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IDEO’s Blockchain Accelerator Startup Studio Onboards Over 50 Mentors

IDEO CoLab’s Blockchain Accelerator Startup Studio Has Reportedly Onboarded Over 50 Mentors.

Over 50 members, including officers from companies such as Ethereum Foundation, Blockchain Capital, and Messari, have joined blockchain accelerator Startup Studio backed by Fidelity.

In a blog post published today, July 18, IDEO CoLab Ventures — which stands behind the blockchain accelerator program — revealed that over 20 leading organizations joined Startup Studio, bringing more than 50 mentors to the project for 2019.

Announcing the new program members, IDEO wrote: 

“last week you met our blockchain Startup Studio’s 20+ partner organizations […], today we’re excited to share the humans behind them — and many more — who deeply care about the blockchain community and helping entrepreneurs and developers in it succeed.”

Startup Studio has onboarded industry players such as Denelle Dixon, CEO of Stellar Development Foundation, Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital, Robbie Bent from ecosystem support at  Ethereum Foundation, and Ryan Selkis, co-founder and CEO of Messari, among others.

As Cointelegraph reported, major global firms Fidelity, Deloitte and Amazon began supporting a new blockchain accelerator program Startup Studio on July 11. Startup Studio’s objective is to provide workshops to blockchain startups to help them enhance a variety of skills, including product design, law and engineering, smart contract development, finance and hiring, and other fields.

Blockchain accelerators have been gaining traction internationally in recent months. In March, Singapore government-backed blockchain accelerator Tribe got BMW and Intel as two major strategic partners. Both BMW and Intel will provide expertise to the startups selected for support.

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China Leads the World in Google Searches for Facebook’s Libra

China has the highest rate of “Facebook Libra” Google searches, while the U.S. is ranked 25th, according to Google Trends’ data.

China is the global leader when it comes to searching for “Facebook Libra” on Google one month after the release of Libra’s white paper.

China keeping a close eye on Facebook’s Libra

As of July 18, China is the first in the list of countries googling of Facebook’s new cryptocurrency project, according to data from Google Trends.

Based on the data, China has the highest proportion of search queries for Libra, with a maximum value of the query popularity of 100. The top five countries include St. Helena, ranked second with a value of 37, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong and Luxembourg.

“Facebook Libra” Google searches over the past 30 days

“Facebook Libra” Google searches over the past 30 days. Courtesy of Google Trends

At the same time, the same query is surprisingly low in the United States, with estimated query value of 10. As such, the home country of Facebook is ranked 25th in the list, based on the popularity of Libra searches in Google.

Marcus confirms Libra will compete with WeChat, Alipay

Google Trends data is not the only source proving the massive spike of interest of China to Facebook’s Libra. China’s Sina Weibo, the country’s biggest social media network, has also recorded an increased popularity of Libra. 

China-focused online Twitter resource Cnledger reported today that queries for “Libra will compete with Alipay and WeChat” is now the second most popular search on Weibo.

Meanwhile, David Marcus, head of Facebook’s blockchain subsidiary Calibra, has recently confirmed that the company is planning to compete in its payment solution with Chinese payment giants such as Alibaba Group Holding’s Alipay and Tencent Holdings’ WeChat Pay. Marcus acknowledged the intention during the hearing on Libra with the Financial Services Committee of the United States House of Representatives on July 17.

On July 8, China’s central bank announced it started working on its own digital currency in response to Facebook’s Libra as it could pose a risk to the country’s financial system.

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NEO and Ontology Partnership Eyes Global Cross-Chain Blockchain Platform

Chinese blockchain platforms Ontology and NEO are partnering to create an interoperable protocol in a bid to spur development of the next-generation internet.

Chinese blockchain platforms Ontology and NEO are partnering to create an interoperable protocol in a bid to spur development of the next-generation internet.

A press release shared with Cointelegraph on July 18 revealed that the two blockchain firms intend to build an open, global cross-chain platform based on an interoperability protocol that would harness both companies’ strengths. 

In reorienting the focus of their respective strategies to the task of full-fledged interoperability, NEO will work to develop protocols and components that can support a full spectrum of digital assets and Ontology will continue to build out its decentralized identity framework. 

Key Features of NEO and Ontology’s interoperability protocol

The press release reveals four fundamental aspects of the firms’ interoperability push, noting first that the development work will aim to establish an “eco-friendly approach to member chains.” This means that — in order to protect member chains from so-dubbed cannibalization — the protocol will not issue tokens, nor will it include a dedicated smart contract system.

A second point is an ambition to establish a low barrier for entry — i.e. to not require existing blockchain projects to develop new protocol layers or other modifications in a bid to streamline their perspective integration. 

Third, the protocol will seek to achieve finality and atomicity in cross-chain transactions and will focus on expanding the scope of decentralized applications (DApps) by supporting cross-chain smart contract interactions.

Last, the two firms pledge to focus on optimizing security for cross-chain transactions and interactions but have not yet revealed specific details of the technical and operational security mechanisms that are planned for implementation.

The global push for blockchain interoperability

Both companies’ founders have underscored in their respective statements that a collaborative approach is the first step to building the foundation for a global cross-chain platform that can onboard diverse projects and companies in the sector and tackle real-life applications.

Last month, Ethereum Classic (ETC) incubator ETC Labs revealed plans to create a solution for Ethereum (ETH)/ETC interoperability in collaboration with Metronome (MET).

A report prepared by blockchain tech firm ConsenSys and published by the European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum this March had recommended the introduction of interoperability and scalability standards for the European blockchain sector.

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G7 Approves Japan’s Cryptocurrency-Based SWIFT Alternative

The Japanese government is attempting to spearhead the creation of a new, global cryptocurrency payments network that would be similar to SWIFT.

The Japanese government is attempting to spearhead the creation of a new, global cryptocurrency payments network that would be similar to SWIFT.

Replace SWIFT with a global crypto payments network?

Citing an anonymous source, a Reuters report published on July 18 claimed that the country’s push for the network is motivated by a resolve to combat money laundering more effectively.

While plans are being kept firmly under wraps, the source alleged that Tokyo hopes to have the network established within the next few years. 

Plans for the network were reportedly initially proposed by Japan’s Ministry of Finance and its national regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA).

The prospective network has been approved for oversight by the Financial Action Task Force — a G7-initiated intergovernmental organization that promotes legal, regulatory and operational measures that aim to fight money laundering on a global scale. 

As Reuters notes, anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance has loomed large in regulators’, central banks’ and governments’ scrutiny of Facebook’s plans to launch its own stablecoin, dubbed Libra.  

Ahead of this week’s meeting of G7 finance ministers in France this week, Japan had set up a national liaison conference — involving the Bank of Japan, the Ministry of Finance and the FSA — tasked with investigating the impact of Libra on monetary policy and financial stability. 

The G7, cryptocurrencies and the fight against money laundering

France had pre-empted Japan in creating a G7 taskforce that will examine how central banks can regulate cryptocurrencies like Libra.

In June, the FATF revealed plans to strengthen control over crypto exchanges to preclude digital currencies from being used in money laundering and related financial crimes.

This spring, the Japanese House of Representatives officially approved a new bill to amend national laws that govern crypto regulation. The revised acts — which include specific AML measures focused on privacy coins — are set to come into force in April 2020.

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McDonald’s, Nestlé and Virgin Media Join Blockchain in Advertising Pilot

McDonald’s, Nestlé and Virgin Media joined a blockchain pilot seeking to increase transparency in advertising online.

McDonald’s, Nestlé and Virgin Media have joined a new blockchain pilot seeking to increase transparency in advertising online.

Developed by the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (Jicwebs) — a British United digital ad trading standards body — the new initiative aims to assess the potential of blockchain in the digital ad supply chain, as business media outlet Campaign reports on July 16. 

First announced in May 2019, the Jicwebs’ blockchain-powered pilot is now joined by global industry giants’ respective media agencies, Zenith, OMD UK and Manning Gottlieb OMD, who will evaluate blockchain’s capabilities in the digital ad industry for the rest of 2019, the report notes.

Specifically, the media agencies will check not only blockchain’s potential in increasing trust and transparency in the ad supply chain, but also see whether the technology can boost operational efficiency and return on investment (ROI). Kat Howcroft, senior media and budget manager at McDonald’s, said:

“This technology offers us the opportunity to see a truly transparent picture of our investment across the digital supply chain. We are also eager to understand the potential impact that this may have on our ROI and efficiency.”

According to the report, the Jicwebs’ trial is supported by London-based tech business Fiducia. Jicwebs wrote that they will consult the industry on how to incorporate blockchain solutions for the digital ad industry if the test shows successful results.

In late 2018, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota partnered with blockchain advertising analytics firm Lucidity to eliminate fraud when buying digital ads.

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IMF Chief Economist Urges Regulatory Vigilance on Libra

IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath has called on global regulators to be vigilant and take the proper regulatory steps regarding Facebook’s Libra.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on global regulators to pay attention and take proper regulatory action regarding Facebook’s Libra.

Speaking with Reuters on July 17, Gita Gopinath, chief economist at the IMF, urged the global regulatory community to pay serious attention to Facebook’s crypto project during the early stages of its development. Gopinath emphasized that global financial regulators should act immediately to ensure that they are not too late in taking the necessary measures.

Gopinath outlined the major risks associated with the stablecoin, including concerns about data privacy, consumer protection, as well as “backdoor dollarization.” Still, the IMF economist admitted that Libra could help boost financial inclusion.

Gopinath’s remarks come amid a hearing on Libra at the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate criticized Facebook’s past behavior in regard to data privacy and consumer protection. 

Regulators Already Evaluating the Risks of Libra

Meanwhile, a number of global jurisdictions have expressed their concerns towards Libra and have begun investigating the forthcoming coin. Japanese authorities recently launched an investigation of the impact of Libra on monetary policy and financial stability.

Previously, India’s authorities claimed that the government would not be comfortable with a private cryptocurrency. On July 8, China’s central bank announced it started developing its own digital currency in response to Facebook’s Libra as it could pose a risk to the country’s financial system.

Other authorities are less skeptical. Bank of England governor Mark Carney recently claimed that people need to acknowledge the issues that Facebook is trying to solve with Libra, despite the potential downsides of the project.

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Reddit Co-Founders’s Fund Leads $3.75M Round for Blockchain Gaming Studio

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s venture fund led a $3.75 million seed round to support blockchain video game studio Horizon Blockchain Games.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s venture fund led a $3.75 million seed round for blockchain-powered video game studio Horizon Blockchain Games.

According to a press release on July 17, Ohanian’s venture fund Initialized Capital led the new seed round alongside other major blockchain investors such as Polychain Capital and Digital Currency Group. Other investors included popular American crypto exchange and wallet service Coinbase, Golden Ventures and Inovia Capital.

The secured funds will support Horizon’s goal of further integrating blockchain tech in the gaming industry. The company has created a blockchain video game network named Arcadeum, which provides players with secure wallets to store their assets from blockchain games. 

Based on the Ethereum blockchain, Arcadeum also serves as an application browser, providing an opportunity for game developers to release and market their games, the press release notes.

Horizon has already built its online card game SkyWeaver, which is expected to launch in open beta in the fall of 2019.

In mid-June, French video gaming giant Ubisoft was reported to be exploring potential blockchain applications in gaming as a part of its strategy to increase their competitiveness in the industry.

Previously, Galaxy Digital’s fund led a $1.8 million seed funding round for Azure’s blockchain-based gaming rewards platform.

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Tor Project’s Bitcoin Crowdfunding Campaign Hits Goal in 25 Hrs

Launched on July 15, Tor Project’s new Bitcoin-based crowdfunding campaign reached the softcap of $10,000 in 25 hours.

Tor Project’s new Bitcoin (BTC)-based crowdfunding campaign has reached the softcap of $10,000 in 25 hours after the launch.

The new crowdfunding program, known as BitcoinForTor, was launched on July 15 in collaboration with open-source payment processor BTCPay Server. By July 16, the project has raised the minimum amount expected to be secured, BTCPay announced.

Having reached the softcap, Tor Project has not halted the fundraising campaign. It is inviting cryptocurrency users to continue donating with Bitcoin within the next 13 days, claiming that protecting privacy online “requires financial support beyond 10k.”

At press time, the amount raised within BitcoinForTor program accounts for $10,927, with a total of 373 contributors.

BitcoinForTor crowdfunding details

BitcoinForTor crowdfunding details. Source: BitcoinForTor

As mentioned on the project’s website, funds received from the campaign are going directly to the The Tor Project’s Ledger Nano S wallet. The raised funds will be spent to support global community devoted to human rights such as privacy and freedom online, the campaign notes.

Nicolas Dorier, software developer at crypto-focused fintech firm Metaco SA, has encouraged the initiative, claiming that Tor is not just a great software, but an “essential piece of many projects in Bitcoin.”

Earlier this year, Cointelegraph reported that Tor Project started accepting donations in a number of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC) on its major donational portal.

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Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April

Bitcoin’s average transaction volume is topping $3 billion per day, data from crypto analytics site Coinmetrics.io reveals.

Bitcoin’s average transaction volume is topping $3 billion per day, data from crypto analytics site Coinmetrics.io reveals as of July 16.

Bitcoin’s Uptrend in Daily Transaction Value Eclipsing Altcoins’

The data — which has been adjusted to remove noise and certain artifacts, per Coinmetrics — shows an impressive uptrend in the USD value for the volume of the coin’s transactions and transfers over the past 90 days.

On April 17, the average daily value was at $1.04 billion as compared with $3.22 billion on July 16, an almost 210% increase.

The top coin has seen a significantly higher spike in volume as compared with ether (ETH), which saw a 77% increase over the same time period — from a daily average of $370 million to $657 million. XRP has seen a still milder uptrend, at 61% — with the value of daily transactions climbing from $152.5 million in mid-April to $245.6 in mid-July.

3-month chart for BTC  transactions, transfers, value, adjusted, in USD

3-month chart for BTC  transactions, transfers, value, adjusted, in USD. Source: Coinmetrics.io

(Non-)Correlations

Bitcoin broke the $3 billion daily average mark on July 11, Coinmetrics’ data shows, when the coin was circling the $11,500 price point. Despite trading roughly $2,000 lower as of today — having taken a steep 11.4% hit on the day and over 24% on the week — average daily transaction value has continued to climb.

Commentators have today argued that the coin’s short-term downtrend was triggered by an antagonistic response from the United States government to Facebook’s Libra coin, which has extended to the cryptocurrency space more broadly.

Veteran trader Peter Brandt anticipates that total market cap could now correct by as much as 80% — yet argues that most of the damage will be shouldered by altcoins, not Bitcoin.

On July 7, Cointelegraph reported that Bitcoin’s hash rate had hit a new all-time high of 65.87 EH/s. Nevertheless, despite the week’s price fluctuations, this figure has continued to soar north, reaching almost 73 EH/s to press time.

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France Set to Approve First Crypto Firms Under New Rules This Month

France is poised to approve initial coin offerings operators and other crypto businesses with its new regulatory approach to the sector.

France is poised to approve initial coin offerings (ICO) operators and other crypto businesses with its new regulatory approach to the sector. 

‘France is a Precursor’

As Reuters reported on July 16, the new rules — expected to take effect later this month — will enable crypto-related businesses to voluntarily submit themselves to national standards on capital requirements, consumer protection and taxation in return for the regulator’s green light.  

Anne Marechal — executive director for legal affairs at the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) — told reporters that the bold crypto regulatory agenda from the G7 presidency holder should make France a forerunner in the field. She said:

“France is a precursor. We will have a legal, tax and regulatory framework […] We are in talks with three or four candidates for initial coin offerings.”

Beyond ICOS, the AMF is also in talks with several crypto exchange platforms, custodians and fund managers, Marechal revealed.

As Reuters notes, momentum to provide greater legal clarity for the little-regulated sector has apparently been galvanized by news of the forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency from U.S. tech behemoth Facebook. 

A meeting of G7 finance ministers in Chantilly, France, today could see France’s Bruno Le Maire and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin finding a rare island of common ground when it comes to cryptocurrencies — and Facebook’s plans in particular — against a backdrop of ever-rising transatlantic trade tensions.

The Crypto Regulatory Roulette

Gaging the appetite for regulation in the nascent industry is complex and while some believe that increased oversight could bring greater reputability to crypto firms, change is also fraught with risks. Those unwilling to court the unknown are preemptively selecting proactive jurisdictions to launch their offerings. 

As Frederic Montagnon — a co-founder of LGO, a New York-based cryptocurrency platform that chose to host its ICO in France — told Reuters:

“When you are an entrepreneur, the worst that can happen to you is to set up your business where there is no regulation, to see an adverse regulatory framework later imposed that jeopardizes your whole business.”

As reported, the crypto markets have taken a wild turn after both President Trump and Mnuchin’s explicit focus on the risks of cryptocurrencies — yet some are taking a “no news is bad news” perspective on such high-profile airtime for the sector. 

Le Maire has meanwhile characterized Libra as an “attribute of the sovereignty of the States” and revealed that France intends to demand guarantees from the social media titan in liaison with G7 central bank governors.