A CBDC Crash Course: Can sovereign-focused digital currencies become a monetary reality?

By Rob Odell

Article originally published on ValueWalk

China’s central banking system officially launched large-scale testing of what could be the world’s first digital sovereign currency. The People’s Bank of China, the nation’s central bank, is working with main banks in major cities, with a focus on digitizing the renminbi. During this trial, users register their mobile phone numbers for access to digital wallets. Through that access, they can use digital currency, issued by the central bank, to withdraw and transfer money, and to pay bills.

If this test is successful, it means that China could be one of the first countries to develop and maintain central banking digital currency, or CBDC. But China’s move toward CBDC doesn’t necessarily mean that other countries’ central banking systems will, or can, automatically follow. Moving an economy from bills and coins — whether physical or virtual — to 100% digitization isn’t something a country just does. Furthermore, there is the question of whether central banks can — or should — work directly with consumers and businesses, in direct competition with commercial and investment banks.

As such, the CBDC reality is a few years away.

Defining Digital Currency And Central Banks

Mention the words “digital currency” and the first thought that might come to mind is Bitcoin.

Certainly, Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies are digitized value exchanges, which can be used to buy goods and services. But cryptocurrencies and central banking digital currencies are two very different sides of the digital coin. While cryptocurrencies are privately developed and distributed, CBDCs are government-backed sovereign currency systems, complete with appropriate denominations. In other words, think digitized fiat currency, overseen by the central banks.

Much like cryptocurrencies, however, CBDCs are recorded on digital ledgers, which keep track of ownership and transactions by users with ledger accounts. But unlike cryptocurrencies, these ledgers would be overseen by central banks, which would also issue the currencies and process transactions.

Speaking of central banks, these institutions have big-picture monetary goals for the nations in which they operate. The above-mentioned People’s Bank of China, as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Deutsche Bundesbank, and others are responsible for national monetary policies. They also deal with the nation’s commercial and investment banks, as lenders of last resort. They aren’t in business to work with consumers or businesses.

Just because central banking systems don’t work on the commercial level, it doesn’t mean they haven’t. In writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), economists Michael Bordo and Andrew Levin pointed out that central banks’ histories are filled with examples of interactions with consumers and businesses, and “often, these activities were considered more important for the central banks than the conduct of monetary policy, both in terms of daily operations and the priorities of top management.”

For example, the Bank of England conducted general business and consumer banking activities during the 17th and 18th centuries. And, in the United States, a highly successful post office savings bank system operated from 1911 through 1967, using the post office network to offer government-backed deposit accounts and other financial services. In many cases, postal banking performed central banking functions — such as funding two world wars — before the Federal Reserve stepped in to determine national monetary policy.

Digital Sovereign Currency Structure: The Theory…

Researchers and scholars have been pondering the idea of centralized digital currencies for a few years. The most recent study along these lines was released in June 2020 by the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia, and entitled “Central Banking Digital Currency: Central Banking for All?” Led by University of Pennsylvania economist, Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, the authors explored whether a central bank, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve, could successfully implement a 100% digital sovereign currency structure, which could realistically compete with commercial financial institutions without too much disruption.

The authors determined that, in theory, and absent any kind of financial panic, a digital conduit between central banks and consumers might be effective in optimizing fund allocations. Furthermore, a direct-to-consumer sovereign digital currency could help streamline and potentially eliminate current time-consuming and costly payment systems.

Bardon and Levin also suggest that central banking systems could offer digital currencies to the general public through specially designated accounts, opened in partnership with commercial banks. The banks could keep corresponding amounts of commercial funds in segregated reserve accounts at the central banks. Furthermore, setting up a CBDC infrastructure would be a straightforward process. Thanks to the internet, brick-and-mortar branches wouldn’t be necessary.

So, in theory, a CBDC is workable.

Now, The Reality…

China is pushing ahead to set up the first bona fide, workable CBDC. Meanwhile, other central banking systems, including the Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank, are working with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) on additional CBDC research.

But the BIS cautions that jumping on the CBDC bandwagon right now will mean bumps in the road, mostly in the forms of security, convenience and accessibility. The current coins-and-bills banking system has sophisticated infrastructures in place to handle peak demands for money, and can support potential bank runs. Then, there are the questions about privacy and potential data breaches. Take for example, a situation in which the Federal Reserve issues $1 million to an individual’s stablecoin address. That individual then spends $100 from the same address at an online retailer.

Right now, with the way most blockchain technology functions, that retailer can look at that stablecoin address and see without question that there is nearly $1 million in the account. Cryptocurrency proves that while blockchain technology is great for anonymity, it is far from private. We must find a way to bring the same level of privacy to CBDCs as we currently experience with traditional banking, so that it is both private and public in all of the right ways. Until then, CBDC will likely remain more of a futuristic vision than become a reality.

And, from a larger-picture perspective, Fernández-Villaverde and his colleagues caution that the move to CBDCs could give central banking systems monopoly power, siphoning business away from commercial banks. Commercial and investment banks are set up to support maturity transformation — in other words, using consumer and business deposits for longer-term loans, such as mortgages. Central banks don’t have the capacity to do this; such a lack could be dangerous to economic policies.

Keeping It Cash … For Now

Though the Chinese central bank is experimenting with sovereign-backed digital currency and centralized ledgers, the CBDC concept isn’t close to implementation. Even China is phasing in CBDC very slowly. Coins and bills will be with us for a while longer, at least until security, accessibility and privacy issues — not to mention potential monopolization scenarios — can be worked out.

Still, the increasing use of cryptocurrency continues to prove that digital mediums of exchange are workable. As the People’s Bank of China continues working with sovereign-backed digital exchanges, other central banks will likely examine their own regulatory, legal and technical risks to determine the feasibility of CBDCs.

Halve you heard? Your Guide to Bitcoin Halving Events

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While the world’s fiat currencies suffer from inflation as governments print more money to manage the COVID-19 crisis, Bitcoin, by design, is becoming more deflationary with each block confirmation. This is because Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto intended for Bitcoin to be the antithesis of government-controlled fiat currencies: “The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work,” wrote Satoshi in a post on the P2P Foundation Forum, “The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.” In the post, dated February 11, 2009, Satoshi announces the creation of Bitcoin (along with a link to the earlier published white paper) and details its characteristics that make it anything but conventional. Among these characteristics is the fact that “everything is based on crypto proof instead of trust.”

In creating Bitcoin as a decentralized, trustless system, Satoshi ensured that it could not fall victim to the “breaches of trust” and inflation experienced throughout the history of fiat currencies. Unlike fiat currencies that are controlled and manipulated by governments and central authorities, Bitcoin follows a strict set of rules that have been embedded into its codebase or “monetary policy” since its inception. These rules include a hard supply limit of 21 million coins, the last of which will be mined around the year 2140. Currently, more than 87 percent of the 21 million bitcoin have been mined, meaning there are approximately 3 million remaining coins to be mined over the course of the next 120 years. The speed at which new bitcoin is mined and distributed is controlled by 30 precoded “halving” or “halvening” events (our Twitter followers prefer “halving”, so we’ll go with that from now on) that will take place every 210,000 blocks or about every four years until the last bitcoin is mined. In 2008 the block reward for miners was 50 newly minted bitcoin for each validated block. Following the first halving event in 2012, the block reward reduced by 50 percent to 25 bitcoin per validated block and then reduced by another 50 percent to 12.5 bitcoin following the second halving event in 2016. 2020 marks the year for the third halving event in which the block reward will be reduced to 6.25 bitcoin per validated block.

While we don’t know the exact date of the halving event (more on this below), we know it is fast approaching and is set to occur sometime this month. There’s been a lot of anticipatory chatter about the halving as people question and speculate on how it will (or will not) impact everything from the price of bitcoin to profitability and participation of miners in the network.

We’ve compiled what we consider to be the best available resources for understanding the Bitcoin 2020 Halving event and answering some of the most common questions around it.

When will the halving occur?

The answer to this question is contingent on the speed at which new blocks are created. Given the average block time is around 10 minutes and a halving event takes place every 210,000 blocks, the halving is estimated to occur on or around May 11. While there are various countdown resources that estimate within a day of one another, our favorites are the Bitcoin Halving Countdown from CoinMarketCap and the Bitcoin Clock, which “uses data from BTC.com to get the average block time for the past two months. It then uses this block time (currently 10.3125 minutes between blocks as of March 25, 2020) to estimate the halving date.”

Tell me more about the halving. What is it exactly? What is the intention behind it?

Whether you’re new to crypto or you’ve been in the game for years, we can all use a bit of a refresher when it comes to the halving event. If you’re new to crypto, we recommend starting with this video from We Use Coins regarding the need for Bitcoin and this video from CryptoCasey, which provides a straightforward explanation of blockchain technology, mining, and the upcoming bitcoin halving event. For a more humorous take on the benefits of “the currency of the future,” check out this video from Cameralla Comedy.

Running short on time? Try this episode of the 4-Minute Crypto Show, which offers a speedy, yet thorough explanation of halving events.

If you’re already familiar with the crypto basics and want more detail on the halving, this article from CoinDesk is an excellent resource. Not only does it include an illustrative explainer video that breaks down and simplifies the process, but the article also dives into:

  • the economic reasoning behind Satoshi’s decision to build the halving events into Bitcoin’s code

For additional info on previous halving events and miners’ roles in the network, Michael Sweeney from The Block provides a solid explanation in his analysis, “The bitcoin halving: what it is and why it matters.”

Interested in learning more about the economics behind Bitcoin’s monetary policy? Take a look at this article from The Block’s Mike Orcutt or this guide from Block Geeks that provides a crash course on supply and demand, inflation, deflation, and market cap as it relates to bitcoin, as well as how incentivization for miners fits into the equation. Or if you really want to get into it, Bitcoin Magazine’s Peter C. Earle explains why the 2020 halving is particularly important. He calls out the difference between the old and modern definitions of inflation, noting that in the context of the modern definition which refers to “an increase in general price levels within an economy,” the fact that “with increasing value one bitcoin buys more over time, it is indisputably deflationary.”

“What’s noteworthy about this point, Earle writes, “is that, upon this particular halving, Bitcoin ‘inflating’ at a roughly 1.8 percent rate annually will nominally — and by then, quite possibly in real terms — be ‘inflating’ at a rate lower than both the Federal Reserve target of 2 percent per year and current, CPI-based estimates of real U.S. inflation of 1.9 percent annually.”

Tell me more about the miners. How will it impact who is currently mining and who will continue to profit? Will the halving result in mining eventually becoming monopolized?

Andreas Antonopoulos tackles these questions in this short video clip and notes that we don’t need to be concerned about the monopolization of mining because the amount of profit a miner generates is not contingent on the size of their mining facility but on the smoothness of their mining operation. So while there are multiple factors that play into whether a mining operation is profitable, larger operations do not necessarily have an advantage over smaller ones. Rather, it’s all about efficiency. “Halving will increase competition in mining,” he says, and in general it will be the least efficient miners that become less profitable.

Similarly, in an interview with Anthony Pompliano the CEO of Blockware Solutions Matt D’Souza states, “The efficient miner should not fear the halving, they should welcome it.” Why? D’Souza notes that “once we go through halving the miners’ revenue is going to get slashed in half” and we’re going to experience what he considers to be “a healthy cleanse of the network.” He predicts that if the bitcoin price is still at $8k or lower going into the halving, we may experience “extreme miner capitulation” where we may see up to 40 percent of the network shutting off due to high energy costs and reliance on outdated mining equipment. He notes that as these inefficient miners begin to pull out of the network following the halving, there will be an adjustment period from May to July as the network undergoes these changes. At that point, difficulty will kick in and margins will improve for those miners who are still in the game. “Mining is about survivability,” says D’Souza, “You just need to survive. If you survive, difficulty will adjust in the future and it’s going to improve your margins because the people that are inefficient… their bitcoin is going to go to you.”

What happens to miners once all of the bitcoin has been mined and there are no more block rewards?

After the final halving event takes place and the 21 millionth bitcoin is mined sometime in 2140 miners will no longer receive block rewards, but they will still collect transaction fees just as they do currently. While we don’t know for sure how miners will react once we reach this point, according to Adam Barone in his article published on Investopedia, “Even when the last bitcoin has been produced, miners will likely continue to actively and competitively participate and validate new transactions. The reason is that every bitcoin transaction has a small transaction fee attached to it. These fees, while today representing a few hundred dollars per block, could potentially rise to many thousands of dollars or more per block as the number of transactions on the blockchain grows and as the price of a bitcoin rises. Ultimately, it will function like a closed economy where transaction fees are assessed much like taxes.”

What about the bitcoin price? How will it be impacted by the halving event?

The short answer is that there is no shortage of predictions.*

To quote Antonopoulos regarding his thoughts on price predictions: “I think it’s mostly irresponsible to make predictions about price. It’s the same as astrology and reading tea leaves.” While we agree with him on this sentiment, many people in the cryptosphere have openly made predictions about what will happen to the price of bitcoin following the 2020 halving. So, if you’re one for speculation or you just find it fun to read about people’s theories and want to be aware of what some of the most well-known people in the industry are saying, here are a few links for you to check out:

How can I watch the halving event?

For the previous halvings, it was fairly common for people to throw watch parties to celebrate the halving event. Now with current social distancing measures in place, in-person parties are being replaced by live streams. Our pick for how to watch and celebrate the 2020 Halving is Bitcoin Magazine’s 21-hour Live Stream for which they’ll be sharing updates across their social channels regarding exact timing, but you can track their countdown here.

*This content is meant to educate and inform but should not be taken as financial or investment advice. Trading and investing in cryptocurrencies (also called digital or virtual currencies, cryptoassets, altcoins and so on) involves substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for every investor.

March Update from SALT

In case you’re not a subscriber to our newsletter, we want to share some of our favorite highlights from March right here on our blog to help keep you up to date on all things SALT. Image for post

Need something new to binge watch?

Catch up on Season 2 of Worth Your SALT to see our discussions with industry leaders including Bill Barhydt, Shira Frank, David Chaum, and many more.


CoinTelegraph: French Court Moves the BTC Chess Piece — How Will Regulators Respond?

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“France is the 7th largest economy in the world by GDP, so it certainly is likely to influence other markets, especially in the EU, initially. In such a new and emerging market and technology like Bitcoin, regulators around the world do look to how other countries’ regulators are viewing cryptocurrencies. So, any ruling France makes will be closely observed by regulators worldwide.”

— Rob Odell, co-president and chief product officer, SALT

For full text article, click here.


Crypto Chat: Q&A with Dustin Hull, Co-President & CFO, SALT

Image for post As one of Cadence’s latest originator partners, we sat down with Brian Guerra of Cadence to discuss SALT’s business and how we’re able to contribute to Cadence’s efforts to give investors exposure to private credit assets linked to cryptocurrency. For full Q&A, click here.

Finance Magnates: Coronavirus & Crypto Lending: Could the Crisis Bring New Clients?

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“Crypto-backed lenders are likely faring better than other crypto businesses during the global pandemic, as they offer a way for crypto holders to get cash without having to sell their cryptoassets.”

— Rob Odell, co-president and chief product officer, SALT

For full text article, click here.


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Uphold and SALT Announce Platform Integration to Seamlessly Connect 1.65M Uphold Users to SALT’s Crypto-Backed Loans

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We’re excited to announce our partnership with Uphold — the leading digital money platform democratizing access to investments and payments using blockchain technology — to provide Uphold users with seamless cash or stablecoin loans using cryptocurrencies as collateral. Uphold users can now secure loans through SALT in as little as 24-hours against their holdings in Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and as of today, XRP. The integration of the two platforms provides enhanced access to liquidity, enabling users to unlock additional value in their holdings.

In addition to bringing leading credit solutions to Uphold users, we’ve integrated Uphold wallets into our platform, allowing the company’s large and rapidly growing user base to access Uphold’s products through their dashboard. The integration streamlines the lending experience for shared users through seamless collateral transfers and loan proceed payouts.

“SALT has given its users the flexibility to access loans using their cryptocurrency holdings. Our integration with the SALT platform allows us to grow our service offering and provides another real-world use case for Uphold members,” said Robin O’Connell, Chief Revenue Officer, Uphold.

With a crypto-backed loan from SALT, Uphold users can unlock liquidity from their crypto assets without having to sell them. Unlike traditional financial institutions, we allow customers to use their crypto assets as collateral to secure a cash (USD) or stablecoin loan in as little as 24 hours, providing them with the opportunity to reach their personal financial goals including but not limited to funding a large purchase, consolidating debt, or accessing working capital to scale their business.

When applying for a loan through SALT, Uphold users can customize their loan by choosing their preferred loan type, loan amount, duration, and Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio with options ranging from 30%-70%. There are no credit or income checks required and no origination or prepayment fees. With a crypto-backed loan from SALT, Uphold users can keep their crypto and get cash.

“Uphold has built an impressive platform that provides a seamless on-ramp into the digital economy and a simple method to transact across diverse asset classes. We’re excited to bring our leading crypto-credit products to Uphold’s global customer base and enhance our borrower experience through a direct integration with Uphold wallets on our platform,” added Jarrett Abraham, Director of Corporate Development, SALT. “Together, we’ll provide ultimate flexibility for crypto holders who need access to liquidity across a range of crypto assets and fiat currencies. This is an exciting strategic partnership for us that helps further our mission to accelerate the world’s ability to embrace crypto assets and participate in the token economy.”

About Uphold Uphold is a digital money platform democratizing access to investments and payments using blockchain technology. With more than 1.5 million users globally, Uphold has powered ~$5.3bn in transactions (9/30/19). Uphold provides both retail customers and businesses worldwide with easy access to fiat and digital currencies, as well as precious metals. The San Francisco based firm is opening up global access to financial services that are either ‘hard to reach’ or simply not available in certain regions. Available through the web, iOS, and Android, Uphold is the only financial platform to publish its reserve holdings in real time. The company also has offices in New York, Portugal and London. More information can be found at www.uphold.com, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Uphold is registered with Fincen in the United States and is an EMD agent of an FCA licensed e-money institution in Europe. Uphold is not a lender, loan broker, or loan arranger and is not offering anyone advice or assistance in obtaining a loan.

SALT Adds Newly Released PAX Gold as Collateral Option in First Regulated Gold-backed Blockchain Asset

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We’re proud to announce that beginning October 1, 2019, we will offer the just released PAX Gold (PAXG) as our latest collateral type for clients seeking to use their digital assets as collateral to secure a USD loan. PAX Gold, an asset-backed digital token on the Ethereum blockchain is Paxos’ first blockchain asset to represent precious metal; its value is tied directly to the spot price of gold quoted by the London gold market.

By tokenizing gold, Paxos is bringing the benefits of physical gold ownership to the cryptocurrency community. PAX Gold is built as an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain network. As a digital representation of physical gold, PAX Gold has the potential to increase the overall liquidity of gold by connecting traditional markets with cryptocurrency markets.

“Precious metals are ideal for tokenization. Gold, as an example, has well-established institutional physical custody and a broad base of investors familiar with the asset class,” said Jenny Shaver, Chief Operating Officer at SALT. “Gold has traditionally been held as a hedge against inversely correlated assets like stocks and fiat currency, so it provides digital token holders with familiar asset diversification options. By offering PAX Gold as our newest collateral type, we’re adding value for our customers by combining the benefits of gold investing with easy access to funds via crypto-backed lending.”

With the addition of PAXG, SALT customers will not only have a wider variety of collateral options, but by using PAXG as their primary collateral, they will be able to maintain a more stable Loan-to-Value Ratio for the duration of their loan.

Founded in 2012, Paxos is a regulated financial institution with a suite of products including the most traded alternative USD-backed stablecoin, the PAX Standard. By integrating PAX Gold as the first widely available physical asset available on a blockchain, we’re taking a step toward realizing our financial vision of a blockchain-based system where the value of traditional assets can be unlocked and used in manifold ways.

“PAX Gold is the first regulated digital asset that allows holders to own the underlying physical gold,” said Scott Simpson, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Paxos. “Unlike fiat currencies, gold has intrinsic value and Paxos allows users to physically redeem their PAX Gold tokens for actual gold. With PAX Gold, people can more easily access this market and with SALT, customers can easily leverage gold like never before.”

“We as a community have been discussing the tokenization of commodities for quite a few years, but Paxos has been the first to make it a reality by representing gold on the blockchain. This is a big step forward for the crypto industry. This brings a new level of transparency to traditional investors by enabling them to see their physical gold represented on the Ethereum blockchain, meaning they can immediately verify ownership,” said Rob Odell VP of Product and Marketing for SALT. “SALT is proud to be a part of this advancement by offering PAXG as a collateral option for crypto-backed loans. Not only does it invite traditional investors to become SALT customers, but it will enable us to be more flexible and creative with our LTV options and loan terms. In fact, if we see significant demand for this product, I think SALT is prepared to re-evaluate our interest rate calculator and open the doors to LTV options as high as 85%.”

Gold has historically been a popular store of value, with the price of Gold increasing by an average of 10% per year since President Nixon took the US Dollar off the gold standard in 1971. With a worldwide market capitalization above $3 trillion, gold is physically scarce, widely traded and offers high liquidity — three key factors that make it not only a viable asset to lend against, but a salient collateral choice for us. Given the current instability in the bond and currency markets, gold’s long-term returns are more comparable to stocks and higher than bonds or commodities.

With the addition of PAX Gold, we now offer loans collateralized by Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, Dash, DOGE, BCH, PAX Standard, USDC, and USDT.

Introducing “Worth Your SALT,” Discussions with Industry Leaders that are Worth Your Time

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Innovative industries are driven by innovative minds. There’s an array of knowledge within the blockchain ecosystem and here at SALT, we believe highlighting different understandings and perspectives can only facilitate growth within our industry. With this in mind, we’re excited to release our newest video series “Worth Your SALT,” a platform dedicated to interviewing industry leaders and trailblazers currently shaping the way we think about technology. Hosted by SALT Co-Founder Caleb Slade, these segments feature thought-provoking discussions that uncover the stories behind these crypto pioneers and explores their vision for solving problems that aren’t yet fully understood.

In the first episode of “Worth Your SALT” we had the chance to sit down with Shira Frank, Co-Founder of Maiden — an industry-backed lab for universal blockchain education and research — to discuss the importance of humanizing blockchain. Throughout the discussion, Shira tells us about her unique background that has led her to focus on the intersection of ethics/awareness and technology. She leaves us pondering the complex relationship humans have with technology: we constantly think about the ways we’ve shaped and evolved technology, but have we ever truly thought about how it’s shaping and evolving us?

Watch the full-length version to hear more from Shira Frank on the social complexities of advancing technologies.

We’ll be releasing new episodes of “Worth Your SALT” in the coming weeks to highlight perspectives from various areas of the blockchain/crypto industry. Upcoming episodes will feature thought leaders including David Chaum, Jeff Berwick, and Paul Puey, among others.

Missed an episode? You can find the short and full-length versions here. New episodes can also be found on our Twitter and YouTube channels.

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 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 Looking Forward to Meeting You at EthDenver 2019!

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SALT is proud to sponsor and participate in EthDenver 2019. Not only is the conference right here in our own backyard, but it’s one of the largest crypto gatherings in the world. It’s inspiring to see creators, developers, and crypto enthusiasts come together to hack and build something great — EthDenver creates an opportunity for that.

We know that some of the brightest people from across the globe — including Andreas Antonopoulos — will attend this year’s event and we’re excited to meet you all, especially those of you who we think could be excellent additions to the SALT team.

Speaking of the team, we’re excited to have multiple representatives from SALT partake in everything from speaking to judging to hacking. SALT’s co-founder and Chief Knowledge Officer Caleb Slade will be sharing his perspective and experience in the crypto lending industry on a panel titled, “Banking without Banks: Loans on the Blockchain.” He’ll also be serving as one of the judges for EthDenver’s Open track. Additionally, members of SALT’s developer team will have a strong presence at this year’s event. While some of them will be participating in the #BUIDLATHON, others will be judging SALT’s bounty project (stay tuned for details!).

Have we convinced you to join us? Maybe we have, maybe we haven’t — we’ll be there Ether way!

To learn more about SALT, visit saltlending.com, or to check out our newest product launch, visit www.meerkat.watch. If you have questions or would like to connect before, during, or after the event, shoot us an email at [email protected]

Our Two Satoshis on the 10th Anniversary of Bitcoin

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Ten years ago today Satoshi Nakamoto announced his vision to change the world. This vision came via the Bitcoin White paper, which defined Bitcoin as “A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” Since the publishing of the white paper, Bitcoin has completely revolutionized the way we think about the world — not only in how the world works today, but in how it can work in the future.

As we acknowledge the tenth anniversary of Satoshi’s white paper, we at SALT are proud to not only be contributors to the blockchain space, but to be among those working to advance the capabilities of humanity via blockchain. Ten years later and Satoshi’s work is still inspiring people throughout the world — it’s the catalyst for individuals and companies to find new ways of addressing challenges with global finance, real estate, and healthcare, to tracking everything from global food supply, to votes to donations. It’s not just a new technology but a new way of thinking — and one thing’s for sure — SALT wouldn’t exist without it.

To commemorate this moment in time, we spoke with SALT’s team and clients about what Bitcoin means to them, how it’s impacted their lives, and how it’s changed the world. Here’s what they had to say:

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