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Airbnb Co-Founder Participates in Almost $23 Million Funding Round for Crypto Startup

Cryptocurrency trading platform SFOX has announced the closure of a $22.7 million Series A funding round with participation from Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, according to an August 16 press release.

Co-founder and partner at Tribe Capital and Social Capital, Arjun Sethi, led the Series A funding round for the U.S.-based cryptocurrency dealer SFOX, with participation from Y Combinator, Khosla Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Blockchain Capital, and Blecharczyk.

The press release notes that the cryptocurrency dealer aims its services at “large-scale investors such as funds, family offices, and high-net-worth individuals,” and has more than $9 billion in transaction volumes to the present.

Sethi stated in the press release that the ability for institutions to “trade from a single account” and “buy and sell high volumes without impacting prices” is “exactly what institutional investors looking to embrace cryptocurrencies need […] as the ecosystem becomes more fragmented.”

The company’s Medium post notes that the goal of the funding round is to add cryptocurrency pairs, improve trading liquidity, and expand into “new geographical regions.”

Earlier this week, enterprise-focused blockchain startup Axoni had raised $32 million in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs and Nyca Partners, with other investors including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Andreessen Horowitz.

In July, the venture capital arm of General Electric (GE) joined a $12 million investment round in blockchain startup Xage Security, along with City Light Capital and NexStar Partners.

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Early Bitcoin Investor: “Everybody Should Put Something Into Crypto”

To be frank, the cryptocurrency industry is a widely misunderstood place, with recent reports highlighting that a majority of the public does not understand the variety of facets in this nascent industry, including Bitcoin.

Jeffery Wernick, a prominent investor, recently appeared in a Business Insider interview to give an insider insight into what exactly people get wrong about Bitcoin, the foremost digital asset.

But before we dive into what he said, something needs to be said about the sixty-two-year-old investment guru and his involvement in crypto.

Jeffery Wernick: Anti-Centralization Investment Figure 

For the uninitiated, Jeffery Wernick is a prominent anti-centralization investor, who has worked on Wall Street in the past. Since leaving a desk job at financial institutions, he has claimed early stakes in Uber and Airbnb, becoming rather successful and wealthy as a direct result of the growth seen in the value of these investments.

As was noted in a prior interview, Wernick began to acquire Bitcoin in 2009, when it was in the price range of just a few cents, and has since expanded his outlook onto altcoins and other blockchain-backed projects. The American investor currently sits on the advisory boards of Qtum and Datawallet, two notable cryptocurrency projects, with these roles going that he has a lot to offer in this growing space.

“Bitcoin Is A People’s Money”

When queried about what the public get wrong about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, Wernick noted that many have begun to neglect the reason why Bitcoin was created, looking at the asset as a way to turn a profit instead of a decentralized “people’s money.” He stated:

They’re just looking for an alternative model to make money and they don’t care about-they’re agnostic to the initial philosophical framework that drove people to adopt bitcoin to begin with and kept it alive from 2009 through 2013 or 2014, when all of a sudden, adoption started to grow. There was a small universe of people that actively worked to keep it alive by continuing to mine and continuing to buy and they were doing it because of the concept that they believed in, and that it’s a people’s money.

This statement made by the early Bitcoin investor rings true with many Bitcoin proponents, as it has become apparent that a majority of firms and institutions in the space are just looking to streamline their profits using blockchain-related tech.

Bitcoin Has Survived And Thrived Despite Governmental Sentiment

As pointed out by the investor extraordinaire, Bitcoin has thrived for a majority of its nine-year lifespan, outperforming each and every government-issued currency. Additionally, it has likely outperformed 99.99% of investments in the same time span, with early investors who invested small amounts now being recognized as millionaires, if not billionaires. Wernick noted:

Since bitcoin has been created in 2009, it’s outperformed every currency, even with governments hostile to it, and a regulatory regime that’s an uncertain regime and the governments have been designing, have been managing it in a way so people cannot know what to expect. So it’s amazing the valuation it has today given the fact that it only faces headwinds, no tailwinds. Every government throughout the world is trying to figure out how to stop and kill bitcoin.

If there are only a few words which stick out from that statement, its that “Bitcoin faces headwinds, (and) no tailwinds.” This statement alludes to the stellar performance of Bitcoin in a heavily-regulated environment, almost as if it is like a running bull that can’t be stopped, even if the world’s most determined matadors stared it down.

Wernick: Crypto Is A Method To Accumulate Wealth 

Closing off the interview, the investor explained why every individual should hold investments in crypto assets. Firstly, the investor sees cryptocurrencies outperforming “any other alternative investment” over the next five years, expecting Bitcoin’s nine-year run to continue into the future.

Secondly, Wernick sees a majority of the opportunities offered in legacy markets as no way to accumulate wealth over time, drawing attention to the low-interest rates and overvalued capital markets. Lastly, he brought attention to the fact that crypto will eventually reach stability once widespread adoption occurs.

He stated:

So I think everybody should put something into crypto. And the people who move first will make more money than those that move second, who’ll make more money than those that move third.

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The Sharing Economy, Explained

What is the sharing economy?

Put simply, this is where individuals share items or services, usually on the internet.

Even if you haven’t heard the term, you’ll know about the phenomenon.

Through countless apps and websites, it’s possible to rent things by the day or the week – even by the hour. Occasionally it’s free, but usually there’s a fee.

For those doing the borrowing, it can bring considerable savings when compared to buying a brand-new item that might only need to be used once.

Meanwhile, for individuals who are willing to share their stuff, the concept can help them make a decent side income – boosting their usual earnings.

As well as traditional rental firms, several tech-savvy companies have launched platforms to facilitate sharing between individuals.

Given the sharing economy is still in its infancy, most of us have little awareness about the plethora of companies already in this industry. The accommodation app Airbnb and ride-hailing service Uber are two of the biggest and best-known players, and both are now mainstays in cities worldwide.

What can be shared?

The sharing economy’s potential extends far beyond cars and spare rooms.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of platforms have launched in recent years. If there’s something you want to borrow or lease, the odds are there’s a way of doing it.

You can share someone’s garden if you live in a bustling city, strike up job shares, team up with other travelers to share a tour, swap books, and even take someone’s dog out for the day. Social dining and borrowing DIY tools is also possible.

It seems that current businesses have barely scratched the surface of what’s achievable, too, as new ideas are emerging all the time.

So I can borrow a car… or a dog. What are the advantages?

For starters, it could prove more environmentally friendly.

Think about it: instead of 10 people owning a car that they only need to use occasionally, they can share someone else’s whenever required. Certain concepts such as car sharing, where colleagues hitch a ride together, can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions.

The shift in emphasis from ownership can also make life more affordable. Instead of splashing out on expensive possessions, you can use a fraction of this cash to borrow someone else’s and put the rest towards experiences.

It can also bring communities together – especially in the dog-sharing example we mentioned earlier. If you love pets but can’t have one yourself, striking up a relationship with a dog owner and their furry friend can help you meet new people. Better still, you can enjoy occasional walks in the park without the responsibilities of looking after a pet full time.

Aren’t there downsides to letting someone borrow your dog?

For people with assets to share, trust can be an issue.

Allowing someone to borrow your car or the beloved family dog can be a stretch if you’ve only just met them.

The sharing economy is addressing this by using rating systems which show the experiences borrowers and lenders have had in the past – providing peace of mind. Disputes can also be raised if an item is returned broken, or not returned at all. However, encouraging a culture of sharing might take a little time yet.

One frustration for customers at the moment is the fragmentation of the sharing economy, which means you need to register and generate a login for every service you want to use.

Meanwhile, those hiring out their spare rooms, cars and other assets can be charged high transaction fees by the platforms that make these transactions possible.

How big is the sharing economy?

The statistics are staggering.

According to Statista, 44.8 mln adults in the US used the sharing economy in 2016. This is set to almost double to 86.5 mln by 2021.

Research by Conde Nast Traveler shows Airbnb had racked up 200 mln bookings by 2016. Uber says it has 75 mln customers and 3 mln drivers worldwide – and together, they completed 4 bln trips in 2017 alone. And these numbers cover just two well-known companies.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says the sharing economy has grown at “breakneck speed,” with its research concluding that this growth is sustainable. By 2025, it estimates transactions across just five sectors of this sprawling industry will be worth almost €570 bln in Europe alone (that’s about $705 bln.)

Let me guess… Blockchain could shake up the sharing economy?

That’s right. Some entrepreneurs believe this technology could eliminate the problems which are holding back the sharing economy.

This is because a Blockchain ledger could make transactions more secure and difficult to tamper with – enabling in-depth details about assets, and who is using them, to be stored on a universal database.

Smart contracts could also eliminate the need for sharing economy platforms that serve as middlemen, driving down commission fees.

Blockchain start-ups such as ShareRing want to reduce fragmentation in the sharing economy by making it possible to rent and lease virtually any asset on one platform – with customers being able to borrow anything through a single account and pay someone instantly through a dedicated cryptocurrency. The company also wants to remove borders, meaning it would be effortless to use whether you were in Hong Kong or Havana, London or Louisiana.

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Company Aims To Become ‘Amazon Of Sharing Economy’ With Blockchain App

A company is building a Blockchain-based system to eliminate fragmentation in the sharing economy – and creating a single app that gives users access to “any available asset they wish to rent, borrow or share.”

ShareRing claims the current market is extremely inconvenient for consumers. Although thousands of companies exist, many of them are specialized in one particular niche, such as caravans or office space.

This forces users to go through the arduous process of registering multiple accounts – and, given the fact that some of these small businesses only operate in a heavily localized area, there’s no guarantee that the items they need to borrow will be available where they live.

The Australian company has the goal of becoming the “Amazon of the sharing economy,” enabling users to lease “assets” from a broad range of categories through a single smartphone app. They would be connected to individuals nearby who have items they are willing to share, while rental companies would be able to develop their own “mini” app within ShareRing to reach greater numbers of prospective customers. ShareRing is already exploring deals with big brands, and the latest partnerships will be announced on its website.

In its white paper, the company lists areas where its technology could prove useful. Some examples include renting cars, trucks and trailers, as well as booking delivery drivers, sharing gardens, swapping books, co-housing, car sharing and social dining.

ShareRing’s Blockchain platform, known as ShareLedger, is already in development. “Highly customizable” smart contracts will be used to complete transactions, with the company stressing that typical users are not going to require advanced technical knowledge in order to use the platform.

“Taking things to the next level”

The team behind ShareRing already have experience in this industry after starting the vehicle-sharing brand Keaz in the middle of 2013. Offering solutions for both corporate users and consumers, the company now has offices in five countries – and its main technology, KeazACCESS, was launched in May 2015.

Executives say they have “decided to take things to the next level” through Blockchain because a company is yet to help this industry achieve its full potential. Their white paper argues that most people are even unable to name five businesses operating within the sharing economy – and the two examples most commonly used as answers, Airbnb and Uber, only cover two types of assets available to the public.

ShareLedger is also going to feature a dual token mechanism. Whereas SharePay is the currency that customers will use to rent assets, ShareToken allows providers to pay for access to the Blockchain. All users will be able to access their balances for these tokens in a lightweight wallet accessible from PCs and smartphones.

“Small transaction fees” are charged to providers who use ShareRing. There are one-off charges whenever individuals or businesses add an asset to the platform. Providers are also charged if “attributes” need to be added, allowing extra bits of information such as a Vehicle Identification Number to be linked to the asset. Finally, they will pay a fee every time their asset is rented out to a ShareRing user.

Growing the ecosystem

At the heart of ShareRing’s system will be a “clever, integrated app” which uses geolocation to show users which services are available nearby – and within two years, the company hopes that up to 1 mln assets will be available to share around the world.

Its Blockchain system will be publicly available by Sept. 2018, and KeazACCESS will be the first “client” integrated into ShareLedger.

ShareRing’s token sharing event is set to take place in May, with the company planning to run token hunts and several other competitions to spread the word and raise awareness of the project.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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San Francisco Blockchain Startups Partner on Decentralized Insurance

Two San Francisco blockchain startups are teaming up, including one that is aiming to create a kind of decentralized Airbnb.

Short-term housing rental startup Bee Token and financial services platform WeTrust are partnering to develop a “decentralized insurance layer based on crowdsourced security deposits.” In other words, the deposits would act as a financial buffer for both the hosts listing on Bee Token’s Beenest platform as well as well as guests.

To get there, the two startups plan to connect with one another to share information about users, including their overall trustworthiness as either tenants or hosts. The idea is that by bringing down the cost of a major pitfall – that is, insurance against possible property damage – the two companies can open up access to a residential-focused sharing economy.

CEO of WeTrust George Li was quoted as saying:

“We couldn’t be happier about this partnership with Bee Token. This collaboration is exactly the sort of innovative use case that we believe will demonstrate the advantages of our platform in managing the complex processes involved with decentralized insurance and insurance-like products across diverse industries.”

Bee Token’s platform has its own BEE token, which was just the subject of a $10 million presale. A public token sale begins at the end of this month.

In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Bee Token co-founder Jonathan Chou suggested that the platform would, in a way, cater to those already exposed to the world of cryptocurrencies.

“We cater heavily to the cryptocurrency audience to start; it’s not as intuitive to mainstream users”, Bee Token Co-founder Jonathan Chou told the newspaper. “We think the new need is for people to be able to spend bitcoin currency.”

House image via Shutterstock

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Decentralized Car Sharing Platform Aims to Lead the Blockchain-based Rental Market

Looking around at the world, trust is probably the thing that is most lacking in our current business environment. Technology is at a strange middling capability, where it can do a lot more, but we never have any strong way of verifying who is on the other end of a transaction.

The emergence of companies like Craigslist and eBay saw many people gain seemingly random connections with others by doing business through the Internet, but it also saw an increase in fraud and worse. These were made possible by the faceless interactions that occurred through new connections made over the Internet, and the result was a populace that was mistrustful of any sort of business being carried out completely through the Internet.

Many people were afraid to use their credit cards online for the longest time. The general opinion was that you would almost definitely get ripped off if you did so, and this made difficult for many companies to establish themselves.

If people want someone to trust in a business interaction with a massive company, then it should be realized that this feeling applies doubly to the peer-to-peer (P2P) market. Doing deals with someone you have never met requires some level of “trust” that most people are too jaded to have.

Blockchain sharing economy

This is where Blockchain technology factors in. The P2P market can benefit greatly from implementing Blockchain technology so that nobody needs to take a leap of faith, and can instead just depend on the quality of the technology verifying the trust.

With the advent of companies like Uber and Airbnb, the sharing economy truly is beginning to take over the world, but some barriers are preventing it from scaling out in other sectors like the car-sharing industry. The world is experiencing lower demand for car ownership and a higher demand for car sharing, but trust has become a barrier to scaling this out.

Darenta is a company that thinks they can beat this problem by applying Blockchain technology to create a solution that allows for users to share their cars with ease. The end result will be a safer experience for customers where they can trust each other not to rip them off.

If things go according to plan, Darenta could end up being the largest international platform for car rentals on Blockchain in the world. The basic idea is that private car owners can rent out their insured cars over the car sharing IT platform. The project depends upon a mobile solution which employs geolocation, smart contracts and other Blockchain technology.

Darenta

Driving the future

Car ownership has dropped as more alternatives have emerged, but there is still a need for cars in the world. Car sharing can work to significantly reduce the number of cars on the road, which would free up more parking spaces and improve the ecology of Earth at the same time.

The Darenta ICO is currently underway, and Productoken is attracting vast amounts of crypto funds and backers. The token adds a new level of functionality to the service since it helps car owners earn more and token holders apply discounts.

Around three months after the completion of the ICO, ProducTokens will be permitted to be used in calculations for rent, as well as for encouraging customers to participate in the ecosystem. This participation adds value in the same way that Amazon reviews improve the entire platform experience and have made Amazon the first choice for those looking to buy goods online. Tokens only make sense when they have a use case, and it is clear Darenta’s ProducToken fulfills this condition.

Darenta

Will Bartlett, Guest Author

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Bitcoin Leads Digitalization of Global Monetary System, Finance Industry

Over the past decade, companies with almost no physical assets have turned out to be the most successful businesses in their respective industries. Bitcoin is leading the digitalization of the global monetary system and is en route to competing against existing fiat currencies and the finance industry.

Uber, Airbnb and Amazon

Amazon, the second largest technology company in the global market with a $544 bln market valuation, has been criticized as a bubble and for its supposed “unsustainable business model” since 1997, for more than two decades.

Eventually, Amazon evolved into the leading service provider in the international e-commerce industry surpassing the growth rate of Alibaba in the past few years.

Businesses like Uber and Airbnb that are structurally similar to Amazon in terms of their tendency to limit holdings of physical assets have greatly exceeded the expectations of investors. Similar to Amazon, Uber does not process many automobiles to operate the world’s most widely utilized ride-sharing and transportation network. Airbnb does not hold much real estate to sustain a network in the hospitality marketplace.

Despite their lack of physical assets, the three above mentioned companies have completely transformed their respective industries with innovative and truly revolutionary technologies.

Bitcoin’s digitalization of money

Bitcoin is leading a nearly identical digitalization process in the global finance industry and of money. While Bitcoin users can choose to hold the cryptocurrency in the form of physical money, the vast majority of Bitcoins are stored in wallets and trading platforms. Bitcoin transactions are settled in a peer-to-peer manner without the existence of intermediaries.

As prominent author, entrepreneur, and trader Stephen Burns stated:

As of current, Bitcoin is being increasingly recognized and acknowledged as a robust store of value, a safe haven asset and digital gold. Hedge funds, institutional investors and retail traders have been rushing into the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets to engage in Bitcoin investment, which CME chairman Leo Melamed described as a “new asset class.”

In the long-term, Bitcoin will compete with fiat currencies and existing monetary, financial and banking systems that dominate the global market, and ultimately solidify itself as the global digital currency.

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$1 Trillion Industry Being Brought Onto Blockchain

Considering the substantial interest that Blockchain technology has received in the past 12 months, it is not surprising that entrepreneurs are finding ways to make new markets in areas that can benefit from crypto. In hospitality, entertainment, technology and dozens of other industries, things like smart contracts and decentralized ledgers never existed before, so a whole raft of new products are becoming possible.

Of all industries, finance is the most ready and willing for Blockchain adoption. Just as with the dawn of the internet, expect the rise of Blockchain technology to open up new markets with innovative platforms providing a range of new options for users.

Consider how the internet changed possibilities, making AirBnB and Uber feasible. They opened up the hospitality and transport industries which are now worth $100 bln combined, and several multiples of that value flow through their platforms from customers to service providers every year.

What area of finance will see short-term upheaval from Blockchain implementations? One possibility is interesting precisely because you’ve never heard of it before: life insurance. What many people aren’t aware of is that a life insurance holder can opt to cash in on their policy early, either by “surrendering” it back to the insurance company or by selling it on to a third party who keep up the premiums and then file a claim when the holder passes away.

As it stands, this limited market is inefficient and underserved, and a Singapore-based crypto team are hoping to change that with the fidentiaX platform they are launching shortly.

Life insurance reselling

A Blockchain platform could address the considerable inefficiencies and constraints in the market. Most important of these is the underserved market for reselling. There are simply not enough life insurance holders who are aware of the reselling industry, which results in a lack of policies for investors to purchase. FidentiaX plans to do two things to help this; they will make reselling easier and will also centralize the entire market onto one platform where offers and prices can be more easily compared.

This central platform will also benefit from network effects: the life insurance reselling market is currently fractured regionally because of differences in regulation. A worldwide platform would allow investors to apply economies of scale in order to make their activities more globally efficient. Most notably, in many cases the buyer and the seller both need to be physically present to make the transaction, which obviously puts serious limitations on what can be sold to whom.

As it currently stands, policyholders often end up needing to jump through hoops to secure a sale and often end up with a price below market rates. Price comparison is difficult at the best of times, and the sensitivity of the involved data makes confidentiality a big concern.

This leaves customers stuck with sales people that create a difficult experience, as one industry publication noted:

“The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warns that the life-settlement industry can be prone to aggressive sales tactics and abuse.”

Typical use case

Into this market comes fidentiaX, who believe their platform will help in several ways. They outlined a typical use case for their platform:

  • LISTING – Policyholders looking to extract higher value from their tradable insurance policies submits the policies to fidentiaX’s Blockchain-powered platform and gain access to potential buyers. These buyers will then browse the available policies and select ones that meet their investment objectives.
  • OFFERING – Interested buyers complete the relevant documentation and deposit funds to the platform. Sellers will be notified that funds are secured and the relevant documentation is transmitted.
  • SUBMISSION – The seller, armed with the assurance that funds are in-place, goes to the insurance company to effect the transfer of policy to the new owner. The seller obtains documentary proof that policy has been transferred.
  • COMPLETE – Sellers upload the documentary proof of the transfer onto fidentiaX Blockchain. Upon verification, documentation is transmitted to the buyer and funds are released to the seller simultaneously

As you can see, fidentiaX leverages the escrow and smart contract elements of Blockchain technology. Previously this would have been impossible without the time-consuming and expensive input of intermediaries, but fidentiaX is, like AirBnB and Uber, expanding the market with technology.

Insurance experience

Marketplaces are a difficult thing to create, but the fidentiaX team is banking on a few things in their favour. First, the founders have track records in the insurance industry, having worked for some of the biggest financial institutions in Asia. Secondly, they are going to get the market started by buying a substantial amount of policies that investors can repurchase as soon as the platform goes live.

The market unimaginable amounts of money, and if fidentiaX can expand this market to underserved investors and sellers then they stand to become a major platform in their own right. The Crowd Token Contribution goes live on November 6th.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.