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#USA Goldman Sachs leads $8M round in cyber security skills platform Immersive Labs

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Immersive Labs, a cyber security skills platform founded by James Hadley, who used to be a researcher at GCHQ, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Goldman Sachs, with participation from a number of unnamed private investors.

Operating in the cyber security training space, Immersive Labs helps enterprise IT and other cyber security teams acquire the latest security skills by combining up to date threat data with what is describes as “gamified” learning. This sees the startup use real-time feeds of the latest attack techniques, hacker psychology and technological vulnerabilities to quickly create “cyber wargames” for IT and security teams to learn from.

The idea is that the platform can up-skill people within hours of a threat emerging, in addition to being used more generally to help identify and remedy less immediate weaknesses in a company’s cyber security team.

“First, there is a big picture problem that the world is crying out for cyber security talent and is currently struggling to fill that gap,” Immersive Labs founder and CEO James Hadley tells me. “Secondly, the way that cyber skills are being taught is massively obsolete and puts the companies they work for at risk. On many occasions, what is taught is out of date before people leave the classroom”.

The inspiration for Immersive Labs was born out of Hadley’s experience running a summer school at GCHQ. It was while running the course that he came to the realisation that “passive classroom-based learning doesn’t suit the people, or pace, of cyber security”.

“Not only does the content date quickly, but the lack of challenge is just not enough for the curious and creative minds required to be good in cyber. You cant dictate, they have to teach themselves through exploration,” he says.

“We let technical and security teams learn cyber skills like an attacker, allowing them to keep pace by combining breaking threat data with short browser-based wargames. This takes the form of a series of stories that encourage people to research, analyse and build their own attacks and solutions. Whilst doing this, they learn in a fun and compelling way”.

To that end, Immersive Labs says its Series A funding will be used to grow its offering for enterprise IT and cyber security teams. This will include investing in headcount and infrastructure to develop the platform further, and to support the company’s go-to-market strategy. Current clients include global corporates with complex cyber security needs, such as BAE Systems, Sophos and Grant Thornton.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2FwJrIh

#Africa South African fintech in 2019 – what can we expect?

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Dominique Collett is senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investments and the head of AlphaCode, a South African incubation, acceleration and investment initiative that identifies, partners and grows early stage financial service ventures.

Here are her fintech predictions for 2019 based on what AlphaCode is seeing with its members.

Digital banks

The introduction of TymeBank, BankZero and Discovery Bank will no doubt shake up the industry and give customers greater choice. It will also force the incumbent banks to respond by refining their customer value propositions and user experiences. As a result, we expect to see greater focus from the traditional banks on their digital channels.

We also anticipate new entrants from other industries – mobile network operators are relooking at mobile money products that focus on payments offerings. Other non-bank players such as insurers and retailers will continue to advance into the banking space.

Cryptocurrency

There has been a lot of attention on cryptocurrency given the meteoric rise last year and then the collapse in the Bitcoin price. Some industry watchers are calling this the death of crypto. I disagree. There has undoubtedly been a huge crash but crypto’s current market cap is just under US$150 billion. This may be small in global asset class terms but it is not insignificant.

Cryptocurrency is here to stay. It’s not clear if and when cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will hit their $20,000 peak again but investing in cryptos is a long-term investment trend and shouldn’t be viewed over the short term. Tim Draper, one of the world’s best venture capitalists, remains bullish on crypto over the long-term. The smart money is still investing in this asset class despite the volatility.

I think that one of the positive outcomes of the crash is the collapse of initial coin offerings (ICO). Almost $10 billion was raised through ICOs in the first half of 2018, but a study done by ICO advisory firm Statis Group showed that more than 80 per cent of these were scams and investors lost significant cash. With the collapse of the crypto price, ICOs look less attractive and I believe this is a positive trend. Investing in a new asset class requires extensive research, as many who lost a lot of money in ICOs discovered painfully last year. So there is likely to be a significant reduction in the number of ICOs as a form of capital raising.

Hopefully we will also see a reduction in the number of crypto investment and pyramid schemes, mainly driven by greed. Many have lost a lot of money. Crypto is a very volatile, risky asset class that is highly speculative. Don’t invest in it unless you really understand the technology and the asset class and even then, don’t over invest. There really is no easy way to make money. If you do make the decision to invest, make sure you buy, sell and store through trusted exchanges like Luno.

Regulators are also likely to get more involved in the industry – most have fintech and cryptocurrency working groups and they are ensuring they have a good understanding of the asset class.

Insurtech

We expect to continue to see activity in the insurtech space. 2018 saw lots of new, interesting entrants like Indie, Naked and Pineapple who are backed by big institutions. I think it is difficult for these niche insurers to scale quickly but expect these players to grow and new entrants to appear in the market. Players like Root Insurance make it much easier for new insurance entrants to get to market with their open API software backed by Guardrisk.

We can expect incumbent insurers to ensure greater focus on their digital offerings to compete with these new entrants, and this is good news for consumers. We will also see non-insurance players like mobile network operators, retailers and banks entering the digital insurance space.

More savings products

We’ve seen the launch of robo-advisors like OUTvest which aim to attract younger customers through their digital offering and simplified investing process. Alternative savings platforms like Easy Equities, which make it easier to invest in equities, have grown. We expect to see more entrants in this space like Akiba and Franc growing their market share.

Focus on financial inclusion

In our recent AlphaCode Incubate initiative, which identifies South African financial services entrepreneurs with extraordinary ideas and businesses that could impact the financial services industry, we saw a lot of businesses trying to solve the problem of financial exclusion and ways to provide low income customers with relevant financial services products. These businesses will gain traction in 2019 as they mature. Prospa, for example, provides a low-income savings product while iSpani provides marketing and sales access for insurers in townships.

Innovative SME financing solutions

Given the focus on growing the South African economy, it is imperative to build SMEs. Coupled with the pressure for corporates to transform their supply chain as new BEE charters are adopted, we will see an increase in the number of SME financing solutions that enable black SMEs to gain greater market access. I am most excited by models like Nisa Finance and InvoiceWorx that have innovative offerings for SMEs. I also think we can expect a business banking shake-up in the SME market, given that Capitec is moving into the SME space through its acquisition of Mercantile Bank. That’s a game changer.

More funding options

We’ve seen a number of international venture capitalists invest in South African fintechs in 2018 – for example Yoco and Jumo. I think this is a positive trend highlighting the maturation of our local fintech industry and I believe we will continue to see interest from international players. We will also see more local funding such as Naspers Foundry which will be exciting for the fintech space. Banks in particular will start noticing South African fintech successes.

Hot fintech startups to watch in 2019

Pineapple, a digital insurer, aims to decrease costs, cap profits and deter fraud in an effort to create more value from an insurance policy than the traditional model.

Akiba allows you to track your savings goal, keep focused and get rewards for saving.

Franc is South Africa’s cheapest way to invest. It allows stokvel members to invest in money market and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) free.

Prospa is a savings platform for people earning between ZAR2,000 (US$140) and ZAR8,000 (US$570)s a month.

Nisa Finance is an invoice financing platform that enables financiers to issue invoice-backed loans to small businesses quickly and affordably.InvoiceWorx is an inventory financing platform that gives small retailers access to lines of credit from suppliers.

The post South African fintech in 2019 – what can we expect? appeared first on Disrupt Africa.

from Disrupt Africa http://bit.ly/2TI7t74

#Africa Applications open for GrowthAfrica accelerator programme

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Startups from Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia are invited to apply for the GrowthAfrica accelerator, which helps startups scale and become investment ready.

GrowthAfrica works with innovative growth stage companies across the continent, helping them with business acceleration, strategic advice and facilitation in access to investments.

Over the past seven years it has run 18 programmes with 180 companies, who it has helped raise over US$42 million in funding and create more than 24,000 jobs.    

Applications are now open for the latest GrowthAfrica Business Scaleup Accelerator Programme in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Zambia, which will see 15 entrepreneurs selected in each country and put through a programme with modules on things like growth strategy, financial modelling, and investment support, and featuring mentorship and networking opportunities.

GrowthAfrica is looking for for-profit, post-revenue businesses with an innovative product, service or methodology that are ready to scale and open to raising external investment as part of their growth strategy. It is open to startups in all sectors but especially focused on agribusiness, education, mobile solutions, fintech, renewable energy, health, manufacturing and e-commerce.

The programme’s first phase consists of 18 workshop days spread over a six months period. After each workshop startups will work in-company with the assistance of external business experts, GrowthAfrica growth catalysts and financial modellers to implement their new strategies and innovations.

The second phase of the programme involves 24 months of one-on-one support from the GrowthAfrica team, a pool of external business leaders and support by GrowthAfrica’s investment facilitation team.
Applications are open until January 31. Startups can apply here for Zambia, here for Kenya, here for Uganda, and here for Ethiopia.

The post Applications open for GrowthAfrica accelerator programme appeared first on Disrupt Africa.

from Disrupt Africa http://bit.ly/2D7PUIj

#Blockchain Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption

Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption

In the midst of a severe economic depression and the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolívar, bitcoin cash (BCH) supporters have been teaching people about the benefits of using permissionless cryptocurrencies throughout the country. The BCH meetup in Venezuela has swelled to 349 registered participants and group coordinator Lizbeth Alviarez has recently detailed that dedicated members are doing everything they can to accelerate adoption in the area.

Also read: Acquiring Crypto: Simple Steps to Buying Your First Bitcoin

Encouraging True Adoption

Venezuela’s economy has continued to deteriorate with rising hyperinflation, causing millions of citizens to leave the country. Meanwhile, Nicolás Maduro, the man blamed for much of the country’s financial troubles, is about to take office for another six years. Maduro has also created a supposedly blockchain-based currency, the petro, that’s allegedly backed by oil reserves. However, despite the petro launch, many cryptocurrency proponents believe that real permissionless digital currencies can help Venezuelans escape the economic quagmire. Since 2014, many people have been trying to get cryptocurrencies like bitcoin core (BTC) and dash to gain traction in the region. Additionally, many crypto supporters have also been trying to spread bitcoin cash adoption in Venezuela because of the decentralized currency’s incredibly low transaction fees. This has bolstered the Bitcoin Cash Venezuela meetup immensely and the group has gathered roughly 349 members to date.

Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption
Lizbeth Alviarez.

One of those members is Lizbeth Alviarez who recently wrote an interesting post on the Honest.cash platform concerning digital currency adoption. The post explained that in her opinion the influx of crypto buyers portrayed in headlines every week does not represent true adoption in the country. Alviarez says most of these coins are being traded speculatively on exchanges and at the end of the day these traders just want profit in either bolívars or dollars.

Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption

The BCH meetup member emphasized that at least members of the dash community have been doing a “good job” at encouraging Venezuelans to use cryptocurrencies as a method of payment. Prominent members of the BCH meetup are relentlessly bolstering events sponsored by BCH-supporting companies in order to accelerate educational projects, Alviarez stated.

The Venezuelan BCH supporter further added:  

People and businesses are encouraged to receive BCH as a form of payment because that is true adoption.

Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption

Permissionless Economic Freedom

Alviarez also remarked that so far several Venezuelan ambassadors have been dedicating time and resources to spreading adoption in areas like Nueva Esparta, Cumana, Mérida, Acarigua, Barquisimeto, Anzoátegui, and Valencia. Furthermore, Alviarez and friends are encouraging more people to join the BCH Venezuela team. Alviarez detailed she and other members of the Venezuelan crew can be reached on various forums and social media networks.    

“We are at the beginning of a new digital money payment system, where we are real owners of our own money, where there are no intermediaries or a bank entity that tells us how much money we can withdraw from our bank accounts [as is the case in Venezuela], where we can … send and receive money from anywhere in the world with almost instantaneous transactions and very low commissions,” Alviarez finished.

What do you think about the BCH Venezuela team and Lizbeth Alviarez’s efforts? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below. 


Image credits: Shutterstock, Lizbeth Alviarez, and the BCH meetup Venezuela.


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The post Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption appeared first on Bitcoin News.

from Bitcoin News http://bit.ly/2SO9S01 Venezuelan BCH Proponents Bolster Cryptocurrency Use Cases and Adoption

#Africa How Nigeria’s Delivery Science enables better field management

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Nigerian startup Delivery Science is using its Fieldinsight product to help consumer goods companies gain insight into smarter deployment of their people, assets and products out in the field.

Delivery Science was founded in 2014 after co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Lanre Oyedotun’s haulage business was dealt a huge blow by a driver stealing a product that was to be delivered to a customer.

Oyedotun looked for a solution to such problems, and when he couldn’t find one locally, decided to build it. The result was Fieldinsight, a mobile solution that helps organisations gather relevant data, and manage and monitor field activities through near real-time visualisations.

It helps companies know more about their target customers by collecting data about them in a structured way, accept orders from customers from the field and online, accept payments, and obtain real-time information about delivery of goods and services.

“Eighty per cent of the workforce in businesses operate in the field. These range from field sales, to delivery personnel, to distributors. Our goal is to help these people work more efficiently,” Ore Omolaja, VP for distribution at Delivery Science, told Disrupt Africa.

“For businesses who have limited facts and visibility over their field operations, Fieldinsight enables the collection of data in the field using mobile and IoT devices, stores it offline, and forwards once it is connected to the internet.”

The startup was one of those selected to take part in Google’s first Launchpad accelerator in Africa and 2017, and has grown its team to over 25 people. It has raised a host of funding rounds over the last few years, and is planning on expanding to neighbouring countries after seeing strong uptake in Nigeria, where it operates a subscription model.

“We identified that within the supply chain and logistics space is a considerable information lag between individuals who work in the field and executives in the office,” Omolaja said. “This is largely due to the inefficiencies during data collection at every stage of the supply chain. We discovered that the lack of infrastructure, data connectivity and lack of data collection standards were contributing factors towards these inefficiencies.”

The post How Nigeria’s Delivery Science enables better field management appeared first on Disrupt Africa.

from Disrupt Africa http://bit.ly/2FA0ol4

#Blockchain Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials Report

According to reports from media outlet Texas Public Radio, the Chinese mining giant Bitmain Technologies has reportedly suspended operations in the town of Rockdale. Bitmain started to build up its new facility at a former aluminum smelting factory last summer, but since the crypto economy downturn, the company’s operations at the Texas factory have allegedly paused.

Also read: Sideshift App Demonstrates a Trade Between Lightning Network BTC and Tether

Bitmain Reportedly Halts Its Texas Mining Operations

Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials ReportIt seems Bitmain has temporarily stopped operations at its Texas facility in the wake of cryptocurrency markets losing significant fiat value over the last few months. According to Texas Public Radio (TPR) and Milam county judge Steve Young, the Rockdale plant used to employ 15 individuals and now the operation is down to five employees manning the factory. Young says he isn’t too pleased that the mining business has paused and hopes the operation will continue. The county official emphasized that the Chinese company had “spent millions thus far to renovate the buildings” and he believes there are 7,000-8,000 mining units dispersed throughout the location.

“I’m really disappointed because we had advertised this, we had waited for this, we had wanted this and we had welcomed this,” Milam county judge Steve Young explained this Friday. “This was huge, we need some positive news here and we need some jobs here — We need a tax base here and this was a step in the right direction.”

Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials Report
The town of Rockdale where Bitmain’s Texas operations are housed. The mining firm is also sponsoring the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center 40 miles away.

The announcement comes after the South China Morning Post reported that Bitmain was in the midst of changing leadership roles. Moreover, the company’s mining operation Antpool was sponsoring the Houston Rockets about 40 miles west of College Station at the Toyota Center. At the time, Bitmain explained that choosing the Rockdale operation was due to certain factors in Texas like a strong economy, population growth, and friendly regulations. The Chinese company was also reportedly getting a tax abatement privileges as well. The abatement would give Bitmain and other technology firms who reside at the former aluminum smelter factory a 10-year tax break.

Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials Report
The power plant located next to the former aluminum smelting factory that Bitmain has been using for mining. 

So Far Bitmain Hasn’t Given Rockdale Officials Any Reason to Worry

Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials Report
Rockdale city manager Chris Whittaker.

Bitmain officials declined to comment on the current status in Rockdale and told TPR in an email that staff reductions were happening across the entire company. “The right-sized team at Rockdale now has the expertise to re-start the project at small scale anytime. Bitmain would like to ramp up the site at a slower pace and scale based on market conditions,” the spokesperson told TPR. Rockdale city manager Chris Whittaker told TPR he is optimistic that the Chinese mining manufacturer will remain in Rockdale.   

“I am optimistic that maybe [Bitmain] is reorganizing — They haven’t totally shut down and all those things are encouraging,” said Whittaker.

The city manager continued:

We’re optimistic that future companies are coming to the Alcoa property — This is a valuable asset to the county and it will remain and some company will come here and take advantage of this cheap source of power.

The Milam county judge detailed that Bitmain hasn’t given officials any reason to worry and the corporation has been honest so far. Moreover, Young also noted that Bitmain also pledged to hire locally and help pay school district taxes. Tax abatement deals are not uncommon for startups looking to set up shop in the Texas region, but if a startup cannot fulfill its promises then the tax breaks can be renegotiated by Rockdale officials.

What do you think about Bitmain allegedly suspending its Texas operations? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Image credits: Shutterstock, Paul Flahive of Texas Public Radio, and Pixabay. 


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from Bitcoin News http://bit.ly/2Maa8nx Bitmain Pauses Texas Mining Operations, County Officials Report

#Blockchain Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn

Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn

Over the last year, cryptocurrency prices have dropped significantly and mainstream attention has been waning in recent months. However, according to recent data, the digital currency and blockchain conference circuit did not see a steady decline during the last six months of 2018.

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Moves Crypto Hearing, Community Calls for Positive Regulations

Digital Currency and Blockchain Focused Conferences Are Still Trending 

Cryptocurrency and blockchain related conferences did not see a decline in popularity last year. The number of crypto-infused events held was a stark contrast to the many other sectors within the digital asset economy, according to recent data collected by the analysis site Tradeblock. In 2018, cryptocurrency conferences really started heating up and event organizers pulled in millions from steady ticket sales and initial coin offering (ICO) exhibition booths. For instance, last year at Consensus Week (May 11-17) in New York the conference scored a whopping $10.5 million with event tickets being sold for $1,500-2,000 for all 7,000 attendees.

Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn

In fact, blockchain conference tickets sold for big money all year long and most of the events in 2018 sold out. The two-day Ethereum Ethereal Summit hosted by Consensys sold tickets for $1,300 a pop, even after Vitalik Buterin publicly spoke out against expensive conference tickets and rampant scams. The Women on the Block conference on Mother’s Day sold for $299-599, and Token Summit on May 17 sold out its early bird tickets at $649 and sold the rest of the seats in the house for $979. Last May, the company Eventbrite was selling NYC Blockchain Tech & Invest Summit tickets for $899-$1,299 per person.

In the face of massive layoffs, the declining cryptocurrency market values in 2018, and tickets selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars — Blockchain conferences have remained unscathed from the faltering crypto economy. The well known provider of institutional trading tools and digital currency data Tradeblock explained this week that 2018 blockchain event organizers continued to host conferences all around the world.   

“Despite the crypto bear market during 2018, the number of industry related conferences did not see a steady decline in the latter half of the year,” the analytical data website Tradeblock detailed on Thursday.

Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn
The number of cryptocurrency and blockchain conferences in 2018. Photo via Tradeblock. 

Pricey Crypto Events See Sold Out Exhibit Halls and Thousands of Attendees

Many of the 2018 blockchain events had upwards of hundreds to thousands of attendees, according to the vast list of conferences held last year. The Paris Fintech Forum saw 2,000 guests, Finovate Europe 1,400, Malta Blockchain Summit 9,500, Cryptocurrency World Expo Berlin 1,600, Blockchain Summit Vienna 2,000, Deconomy South Korea 2,000, Blockchain Conference Moscow 2,000, and the Blockchain Expo Global in London saw 6,000 participants. Blockchain conferences saw appearances from numerous cryptocurrency developers and blockchain luminaries as well, such as Tim Draper, Joseph Lubin, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, Vitalik Buterin, Charlie Lee, Balaji Srinivasan, and many other speakers.

Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn
Moscow, Russia – March 27, 2018: People attend blockchain conference in congress hall. Photo via Anton Gvozdikov.

2019 cryptocurrency and blockchain related conferences are still in full swing as there are many scheduled for the next few months already. There are conferences such as Blockchainge DC, Crypto Investor Show Manchester, TNABC Miami, and the Binance Blockchain Week event. Some of these conferences will host up to 4,500 people depending on the blockchain event. Even though online attention and crypto trends may be dwindling, the general public is still very inquisitive toward cryptocurrency and blockchain focused events.

What do you think about the cryptocurrency and blockchain conference circuit still thriving? Did you attend any blockchain conferences last year? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Images via Shutterstock.


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The post Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn appeared first on Bitcoin News.

from Bitcoin News http://bit.ly/2FoUpAC Cryptocurrency Conferences Continue to Thrive Despite Industry Downturn

#Blockchain Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records

Latin American P2P Markets Defy Global Trend to Smash Volume Records

The Latin American peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency markets have a seen a significant spike heading into 2019, with the Colombian, Peruvian, and Venezuelan Localbitcoins markets posting record volume when measuring in both fiat and BTC. The Argentinian, Dominican, and Mexican markets also posted record volume for P2P trade in recent weeks.

Also Read: 9 Cryptocurrency Firms Sue Washington State Utility Over 50 Percent Rate Hike

Latin American P2P Markets Witness Record Trade Volume

Despite a steady decline in global Localbitcoins volume during recent weeks when measuring in fiat currency, several Latin America P2P markets consistently posted record trade activity heading into the new year.

The months of November and December 2018 saw the Colombian Localbitcoins post consecutive records for weekly trade activity.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins COP/BTC Volume – COP

The increased volume appears to have peaked during the end of December, with the current record of 759 BTC or 8.40 billion Colombian Pesos (COP) (approximately $2.66 million) worth of cryptocurrency changing hands during the week of Dec. 22, 2018.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins COP/BTC Volume – BTC

Since then, volume has significantly receded, with 346 BTC or approximately 4.26 billion COP (roughly $1.35 million) worth of bitcoin core trading hands during the week of Jan. 5th, 2019 – a drop in volume of between 50 and 55 percent over the course of just two weeks.

Peruvian and Argentinian Trade Activity Drops 50% Since December Surge

When measuring in fiat currency, the Peruvian Localbitcoins markets posted six consecutive records for weekly trade volume from the week of Nov. 14, 2018, until Dec. 29, 2018.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins PEN/BTC Volume – PEN

Peruvian P2P trade saw a new record posted for both fiat and cryptocurrency volume with 252 BTC or 3.46 million Peruvian Sol (PEN) (nearly $1.04 million) worth of trade during the final week of 2018. Since posting the current record, P2P trade between PEN and BTC has dropped by roughly 25 percent to 190 BTC or 2.59 million PEN (approximately $776,000).

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins PEN/BTC Volume – BTC

When measuring in fiat currency, the Argentinian Localbitcoins markets posted record volume of nearly 9.45 million Argentine Pesos (ARS) (roughly $256,000) during the week of Dec. 8, 2018. The same week saw 65 BTC traded on the platform, the most to change hands since April 2017.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins ARS/BTC Volume – ARS

Despite the significant burst in trade activity, Argentinian P2P trade appears to have since dropped off by between 40 and 50 percent in roughly one month, with 30 BTC or 5.64 million ARS (approximately $153,000) worth of crypto trading on Localbitcoins during the week of Jan. 5, 2019.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins ARS/BTC Volume – BTC

Dominican and Mexican P2P Trade Spikes During Week of Dec. 22, 2018

P2P trade between the Dominican Peso (DOP) and BTC broke records twice during December 2018, with volume more than doubling during the week of Dec. 22 to post the current record of 47 BTC worth of weekly trade when measuring in cryptocurrency.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins DOP/BTC Volume – BTC

When measuring in fiat, the 9.2 million DOP (roughly $182,000) worth of BTC traded during the same week comprises the third strongest weekly trade activity on record, and the strongest volume posted since the week of Jan. 13, 2018.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins DOP/BTC Volume – DOP

Mexico also saw a surge in P2P trade during the week of Dec. 22, 2018, with 9.34 million Mexican Pesos (MXN) (roughly $488,000), or 115 BTC, changing hands in a single week – the second strongest on record when measuring in MXN.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins MXN/BTC Volume – MXN

Venezuelan Cryptocurrency Trade Continues to Surge

Seven weeks during November and December of last year saw record volume posted for Venezuelan Locabitcoins trade when measuring BTC, six of which also comprised then-record volume when measuring in Venezuelan Bolivars (VES).

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins VES/BTC Volume – BTC

After posting a new record of 1,974 BTC or 5.29 billion VES (nearly $6.66 million) worth of trade during the week of Dec. 22, the Venezuelan Localbitcoins markets have since failed to post a new record for two consecutive weeks when measuring in cryptocurrency for the first time since September 2018.

Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records
Localbitcoins VES/BTC Volume – VES

Why do you think Latin American trade activity flourished in spite of declining global volume during the final months of 2018? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Coin.dance


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from Bitcoin News http://bit.ly/2FrfJp4 Latin American P2P Bitcoin Markets Defy Global Trend to Set New Records

#Blockchain Russia Not Ready for the Petro, Proposes Plan to Aid Venezuela Without It

Acknowledging Venezuela’s efforts to deal with inflation and sanctions by creating a state-issued cryptocurrency, Russian officials have nevertheless declined a proposal to use the oil-backed coin in bilateral trade. According to Russian media, Moscow has recently offered Caracas a set of measures aimed at mending the country’s economy but the petro is not among the recommendations.   

Also read: Tron Can’t Handle Bittorrent’s Transaction Volume, Former Exec Claims

Russia Recommends Traditional Economic Reforms

The Russian Federation has taken steps to help its strategic South American ally to overcome the deep economic and financial crisis. A high-level delegation visited Caracas in November and delivered a plan to improve Venezuela’s economy. Moscow’s ideas were recently made public by Russian media. It turns out the petro is not part of the Russian strategy.

Russia Not Ready for the Petro, Proposes Plan to Aid Venezuela Without It

The group of Russian government experts, headed by deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak, gave Venezuelan authorities a list of economic measures. It’s now up to Nicolas Maduro’s administration to implement them. He recently won the presidential election and officially took office last Thursday, starting a new six-year term as head of state of the impoverished country. Maduro was reelected despite the 1.3 million percent inflation last year which forced 3 million Venezuelans to emigrate from their homeland to neighboring countries.

The economic recovery plan contains five key recommendations. The first measure proposed by Russian economists is to introduce unconditional basic income for the suffering Venezuelan households, Russian news outlet The Bell reported. The money can be provided by revoking the fuel subsidies currently paid by the Venezuelan government.

The second advice is to “shut down the money printing press,” – in other words stop financing the budget deficit with newly printed money. In August last year, Maduro’s government deleted five zeros to redenominate the national fiat currency. However, with no efforts to cut the deficit, the “sovereign bolivar” lost 95 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar.

Russians Advise Caracas to Focus on Indirect Taxes

The Russian delegation urged Caracas to conduct a tax reform. The Moscow emissaries told Venezuelan authorities they should follow Russia’s example and focus on indirect taxation instead of relying on direct taxes. They also advised Venezuelan officials to increase oil production and diversify the country’s exports.

Russia Not Ready for the Petro, Proposes Plan to Aid Venezuela Without It

Probably out of diplomatic courtesy, the Russian representatives gave a positive assessment of Venezuelan attempts to solve the problems with hyperinflation and foreign sanctions using the oil-backed national crypto, the petro. But according to the Russian press, they also told their Venezuelan colleagues that Russia is not ready to accept the digital coin as a unit of account in bilateral trade.

Following the meetings with the Russian delegation, President Maduro, who also recently visited Moscow, stated that his country relies on Russia to ensure its economic independence. Venezuelan officials have not yet commented on their readiness to implement the Russian recommendations but Caracas has already managed to secure economic aid from Russia. Moscow will invest $5 million in its oil industry and provide 600,000 tons of grain. That’s on top of the $17 billion in loans that, according to Reuters, the Russian government and the state-run oil company Rosneft have given to Venezuela since 2016.

What is your opinion about the economic measures proposed by Russia? Do you think Venezuela will implement the reforms? Tell us in the comments section below.


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The post Russia Not Ready for the Petro, Proposes Plan to Aid Venezuela Without It appeared first on Bitcoin News.

from Bitcoin News http://bit.ly/2D7kSjw Russia Not Ready for the Petro, Proposes Plan to Aid Venezuela Without It

#USA Testing times for second wave scooter startups

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Investors are still pouring millions into scooter startups, albeit sometimes at flat valuations. At the same time a little cash is flowing the other way, in cases where cities have realized the importance of prioritizing the needs of the local environment and its citizens, over and above the ambitions of VCs for a swift and lucrative exit.

Scooter startups affected by such regulatory bumps in the road are, unsurprisingly, rather less keen to shout about this sort of policy friction and the negative cash and ride flow it generates.

In one recent incident in Spain, in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, El Pais reported that the town hall fined a local scooter startup, called Reby, for contravening urban mobility rules.

The startup is so new it doesn’t even have scooters available for public hire yet. But it’s already had some of its ‘test’ rides removed by police and been fined for breaking scooter sharing rules.

If it was hoping to copy-paste from an Uber 1.0 playbook, things aren’t looking good for Reby. (Indeed, that’s a very tatty manual in most places these days.)

Spain’s capital city Madrid also forced a temporary suspension on scooter sharing startups recently, as we reported last month, after changes to mobility laws that tighten the screw on scooter sharing — requiring already operational startups to tweak how their rides operate in order to come into compliance.

While Madrid authorities haven’t banned scooter sharing entirely, they have imposed more limits on where and how they can be used, thereby injecting fresh friction into the business model.

But compared to Barcelona that’s actually a free ride. Things aren’t so much bumpy as roadblocked entirely for scooter sharing in the latter city where regulations adopted by Barcelona town hall in 2017 essentially ban the on-demand scooter model, at least as startups prefer to operate it.

These rules require companies that wanting to offer scooters for hire must provide a guide with the ride (one guide per maximum two people), as well as a helmet. They must also verify that the person to whom the vehicle is hired has the ability to ride it properly.

Rides might scale if you’re able to litter enough cheap and easy scooters all over the urban place but a (human) guide per two rides definitely does not.

Yet, as we’ve written before, there’s no shortage of patinetes electronics weaving around Barcelona’s often narrow and crowded streets. Most of these are locally owned though. And the town hall appears to prefer it that way. After all, people who own high tech scooters aren’t usually in a rush to ditch them in stupid places.

In its 2017 by-law regulating various personal mobility vehicles (PMVs) — including, but not limited to, two-wheeled electric scooters — the city council said it wanted to foster safer and sustainable usage of scooters and other PMVs, pointing to “the growing presence of this new mobility which is taking up more and more road space”.

“Barcelona City Council is committed to a sustainable city mobility model which gives priority to journeys on foot, by bicycle or on public transport,” it added, setting out what it dubbed a “pioneering regulation” that forbids e-scooter use on pavements; imposes various speed restrictions; and gives priority to pedestrians at all times.

Scooters can also only be parked in authorized parking places, with the council emphasizing: “It is forbidden to tie them to trees, traffic lights, benches or other items of urban furniture when this could affect their use or intended purpose; in front of loading or unloading zones, or in places reserved for other users, such as persons with reduced mobility; in service areas or where parking is prohibited, such as emergency exits, hospitals, clinics or health centres, Bicing [the local city bike hire scheme] zones and on pavements where this might block the path of pedestrians.”

There’s more though: The regulation also targets scooter sharing startups seeking to exploit PMVs as a commercial opportunity — with “special conditions for economic activities”.

These include the aforementioned guide, helmet and minimum skill level rule. There’s also a registration scheme for PMVs being used for economic activity which allows city police to scan a QR code that must be displayed on the ride to check it conforms to the regulation’s technical requirements. How’s that for a smart use of tech?

“There may be specific restrictions in specific areas and districts where there is a lot of pressure from these kinds of vehicles or they pose a specific problem,” the council also warns, giving itself further leeway to control PMVs and ensure they don’t become a concentrated nuisance.

Despite what are clear, strict and freshly imposed controls on scooter sharing, that hasn’t stopped a couple of smaller European startups from trying their luck at getting rentable rubber on Catalan carrers anywayperhaps encouraged by demonstrable local appetite to scoot (that and the lack of any big Birds).

The opportunity probably looks tantalizing; a dense urban environment that’s also a tourist hotspot with clement weather, lots of two-wheel-loving locals and a small but vibrant tech scene.

In Reby’s case, the very early stage Catalan startup, whose co-founders’ LinkedIn profiles suggests the business was founded last July, has a website and not much else at this point, aside from its ambitions to follow in the wheeltracks of Bird, Lime et al.

Nonetheless it has racked up fines worth €5,300 (just over $6,000), according to town hall sources, after being deemed to have breached the city’s PMV rules.

Reby had put out up to a hundred scooters in Barcelona for ten days, according to El Pais, padlocking them to bike anchors (with a digital password for unchaining delivered via app) — presumably in the hopes of locating a grey area in the regulation and unlocking the pile em’ high, rent em’ cheap dockless on-demand scooter model that’s disrupted cities elsewhere.

But the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona was unimpressed. Its new by-law brought in a penalty system with fines of up to €100 for minor infringements, up to €200 for serious infringements and up to €500 for very serious infringements. (We understand Reby received 53 sanctions for minor infringements — costing €100 apiece).

Penalties are levied per infringement, so essentially per scooter deployed on the street. And while a few thousand euros might not sound that much of a big deal, the more scooters you scatter the higher the fine scales. And of course that’s not the kind of scaling these startups are scooting for.

We asked Reby for its version of events but it didn’t want to talk about it. A spokesman told us it’s still very early days for the business, adding: “We are a very small team and haven’t launched yet officially. We are doing some tests in Barcelona.”

A more established European scooter startup, Berlin-based Wind, has also clashed with city hall. El Pais reports it had around 100 scooters seized by police last August, also after abortively trying to put them on the streets for hire.

Town hall sources told us that, in Wind’s case, the company’s rides were removed immediately by police, not even lasting a day — so there wasn’t even the chance for a fine to be issued. (We contacted Wind for comment on the incident but it did not respond.)

The bottom line is legislative hurdles won’t simply vanish because startups wish it.

Where scooters are concerned city authorities aren’t dumb and can also move surprisingly fast. The dumping grounds some urban spaces have become after being flooded with unwanted dockless rides by overfunded startups chasing scale via max disruption (and minimum environmental sensitivity) certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.

At the same time, keeping streets flowing, uncluttered and safe is the bread and butter business of city councils — naturally pushing PMVs up the regulatory agenda.

You also don’t have to look far for tragic stories vis-a-vis scooters. Last summer a 90-year-old pedestrian was killed in a suburb of Barcelona after she was hit by two men riding an electric scooter. In another incident in a nearby town a 40-year-old scooter rider also reportedly died after falling off her ride and being run over by a truck.

The risks of PMVs mingling with pedestrians and more powerful road vehicles are both clear and also not about to disappear. Not without radical action to expel most non-PMV vehicles from city centers to expand the safe (road) spaces where lower powered, lighter weight PMVs could operate. (And no major cities are proposing anything like that yet).

Add to that, in European cities like Barcelona, where there has already been major investment in public transport infrastructure, there’s a clear incentive to funnel residents along existing tracks, including by tightly controlling new and supplementary forms of micro-mobility.

If the Barcelona city council has one potential blind spot where urban mobility is concerned it’s air pollution. Like most dense urban centers the city often suffers terribly from this. And savvy scooter companies would do well to be pressing on that policy front.

But there’s little doubt that would-be fast-follower scooter clones have their work cut out to scale at all, let alone go the distance and get big enough to attract acquisitive attention from the category’s beefed up early movers.

Even then, for the Birds and Limes of the scooter world, multi-millions in funding may buy runway and the opportunity to scoot for international growth but policy roadblocks aren’t the kind of thing that money alone can shift.

Scooter startups need to sell cities on the potential civic benefits of their technology, by demonstrating how PMVs could replace dirtier alternatives that are already clogging roads and having a deleterious impact on urban air quality, as part of a modern and accessible mobility mix.

But that kind of lobbying, while undoubtedly benefiting from local connections, takes money and time. So there’s no shortage of challenge and complexity in the road ahead for scooter startups, even as — as we wrote last month — the investment opportunity is shrinking, with investors having now placed their big bets.

In some cities, scooter ownership also appears to be growing in popularity which will also eat into any sharing opportunities.

One regional investor from an early stage Madrid-based fund that we spoke to about scooters had no qualms at having passed over the space. “We’ve looked at various companies in the space and in Spain but we’re not very attracted by the market given our fund size, competition and regulation question marks,” KFund‘s Jamie Novoa told us.

So those entrepreneurs still dreaming of fast following the likes of Bird, Lime and Spin may find the race they were hoping to join is already over and park gates being padlocked shut.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2Fp3TLY