies like BitWise are expending resources to conduct due diligence on our industry’s leading data providers, but also because of CoinMarketCap’s acceptance of accountability to address the issue and improve their product.

It demonstrates that we are holding ourselves to a higher standard, and that investors will have increasingly accurate sources of information to make informed decisions.

Response to Scalability Challenges

JPMorgan announced earlier this year that it is investing in its Quorum blockchain infrastructure to facilitate payments in a more efficient manner using its dollar-backed JPM Coin.

It’s currently being piloted with a few institutional clients but is promising to revolutionize their payment processing.

To realize this potential will require blockchains to dependably support concurrent transactions at a scale that is not yet possible, or at least not yet largely practiced and tested.

Our industry is investing significant resources to solve this problem, and promising solutions are surfacing.

A second layer protocol solution, Lightning Network, is perhaps the most exciting advancement in the race for scalability.

For crypto to deliver on its potential of revolutionizing the transfer of value on a global scale, it must rise to meet the challenges of scale.

We’re working on it.

More Sophisticated Investment Products

What I see as the most exciting indicator of market maturity is the increasing diversification of product offerings.

Interest-bearing accounts are seeing promising early performance, futures and options are now available on select exchanges, as is trading on margin, and ETFs are on the near-term horizon.

What I have seen is an industry response to the unique nature of crypto assets and the needs of crypto holders. In crypto lending, for example, simply offering a crypto-backed, USD loan, does not address all market uses cases.

If 2018 has taught us anything it’s that we need products that drive market engagement in both bear and bull markets.

Our industry now offers several ways for investors to participate — directly through investing in crypto assets, less directly by offering fiat capital pipelines for interest-based products, or indirectly through investing in the growth of crypto companies and projects.

These options are allowing for a wider breadth of investor participation with varying risk appetites.

I return to the question, “Is crypto investing risky?”

When we empower a company like Charles Schwab to manage our wealth portfolio, we know there is some risk in the investment strategy but we don’t worry about them losing or mismanaging our money.

There are enough responsible companies in the crypto industry that can provide the same amount of assurance about the handling of your crypto assets. I encourage investors to seek out reputable companies and ask tough questions about their operations due diligence. Watch how companies respond to industry incidents like a hack or key compromise event. Our industry is still young and we’re still learning our vulnerabilities. The good companies will have a disaster recovery procedure that cure customer losses.

We have seen what happens when more resources are deployed to our industry. The result is more talent, innovation, and increasing sophistication that results in better products and better opportunities for investors.

Everyone wins.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SALT Lending.

SALT Now Offers Loan-to-Value (LTV) Options Up to 70%

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We have increased our range of Loan-to-Value (LTV) options, allowing you to tailor the loan product that is right for you. In addition to our existing 30%, 40% and 50% LTV options, you can now select up to a 60% or 70% LTV, allowing you to unlock even more value from your crypto holdings.

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While starting your loan at 70% LTV means you need less loan collateral to get started, it may lead to higher risk for you as the borrower. This is why SALT has been focused on creating tools that allow you to manage the risks associated with your loan based on your own tolerance.

● Customizable notification system — When you sign up for a SALT account, you automatically receive email alerts about your account activity. From our website or mobile app, you can customize your notifications even further by opting in to calls, texts and/or push notifications.

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● Loan-to-Value (LTV) monitoring system — This near real-time system reports your loan health (in LTV) and portfolio value through the life of your loan. Even when you aren’t watching your portal for updates, our automated notification system helps keep you up-to-date via calls, texts and emails so you’re alerted during volatile market conditions.

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● Mobile app — Our mobile app allows you to register for an account, monitor your collateral and loan status, and deposit or withdraw assets.

Download the app for iOS and Android.

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● TrueUSD and USDC — With the recent addition of these stablecoins to our accepted collateral types, you can stabilize your LTV at anytime by transferring TrueUSD, USDC, or a combination of the two directly to your account — even on nights, weekends and holidays.

SALT Expands Lending Opportunities to Businesses in Australia

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Having participated this week in the ADC Global Blockchain Summit held in conjunction with the South Australian Government and the Australian Digital Commerce Association (ADCA) in Adelaide, SALT is actively incorporating its technology services into the burgeoning Australian market. With a particular focus on strategies and practical applications for business growth via blockchain technologies and systems, SALT spoke to the Summit’s key topics from experience intersecting business, public policy, and the regulatory environment.

Australia has demonstrated a keen interest in developing its blockchain industry. The Ministry for Industry, Science and Technology today announced a blockchain roadmap with AU$100,000 in federal funding for “regulation, skills and capacity building, innovation, investment, and international competitiveness and collaboration.” Working directly with blockchain businesses at the ADC Summit, SALT is deploying its Software as a Service packages, which allow traditional companies to easily add cryptocurrency and blockchain offerings into their product portfolio including lending technology, wallets, monitoring, and blockchain analysis. With Australia’s continued commitment to developing blockchain services responsibly, SALT looks forward to working with interested parties and stakeholders across the Australian market to bring their vision into reality.

Crypto companies looking for extra liquidity to expand their businesses, such as exchanges or mining companies, can join SALT and apply for a crypto-backed loan.

As SALT continues to grow, we remain focused on further expanding our technology products, allowing both crypto and traditional companies to integrate blockchain services into their software stacks.

SALT at ETHDenver 2019

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As SALT has developed the technology necessary to support our lending business, we have opted to build a lot of our supporting services in house. As you scoff at why we wouldn’t just buy something off the shelf, remember how new the blockchain ecosystem is relative to other industries. We like to think we’re rational and always properly weigh our buy vs build options. After exploring the options, and in some cases buying them (much to our dismay), we’ve had to rely primarily on our talented dev team to build the systems, services and applications necessary to run our business.

Through many conversations with other blockchain companies, we have come to understand that some of these services would be valuable to helping build their business. Our first effort at separating a service and making it available to the public was a blockchain address and transaction monitoring service called Meerkat. You know, because Meerkats are always on alert.

The service allows anyone to subscribe (and unsubscribe) to specific Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum (plus all ERC-20) blockchain addresses and transactions. Once you subscribe to a given address (or multiple addresses), you’re notified via your provided callback URL of transactions in or out of the address you’re watching. Subsequently, you can subscribe to a transaction so that you can be notified of its status updates (detected, mined, confirmed, etc).

To put this effort to the test, we chose to offer a $5000 prize at the 2019 ETHDenver Buidlathon (hackathon) for the best use of the Meerkat service.

There were some really creative submissions and we’re grateful that teams thought something we’d built could be useful to their project.

Ultimately, we picked Charity Watchdog as the winner because it supports the open and transparent ideals inherent to cryptocurrency. Their idea gives users the power and insight to choose whether or not to support a particular charitable organization. This is cryptocurrency at its finest. We hope Charity Watchdog continues their endeavor to bring transparency to charity spending. Below are some additional details about their project and a few other teams we want to give a shoutout to for creatively using Meerkat to BUIDL their project.

Thank you to each team for all of the creativity, hours and effort you put into leveraging Meerkat for your projects. We’ll see you all next year! In the meantime, keep watching via www.meerkat.watch.

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Director of Product Experience Rob Odell answers buidler/hacker questions at the SALT table at ETHDenver.

SALT’S CHOSEN WINNER:

Project: Charity Watchdog

Team: Artem Kuznetsov, Peter Gao

Description: Charities are traditionally opaque with their spendings, with donors not knowing exactly where their money is being spent.

With Charity Watchdog, we bring accountability and transparency to charity spends by watching the transactions of charity wallets, and prompting the charities to provide receipt or some form of documentation as to where the money was spent within a grace period.

Any charity that is on the platform and does not provide proof of fund usage will be flagged for donor review. This gives users insight into charity spending and they can choose whether or not to support the charity based on its spending, proof of usage, or lack thereof. This helps put donors more in control.

How they used the Meerkat API: Charity Watchdog used Meerkat to watch and update their app as transactions were sent to various charities. It was the key component in being able to notify users in the app that a charity has spent funds. It’s then the charities’ responsibility to add the supporting evidence for transparency.

OTHER NOTABLE PROJECTS:

Project: Shares

Team: Mark Evans Josh Robinson

Description: Shares seeks to demystify the stock issuance process for startups by facilitating the creation and issuance of uncertificated shares in the form of ERC-20 tokens. You don’t need paper certificates, a spreadsheet, or a lawyer. Just five minutes and a wallet address!

The project used IPFS for hosting the dApp portion of Shares, which is responsible for creating an ERC-721 token (one per company) that represents ownership of their domain on DwNS (Decentralized Web Naming System) and provides an easy-to-remember URL (ex. acme.shares.dwns.io). Uncertificated shares are subsequently minted through an ERC-20 contract and are sent to a user-designated Ethereum address. The view layer for the dApp was made using VueJS. For the web app portion, they used NodeJS and Express and connected to the Twilio and Meerkat APIs.

How they used the Meerkat API: Shares combined Twilio and Meerkat to notify users via text message when shares were moved from a contract. The team passed the phone number into the callback URL so that any transaction alerts on the security contract would get sent via text message — an instant way to alert users of activity.

Project: ETH Dev Tools

Team: Aidan Musnitzky, Billy Rennekamp, Theo Ephraim

Description: ETH Dev tools is a chrome developer tools extension that acts like a swiss-army knife for dApp developers and curious users. The extension appears in a chrome inspector tab and comes with various modules that introspect the current dApp you’re using. The plugin is easily extensible for additional tools but already comes with four fully functional modules:

Logs — A network inspector that shows logs and details of all network interactions between your dApp and your RPC endpoint via the web3.js provider including request timing, parameter inputs and return values.

ABI Explorer — This section keeps a list of all contracts the dApp has loaded and scaffolds boilerplate forms based on the ABIs of those contracts. The auto-generated UI gives you access to all contract methods ready to be queried with calls and sends — this is similar to what’s possible with Remix or a verified contract on Etherscan, but without the context switching or compilation.

GraphQL Explorers — A GraphQL explorer that comes pre-populated with Infura’s EthQL endpoints as well as all of the most popular The Graph subgraphs including Uniswap, ENS, Dharma and others. These endpoints come with sample queries ready to ping all the most relevant and highly available content. There’s also the option to add a custom endpoint for easy access to any other available datasets.

Watcher — A tool for monitoring activity on any wallet address or contract. This service is provided by a websocket proxy listening for webhooks from SALT’s Meerkat. It’s easy to subscribe or unsubscribe to this data with a simple UI and websocket support from an Heroku instance.

How they used the Meerkat API: The ETH Dev Tools team creatively added Meerkat to their ETH dev tools chrome extension to more easily help dApp developers subscribe (or unsubscribe) to an address or a transaction right from their browser. For dApp developers, this helps speed up the troubleshooting process when trying to monitor and notify users of address activity.

Project: Balanced Crypto Portfolios with built-in investment capabilities automation

Team: Anibal Catalan, Leonardo Lower, Manuel Garcia

Description: Automated balanced portfolios hedged against DAI with investment capabilities to get returns from loans repayments from AAVE.

Hedge your crypto portfolio and lower overall risk due to volatility and correlation behavior by moving out part of it into a stable asset: MakerDAO DAI.

Build a balanced portfolio, they will rebalance it for you.

Don’t stop there, invest some DAI into a fund which will invest by funding loans in EthLend based on clear rules (eg.: amount, duration, MPR, LTV, etc).

Get returns from the loans repayments.

We provide you with bots and brokers that will take care of rebalancing and investing on the right loans.

How they used the Meerkat API: This team used Meerkat to subscribe and monitor wallet activity. This is fundamentally important for projects in the #DeFi, or decentralized finance, space as the main pillars of this movement are accessibility, financial inclusion and transparency. Meerkat makes it possible for users to be notified of all payout and rebalancing activity.

Project: Battle Bombers

Team: Franky Aguilar, Mark Pereira, Drew Harding

Description: Taking the mobile crypto experience to where it should be.

The makers behind Battle Bombers are taking the concept of mobile-first crypto applications to users and developers. Battle Bombers uses an architecture that accesses the full native extensions in mobile ecosystems, which really stretches the capabilities of cryptocurrency on mobile. This application shows that app developers and designers will be able to fully express their creative abilities on mobile platforms without restriction.

How they used the Meerkat API: This team was able to use Meerkat to provide their users of push notifications with an alert regarding activity on specific addresses associated with the games they were playing on their phones. Once alerted of activity on an address, Battle Bombers sends that alert to the user in the form of a push notification.

Project: ETHBackpack Team: Josh Forman, Peter Hendrick, Ron Stoner, Sean Martin

Description: Live, on main-net chain, IT certifications and degrees. Show you have certificates such as CCNA, AWS Certificate, Certified Bitcoin Professional with an ETH Wallet address.

ETHBackpack can allow companies that distribute professional certificates on the Ethereum blockchain. Contract deployed on main net.

Individuals seeking employment or contract work can show their credentials in a public, verifiable way. Employers seeking to hire professionals could potentially search for applicants that have the certifications they’re looking for and verify such certifications.

How they used the Meerkat API: This team used Meerkat to notify users and watchers of a specific address that it had been updated with a new certification or degree.

SALT is Now Natively Supported on KeepKey Hardware Wallets

 

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SALT is a big fan of the KeepKey hardware wallet, and when we released our SALT-branded versions a couple of months ago, they sold out in minutes. 

With a recent firmware update and the updated production client available on the Chrome store, KeepKey now natively supports SALT ERC-20 digital assets, which means that it’s now even easier to send SALT onto your account, receive it from your account or exchange up to 30 other tokens or supported cryptocurrencies to purchase memberships with our blockchain-backed loan platform.

This integration should prove to be simpler for users, who may be using digital wallets that are less intuitive, this integration simplifies things for users of one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency hardware wallets.

Ken Hodler, CTO of KeepKey said about this integration — “We couldn’t be more excited about natively supporting thirty ERC-20 digital assets, including SALT, our first-ever white-label partner. Users can securely send and receive SALT Memberships directly on their SALT branded KeepKey. Any user not holding SALT can easily use our ShapeShift integration to convert their current digital assets into SALT. We are elated to have this partnership with SALT, an innovative and industry leading lending company.”

We will be releasing additional information on Medium over the coming weeks, and if you want to stay up to date with all things SALT, our website offers the ability to contact the SALT Team directly for any questions or concerns. Also, you can engage with us via social media by following us on Twitter @SaltLending, visit our SALT Lending Facebook page, or subscribe to our YouTube channel. You can also join our decentralized community partners by participating in SALT’s Telegram and Discord channels, as well as our main subreddit.

The first card that lets you use
your crypto for everyday purchases,
without selling any of it.

The first card that lets you use
your crypto for everyday purchases,
without selling any of it.