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Crypto-Based Education on the Rise at World’s Top Universities

Bitcoin (BTC), Cryptocurrency–Despite the crypto markets entering their ninth month of a bearish cycle from the last all-time high in valuation, adoption for the industry and blockchain has continued to grow exponentially throughout 2018. With recent news about the rise of cryptocurrency adoption in inflation-prone countries such as Venezuela, it’s clear that crypto has a significant role to play in the future of money–whether or not it continues to be a valuable asset class for investors looking to make a quick profit.

In a study conducted by popular U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, in conjunction with the survey company Qriously, 675 U.S. college students and 50 international universities  were examined for their curriculum in offering blockchain or cryptocurrency courses. Results were overwhelmingly positive for the growth and adoption of the cryptocurrency industry, with 42 percent of the world’s top 50 universities having at least one course offered on crypto and/or blockchain development. The majority of the courses listed fell under the umbrella of economics, finance, law and business departments, with a much smaller fraction being listed in social science departments. United States based universities and colleges were the most popular choice for finding blockchain and cryptocurrency courses, with Stanford and Cornell leading the pack with 10 and 9 classes offered, respectively. University of Pennsylvania also made the top of the list, by offering 6 classes related to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Coinbase also interviewed several professors and students at these universities to gauge the excitement and response towards the growing educational field. Dawn Song, a computer science professor from the University of California at Berkeley and creator of the course “Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics, and the Future of Technology, Business and Law,” stated that her curriculum was being met with high amounts of enthusiasm, stating that she was forced to turn away over 200 students who wanted to participate in the 70-person class. She also expanded on how she viewed an education in crypto and blockchain as having significant overlap with other fields in the future, drawing on the widespread interest,

“Blockchain combines theory and practice and can lead to fundamental breakthroughs in many research areas. It can have really profound and broad-scale impacts on society in many different industries.”

Coinbase reports finding that students from across a large range of majors had interest in taking or participating in a blockchain/cryptocurrency based course, with more universities finding ways to incorporate education over the growing industry in a variety of discourses.

David Yermack, finance department chair at the New York University Stern School of Business, first offered a course on blockchain in 2014, with 35 students signing up. By spring of this year, his enrollment had leapt to 230 students, with Yermack echoing Professor Song in seeing blockchain and cryptocurrency as a way to future-proof educational offerings,

“A process is well underway that will lead to the migration of most financial data to blockchain-based organizations. Students will benefit greatly by studying this area.”

Regardless, as the price-focused approach to cryptocurrency gives way to greater focus on growth and adoption, education at the university and collegiate level should spur more development interest.

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Former Beverage Company Turned Bitcoin Miner Eyes Customer Loyalty Market

Cryptocurrency–The tale of Long Blockchain Corp. continues to grow in and outside of the crypto space.

Originally branded as Long Island Iced Tea, the former beverage company made an abrupt turn in early January when it was announced that the company would be pursuing Bitcoin mining operations. Preceding the shift in focus to crypto mining, the company rebranded from the aforementioned drink title to Long Blockchain Corp, which brought about a tailwind in the stock price as shares rose 500 percent. Critics of Long Blockchain Corp. have accused the company of capitalizing on the blockchain craze, particularly as it reached a pinnacle in late December/early January, similar to the investing-with-abandon approach that plagued the dot-com era.

Now the company has returned to the headlines, announcing that it will be changing gears once again to tackle the market of customer loyalty. In part due to the the falling price of Bitcoin and declining profitability in crypto mining, LBCC has made the pivot away from the short-lived venture into cryptocurrency. In February, the company received a delist notice from Nasdaq related to the companies low market capitalization, with an appeal that took place in March. Beginning April 12, LBCC was formally removed from the stock exchange, leading some to question the original shift into the crypto mining industry. In addition, the company was one of several to spark a remark from SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in January, when he commented on the sudden phenomenon of companies adding blockchain to their title and reaping capital rewards despite little additional input.

In addition to the current CEO of Long Blockchain Corp. stepping down, the company has outlined a plan to run the loyalty operation through a subsidiary named Stran Loyalty Group. Freshly minted CEO Andy Shape spoke in the press release on the evolving market of customer relations, and how they intend to combine technology with loyalty programs to provide innovation to the industry,

“Consumer brands and corporations realize that loyal customers not only purchase more goods but that they also purchase more often. Creating stronger loyalty with customers who are engaged in loyalty programs through advancements in technology is the key to future growth and massive scalability.”

The company has not fully denounced itself from cryptocurrency, keying in on a previously mentioned design of “distributed ledger technology” as a way to gain advantage over competitors,

“The Company’s goal is to use the initial loyalty business as a catalyst to implement disruptive technology solutions, including distributed ledger technology, into the loyalty industry while realizing immediate revenue and credibility from traditional loyalty contracts,”

In addition, the press release appears to leave room for a potential exit and/or pivot to a different venture, again, by stating that the company cannot guarantee profitability through their current endeavor,

“There can be no assurance that the Company will be successful in developing such technology, or in profitably commercializing it, if developed.”

While Long Blockchain Corp. failed to make a significant impact on the world of Bitcoin or cryptocurrency mining, it may serve as an example for other companies looking to pivot into the space of cryptocurrency.

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CEO of Xapo Predicted Bitcoin (BTC) Trajectory Years Ago

Bitcoin (BTC)–Wences Casares, Argentinian tech entrepreneur and founder of Xapo, has been a proponent of Bitcoin since nearly the inception of the currency. While he has made bold claims that the innovation of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will be bigger than the internet in terms of global impact, his draw to digital currencies has been shaped from his experience living in inflation-heavy countries, such as Argentina. For Casares, Bitcoin not only offers a secure means for digital payment, but an immutable store of value that can cross global borders without the interference of government oversight.

As Bitcoin continues to gain steam again following 2018’s prolonged bear cycle, the inevitable public scrutiny will once again fall on the currency for its utility and use in real-world scenarios. In January, we saw Bitcoin transaction volumes reach a peak that caused widespread network congestion, causing fees to spike and transfer times to crawl to a halt. Some, particularly BTC detractors, saw the failure of Bitcoin to scale as an indictment of the technology. Others simply realized that Bitcoin is still a work in progress. For now, the currency’s role as a digital asset is still valuable, particularly to the billions of unbanked individuals around the globe.

This preference for store of value was captured in the book Digital Gold, as a conversation that took place years ago between Casares and the widely renowned, Oracle of Silicon Valley Reid Hoffman. Hoffman was arguing that few people, especially in the U.S., found fault with the process of using debit or credit cards and would have trouble making the transition to cryptocurrency. Casares countered with an overview of Bitcoin’s trajectory that has proven to be accurate. Author Nathaniel Popper writes,

“Wences agreed with Hoffman that Bitcoin was unlikely to catch on as a payment method anytime soon. But for now, Wences believed that Bitcoin would first gain popularity as a globally available asset, similar to gold. Like gold, which was also not used in everyday transactions, Bitcoin’s value was as a digital asset where people could store wealth.”

As Bitcoin climbs back into the general media’s spotlight, it is worth reviewing some of the repeated, and tired, arguments against the currency.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, it is not all of cryptocurrency. Those outside of the industry of cryptocurrency seem to have a deep misunderstanding of the difference between Bitcoin and cryptocurrency–in all its variations. Yes, Bitcoin can be hailed as the original cryptocurrency (in its modern form), and holds an overwhelming proportion of both market capital and household name appeal. But Bitcoin is not cryptocurrency. The failures of BTC, at least in its present state, from rising costs of mining to the inability to scale the network to useful levels, are not the flaws of the industry. While the world arguably doesn’t need the 1500+ cryptocurrency projects littering the landscape and clogging the perception of the field, it can surely do with a handful that offer unique functionality. There’s no reason why the world cannot entertain a recognizable, flagship cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, as a primary digital asset for the store of wealth, while also having other currencies that accomplish global utility like remittance and fee-less payments. Likewise, the rise of Dapps and coin tokens also gives the industry an outlet in decentralized networking features, in addition to the traditional perception of transacting currencies.

Assuming the volatility of cryptocurrency is inherent to the technology. For whatever reason, economists cite the volatility of cryptocurrency at present as being an inherent flaw to the underlying technology and system of operation. Volatility is the result of an emerging market, with a concentration of wealth in a disproportionate userbase, having the expectation that it will function as smoothly as the stock market.

For one, the investment base is much smaller. Adoption in cryptocurrency is minuscule compared to the global market, and holds less of the entrenched practices of the traditional stock market. Two, the capital volume is vastly different. Cryptocurrency, at its peak, commanded a market cap of over 800 billion USD. The present U.S. stock market has a capitalization approaching 30 trillion USD. To compare the two in terms of stability is comparing two different entitiies. Three, it’s clear that investors are uncertain what the worth of cryptocurrency should be–which is plausible given the early state of the industry–and the market reflects that erratic pricing structure. As mentioned earlier, crypto is an emerging market. Currencies don’t have the same layering as investing in stocks or other assets, and instead rely upon the sway of the market to dictate price. Higher volume of adoption in addition to a clearer purpose for cryptocurrency projects–and higher standard for what gets funded–will smooth out the volatility in due time.

It’s a fallacy to label volatility as an intrinsic property of cryptocurrency. The modern conception of banking stretches back more than 5,000 years. The world has only had cryptocurrency for less than a decade. Give it time.

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Expedia Confirms No Longer Accepting Bitcoin (BTC) For Payments

BITCOIN (BTC)–A spokesperson for Expedia, the popular U.S. based travel company which collects over 10 billion USD in annual revenue, has confirmed with Cointelegraph that the company will no longer be accepting Bitcoin for digital payments.

The news of Bitcoin no longer being listed with the site was first pointed out by community members on June 10th, when the company quietly did away with the option to use the leading cryptocurrency by market cap for digital payments. Speaking with Cointelegraph on June 27th, the travel booking conglomerate has acknowledged its decision to remove cryptocurrency as a method for payment, stating they “no longer accept digital currency Bitcoin,” and were sorry for “any inconvenience this may cause.”

While the company has yet to issue an official statement detailing their reasoning for removing the currency–and likely has no intention of doing so at this point–price volatility in addition to plunging Bitcoin prices is most likely to blame for discontinuing the service. Overstock.com, a company accepting crypto payment since 2014, made national headlines through much of last year (and significant profit–OSTK rose 300% on the year) through its foresight to get ahead of the digital payment curve. However, other companies have yet to see the same benefit from taking the plunge into cryptocurrency, at least to an extent that outweighs the volatility and negative press.

Expedia, with a market cap hovering around 18.2 billion USD, has a responsibility to shareholders that supersedes their interest in accepting cryptocurrency. Despite the fact that some community members have stated they will no longer be using Expedia given their stance on accepting cryptocurrency, the company has chosen to distance themselves from the tumultuous price of Bitcoin. Undoubtedly, BTC payments made up a small fraction of overall sales, but enough for investors to question Expedia’s holding of the currency–particularly in light of the price plunging 70% in value since the last all time high. Given that Expedia has been accepting Bitcoin since June 2014, when they announced a partnership with Coinbase, the company has benefited from the appreciation of BTC over the last several years.

However, that very same relationship with Coinbase could have been the demise of BTC on Expedia. Coinbase’s decision in March to do away with custodial responsibility for merchants, through its new Coinbase Commerce program, has caused similar agencies to transition away from the U.S. based cryptocurrency hub. CheapAir, a travel agency which still accepts Bitcoin for payment, made the transition from Coinbase to BitPay following the change in service. Without a reliable merchant program, Expedia may have found dealing in Bitcoin to not be worth the effort of accepting the currency for payments. If so, it’s possible the agency will resume crypto-based payments in the future, assuming they can find the right partnership to fill their need.

While BTC holders always have the option of cashing out their crypto to pay for travel, having companies deal directly in crypto brings greater benefit. For one, it gives the industry legitimacy and the currency usability, which is the ultimate goal of most community members. It also allows for investors to spend their currency without the tax-related headache that accompanies selling funds on exchanges.

For those crypto users of Expedia looking for a new outlet to spend their BTC on travel expenses, the aforementioned CheapAir still accepts Bitcoin.

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