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Blockstack's First Business App Wants to Help Employees Earn More Crypto

If cryptocurrency is decentralizing the world of money, a new bitcoin wallet startup thinks it could also help decentralize the world of work.

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, Misthos launched its multi-signature wallet Monday on top of Blockstack‘s decentralized application platform. One of the first enterprise products launched on Blockstack, the wallet is designed for project teams, investment partnerships and other ad hoc ventures to manage the divvying up of income (received as bitcoin) among their individual members.

These organizations, which often form to carry out a specific objective before disbanding (more like a Hollywood production than a corporation), “want to have transparency into where their cash is going and want to be able to distribute their income in a fair way,” Misthos founder Justin Carter told CoinDesk.

To that end, all proposed payouts from a venture using a Misthos wallet must be approved unanimously by the partners in that venture. Carter described this model as “moving away from an employee-employer relationship to a group consensus about who contributed value.”

In other words, instead of a getting paid according to a salary or contract negotiated before taking on a job, the individual is compensated based on social consensus among the team. Misthos makes its money by collecting a 1.49 percent cut of the payouts.

Similarly, proposals to add partners are subject to approval by all the existing participants, and in order to kick one person out, everyone else in the group must agree to it. Several partnerships are already using Misthos to distribute bitcoin among members, including the four-person team behind Munich-based bitcoin publication Coin Trainer.

“It helps us create a transparent environment where contributions are rewarded fairly and democratically,” Marcel Kasper, one of the co-founders of Coin Trainer, told CoinDesk.

Eventually, this collaborative model could be applied to managing fiat currency income for projects as well, but bitcoin was a natural starting point, Carter said.

“We are starting to build out the product on bitcoin is because of the reduced friction, as we have no institutional dependencies,” he told CoinDesk, adding:

“Crypto-first is about first developing a financial service for the new platform (cryptocurrencies). And once the overall experience is well-defined, adapting it to the old platforms, integrating with legacy financial institutions operating in fiat.”

Free agents

Misthos is part of a broader push across the cryptocurrency community to support less centralized employment models.

Opolis, for example, is a professional employment organization (PEO) that handles outsourced human resources functions such as benefits and payroll for employers. However, it caters to a specialized clientele, including blockchain projects and startups, and has close ties to ConsenSys, the ethereum design studio.

By the end of the month, roughly 300 Opolis users will be able to facilitate crypto or fiat payrolls, employee benefits, and tax documents through this one-stop-shop service provider. The company also runs an employment marketplace for recruiters and job seekers, and it has a grander vision of future “decentralized employment organizations,” or DEOs.

John Paller, a co-founder of Opolis, told CoinDesk his platform is optimized for individual contractors instead of corporate hierarchies.

“[Freelancers] can choose and vote on any benefits they want, any number of things, including things that are out of the scope of traditional options today,” he said. “For example, you could have part of your income go to a group investment model.”

Both Misthos and Opolis use decentralized data solutions of some kind for worker IDs and credentials, making it easier to recruit, onboard and offboard collaborators.

“There’s also storage that Blockstack provides, and part of that we’re leveraging,” Carter said of Misthos, which uses Blockstack IDs for logins and wallet management. “All the history of the ventures is all stored with the individual partners.”

Human factors

Stepping back, it’s easy to see why these entrepreneurs see an opportunity in offering solutions tailored for project-specific, flexible employment arrangements. These days many of the ecosystem’s leading developers prefer to work independently. Turnover at crypto startups is particularly high.

Indeed, Wall Street veteran turned startup advisor Jill Carlson told CoinDesk a wide range of workers with soft skills could benefit from employment opportunities modeled after open source collaborations.

In traditional freelance contract negotiations, “You have very little leverage,” Carlson said. “I want to be able to do this style of work but to scale it in some way.”

On the other hand, Carlson also emphasized the importance of training and mentorship provided by traditional employers. To bring bitcoin’s ethos to the workplace, some collaboration will need to take place offline, face-to-face. “I do my best work when I’m with other people,” she said.

Plus, in her view, it’s important to consider how crypto community politics, and arguments on social media platforms where “a lot of nuance is being lost,” could impact project governance on Misthos, which she nevertheless said offers a compelling idea for on-chain bounty management.

Carter agreed that much of the social governance will take place off of the Misthos payroll platform.

“The point Misthos steps in is for a form of documentation and execution,” he said.

This is why Jude Nelson, lead blockchain engineer at Blockstack, told CoinDesk such democratic projects will require both on-chain and off-chain coordination.

He concluded:

“On-chain smart contracts are likely necessary for users of a dapp who don’t know each other. But since all partners in a Misthos venture must know one another before signing off on a payment, they are able to coordinate pay-outs off-chain without needing a potentially cumbersome on-chain smart contract.”

Men and coins image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Blockstack Announces 'Universal' Dapp Store for the Decentralized Web

Decentralized web developer Blockstack is one step closer to its vision of web 3.0 with the introduction of app.co, a directory for decentralized applications or dapps.

Co-founder Ryan Shea said the company was launching the resource, which is aimed at bridging the gap between decentralized app developers and potential users. The open-source project will be free for developers, and Blockstack sees “this as a critical moment for decentralized application development and discovery,” Shea said.

He went on to explain:

“The goal here is to demonstrate, to really bring together app developers and users and provide value in connecting the two. We want to help users discover decentralized applications. We launched our browser last year which was a great success, and after that we started noticing people were building real apps on top of our platform, and this last year we were focused on learning from them.”

Indeed, it’s the first step toward what is intended to become a dedicated storefront for dapp developers, with the goal of allowing devs to charge for premium versions of their app as well as expand to a wider market.

“We’re looking to make this a comprehensive dapp store, and one component is an index and you can see the most popular applications, and another component is a feature list kind of like what you can find in the Apple app store,” he added.

Blockstack is moving out of the infrastructure phase and into supporting scalable dapps, he said, adding that “they’re getting real traction and real users.”

Stepping back, Shea told CoinDesk that his company will continue to encourage the development of a decentralized web, and encouraged developers to work together. He said:

“One of the things that we want to say to the community, there might be different platforms that compete with each other but we’re still very small and the real competition is with Facebook and [the like].”

Gumball machines image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Blockstack Fund to Give Crypto Social Networks $1 Million Boost

Decentralized web developer Blockstack has earmarked $1 million to fund decentralized social networks projects, the company announced on Thursday.

While developers will determine the particular nature of their projects, the firm hopes the grants will encourage a variety of usable dapps oriented toward the preservation of digital rights, privacy and user choice.

“We’re really looking for the best teams to build applications on top of Blockstack that have the highest likelihood of getting widespread user adoption,” the company’s co-founder, Ryan Shea told CoinDesk in an interview.

Shea explained:

“This is about bringing real value to end users. There is a lot of speculation in the space, there is a lot of talk and hype and not enough real things getting built that touch people’s lives.”

The initiative, he said, was borne out of a desire to incentivize developers to build alternatives to major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In the wake of incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he said, “We knew it was the right time for a lot of these social networks to gain traction.”

The company has specifically suggested that developers pursue features like uncensorable microblogs and community-curated blocklists among others. Likewise, it proposed that developers could create dapps targeted toward illness support groups, journalists and activists under authoritarian regimes, and LGBT communities, for example.

However, Shea said Blockstack doesn’t intend for these ideas to “confine people,” but instead hopes they will provide a point of departure for further exploration.

Additionally, he suggested that the funding will act as a stepping stone for developer teams, helping them to subsist until they are able to raise venture capital.

The grants will be only one source of financing for developer teams. They will also have the option to build monetization into their dapps via a rewards system that is embedded in the Blockstack protocol.

“Every single application that’s built on Blockstack will be eligible for these rewards and they will be eligible proportional to their ratings,” Shea explained.

He added that Blockstack’s support for social network dapps will be ongoing, noting:

“We really want to empower those teams.”

Social network concept image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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'Ebay for CryptoKitties' Raises $2 Million from All-Star VCs

More money is being poured into crypto cats.

Well, cats, and the slew of other non-fungible digital items made possible by new token standards, such as ethereum’s ERC-721, which now have a home in OpenSea, a marketplace for allowing users to buy and sell these items – an Ebay for CryptoKitties if you will.

Coming out of Y-Combinator last winter, OpenSea today announced a $2 million seed equity round led by 1confirmation, with participation from a series of other high-profile crypto investors, including Founders Fund, Foundation Capital, Blockchain Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Chernin Group, Stable Fund and Blockstack.

“When CryptoKitties came out, it was this exciting, mainstream, fun use case for blockchain,” Devin Finzer, co-founder of OpenSea, told CoinDesk.

Indeed, the ethereum-based decentralized application for buying, selling and breeding digital cats was a quick hit within the community, launching in November last year and peaking in December, when the game nearly brought the ethereum blockchain to a halt as it tried to deal with a significant increase in transactions.

Many concluded that the game helped push blockchain technology and cryptocurrency into the mainstream, and others argued that the game displayed a blockchain use case that could expand away from silly cats and into serious business (such as real estate). For instance, Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz led a $12 million investment round to spin CrypoKitties out of its parent company so that the team could really dig deeper into future applications for the concept of non-fungible digital items.

And while those serious applications have yet to be realized, a spate of similar games were created after CryptoKitties success, including the more general CryptoPets, CryptoCelebrities and Crypto All-Stars.

But according to OpenSea, users need a place to more easily buy and sell those items.

It turns out OpenSea wasn’t alone – the decentralized online marketplace for physical items OpenBazaar has plans to open up its platform for digital items such as CryptoKitties as well, plus OPSkins recently created Wax, a platform for spinning up decentralized exchange services for these items.

So far, it looks like a fine idea, according to Finzer, who said:

“We’ve so far had about half a million [dollars] in volume pass through our marketplace.”

The go-to marketplace

One of the keys to OpenSea’s success, according to Finzer, is the team’s relationship with crypto game developers.

As to be expected, OpenSea has done best in offering a “store” for games that don’t already have built-in marketplaces (many game developers want to focus on the game and so aren’t keen to building a marketplace on top). As those game developers hear about OpenSea, they’ve typically just made OpenSea the game’s official digital shop.

“We’ve kind of developed a synergistic relationship with game developers,” Finzer said, adding that OpenSea offers a revenue share model depending on what marketplace duties are handled by what party (although Finzer declined to discuss this in more detail).

Yet, OpenSea is available for more than just games, although that’s the company’s main stream of business. For instance, one art project used OpenSea and Finzer said it could also work as a marketplace for software licenses.

We’ve barely scratched the surface on what these crypto collectibles and a marketplace for them could offer.

One thing that’s interesting about these programs, for instance, is that because a CryptoKitty, for example, is just a piece of code, different interfaces will create completely different visualizations of that cat (as recently displayed by a viral art image made purely from code).

These different visualizations could be shared between users and might make the games even more fun.

Zombies for kitties

Plus, Finzer wants to facilitate the trade of items that aren’t even part of the same game.

This would go above and beyond digital games today, where items that are part of a centralized game must stay within that universe, he said, adding:

“I could be breeding zombies and you could be breeding kitties. I think what that results in is, these items having a lot more value than they would in the existing digital world.”

In fact, this kind of cross-collaboration has already happened – a new game called KittyRace allows users to race their CryptoKitties.

This kind of thing, Finzer said, has garnered quite a bit of interest from other crypto gaming companies.

This interest in digital items isn’t new only to the world of cryptocurrency, though. In fact, the market for gold within the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft is so lucrative that prisoners in China are made to mine the stuff for sale to gamers in the developed world.

Yet, Finzer said, he plans to stay out of the world of trading digital items for physical cash, namely because it’s a business that’s somewhat frowned upon, but also because he doesn’t see a lot of opportunity in enticing more traditional gaming companies to move to a blockchain.

“The technological benefits of moving an existing game to a blockchain are actually negative now,” he said.

That doesn’t get Finzer down, though. He sees tremendous opportunity focused on crypto.

He concluded:

“Our thesis is that the most interesting use cases for blockchain-based games will come from new games rather than existing games.”

CryptoKitties image via CoinDesk archive

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.