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With John Monarch at the Helm, Shipchain Looks to Steer a New Course in Freight

Blockchain represents an inflection point for the world, similar to past technological revolutions brought on by the internet and widespread smartphone use. Already there’s talk that the banking system will be fundamentally changed, as well as other major areas like real-estate, education, and advertising. Because of the technology’s distributed, decentralized nature, the potential exists to improve security while at the same time lowering costs and spreading power out more evenly.

But few industries stand to benefit more from blockchain disruption than freight and shipping. Despite an estimated value of $15.5 trillion (by 2023), it’s done a very poor job of keeping up with technological progress. Because of a lack of unified track and trace, it’s hard to know where packages are as they make their way across the globe. This lack of data means that if goods are damaged, go missing, or are stolen, it’s hard to find whoever is responsible and hold them accountable. The supply chain is long and complex, and its easy to defer blame or plead ignorance. The lack of communication along the chain also means that brokers can charge exorbitant fees simply to act as middlemen.

With a value of over ten trillion dollars, it’s no surprise that many companies are working to implement blockchain technology into freight and shipping. Most are taking a piecemeal approach, developing solutions only for track and trace, for instance. The only company working on a top-to-bottom transformation is ShipChain, led by its CEO, John Monarch, and a team composed off some of the most sought after talent in the blockchain space.

Monarch is no stranger to the shipping industry. Direct Outbound, of which he’s also CEO, is a fulfillment and third party logistics company based in the United States. The company takes the same holistic approach as ShipChain, incorporating as much as the business under one roof as possible, including customer service and B2B tech support. An early adopter in the crypto community, he was among the first to recognize that the technology underpinning the bitcoin had a lot more potential than the currency itself. His willingness to venture out onto the cutting edge, coupled with frustrations with the shipping supply chain he experienced at Direct Outbound, planted the seed for his current endeavor.

In the beginning of 2018, ShipChain launched an ICO which sold out during its presale, raising $30 million for the company. Development of the platform on the Ethereum blockchain has continued apace since then, the only hiccup a Cease and Desist order that has since been vacated. (LINK) According to Monarch, the infrastructure of the platform is in place, and the four principle smart contracts are in various states of completion and testing. In short order, developers will be able to build on the platform as with other Ethereum-blockchain based companies. The web platform, known as ShipChain Portal is also underway and undergoing internal testing.

Once all is up and running, ShipChain’s tech will have a sweeping effect on the freight industry. With a user interface installed (accessible via web or mobile) users can use the blockchain to make business contracts with each other, eliminating the need for brokers and their costly fees. Shippers and carriers, once separate, will now be able to deal with each other directly. This benefits small and medium sized companies who are dealing with smaller profit margins, and need to reduce costs wherever they can. The little guys will also benefit from the added security and accountability the blockchain brings to freight.

Hardware sensors, designed by ShipChain, will accompany goods as they move from warehouse to port to mode of transportation, delivering a steady stream of data to the blockchain. Once the records are digitally inscribed, they can never be changed, thanks to the technology’s immutable nature. This is quite an improvement over the current state of the supply chain’s record keeping, much of which still relies on old fashioned paper and pen. The $30 billion lost goods problem the industry currently has will be a thing of the past, and thanks to a reputation system built into ShipChain’s platform, users will know which carriers to avoid when shipping their products.

One of the reasons logistics is such a mess in freight and shipping is that the industry relies on a scattered mass of individuals to make everything work right. The blockchain has the power the bring those people together and turn them into a finely tuned machine of commerce. And with John Monarch and ShipChain leading the way, that destination is closer than ever.

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Brian D. Evans: Be Patient, Be Persistent at Blockchain Marketing

The year 2017 saw one dynamite blockchain project after another. Hundreds of millions were raised, enthusiasm was stratospheric, and promises made by companies verged on world-shaking. While marketing was clearly important to the pre-launch process, sometimes it felt like all one had to do was breathe the words ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ to receive glowing press in the community. Only now, as we ride out the inevitable doldrums between token sale and product release, that the importance of an effective marketing team can prove its weight in bitcoin.

One sought after name in the industry is Brian D. Evans, founder of the media platform, and winner the Golden Token award for Blockchain Influencer of the Year in 2018. He’s currently CMO at ShipChain, where he works with a team of influencers set on hauling the freight and shipping industry into the 21st century with blockchain technology. Drawing from his fifteen years of experience in the field of online advertising, what follows are some strategies that every blockchain project should follow if it wants to keep its brand cooking post token sale.

Leverage Social Media

Broadcast your brand on as many vectors as you can, and when you find the one that’s getting you the best traffic, and/or generating the strongest community engagement, focus your efforts there. Post regular updates, but only speak when you have something to say. Vague promises of “great things in the works” won’t convince anyone. Customers are savvier than ever, and they know vaporware when they see it.

Offer the community an intimate look into your company. Behind the scenes videos and photos are a great way to get outsiders excited. It’s important to think of the public the same way you do your employees. Their morale matters, and they’re pinning their hopes and dreams on you, too. By fostering a shared sense of of struggle, hard work, and optimism through social media channels, your community will feel like your victories are their own. It’s the same as sports fandom. Even though the fans never play a snap, they believe they’ve earned a share of the glory when their team performs well.

This may sound like a no-brainer, and yet, Twitter is littered with accounts for major blockchain projects, some of which raised hundreds of millions, but which violate each and every recommendation listed above. Look no further than their replies to see the ire stoked by such negligence.

Razor Sharp Messaging

Your blockchain project probably wouldn’t have succeeded without a clear use-case and it’s important not to lose sight of it as you maintain brand interest in the lull between funding and going operational. Utilizing social media is vital as we’ve discussed, and continuous updates that track with your stated goals keep the public interest simmering. Even if the updates are granular, people will want to hear about them if they represent another step forward on the long march to your product launch. While it’s tempting to go along with the blockchain’s quasi-utopian narrative, try to keep messaging grounded. We all want to believe that blockchain can change the world for the better, but we also want to know how.

Tailor Your Message to Different Audiences

Any successful idea or product appeals to a wide range of audiences. As Brian Evans notes, ShipChain’s disruption of the freight and shipping supply chain not only has the potential to update an industry that’s technologically behind the times, resulting in clear cost and time benefits to the end consumer, but its business model also strongly appeals to people within the industry.

There are three categories which demand their own tailor made marketing channel. Small businesses, who live and die by each shipment of their product, are highly interested in the platform’s global track and trace capabilities. Brokers and other middlemen, while they may feel threatened at first, have much to gain by transferring their business to the blockchain. And developers, the ones building on ShipChain’s ecosystem, are intrigued by working in a space that has an incredibly high ceiling for its user base.

Finding a way to successfully market to these three groups separately, using language they’re accustomed to, leads to interest in the product that, while different in kind, can be equally strong. Evans acknowledges that this requires wearing many hats as a CMO, in effect becoming an expert in several disciplines, but this is part and parcel of marketing in the blockchain space, and appeals to those among us who are always looking to stretch their horizons.

Peace of Mind

Contra PT Barnum, there is such a thing as bad publicity. Blockchain still bears a patina of distrust due to years of anti-crypto news in the mainstream press. If you want your product or platform to attract a broad user base, you’re going to have to reach the non-enthusiast crowd, and the sad fact of the matter is many of these people either A) have no idea what blockchain is, B) think it’s unsafe due to high profile crypto heists, or C) believe it’s connected with nefarious criminals operating on the black market. If someone visits Twitter and falls for scammers impersonating your company, you may have lost a customer for life. Don’t let it happen. If and when you reach a public beta stage, it’s incumbent on your security team to make sure it goes off without a glitch, and then for your marketing team to trumpet this accomplishment loud and clear to the wary public. Do you part to make blockchain as benign as email to the average Jane and Joe.

Finally, Accept the Possibility of Failure

Evans stresses the importance of walking the line between managing expectations and maintaining relentless optimism. When a favorite project of his failed, he had to accept that failure is a bitter reality even for the most successful people on earth. Just as you shouldn’t make impossible promises in your marketing, you should keep your own expectations grounded in reality, so that when failure does come, it won’t be at the expense of your own self worth. Many an idea that seemed bulletproof has come to an unhappy end, but that doesn’t mean all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into it were for naught.

It’s no easy task marketing a product or platform post campaign. Even the most experienced marketer has to admit it’s a struggle to maintain the hurricane-force winds of hype that greeted many a token sale in the previous year. The public, used to instant gratification, and swiftly advancing technology may lose patience with the time it takes to turn idea into reality. Other businesses, promised sweeping improvements to their industries aren’t immune to frustration, either. The crucial point is to not let this interim period succumb to silence. Your company might not have anything to sell right now, but when that day comes, the public will be ready. Thanks to you.

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South Carolina Ends Cease & Desist Orders Against Crypto Startups

South Carolina’s securities regulator has ended cease-and-desist orders against two blockchain startups, public documents revealed Thursday.

The South Carolina Attorney General’s office, which oversees securities regulation in the state, published two orders explaining that a cease-and-desist filed against blockchain startup ShipChain in May was vacated, and another complaint filed against mining firm Genesis Mining in March removed the company as a respondent. The moves mark the first time such orders were dropped against blockchain startups in the state.

The regulator had claimed that ShipChain’s tokens and Genesis Mining’s mining contracts were both unregistered securities. ShipChain pushed back against this claim in May, saying in a statement that the firm did “not believe [its] tokens are securities.” Furthermore, ShipChain claimed it was unaware South Carolina residents could purchase its SHIP tokens.

On Thursday, deputy securities commissioner Tracy Meyers wrote “the Securities Division of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of South Carolina, after receiving information regarding matters detailed in the Administrative Order to Cease and Desist issued … upon due consideration of such information, finds good cause has been shown to vacate the [order],” referring to ShipChain.

Similarly, Genesis Mining was dismissed from a its own cease and desist order. Swiss Gold Global, which was charged with acting as an unregistered broker-dealer for Genesis Mining at the same time, was not dismissed from the order.

Shipping containers 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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ShipChain Pushes Back Against Securities Violations Claims

Supply chain startup ShipChain claims it was unaware its SHIP tokens were available to South Carolina residents in its first public response to the state’s cease-and-desist order.

The blockchain company said in its statement that “ShipChain does not believe that [its] tokens are securities,” responding to an order issued by the South Carolina Attorney General’s office on Tuesday. At the time, the securities division within the office claimed that ShipChain “continuously offered investment opportunities in the ShipChain platform and the corresponding tokens to South Carolina residents,” but that it was not a registered broker-dealer or filed for an exemption to South Carolina securities registration requirements.

and that if South Carolina’s Securities Commissioner “had ever contacted ShipChain, ShipChain would have shown that its private sale of tokens was conducted in a manner consistent with applicable securities laws requirements.”

The startup emphasized that it only sold its tokens to accredited investors, adding “that none of the purchasers of SHIPs in that initial sale are South Carolina citizens or businesses.” Further, the company claimed that “ShipChain is not aware that SHIPs were even offered in South Carolina or to any South Carolinian during the private sale.”

ShipChain chief executive John Monarch repeated these claims, telling CoinDesk that “ShipChain did not conduct a public sale, nor sell to South Carolina residents/businesses, and has no plans to in the foreseeable future.”

He added:

“Our software development team is in South Carolina and since January we have not been offering, issuing, or selling tokens, and already had no plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we are confident that there is no way for this to occur.”

In its statement, ShipChain said that it was “regrettable that [its developers] were not given the opportunity to respond before these erroneous accusations were aired,” adding that team members would be willing to “alleviating [the South Carolina Securities Commissioner’s] concerns and clearing the record.”

As previously reported, ShipChain has 30 days from the issuance of the cease-and-desist order to request a hearing with the securities regulator.

Ship 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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South Carolina Sanctions Startup Over Unregistered Token Sales

Blockchain startup ShipChain has been hit with a cease-and-desist order from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, which claimed the company violated the state’s securities statutes.

The state’s Securities Commissioner said in an order issued Monday that ShipChain offered what amounts to an investment contract by way of its token, which is “the only medium of exchange on the platform.”

The order stated:

“At all times relevant to this Order, Respondent ShipChain continuously offered investment opportunities in the ShipChain platform and the corresponding tokens to South Carolina residents through its website and in-person events held in South Carolina. At no time relevant to the events stated herein was Respondent ShipChain registered with the Division as a broker-dealer, and no exemption from registration has been claimed by Respondent ShipChain.”

ShipChain bills itself as an ethereum-based platform for tracking the shipment of goods. It’s also a member of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, which counts major firms such as FedEx and among its ranks.

The order – if finalized – would bar ShipChain from “transacting business” and “from participating in any aspect of the securities industry in or from the State of South Carolina.” The startup has 30 days to request a hearing on the matter, where it may argue that its token sales do not qualify as an unregistered securities offering.

A request for comment was not immediately returned by ShipChain. However, the startup acknowledged the order on Twitter and said it was working on a formal response.

ShipChain’s publicly traded token saw a steep drop in value on Tuesday, and as of press time is trading at $0.065 – down 39 percent compared to yesterday –  according to data from CoinMarketCap.

Shipyard 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.