Charity hack fixes your crypto CGT bill: Endaoment

Robbie Heeger’s Endaoment has facilitated the donation of over $30 million of cryptocurrency to 243 different charities. These donations come from altruistic cryptocurrency investors who are also partly motivated by reducing their tax burdens to Uncle Sam and keeping more of their profits.

Born in Silicon Valley, Heeger, now in his early 30’s, was exposed to entrepreneurship from a young age. Though he initially worked in big tech, he soon became so enthralled with blockchain that he dropped everything to pursue his new passion in 2018. This led him to create Endaoment, which he calls the first regulatory-compliant nonprofit built entirely on the Ethereum blockchain. The project allows anyone to donate one of over 150 cryptocurrencies to a charity of their choice and, in doing so, reduce their tax liabilities.

Endaoment represents the latest generation of blockchain giving — but it is not the first. In 2017, a mysterious figure calling themselves Pine anonymously donated 5057 Bitcoin, worth $55 million at the time, to a collection of over 60 charities.

These donations not only encouraged major charities to accept cryptocurrency contributions for the first time but also served to counteract the perception of Bitcoin being primarily used in dishonest or criminal activities. While the Pineapple Fund helped legitimize cryptocurrency as a medium of charity, it was by no means the first. As early as 2011, Bruno Kučinskasin created Bitcoin 100, an initiative to donate Bitcoin to charities that would openly accept BTC.

Despite many charities‘ early exposure to cryptocurrency, few have continued to receive substantial donations on the blockchain and many even removed such donation options from their websites. The reason was simple on one level and yet complex by nature — taxes.

Robbie Heeger
Heeger has worked out how to make more money and make the world a better place too.


Upon graduating from university in 2012, Heeger accepted a full-time position with Apple where he first worked as a content publishing quality assurance engineer before becoming a manager of production operations. As his career progressed, his fascination with blockchain technology grew and in 2018, he “left Apple with this understanding that crypto was not just something that I could be tangentially interested in anymore — it was consuming.” Despite his experience at a major tech company, he saw himself as technically weak and took boot camp-style classes in solidity coding and blockchain web development.

“I started brainstorming ways that I could take this new skill set and try and build something that would funnel crypto capital into non-profit organizations that otherwise would have had very little exposure to crypto,” Heeger recounts of his early days. One of his initial ideas was to create a “media chain” by which to verify news content and make it resistant to censorship.

The brainstorming paid off, as he recalled how he had made it a habit to give away a portion of his Apple stock to a donor-advised fund each year because he “had stock that had tax obligations on it and I wanted to give that stock away without having to sell it first.” Charity can, of course, be more than simply selfless giving, as strategic donations can often allow for both individuals and businesses to reduce their tax burdens. While selling AAPL stock before donating it would have incurred additional capital gains taxes, giving the stock to a donor-advised fund allowed him to receive tax benefits for the entire value of the stock without incurring capital gains taxes, as charitable donor-advised funds are not liable to tax.

“I had crypto that had appreciated significantly and I didn‘t want to sell it first in order to donate it. I thought ‘wouldn‘t it be cool if there was a donor-advised fund that took crypto’ and that was the seed that became Endaoment.”

Heeger, now in his early 30’s, founded Endaoment in March 2019. Its core function is to provide a tax receipt in exchange for a donation of cryptocurrency. As a donor-advised fund, those making donations receive “advisory privileges” which means that they can suggest where they would like the proceeds of their cryptocurrency to be donated. In practice, this means that 99% of the time, funds go to the donor’s desired U.S. charity of which Heeger says there are about 2.5 million. The 1% of times when the funds do not reach the donor’s first choice of destination include situations where the grant recommendation “is to a hate group or an organization that‘s not in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service, or one that presents some conflict of interest for the organization,” Heeger explains.

“Give us your crypto and we will give you a tax receipt that says you donated it to a 501C3 tax-exempt non-profit public benefit corporation called Endaoment,” he clarifies regarding the business model.

Here’s how it works in numbers

Suppose Fred bought 1000 ETH at $3 for $3,000. At $3,000 per ETH, he now has $3 million worth. Presuming a 33.33% capital gains tax, he would owe the government about $1 million upon sale, being left with $2 million for himself. Alternatively, he could choose to donate 250 ETH to Endaoment, which would issue him a tax receipt for the equivalent of the $750,000 donation — which would count against and fully cancel out his $750,000 tax liability when selling the remaining 750 ETH, meaning he would be left with $2.25 million, with $750,000 sent to the charity of his choice and zero going to the IRS. 

The talk of the IRS reveals a bottleneck: In order to maintain its status as a U.S. tax-exempt public interest corporation, Endaoment can only issue grants to 501C3 charities registered with U.S. authorities. This means that while many local charities outside the U.S. would not be valid recipients of donations, various international causes can still be targeted as many of the charities act globally.

Endaoment offers ready-made advised funds that anyone can donate to. Source: Endaoment

“We‘ve done a lot of work in Sub-Saharan Africa and Afghan refugee relief, and donations to organizations that do work in Europe and all over the world that just have US 501C3 entities that they use as fundraising vehicles for donors in the U.S.,” Heeger clarifies.

Though Heeger notes that he “cannot solicit services to people outside of the U.S.,” people outside the United States have used the Endaoment software to make crypto donations for which they receive U.S. tax receipts just as any American would. Success in getting tax deductions in such international cases is far from guaranteed, and Heeger notes that not all countries issue tax deductions on the basis of charitable giving. Many users have asked about the possibility of creating tax receipts that meet the requirements of various governments, as the tax systems of many countries consider self-directed donations as societally desirable and therefore encourage them by granting tax reductions based on registered donations.

“We‘ve seen people in Japan, in Australia, in the U.K. and in France come and use the site in order to effect impact — They have taken on the burden of figuring out how they prove the deductibility with their local regulators themselves.”

Heeger sees many opportunities for future expansion including to charities in other countries which he believes would upgrade the number of options from 2.5 to over 7 million charitable organizations. It is clear that his mind has never left Silicon Valley, as he characterizes the project as a “minimum viable product that supports straightforward crypto giving of any crypto asset to any U.S. nonprofit as dollars.” 

The Endaoment model is fairly simple, for now. Source: Endaoment

Born in Silicon Valley

Heeger grew up in California’s Palo Alto in the early 2000s, which he describes as an intense and highly competitive environment where various parents of his classmates would “show up on keynotes for the iPhone or some Google service.” The setting made for an environment with lots of access to and encouragement to use and experiment with new technologies, with tech companies often using the schools he went to as testing grounds for new products.

Driven by a passion for storytelling, in 2008, Heeger began studies in broadcast and digital journalism at the University of Southern California. He specialized in publishing technology, inspired by what he saw as a “disruption of the legacy media institutions by the internet” causing a change in the way people got information. He also grew interested in ethics such as the need to balance profitability and the journalistic duty of honest reporting. Soon, he found himself running iTunes’ social media channels as an Apple intern.

“I really loved the triangle of business, technology and ethics, and having to try and find balance between those three key drivers — journalism had that in spades.”

Throughout his studies, he worked for the campus TV news station, where he eventually oversaw 25 reporters and other staff as a multimedia director. In 2010, Heeger had “a real eye-opener” when he traveled to Tanzania to volunteer as an English teacher at a rural town on the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro through an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. Though he looked for teaching methods that would help the children gear up for their future in a competitive world, he saw that providing a Palo Alto-style education was a “challenge when you‘re trying to do work in a space that‘s chronically underfunded.”

Anonymous donors

One case in which Endaoment is unable to issue tax receipts is when the donor is fully anonymous. Though anonymous donations can be accepted and Heeger notes that many “religions will say that the anonymous giver is the most righteous kind of giver because they don‘t expect anything in return,” only a very small percentage of donors fit that category. 

Heeger explains that there are various degrees of anonymity when it comes to donating such as whether the donor wants to be unknown to only the receiving charity or to Endaoment as well. When sending crypto from an address with an ENS name, for example, it may be easy for anyone tracking transactions to deduce who the donor is, though the receiving charity itself will not see such information. If funds are routed directly from an exchange, Heeger says that not even Endaoment has any way to figure out the identity of the donor. In such cases, he often checks with the organization to ensure that they are comfortable receiving anonymous money.

In one example of semi-anonymous giving, the developers of SushiSwap donated $1 million SUSHI, with each donation being labeled as being from the SushiSwap core developers rather than from any particular individual.

Journey to DAO

In the future, he says Endaoment will support complex investment strategies and international giving. These strategies would include the gauntlet of crypto-assets like NFT’s, vote-locked tokens and interest-bearing tokens. “You should be able to give whatever it is that you want to give and direct those proceeds to an issue that you care about,” he emphasizes.

What Endaoment is not yet, despite the name, is a DAO. That is meant to change soon, however, as Heeger’s plan is that “people who are actively advancing the mission of Endoament are rewarded with tokens that give them membership, interest and oversight power over the nonprofit entity itself.” This would make EnDAOment a decentralized autonomous organization, which comes with the Web3 dream of leveraging a community to make happen what no small centralized team could ever do.

Soon, Heeger imagines that it will be easy for anyone to become the next Pine, even on a much smaller budget, and create a fund through which they and others use to distribute their crypto wealth to charities around the world.

“We want to democratize those philontrophic tools and make them as easy as interacting with a DeFi Protocol or as easy as transacting using MetaMask.”


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Powers On… The Fed endorses cryptocurrency — Kind of

This month, the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System issued its widely anticipated report on the nation’s possible use and adoption of digital currencies for its financial system. The document is titled “Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation,” and true to its name, the paper is transformative.

Powers On… is a monthly opinion column from Marc Powers, who spent much of his 40-year legal career working with complex securities-related cases in the United States after a stint with the SEC. He is now an adjunct professor at Florida International University College of Law, where he teaches a course on “Blockchain, Crypto and Regulatory Considerations.” 

For those who are regular readers of this column, in December, I identified the top five events in blockchain in 2021. One of those was the comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on his openness to digital assets and a possible co-existence of Fed legacy money and financial systems and cryptocurrencies. He stated in public hearings that there was no current need to ban crypto and that he saw value in stablecoins, if properly regulated.

I also opined in that column that the Fed’s endorsement and issuance of a central bank digital currency seemed to be forthcoming. Well, that is precisely what the report says, though there is typical hedging with disclaimers and Washington doublespeak. Given the significance of the U.S. creating and adopting its own CBDC, the paper is worth highlighting.

The Federal Reserve System and a CBDC

Before getting into the paper’s content, let’s see how the Fed self-identifies

The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It performs five general functions to promote the effective operation of the U.S. economy and, more generally, the public interest.”

Those five functions are: 1) conducting the nation’s monetary policy, 2) promoting the stability of the financial system, 3) promoting the safety and soundness of individual financial institutions, 4) fostering payment and settlement system safety and efficiency, and 5) promoting consumer protection and community development.

The paper is meant to be the “first step” in a public discussion between the Fed and stakeholders about CBDCs, which it defines as a “digital liability of a central bank that is widely available to the general public.” The paper cautions that it “is not intended to advance any specific policy outcome,” but the publication of the paper itself does just that. Most often, simply raising an issue has the effect of increasing recognition and acceptance of the topic.

The paper identifies three forms of money: central bank money, commercial bank money and nonbank money. Fed money has no credit and liquidity risk, bank money has some, and nonbank has the most because it is not subject to rigorous rules and supervision and cannot offer Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insurance on deposits. Related firms like PayPal conduct balance transfers on their own books using various technologies, such as mobile apps.

Central bank money is a liability of a central bank, commonly known as “fiat” or “sovereign” currency, and can exist in physical form like banknotes or as digital balances held by commercial banks at the Federal Reserve. Bank money is generally deposits commonly used by the public and can be in digital form. While there have been improvements in recent years to the traditional, or legacy, financial system — such as the digital real-time payments network and planned debut of the FedNow Service in 2023 — the paper recognizes there are still challenges. One is in the area of cross-border payments, which presently have slow settlement times, high fees and limited accessibility.

Another challenge is the significant number of Americans still, in 2022, lacking access to digital banking and payment services. Over 5% of U.S. households, or over 7 million Americans, remain unbanked, even though that percentage has decreased from 8.2% over the past 10 years.

Some of the explanations given by unbanked people include that they lack sufficient funds to meet the minimum deposit to open a traditional bank account, distrust banks, have privacy concerns or that bank fees are too high. All of these seem strikingly similar to the reasons given by Satoshi Nakamoto back in October 2008 for creating the Bitcoin blockchain. The Fed’s paper also states that an additional 20% of households have accounts with banks but rely on more costly financial services such as check-cashing services, payday loans and money orders. That totals an astonishing 35 million Americans either unbanked or underbanked!

Given the challenges, the paper discusses the recent use of digital assets with money-like characteristics, such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. Significantly, it references the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets’ report released last November, which notes that “If well-designed and appropriately regulated, stablecoins could support faster, more efficient, and more inclusive payments options.” Ahem. This is something private businesses and crypto traders have known for maybe five years already! But it’s good that our government officials are at least now realizing these benefits.

The paper concludes by laying out how a CBDC might fit into the U.S. money and payments landscape. It raises the design requirements for the protection of privacy, the way a CBDC might interfere with traditional methods used by the Fed to regulate the U.S. economy, its need to be accepted by and widely transferable among various intermediaries and customers, and the need to be able to identify and combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. To me, some of the most revealing sentences in the paper, showing Powell’s hand, include the discussion in the section “Potential Benefits of a CBDC.”

“A CBDC could potentially serve as a new foundation for the payment system and a bridge between different payment services, both legacy and new.” This is something the international regulatory think tank Global Digital Finance wrote about in its paper “The Age of Public Digital Currency: A Guide to Issuance,” of which I was a contributing author.

“A U.S. CBDC would offer the general public broad access to digital money that is free from credit risk and liquidity risk.”

“Another potential benefit of a U.S.-issued CBDC could be to preserve the dominant international role of the U.S. dollar.” This is a topic and concern I wrote about in February 2021.

“Some have suggested that a CBDC could reduce common barriers to financial inclusion and could lower transaction costs, which could be particularly helpful for lower-income households.” This is certainly a worthwhile benefit and something I can see the Biden administration wanting and getting behind.

A final noteworthy fact stated in the paper is the decline of cash and banknotes. Cash use has fallen from over 40% of transactions in 2012 to 19% in 2020. Given all of this, it will be interesting to see and hear more on this from the Fed and other government agencies and officials in the coming months.

Marc Powers is currently an adjunct professor at Florida International University College of Law, where he is teaching “Blockchain, Crypto and Regulatory Considerations” and “Fintech Law.” He recently retired from practicing at an Am Law 100 law firm, where he built both its national securities litigation and regulatory enforcement practice team and its hedge fund industry practice. Marc started his legal career in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. During his 40 years in law, he was involved in representations including the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, a recent presidential pardon and the Martha Stewart insider trading trial.

The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph nor Florida International University College of Law or its affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice.


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Astrology charts beat technical analysis: Maren Altman is a star

Are future prices written in the stars? Meet Maren Altman, presciently named for cryptocurrency, who combines astrology and day trading crypto into a winning blend.

In 1973, Princeton University professor Burton Malkiel published his book A Random Walk Down Wall Street, in which he famously states that a “blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.”

Fast forward to 2013, and Rob Arnott, CEO of Research Affiliates, conducted research mimicking monkeys using AI and actually discovered the monkeys had done a much better job than both the experts and the stock market. Closer examination proved the success was a result of the random selection of companies by the “monkey approach,” optimizing their success. However, it is a sobering thought that not only machines but possibly primates can outperform humans in stock picking.

It’s a small step, perhaps, to look at the potential of astrology to determine the future price of Bitcoin. Unlike a  stock, whose performance is dictated by both the business performance of a company and the sector in which it operates, technical analysts’ predictions for Bitcoin price movements depend on reviewing charts and patterns — similar to that performed by astrologists.

Maren Altman
Maren Altman reads the charts and predicts the future of crypto.

In the gutter, looking at the stars

So, how do you predict the price of Bitcoin with astrology? Enter Maren Altman, who calls herself “your personal poet to the stars, especially on TikTok,” and has made a name for herself over the last two years by using astrology to predict price — but not without attracting some controversy.

“I was always the weird girl who asked people about their star signs. In college, I used to earn pocket money by doing people’s charts at parties. I have always been fascinated by astrology.”

It was a natural fit for Altman to run Bitcoin through the charts, using the genesis block as the birth date — after all, anything with a birth date can be plugged into the astrology charts. Altman bought some Bitcoin back in 2017 but had largely forgotten about it until she became interested again in March 2020 when she was studying philosophy at NYU, along with the rest of the student population — nothing like a good pandemic and soaring price to grab interest.

“I grew up with astrology where patterns and cycles are tracked. I was also familiar with financial astrology, so it just made sense to apply it to cryptocurrency,” says Altman.

That’s a big call

One of her first notable calls was in January 2021, where she observed that the new moon in Capricorn, on Jan. 13, looked big for Bitcoin. She went on to predict a dip followed by a bull run. Her call was prescient, with Bitcoin continuing to double in price before April. To counter that, she predicted all-time highs in May, with largely unremarkable success, and Bitcoin floundering instead in its first notable dip of 2021.

Becoming a day trader proved profitable for Altman, but it was not without its stresses.

“It was not enough to call the price; I had to be able to execute,” she says. “And, some days, I made mistakes and lost money, but it was not the fault of the charts but my errors.”

She sees astrology as a giant mirror where certain signifiers of planetary alignments represent themes such as world growth, or even world aggression or peace. By reading those patterns and overplaying them on what has already happened, she can trace future movements or, in the case of cryptocurrency, prices.

Maren Altman
Maren offers fans astrology and silliness.

Altman acknowledges that it can be hard to read the charts — there is a system of patterns but also multiple cycles that can result in misreading. Having said that, she is still ahead of the game.

“Either way, I am 100% transparent with my trades. I share everything,” she says.

She began trading and posting on social media in earnest in the summer of 2020, and today, she has more than a million followers on TikTok and more than 2 million combined on all her socials.

“It just blew up over the summer of 2020,” Altman explains.

When asked why she gained such traction, Altman shrugs her shoulders.

“I am a bit of a character. I’m young, I’m a woman and I wear mostly red. But, I am also serious, I don’t dumb myself down and I make my living though crypto. I guess it just blew up in a perfect storm of weirdness.”

Did she predict Jan. 6, or did she just read the newspapers?

It might also be down to her humor and calling both the Biden presidential win and the Jan. 6, 2021 uprising, although political majors might have achieved similar success through reading the papers.

She also picked up a number of high-profile features in tier-one publications such as The Washington Post, Reuters and The New Yorker — not magazines that frequently publicize highly improbable predictions.

Scrolling through her popular TikToks at one point when talking about flipping NFTs, she explains that she put a down payment on an apartment in Dubai by flipping one NFT. It’s pretty inspirational.

Mostly, though, her income is through her trading, and she is reluctant to do much monetization of her socials.

Maren, feeling a little bearish. Source: Twitter

“I’ve been hesitant to partner with paid sponsors because everyone in crypto hates people that monetize their socials. It’s just not done,” she explains.

She has written several articles for crypto traders and for market analyst Mati Greenspan on his Quantum Economics platform, but she is not directly employed by him.

In other interviews, she points to her Astrology Academy, where she offers astrology training to paying clients. There are about 150 paying clients. She says that she has 1,000 people in her membership community paying between $7 and $50 a month for her teachings.

Charting a course through the storm

At this point, I ask if she has had much pushback. Yes, she has, to the point of having to flee the country because of death threats.

“New York was no longer safe for me, and so I went to friends in Dubai,” she says.

Altman is back in New York when we speak, but she references the trolling campaign spearheaded by a 2021 article in Rolling Stone where she was called a white supremacist, a racist, homophobic and transphobic, among other things. Worryingly, given her following, it accused her of plagiarism.

Rolling Stone
Altman was criticized by Rolling Stone.

There is a lot to unpack in the series of tweets and articles written around this time. BIPOC astrologers in the same field, such as AstroDim, said that Altman had, at first, dissed their commentary that President Biden would die in office but then reposted similar predictions later on.

In other social media flareups, Altman, a vegan, has used inflammatory images and texts in support of her dietary choices. Again, it has caused some backlash.

The BIPOC astrologers in the same article also maintained that there is a general bias against BIPOC people across social media platforms, targeting TikTok in particular.

The biggest complaint made against Altman by the BIPOC astrologers in that 2021 Rolling Stone article is that when Altman talks about the same topics as they do, she gets more views. That might say more about America than astrology.

Altman apologized in a number of videos about her comments and videos on gender fluidity, trans people and animal/meat eaters before going offline during the Mercury retrograde when she went to Dubai.

According to Altman, she was not trolled by crypto heads but rather “spiritual crazies” who invented a lot of their claims.

She certainly does attract a lot of attention — good and bad — and there is even a Twitter account presenting an archive of her more standout tweets where she claims, among other things, that artificial insemination for dairy cows is a form of sexual assault.

Altman says she went to the police when the threats escalated and now has security.

What we know for certain if you believe in the charts, however, is that she is assured of more success in her future.

“Not famous, as that is a very loaded word, but I always knew I would be successful. Funnily enough, my own astrology charts are entirely focused on finance, and it never made sense to me until now.”

“In time, I’ll move away from day trading and into angel investing, but I need to build my capital first.”


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QuickSwap founder: L2s are the path to mass adoption

As Ethereum gas prices rise, the chain that inspired Web3 is becoming gentrified, with high transaction costs pushing less wealthy users onto competing blockchains or scaling solutions.

This means that many use cases are becoming unfeasible in the proverbial layer-one downtown, and suburban neighborhoods are being developed to allow for a cost-effective layer-two blockchain experience. 

Since getting acquainted with Polygon around the time of its launch in late 2019, Sameep Singhania has been an avid supporter of projects built on the protocol. In 2021, he created QuickSwap, a decentralized exchange (DEX) serving the needs of the budding Polygon ecosystem.

Singhania left a promising career as a software developer in 2017 to work as a freelance developer, only to find himself writing code for an array of blockchain projects in the DeFi and layer-two sector. Among the many projects he worked on, he spent 18 months with blockchain e-commerce site OpenBazaar, and served as lead developer for DeFi exchange ParaSwap.

Polygon is one layer-two solution built on Ethereum, and it offers users lower fees when transacting on-chain. QuickSwap is Polygon’s primary DEX and functions as a heart of the network. 

A DEX for Polygon

After working on perhaps dozens of projects on Polygon from 2019 onward, Singhania “realized that to grow the Polygon ecosystem, we need a DEX.” 

This was because while “99% of blockchain projects have a token,” listings on popular exchanges are not easy to arrange, and many users are not willing to create an account at an obscure exchange just to trade a particular token that is not listed elsewhere. A DEX can function as the central market square of a blockchain network, giving its users access to everything they need without having to venture to another chain.

Singhania recalls being encouraged to create a DEX by Polygon’s co-founder, Sandeep Nailwal, who put him in touch with Roc Zacharias, a marketer with Lunar Digital Assets. “That’s how we set up a team — we had developers, we had a marketing team, a perfect mix, and we launched the app,” he explains.

The QuickSwap interface. Source: QuickSwap

Polygon — previously called Matic Network, with MATIC remaining its ticker — is a layer-two blockchain. That means it’s a blockchain built on top of an existing chain. Whereas Lighting is an example of a layer-two, or L2, built on Bitcoin, Polygon is built upon Ethereum. As a result, Polygon-based tokens can be sent to Ethereum addresses, whose users can retrieve them simply by switching to the Polygon network on a DApp such as MetaMask.

The oft-stated advantage of L2 solutions is that they are more nimble than their behemoth parents, allowing for faster and cheaper transactions. With Bitcoin transactions costing over $10 and taking approximately 10 minutes for the first of six confirmations, it is clear that transacting on the parent chain is not practical for everyday transactions in El Salvador, for example, where laborers can earn as little as $100 per month. Instead, Salvadorans use Bitcoin Lighting, whose transactions cost as little as 1 satoshi.

Sameep Singhania
Sameep Singhania wants to scale up crypto’s potential.

The transaction costs on the Ethereum network are much higher, making it “unusable by the small users” who are effectively priced out of using DeFi solutions or decentralized exchanges like Uniswap. In January 2021, a “normal Ethereum transaction on Uniswap cost around $100,” Singhania recalls.

“If I’m a normal user and I want to do a small trade, I cannot do it on Ethereum — the average transaction size on Uniswap is somewhere around $50,000.”

“Polygon is there to scale Ethereum,” Singhania says, which has its pros and cons. He further explains that while “Ethereum is the most secure solution out there,” it comes at the cost of high gas fees and relatively slow transaction times.

That’s not exactly desirable for an economy — smaller denominations of currency exist because not everything can be done with $100 bills. L2s are the answer for allowing smaller transactions on existing networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum. On Polygon, users can exchange Ethereum-based tokens, NFTs, and interact with smart contracts cheaply. 

The pressing need for L2s is relatively new, because transaction costs have risen significantly in the past two years along with the blockchain user base. On QuickSwap, transactions between the over 23,000 available pairs cost only a few cents. “You can basically use QuickSwap to trade any ERC-20 token which has liquidity and exists on the Polygon network,” Singhania says. Fees are naturally paid in MATIC.

Considering the savings, switching digital assets from Ethereum to Polygon seems like an obvious solution for many users. However, some activities, like the trading of six-figure NFTs, remain decisively away from the Polygonian suburb. Similarly, Singhania acknowledges that those making million-dollar trades have less to gain from Polygon. 

There are two primary ways to move assets to Polygon, according to Singhania: exchange withdrawals and bridges. “A lot of big exchanges like Binance support deposits and withdrawals on the Polygon network,” which means that the Ethereum network can potentially be avoided entirely. As for assets already on Ethereum instead of on a centralized exchange, they can be bridged, which is effectively an inter-blockchain transfer.

“Both L1 and L2 applications have their own pros and cons and they both have their use cases — now it’s up to the user to choose which platform better suits their needs”

Learning the ropes

Singhania, 31, grew up in India’s capital, New Delhi. He had an early passion for coding since high school, describing the process of coding “like magic happening,” whereby “wonderful stuff” could be created with just a few lines of code. He followed his passion in 2008 to JSS Academy of Technical Education, on the outskirts of the capital, where he completed a bachelor in computer science and served as a campus IBM Ambassador.

Graduating in 2013, he began his career in software testing and automation at Dell, but soon realized that he wanted to “focus more on development” instead of remaining a software tester, a role with less opportunities for creative input, for the remainder of his career. He made the switch to software developer in 2015 at Drishti-soft Solutions, where he worked on customer service software and organized web development training sessions.

Still not quite settled in the role and in search of “something where I don’t get bored,” Singhania switched over to software freelancing in 2017. “When you do freelancing, you get to know a lot of people and learn about a lot of new industries and domains,” he recalls, noting that he was finally interested in his work. One of these new industries was blockchain, which he had previously heard about while working as a developer. 

“I again came across this blockchain and Bitcoin stuff while searching for a project, so I decided to give it some more time and do some more research — to figure out ‘what is this Bitcoin? What is this blockchain?’”

By mid-2018, Singhania was a full-time blockchain engineer for a number of projects, including Akila Labs, Bitgrit, and Toptal, where he developed ERC-20 tokens and smart contracts for things like airdrops, token vesting and crowdsales. Notable among this was 18 months spent working with the decentralized marketplace startup OpenBazaar, “which was trying to build something very similar to Amazon — but on blockchain” using the peer-to-peer InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), Singhania recalls with excitement.

Compounding knowledge

“When DeFi was just starting” in 2018, Singhania worked as the lead developer and first employee of ParaSwap, an aggregator DApp which brings together multiple DEXs so that users can seamlessly trade cryptocurrency pairs which do not exist together on any exchange. All of this trading is done through Singhania’s smart contracts, which “handle millions of dollars everyday,” he says proudly, adding that the platform saw 3.3 billion dollars in volume in the past month.

“That project allowed me to make an entry into DeFi — it basically introduced me to everything out there like Uniswap, Bancor, Kyber Network, because to build ParaSwap we needed to learn everything about DeFi.”

With DeFi under his belt, Singhania encountered layer-two blockchain solutions while working on a dice game for one of his clients, a blockchain casino.

He soon realized that “it was too expensive to do it on Ethereum” — even though 2019 gas fees were a fraction of what they are today. Something new was needed, and Singhania “started exploring for layer-two solutions,” he recounts. He first built his dice game on the now defunct layer-one Loom Network which shut down shortly thereafter, Singhania scouted out Matic Network, which was in late 2019 “very new and their mainnet was not launched.” Working with the Matic Network team, now called Polygon, Singhania got the dice game up and running, becoming acquainted with the Polygon network in the process.

Ethereum dice games are not the first to suffer from scaling issues. Erik Voorhees’ SatoshiDICE, for example, was launched in 2012 and soon accounted for over half of Bitcoin transactions. With transaction prices increasing, making small on-chain bets on Bitcoin’s main layer has since become impractical.

Onboarding the next generation

Now that Polygon is a low-cost option to L1 and has a reliable DEX, Singhania believes that the next step in scaling the layer is to improve the user experience in order to make it user-friendly for millions of people who are new to cryptocurrency. As QuickSwap is a central point of the Polygon ecosystem, much of the responsibility falls to his shoulders.

“The way that things are designed right now, it’s not for a novice —  it’s for a well-trained crypto user.”

In Singhania’s view, the price of MATIC can be expected to follow the adoption of the Polygon layer. If the team continues to execute, “it is just a matter of time” as to when prices might begin a steady climb. One thing is clear: Singhania is no longer bored with his work and is “not doing any kind of freelancing because I don’t have time.”


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Concerts in the Metaverse could lead to a new wave of adoption

Colin Fitzpatrick is a Dubliner based in Dubai who turned a bad time during quarantine into a business that promises to bring your favorite artists to a metaverse near you. His company Animal Concerts, which launches in January, is in the process of signing world-class artists to perform in the decentralized worlds of the Metaverse.

Among the first to get the Animal Concerts treatment was Grammy-winning rapper Future, who performed at an in-person Animal Concerts-themed Halloween party in Miami, which was filmed in such a way that it can later be broadcast in the Metaverse. In this startling new land, there are no COVID restrictions nor travel bans, and artists can sell NFT memorabilia to fans with little overhead, investment or middlemen. 

Virtual concerts have already begun to appear, most notably Ariana Grande’s October 2021 performance in Fortnite. Around 78 million Fortnite users attended Grande’s show, with some commentators speculating that she was set to earn over $20 million from the virtual gig.

Travis Scott pulled in $20 million for a Fortnite performance in 2020, and Ed Sheeran similarly took to the virtual stage of Pokemon Go in November 2021. When Swedish star Zara Larsson held a concert on Roblox, she earned seven figures for sales of “in-game items like hats, backpacks and sunglasses” which started at just $1.

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Fitzpatrick says that he is in the last stages of signing a concert with a top-100 Grammy-winning artist who I agree not to name. In preparing for the concert, she would “go into a green screen studio where she does our performance, and we record it and then we can essentially turn her into an avatar where she is properly in one of the decentralized blockchain-run worlds,” he explains, regarding the process of concert digitalization.

Holding concerts in the Metaverse comes with a slew of advantages for artists, according to Fitzpatrick. Whereas streaming services like Spotify are reducing music revenues, Animal Concerts allows performers to earn 50% of the revenue from both ticket and NFT sales. With celebrities benefiting directly, they have a big incentive to entice their fans into the Metaverse, where many of them will encounter blockchain for the first time.

FUTURE performing at MAXIM’s Halloween party in Miami in collaboration with Animal Concerts

A former DJ who has been passionate about music from a young age, Fitzpatrick points to a cupboard behind him where he keeps a box with “ticket stubs and flyers from gigs that I went to when I was in my youth.” For him, they are priceless mementos of his formative experiences.

A changing industry

Just as the idea of a Metaverse powered by virtual reality (VR) was gaining steam along with the explosion of NFTs earlier this year, Fitzpatrick realized the two could be combined to offer solutions to a struggling music industry, which he says has seen declining revenues with countless concert tours canceled since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The platform will soon allow people at home to stream VR-augmented concerts live and experience them as an interactive event rather than as one-sided TV broadcasts. NFTs can be given out as Metaverse-age equivalents of the ticket stubs in Fitzpatrick’s memory box. 

Colin Fitzpatrick
Colin Fitzpatrick sees the Metaverse as the ultimate touring destination.

“With 360-degree cameras on stage, you can use a VR headset to get an immersive experience — like you are dancing on stage with your favorite bands, from your living room anywhere in the world. We want to enable you to enjoy the concert with friends by seeing their avatars,” he explains. The goal is to become the “Netflix of live streaming concerts.”

“There’s been a lot of very high profile concerts already in various different Metaverses”. 

Fitzpatrick explains that virtual concerts are desirable from the artist’s perspective because they do not require travel and the number of viewers is not limited by venue size. There is naturally also an economic driver, as virtual venues do not demand the same amount of stagehands, security or other costly infrastructure, and also because the number of middlemen is reduced. 

With the view that different scheduled events are happening in various virtual worlds, the idea of the Metaverse as a reality consisting of numerous intertwined virtual worlds is becoming increasingly current.

What these metaverses have in common, whether games like Roblox or blockchain worlds like Decentraland, is that “they have a huge user base and they’re going to be selling digital assets in one way or another,” Fitzpatrick says. While most centralized worlds will require a user account, decentralized worlds allow access via wallet software, such as MetaMask. The major difference between centralized and decentralized worlds is their interoperability — items purchased in Pokemon Go cannot be transferred to Roblox, whereas NFTs can be displayed in a large number of different decentralized virtual worlds.

“Today’s kids are used to purchasing skins — digital assets in games. It’s a very simple step for them to look to purchase NFTs released by their favorite musicians,” Fitzpatrick says.

The need for a wallet can be a barrier for those who are new to crypto, Fitzpatrick admits. Similar to Beeple, who wanted to make sure his NFTs can be purchased by credit card, Fitzpatrick sees a future where virtual concert-goers have the option to “go to a website, putting in the credit card details and purchasing tickets and then purchase an NFT without worrying about a cryptocurrency.”

In many cases, these NFTs could be combined with physical memorabilia, such as an NFT and a physical copy of handwritten lyrics by the artist. They might also be combined with virtual meet and greets — specifics are largely up to the artists.

Dublin to Dubai

Fitzpatrick, 41, began on his path in 1999 when he began studying business management at Portobello Institute in his native Ireland. He immediately began doing freelance web design work, soon expanding to DJing and working as a nightclub organizer.  “I used to organize club nights and do festivals,” he recounts of his younger days.

He chose the corporate path upon graduation, joining Dell as a relationship manager in 2002, and in 2006 took an enterprise sales job with Oracle where he spent five years until 2011. After about two years with Salesforce and HubSpot, Fitzpatrick returned to Oracle for seven years, which saw him rise through the ranks from a sales strategy manager to a leadership position in the “Multi-Cloud Ecosystem” unit, with the latter promotion taking him from Dublin to Dubai “to build new business here for them” in late 2018.

Fitzpatrick discovered Bitcoin at around $100 in 2013, but he was “sadly persuaded out of it by a friend,” he recalls. He got back in the game in late 2016, however, becoming “a full convert” when the concept of blockchain clicked for him. Soon enough, he started chatting with another employee at Oracle who was interested in crypto, and “then we found someone else,” and it started to “spread like wildfire,” he recounts with a laugh.

“Fast forward a couple of months — halfway through 2017, there was more cryptocurrency trading being done in the office than there was selling Oracle software!”

Spending much of his time researching cryptocurrencies, he “wanted to go work for a blockchain company, but there was nothing in Dublin,” and “virtual jobs” were not as common as they are post-COVID, he explains. 

COVID wreaked havoc on Oracle. The company, despite having recently moved Fitzpatrick, an employee of 13 years, to a new country, “made me redundant smack bang in the middle of COVID, which absolutely sucked — it was just when the lockdown started,” he recalls with a hint of shade. “I was in big trouble” as almost no companies were hiring at the time, but Fitzpatrick managed to find work as a director of business development with Eastnets, “a local company who do payments and software compliance.”

A year in, however, he quit. It was time to strike his own path as an entrepreneur. 

Fan tokens for music

Fitzpatrick says that the average Animal Concert will cost between $10 and $30 to attend, with tickets available on sites like Ticketmaster as if for any event taking place in the “meatspace,” as some Metaverse proponents humorously like to call the physical world. Those purchasing tickets with Animal’s native token will receive discounts, “so if you want to buy with our token, it will be cheaper, so that’s an incentive to use our native token,” he adds. 

There’s always a token, of course, and the Animal token will also function as a governance token, allowing fans and artists to engage in interesting new ways, such as by “voting on which songs artists will play or what outfit they will wear.” Fitzpatrick believes that a highly engaged fan base is “sticky,” and will attend numerous concerts while purchasing artists’ NFTs. Those staking the token will be eligible for “first access to the hottest NFT drops, or you get free tickets to future concerts,” he adds.

This model can be compared to the fan token phenomenon, of which Socios is the market leader. Socios has a tradeable native token which comes with various utility functions, and the fan tokens created by the firm for different sports teams gather more chatter from fans who seem to view them as akin to investments in their favorite teams. Such tokens can also provide sports clubs with massive liquidity, as they can slowly release them as fans open their wallets. 

Could Animal become the Socios of music?

“We have a plan to create a token for each artist,” Fitzpatrick responds, explaining that each artist has a group of very loyal fans who would be sure to be interested in holding tokens based on their idol. Looking through the lens of NFTs, which are non-fungible tokens that cannot be subdivided, a fungible token can be imagined as a single, fractionalized NFT which represents the name, idea, or concept it pertains to. 

As such, “Ariana Grande Token” could quite possibly be expected to rise in value in relation to her star power, and investing in the coin of an emerging artist could prove fruitful. Just as with Socios-created sports tokens, music fan tokens could, in the future, function as a sort of quasi-share of the artist.

Star power is sure to have a big impact on any future tokens, as Fitzpatrick agrees that fans “won’t necessarily care about the Animal Token, but they would care about the Ariana Grande Token.”


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6 Questions for Cristina Dolan of InsideChains

We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!

This week, our 6 Questions go to Cristina Dolan, co-founder and chief operating officer of InsureX Technologies, an alternative insurance marketplace based on blockchain, and CEO of InsideChains, which builds large consortia and marketplaces with economic token layers to facilitate the global exchange of data and transactions.

Cristina is an engineer, entrepreneur and author who has successfully embraced advanced technologies to build and grow disruptive businesses throughout her career in media, telecommunications, e-commerce and, more recently, fintech. As an early adopter of crypto and blockchain technologies, she co-founded and advised blockchain-enabled companies in climate tech, insurtech, healthtech and crypto trading. As a veteran of evolving networked technologies, she is currently focused on cybersecurity, which has become the most immediate financial material ESG and sustainability risk organizations face today, and co-authored a recently published book: Transparency in ESG and the Circular Economy, Capturing Opportunities Through Data (available at

1 What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced in our industry so far?

In the early days of crypto and blockchain, I would speak on panels where people would say things like, “Crypto and blockchain are only used by bad actors.” Unfortunately there are still “leaders” that talk about the criminal activities that are enabled by crypto and blockchain that “need to be stopped.” It is amazing that they haven’t learned from the radical transformation of media and e-commerce through the evolution of connected technologies.

It is unfortunate that some “leaders” just don’t understand that the evolution of new technologies also aligns with the changing needs of communities. Technology adoption is one of the most important pillars of corporate sustainability! (Look at Blockbuster or Kodak!) When companies fail, it impacts the communities, partners and even the local tax base that pays for services like education. We live in a world that is evolving faster and faster, and regulators want more and more data and transparency — you can’t stay in business without adopting new technologies.

The beauty of the hyper-innovation that has evolved from the interest in crypto and blockchain is unparalleled by any other disruptive technology. It has influenced innovation from cybersecurity, which utilizes cryptography, to supply chain, which needs transparency more than ever before!

Lack of understanding is probably the toughest challenge. It is hard to keep up with the accelerating evolution of technology in the context of social needs, like improved sustainability data tracking or improved controlled access to healthcare data.

Today, there is a requirement to be a self-learner just to keep up, and it takes up a lot of time. Even for those of us who are curious and love to learn and focus on solving problems with technology, the avalanche of evolving technologies can feel overwhelming. 


2 — Does it matter if we ever figure out who Satoshi really is or was?

I hope that Satoshi Nakamoto remains a mystery forever! While there has been a lot of detailed speculation around who was working on the foundational building blocks and who was influential in the public-key cryptography and decentralized architectures, it is important to keep the technology separate from the behavior or personal activities or an individual. Our “networked” culture is full of “celebrity” figures who have large social media followings and endorse products. This kind of celebrity would be a distraction to the impact and evolution.

Bitcoin is the grandfather of an incredible age of hyper-innovation which is hard to understand with all the complex interrelated layers, like economics, technology, politics, or simply how to transact with Bitcoin. Adding a celebrity layer to Bitcoin would just add more polarization and misunderstanding than what already exists, creating an unnecessary distraction or excuses to ignore the transformation that is coming quickly. Celebrity figures like Elon Musk have moved the crypto markets.

Organizations that don’t embrace technology will not be sustainable. We have seen many examples of this over the past few decades. Moving from a figurative representation to an actual human who will be depicted as having possible political or economic interests will only become an excuse for some leaders to ignore the requirement to transform to meet the needs of a changing society.


3 — When you tell people you’re in the blockchain industry, how do they react?

Years ago I would publish social media posts about blockchain and crypto, and people would say “block-what?” At the time, I was working in the fintech space, where some peers in the institutional financial trading space would make jokes about it “…there she goes again talking about crypto or blockchain…” Of course, many of them transitioned into the space later as their industry began to shrink.

Today, there is a totally different reaction. Many people are eager to learn more about the technologies and the potential trajectory of transformation. I do get a lot of calls from people who have “lost their keys” and want to know if there is a way to find them — of course, if it was that easy to solve for lost keys, people would have unlocked some of Satoshi’s Bitcoin by now!

Focusing on cybersecurity, I do get a lot of questions about custody and security. There are so many people across all industries who are now doing incredibly interesting things in the space. It is fun to listen and learn about possible solutions to critical social issues utilizing the technology. People are now thinking about the use of these technologies within important or sophisticated business processes, and collaborating on possible solutions is now a lot more fun!

4 — Which two superpowers would you most want to have, and how would you combine them for good… or evil?

Speed-related superpowers would be the most valuable in a world that is evolving at hyper speed. While some people might describe me as being energetic, I would love to have the ability to do more and experience more each day!

First would be related to travel speed that would enable movement from one location to another location without traffic jams or airport check-in protocols, which have gotten more complicated with the pandemic. So much time is wasted in traveling. As we begin to plan more face-to-face meetings that require putting travel time into the calendar to arrive in time, it is clear that having the ability to travel at light speed would save time. While the carbon footprint for travel could be decreased since there would not be a requirement for traditional vehicles, I am sure that traveling at the speed of light would create some significant heat. 

The second would be related to the speed of ingesting information and understanding it. The faster you can learn and connect the dots, the faster you can apply the intuitive understanding towards building valuable solutions for the growing number of problems our world faces today. This would enable me to do what I love to do, but even faster.

While living forever creates issues, including the increased demand for the limited resources on earth, the idea of being able to do and experience even more during our short lives is a good alternative.

5 — Name the things you own that you’ll never part with.

This is a great question, because my answer today is probably a little different from things I would have listed years ago. For example, a passport, which has been my gateway for learning, connecting and growing is probably the most valuable tool I possess. While it can be replaced if lost, it is still one of my most important possessions because of the possibilities it offers to engage with people all over the world. 

One of the lessons from the pandemic was in helping me understand how much I missed engaging with close friends all over the world. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, the passport didn’t offer the opportunity to travel, especially if it represented residency in a country with high covid cases. During the pandemic, the passport wasn’t as valuable as it had been throughout my life. It was even impossible to engage with close friends who lived within a mile of my home. While the evolution of conferencing tools has made it easier to video conference, the nature of the conversations tends to be more transactional and efficient, which eliminates the opportunity to learn or collaborate to the same degree. Travel is a wonderful gift. Unfortunately, we need more than just a passport to make it possible during the pandemic.

I have always loved beautiful watches the old-fashioned jeweled masterpiece kind and have a treasured collection that reminds me of important milestones throughout my life. It is such a treat to wear a beautiful timepiece, yet I rely more on my Fitbit these days to track my early morning runs regardless of where I am in the world. While I also have an Apple Watch Series 7, I still prefer my Fitbit with its longer lasting battery and its efficient metrics.

It is sad to admit that my mobile phone has become so important to my day-to-day activities, communications and work. While I don’t use it for banking and avoid SMS verifications because it can be a security risk, I recognize its value in remaining engaged and active both professionally and socially. It is becoming a bigger part of identity, and the required COVID-19 vaccine verifications are so much easier on a mobile device. While having the latest mobile phone isn’t as important, what is important is the connectivity and engagement. I love the ability to grab a spontaneous picture and send it to a friend or the ability to connect with people on demand. As an avid photographer with a large collection of amazing cameras from the old Rolleiflex, Kodak Brownie and an old tiny spy camera, to the latest Canon professional DSLR cameras and lenses, nothing beats the spontaneous nature of using a mobile device to capture an emotional moment and share it instantly with friends. There is still a time and place for these beautiful traditional cameras, but the smartphone has a unique use case. 

I treasure the more traditional artwork my sons have made in school over the years, which I have framed and placed on my walls, because the art represents their interests and activities over the years. Time feels like it passes faster and faster, and having the ability to look at their art and pictures, which I have throughout my home, brings back the joy and wonderful memories. 

6 — What’s the future of social media?

Social media has evolved over the last two decades as networked devices, smartphones and specialized applications have matured while the people that use them are also evolving and aging. For example, Waze lets you know that people you may know are traveling nearby. You could argue that the shared economy is a derivative of social networks that enabled growing mobility and shared solutions within communities. 

The nature of information that is shared on social media has changed as the demographics of certain networks have changed dramatically. Freedom of speech isn’t always welcome, and the ability to block opinions have polarized communities. There are a plethora of different communications tools which enable private communications. It is hard to keep up with all the different options and networks that friends prefer for direct communications. 

There is a move towards smaller private groups on networks with encryption and security. Mobile devices have become a critical component of how people communicate and identify themselves; for example, some COVID-19 vaccine verifications are dependent on smartphone access.  

While social media platforms where influencers inform large numbers of followers are still popular, they will need to evolve as the community matures. A different strategy will be required to attract younger digital native generations who have a different relationship with their digital identity and the digital worlds they play and engage in. How they communicate and engage may be an extension of the video games they participate in. It isn’t a surprise to see the popularity in NFTs when you look at the popularity of digital objects in video games over the years that have generated billions of dollars for popular gaming platforms. The popularity of digital worlds where identity is tied to digital representation of an individual’s interests and values will continue to rise.

While there will continue to be a variety of specialized social networks that cater to professional or other communities with common interests, the younger digital native generations are going to be more comfortable interacting and communicating through the use of their self-created digital identities in virtual environments. Technologies are evolving quickly to support immersive environments to facilitate interesting new interactions and experiences. The possibilities for the future are endless and not necessarily a direct extension of today’s leading social platforms. Who knows, maybe the future will be about sharing virtual experiences in the same way people share TikTok video clips? This will require easy ways to create the experiences, and yet we already see young kids creating interactive environments in Roblox.

A wish for the blockchain community: 

Wishing the ambitious blockchain community continues in its excitement for problem solving and innovation. While not all problems will benefit from the technology, the energy applied to problem solving through the evolution of the technology is contagious and inspiring! Hoping the ideation and creativity grows more to address some of the world’s biggest problems!


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6 Questions for David Chaum of XX Network

We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!

This week, our 6 Questions go to David Chaum, one of the earliest blockchain researchers and a world-renowned cryptographer and privacy advocate. He is the founder of Elixxir, Praxxis and the XX network, which encompass his decades of research and contributions in the field of cryptography and privacy.

David Chaum is the creator and founder of XX network, the first consumer-scale, quantum-ready online platform that enables value to be communicated and exchanged without revealing so-called “metadata.” David is a pioneer in cryptography and privacy-preserving technologies, and is widely recognized as the inventor of electronic cash. His work on cryptographic “vault systems” contains the first proposal for a blockchain protocol, containing all but one element detailed 26 years later in the Bitcoin white paper. David’s company, DigiCash, deployed a breakthrough cryptographic blind-signature protocol in 1995 to create the world’s first anonymous digital currency, eCash.

1 What do you think will be the biggest trend in blockchain over the next 12 months?

At the moment, nonfungible tokens seem to be all the rage. But I think in the next 12 months, you’ll see people finally appreciating what true decentralization is. When people realize they can have a seat at the table, that they can own and participate in the governance of an entity, that’s when we will start seeing a lot of innovation and mass adoption in the blockchain sector. 

People will start to realize how much VC money has entered this space over the last five years, and come to their senses about these false prophets.


2 — What is the single-most innovative use case for blockchain you’ve ever seen? It may not be the one likeliest to succeed!

The Satoshi Vision — the right and ability to participate in economic activity (and upside). Money is tied to incentivizing freedom and democracy by ensuring that political freedoms are never stifled and can be economically supported.


3 — What are the top five Crypto Twitter feeds you can’t do without, and why?

@Defi_Dad is one of my favorite new feeds I’ve recently been put onto. Very insightful. He is a very level-headed, no BS, even-keeled person in this space, which is notoriously filled with shilling machines.

@rogerkver is a visionary who doesn’t get enough credit for helping people. He is also a huge reason why we are where we are at on the road to mass adoption.

@snowden is someone who speaks truth to power, every chance he gets. He is not afraid to speak his mind. 

@danheld is incisive, doesn’t miss a beat. Everyone should be following him — brilliant mind.

@laurashin has her finger on the pulse of crypto, she is the Barbara Walters of crypto.


4 — List your favorite sports teams, and choose the single-most memorable moment from watching them. If you aren’t a sports fan, choose a few movies and a moment!

The final chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey was enough to make me worry about the digital future. I saw it when it came out and it obviously made a big impact.


5 — What were you like in high school?

Ummm… I spent a lot of time at UCLA. Truth is, I decided to spend time at UCLA rather than going to high school. It was the 60s and we still had the freedom to do things like this.


6 — What makes you angry… and what happens when you get mad?

People who don’t realize that democracy is not a given. The health of our society is not a given. 

It makes me angry that not enough people are worried about the potential bad outcomes that threaten us. This reality we live in where information and media are obviously manipulated, we get so many messed up outcomes that none of us want because our shared common sense gets lost in the shuffle.


A wish for the blockchain community: 

It’s over. Everything is global and decentralized. The governments, the corporations, they’ll have to play catch-up, but it’s done. We are a global community. The governments think blockchain and crypto are in question — they’re not. It’s the future. It’s now. It’s arrived. It’s done.


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Shanghai Man: AscendEX reopened after $80m hack, Huobi suffers key personnel departures, and government officials punished for mining activities

This weekly roundup of news from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong attempts to curate the industry’s most important news, including influential projects, changes in the regulatory landscape, and enterprise blockchain integrations.  

Limping out of 2021

Last week we thought we had hit rock bottom for Chinese exchanges, as Bitmart was on the unfortunate end of a $150m hack. This week, it was more of the same, as AscendEX lost $80m to a similar style of theft affecting its Ethereum, BSC and Polygon hot wallet. On December 16, AscendEX released a security post-mortem detailing the attack:

An in-depth security audit identified the breach as the result of an exploit of hardware-level vulnerability from third-party infrastructure utilized by AscendEX. The infiltration was carried out by highly sophisticated perpetrators. We have been working closely with law enforcement as well as blockchain forensic firms to gain further knowledge on the incident.

Like Bitmart, AscendEX responded quickly, reassuring the community that their funds would be safe and accounted for, limiting the damage to its reputation. AscendEX, which was formerly known as BitMax, had done a relatively impressive job of attracting users around the globe and had just closed a $50 million Series B in November of 2021. That round included big names like Polychain Capital, Alameda Research, and Jump Capital, giving the exchange momentum to embrace a truly global growth strategy in the wake of suffocating Chinese regulations. 

Hard times at Huobi?

On December 15, one of the longest-running exchanges restricted the accounts of millions of its Chinese users. Chinese users have until the end of December to access user-to-user OTC services, presumably so they have the option of cashing out prior to services being completely stopped. Most savvy users will likely find loopholes around regulations by withdrawing to on-chain wallets or exchanges with more flexible policies. 

Prior to Binance’s incredible growth during the ICO boom of 2017, Huobi had been the largest exchange in the world by volume and liquidity. Focusing on Chinese users, it had tried to work with local regulators first with offices in Beijing, as well as special innovation zones in Hainan and other parts of China. This strategy proved to be short-sighted after regulators took a zero-tolerance approach to crypto exchanges earlier this year, forcing the exchange to slowly eliminate services for Chinese traders. Huobi had little room to hide, as its ‘first-mover advantage’ made it too conspicuous to evade regulators. 

Chinese users trying to trade on their Huobi accounts were greeted with this message after December 15 when trying to trade or deposit funds

Colin Wu wrote about the internal difficulties at Huobi, mentioning that COO Robin Zhu retired from management, while a number of other key members had left for other exchanges, including Bybit. One notable departure included the charismatic Head of Global Assets Ciara Sun. She had built her reputation in China on a combination of efficient business development and her trademark pictures with cats. 

Still, there might be room for the former-top exchange to rebound, as two weeks ago Huobi declared its new regional headquarters would be located in Singapore. This is an interesting choice considering Binance revealed on December 13 that it had abandoned plans to launch an exchange in Singapore. Although the island nation is noted for being progressive with its regulation, the process for acquiring licenses can be quite stringent, especially for Binance which was already targeted for rule-breaking by many policymakers.

If Huobi is able to replace key management wisely, it could use its financial and strategic resources in Asia to begin taking back market share. Currently, Huobi sits fifth on FTX’s volume monitor, roughly the size of KuCoin and Bybit, but far behind its old rival OKEx. OKEx has been the biggest gainer of recent weeks, taking significant volume from Huobi and becoming the clear number two exchange in the world. 

Government officials in hot water

An investigation from a national security inspection found that 34 state-owned enterprises have been active in cryptocurrency mining using state resources, including equipment and networks. Unspecified punishments were handed down to 48 people, including 21 party and government officers. A further 70 individuals were Interviewed and warned for failing to provide ample education on the issue.

Adoption in Hong Kong

Hong Kong had the fewest unengaged crypto owners of any developed market. Source: Visa

18% of Hong Kong Residents are active cryptocurrency investors and 13% are passive investors, according to a new survey released by Visa on December 9. This was second only to the United States among the markets reviewed. This is unsurprising considering the amount of physical cryptocurrency store locations and companies that are set up in the special administrative region. The Visa survey collected 6,430 online responses from August 25 to September 13 in regions including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.


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6 Questions for Jane Thomason of Kasei Holdings

We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!

This week, our 6 Questions go to Jane Thomason, an entrepreneur and thought leader in technological innovation, fintech and blockchain for social impact. She is also the founder of Supernova Data, co-founder of the British Blockchain and Frontier Technologies Association, and chairperson of Kasei Holdings, an investment company specializing in the digital asset ecosystem.

I have always believed we can change the world! For most of my life, I tried that in an analog way. In 2016, I discovered blockchain, and I realized it was a game-changing technology for social impact. I needed to be part of making that happen, so I left my day job and stepped into the blockchain world. Every day, I am excited by the innovations that are already changing lives, especially in emerging economies. I try to be the bridge between the old world and the future. We are at a unique moment in history when we really can reshape things and create a fairer, more equitable and inclusive world.

1 What is the main hurdle to the mass adoption of blockchain technology?

A lack of understanding in the wider community and the poor reputation of crypto, coupled with resistance from legacy players. In 2018, I predicted gaming would be the path to widespread adoption, and we are indeed seeing that. The more use cases are built where people can see the practical benefits, the stronger adoption will be. In that light, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an accelerant, as we have seen blockchain used in the secure transfer of health data, supply chain provenance, payments, remittances and cross-border transfers. This builds credibility and will drive wider adoption.


2 — What do you think will be the biggest trend in blockchain for the next 12 months?

I want to say social impact and gaming, but I would be kidding myself. Right now, people are reaping huge rewards through decentralized finance, nonfungible tokens and GameFi. We will see that continue to accelerate. In addition, we will see continued growth in institutional investment and the proliferation of regulated blockchain securities funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).


3 — What’s a problem you think blockchain has a chance to solve but hasn’t been attempted yet?

Can blockchain technologies support the activities required for the sustainable management of the global commons, through systems of governance, transparent decision-making, smart contracts, and decentralized mechanisms and incentives for collaboration, cooperation, consensus and trust? 

Blockchain has the potential to connect a global decentralized community around a common purpose. Using tokenomics, blockchain is able to create a new​ ​digital ​economy using behavioral economics and game theory to incentivize and disincentive distributed community behavior and action. Tokens can ​unite ​and ​economically​ ​align people around ​a common ​purpose. Blockchains are fundamentally a way to create economies. The ability to create new tokens and to distribute and allocate these tokens according to economic incentives will lead to the creation of new economies.

Can we see these distributed token economies emerge around global commons issues like climate, preservation of forests and oceans, public health, and gender equality where we can all contribute, participate and benefit?

Social impact and global commons issues require a greater level of cooperation and collaboration than usual, among ecosystems that don’t normally collaborate or converge. We need immediate collaboration to pave the way for digital transformation — collaboration to help build and shape the technology, collaboration in engaging and educating governments and regulators, collaboration in building the talent pool for the future digital economy, and collaboration in developing a new global economic system that is human-centered, preserves the planet, and is fairer and more equitable for all.


4 — What would you like to see tokenized? When, if ever, do you expect this to happen?

Investing in women! I would like to see the female economy tokenized and to incentivize investment in women-led startups and businesses focused on products for women, creating an opportunity to economically empower women and drive social impact. Women drive the world economy, and women control $20 trillion in consumer spending, growing to $28 trillion in the next five years. While data exists on female entrepreneurs, gender equality, employment and leadership, the data is fragmented and static. I would like to see the world’s first token economy to democratize investment in and empowerment of women and that uses data analytics to predict and track growth in the female economy globally.

The global focus on growing the female economy is accelerating as a result of the impact of the pandemic on women’s livelihoods. A blockchain token economy has the potential to transform the way that women’s businesses are funded and measured, and to accelerate investment and growth. This would also help to unlock the deal flow for women entrepreneurs in the early stages. Both investors and investees will be able to track and measure outcomes — such as capital flows and returns, enterprise segmentation, and impact monetization — access analysis to contribute to global research, and track and measure impact. We can incentivize investors with even a small amount of capital to support the increased participation of women in the economy.

With over a trillion dollars in assets under management, a less than 0.5% commitment to women would still equal more than $5 billion dollars. Only a small increase can mean massive change can be made — blockchain gives us an actionable path forward.

5 — Which alternate movie universe would you most like to live in, and why?

Is there a Bollywood one that I can join? I love all the fabulous costumes and dancing and exotic scenes. Let me know when the Bollyverse opens, and I will be there in a flash in my best frock!

6 — Close your eyes and think of a happy place. What do you see?

For me, a happy place is with the people I love. I can be anywhere in the world, but if I am with my son, daughter and granddaughter and any of my very large adopted extended family around the world, that is a happy place!


A wish for the blockchain community: 

You are building the future. Therefore, build us the kind of world we would all like to live in.


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Shanghai Man: Bitmart’s $150M theft, ‘Metaverse’ trending, Hong Kong mogul builds in The Sandbox

This weekly roundup of news from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong attempts to curate the industry’s most important news, including influential projects, changes in the regulatory landscape, and enterprise blockchain integrations.  

Bad news for Evergrande

Even after all the regulatory crackdowns, China isn’t letting 2021 slip away without a few more blows to the crypto markets. On December 9, the news revealed that massive real estate developer Evergrande had defaulted on its interest payments, and was thus subject to a credit rating downgrade.

Subsequently, crypto markets dipped significantly, which will be worrying to investors who are already mumbling about jobless rates and new COVID variants. On the bright side, if the situation with Evergrande goes from bad to worse, financial regulators are going to have their hands full, giving them less time to focus on stamping out cryptocurrency as we approach the final month and a half of the lunar calendar. 

Bitmart bouncing back

Bitmart was the unfortunate victim of a large hack on December 5, when $150m was taken from an Ethereum and BSC hot wallet. CEO Sheldon Xia quickly jumped on Twitter and announced that the hot wallets carry only a small portion of the assets on Bitmart and that the exchange was conducting a comprehensive security review. 

While many Tier 2 exchanges might have been slow to react, to Bitmart’s credit, it communicated very frequently throughout. The following day, Xia returned to Twitter to announce that Bitmart’s other assets were secure and that the exchange would compensate affected users from its own funds. For an established exchange, this amount of loss wouldn’t be too crippling, especially if remaining users didn’t all withdraw at once. 

Immediately after the news, the Chinese community showed its resiliency. Rather than pile on misery, numerous voices spoke out in support, including competing exchanges like MEXC, KuCoin, and Coinex. Most of them left encouraging remarks on Twitter in addition to notices that they would work with Bitmart to identify and blacklist funds from the stolen account. Prominent investor Fenbushi Capital also voiced out their support, as did auditors Certik, Peckshield, and Hacken. 

Trending on social media

Sequoia Capital, one of the world’s largest venture capital firms with over $5 billion in AUM, overhauled its Twitter bio to crypto-native language on December 8. 

“Mainnet faucet. We help the daring buidl legendary DAOs from idea to token airdrop. LFG.”

Shortly after, screenshots emerged of Sequoia Capital China’s head stating the firm was all-in on crypto. Feng Bo, who is a managing partner at Dragonfly Capital, had applauded the move noting its progressive approach.

While it’s unlikely that a firm like Sequoia is actually all-in, it’s no secret that a lot of these large venture capital firms have enjoyed a lot of success through crypto-related investments in recent times. Perhaps the bigger question is which user was leaking screenshots from this seemingly private group chat for large Chinese whales. 

Despite all the fun, Sequoia changed its Twitter bio back the next day. 

Also very popular on Chinese crypto social media was the eloquent Brian Brooks from BitFury. Clips of his panel in the US Congress hearing on digital assets made the rounds, particularly as he explained the differences between Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. The Chinese community seemed to appreciate his well-spoken and concise nature when dealing with the featureless politicians.

For a bit of light humor, an image was circulating of CZ’s famous Tweet “If you can’t hold, you won’t be rich” stuck to the back of a Meituan food delivery vehicle. Meituan delivery is often memed as a low-paying form of employment that the crypto community members could be forced to return to when the industry is suffering, similar to McDonald’s in the west. It also pokes fun at a famous orange vehicle driven by an early Bitcoin whale in China that has the same message on the side door.

An image of CZ’s famous Tweet stuck to a food delivery scooter indicates the current state of the markets

Mad about the Metaverse

Metaverse-related projects and events have been appearing left, right and center, all over China. However,  it’s not clear whether these are actually focused on building a Metaverse, or just a sneaky way for crypto projects to disguise themselves as something else to avoid the wrath of regulators.

China’s Central Bank has caught on to this trend and are now monitoring the Metaverse and NFT space. Guidance or policies from the Central Bank are likely to resemble existing policies towards digital currencies, meaning strict regulations with little room for interpretation.

Speaking at a financial security summit, the director of Anti-Money Laundering at the People’s Bank of China mentioned the Metaverse and NFTs when discussing the need to strengthen digital transaction monitoring. He also noted the need for regulatory sandboxes, a popular idea but one that would be unlikely to give much flexibility for truly decentralized products.

These rumblings didn’t stop People’s Daily from adding “metaverse” to a list of 2021’s Top Ten trending words on December 8. Most of the other words were related to societal issues such as overworked students or young adults not attempting to compete and succeed. Metaverse stood out among the other words as one of the only ones related to technology and innovation. 

Over on the island in Hong Kong, Adrian Cheng, CEO of Hong Kong real estate giant New World Development, announced he was diving in by acquiring a prime piece of real estate in The Sandbox. Cheng announced that 10 different companies would be used to develop the virtual land, building up an innovation hub to show off developments from the areas of Hong Kong, Macau, and various Chinese cities located nearby. 


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Bitcoin (BTC) $ 37,839.14 1.08%
Ethereum (ETH) $ 2,034.04 1.57%
Litecoin (LTC) $ 69.79 0.49%
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) $ 222.37 0.66%