Sandbox (SAND) Surged 10% as Elvis Enters the Metaverse

The popular Metaverse platform Sandbox announced a collaboration with Elvis On-Chain on May 26 to bring the King of rock and roll to the virtual world.

The partnership includes Elvis Presley Enterprises, and Web3 studio Run it Wild, which spawned the project earlier this year. In addition to the Sandbox, partners include Decentraland, Dappraft, Metakey, and Voxel Architects.

To celebrate Elvis Presley’s birthday, 1,935 Elvis Genesis Key NFTs will be minted as the all-access pass to the Elvis-On-Chain Metaverse, which will launch on June 1.

All Shook Up

The Sandbox is creating Elvis avatars with partners at Voxel Architects. They will be used in the new Elvis world, a meeting place for Elvis fans across the globe. Users can become ‘The King’ in various formats in the new realm where they can interact with others and trade digital memorabilia.

According to NFT Culture, Run It Wild Director Adam De Cata said:

“These incredible partners, all leaders in the craft, help us build a one-of-a-kind meeting place for Elvis fans. The Elvis metaverse will host an array of ground-breaking experiences, generative collections, a showcase of rare concerts, fan experiences, and real events,”

Sébastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox, added, “We want to empower his fans to express themselves and become their very own Elvis, creating an exciting way to experience his likeness across generations and keep him forever in the limelight thanks to technology.”

An Elvis Block Party will be hosted on Decentraland after the genesis NFT mint. It will also be a Guinness World Record attempt for the most Elvis impersonators in one place in the Metaverse.

Attendees will be able to put Elvis wearables, including his jumpsuit and styled wig. At the same time, holders of the elusive Elvis Genesis Key NFTs will be awarded officially licensed Elvis Decentraland wearables, the report added.

The Sandbox will announce more details at 19.00 UTC on May 26 at a Twitter Spaces event.

SAND Surges 10%

The native token for the Metaverse project surged almost 20% over the past 12 hours on the announcement but retraced slightly after that. SAND reached an intraday high of $1.52 before retreating slightly to $1.40 at the time of writing.

The Metaverse token has jumped by 23% over the past week, moving in the opposite direction to most crypto assets. It acquired Uruguayan tech firm Cualit last week, adding to the momentum. SAND is currently trading 83% down from its November all-time high of $8.48, according to CoinGecko.

Decentraland’s MANA token also got boosted 9% over the past 12 hours, reaching $1.11 before pulling back slightly. MANA is also down a similar amount from its peak price, however.

Featured Image Courtesy of Sada El Balad

Adam Neumann’s Tokenized Carbon Credit Startup Raises $70M From a16z and Other VC Giants

The Israeli-American businessman and investor started the firm with his spouse Rebekah and CEO Dana Gibber. On May 24, the company announced that it had raised $70 million in its first major funding round led by a16z. The event was made through a combination of traditional venture equity and a private token sale.

Participants included General Catalyst, Samsung Next, Invesco Private Capital, RSE Ventures, Allegory Labs, and the Celo Foundation, according to the announcement.

The startup aims to help companies reduce their carbon footprints by selling tokenized carbon credits on the blockchain. According to the firm, these tokens will then be tradable on major crypto exchanges.

Decarbonizing Through Crypto

Companies can buy carbon credits to offset their emissions and environmental impact. These credits are channeled into other projects that reduce or remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Flowcarbon aims to tap into this growing demand for carbon credits as the world becomes more conscious of emissions and corporations are pressured to do something about them.

These credits will be certified digital assets stored and traded on the blockchain. Additionally, this method facilitates cheaper funding for firms and projects to scale faster. Chief executive Dana Gibber explained:

“Our mission is to provide the financing necessary to scale projects that reduce or remove carbon from the atmosphere, in particular nature-based projects.”

She added that the voluntary carbon market is a “brilliant financial mechanism” that creates a counterbalancing incentive to reforest, revitalize, and protect nature. Arianna Simpson, General Partner at a16z, commented:

“The carbon market is extremely opaque, and we believe demand for offsets is rapidly outpacing the speed at which supply can be increased, especially for nature-based projects,”

She added that the carbon credit market could potentially grow to $50 billion by 2030. Last week, Ripple pledged $100 million to invest in carbon markets in its latest sustainability drive.

GNT Token Sale

Almost half of the funding, $32 million, came from a16z, which is extremely bullish on Web3, and other VC firms, while the remaining $38 million came from the closed-door sale of Flowcarbon’s Goddess Nature Token (GNT). The asset is based on the Celo network, an EVM compatible proof-of-stake layer-1 protocol.

GNT is backed by carbon credits which are pre-certified by industry groups including Verra, Gold Standard, Climate Action Reserve, and the American Carbon Registry, according to Reuters.

The tokens will be sold in bundles that improve liquidity and allow more significant volumes to be traded than in traditional ways such as OTC (over-the-counter).

Featured Image Courtesy of Commercial Observer

Institutional Exodus: Crypto Fund AUM Fell to Lowest Levels in 10 Months

Institutional funds are still flowing out of crypto products, so much so that over the past week, the total assets under management (AUM) figure fell to a ten-month low.

CoinShare’s weekly ‘Digital Asset Fund Flows’ report has detailed another week with an exodus of institutional capital. The $141 million outflows have dropped the total AUM to just $38 billion. This is less than the amount just the one Grayscale fund held a few months ago.

Bitcoin-based funds bore the brunt of the outflows for the period, with $154 million exiting them. The asset itself tanked below $28,000 on two occasions and looks like it is heading that way again today following a 3.2% loss.

Weakened Risk Appetite

The report noted that the overall sentiment was bearish, with just a handful seeking opportunity from the depressed asset prices.

“The ongoing volatility has led to fickle investors with some seeing this as an opportunity while the aggregate sentiment is predominantly bearish.”

Ethereum funds were unchanged for the week, but multi-asset funds bucked the trend with an inflow of $9.6 million. There was little movement in either direction for products in individual altcoin products.

Geographically, the institutional bears were all in the Americas last week, while European investors were a little more bullish. The report noted that inflows year-to-date represent just 5.3% or $185 million of the total AUM.

“We believe investors see multi-asset investment products as safer relative to single line investment products during volatile periods,” it concluded.

On-chain metrics are also suggesting a fall in risk appetite. On May 23, institutional-grade cryptocurrency market data provider Kaiko reported that the Ethereum-to-Bitcoin price ratio had declined sharply in May, an indicator of deteriorating risk appetite.

The ratio has been used as an indicator of Bitcoin’s dominance relative to altcoin markets and has historically served as a gauge for investor sentiment, it added. According to Tradingview, Bitcoin’s dominance is just under 45%, it has gained 3.5% since the Terra collapse on May 9.

Crypto Markets Continue Downwards

Total crypto market capitalization has declined by 2.2% over the past 24 hours, falling back to $1.32 trillion, according to CoinGecko. Over the past three weeks, it has slumped a whopping 28% as half a trillion dollars has left the space.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are leading with declines of more than 3% each resulting in falls to $29,400 and $1,987, respectively.

OpenSea Announces Smart NFT Marketplace Seaport

On May 20, OpenSea unveiled Seaport, a brand new Web3 NFT marketplace for trading popular token collections. The new decentralized protocol is not just for OpenSea, but all developers, content creators, and collectors can build on it.

Seaport is taking a different approach to the standard model of NFT trading, which involves a platform facilitating a deal between seller and buyer.

Sellers can agree to supply a number of items in the ERC-20, ERC-721, or ERC-1155 format, which will be known as the “offer.” The “consideration” is when several items are received by the buyer. However, the process will be automated and governed by the decentralized smart contract, according to the announcement.

“Every Seaport listing consists of the same basic structure, including an improved EIP-712 signature payload that clearly outlines what can be spent and what will be received back by whom.”

Automated NFT Marketplace

The announcement explained how exactly Seaport would facilitate the transactions by using “fulfillments” to ensure they are processed correctly.

It added that the new system eliminates redundant transfers, which are usually the most gas-intensive, and allows for “novel and efficient transactions.”

There are several other functions such as “zones” and “channels” that improve the transaction process, allow for bartering, and prevent abuse of the system. Seaport also supports “tipping,” which allows alternative interfaces to include their own fees and facilitates dynamic listings.

The firm added that the platform is completely decentralized and open source:

“OpenSea does not control or operate the Seaport protocol — we will be just one, among many, building on top of this shared protocol.”

Seaport has been audited by OpenZeppelin, and they are also starting a two-week audit contest with code4rena with a $1 million prize pool.

NFT Ecosystem Outlook

The NFT space has contracted in terms of sales this month as crypto markets continue to take a beating. According to market tracker Nonfungible, USD sales figures are down from over $60 million per day in early May to around $25 million as of May 20.

The number of sales was more than 100,000 per day at the beginning of the month, but that had slumped to around 23,000 by the end of last week.

Cryptoslam reports that the Otherdeed Metaverse land NFT collection has been the most popular over the past seven days, with around $27 million in secondary sales for the period.

Declining Celsius Yields Ignite Investor Concerns: Reports

Reports are suggesting that all may not be well at the Celsius crypto lending platform. Some customers claim they have been unfairly wiped out, while company CEO Alex Mashinsky asserts that malicious actors are trying to collapse the system.

Celsius is one of the crypto industry’s largest lenders, with $11.8 billion worth of assets. The company operates by loaning out digital assets that users have deposited while offering them high yields in interest in return. Celsius also lets investors take out loans at low rates using crypto as collateral.

This model works fine when markets are buoyant, and demand is high, but when prices tank hard and fast as they have been doing this month, the entire system becomes unstable.

Bitcoin bull Max Keiser compared the high yields on Celsius to those previously offered by DeFi platforms harnessing UST and LUNA.

Terra First, Celsius Next?

On May 18, Barron’s reported that the firm has come under pressure on two fronts recently. Regulators claim they operate outside the law, and the crypto crash has led to panicked customers withdrawing their funds. One former customer tweeted:

“Withdrew all funds, Cel token imploding, big warning sign. Celsius offering $50 bonus for depositing $2500 in stables is red flag. Capital preservation is more important, than return on capital.”

In a Twitter Spaces event this week, some customers confirmed that they had sold their CEL tokens and asked Mashinsky what the company was doing to support investors. Investors also complained that trading was illiquid as the token price fell, which exacerbated their losses, and the company failed to support its native token.

Mashinsky claimed that outside malefactors have decided to attack the firm:

“This is not a coincidence. This is somebody who decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to take down all of Celsius.’”

The report added that he “sparred with users who threatened to leave the company,” claiming that he had personally lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the crypto market collapse.

The firm raised $400 million in a funding round in October 2021, which adds more salt to the wounds of investors.

CEL Price Plunges

The platform’s native token, used as collateral for lending, has lost a further 2.4% on the day to trade at $0.815, according to CoinGecko. Additionally, CEL has plunged more than 20% over the past week and a whopping 63% over the past fortnight as fears mount and the investor selloff accelerates.

CEL is now trading at a painful 90% decline from its June 2021 all-time high of just over $8.

Fallen Hedge Fund Tycoon Raising Funds for Crypto TV Channel

Falcone rose to fame and fortunes, amassing a fortune of $2 billion by shorting housing markets but has since squandered most of that over the past decade, according to reports.

On May 17, the New York Post reported that the former hedge fund tycoon is angling to profit from TV coverage of the crypto industry, filling a niche that is currently void.

Falcone is reportedly pitching BlockchainTV to investors in hopes of garnering enough funding to back a dedicated crypto TV channel.

The report added that Falcone enlisted former music executive Charlie Walk to help him sell the concept and attract investors, which the pair has been attempting since January.

Filling The Crypto TV Void

Falcone is convinced that the world needs a 24-hour network exclusively devoted to covering cryptocurrencies, NFTs, Metaverse, and Web3. While major finance outlets such as Bloomberg mention the price movements of high cap assets such as Bitcoin now and then, there is very little TV coverage for the rest of the ecosystem.

People currently have to turn to social media and outlets such as YouTube for their crypto show fixes, and these are heavily censored. The website for the channel is largely devoid of any further details but does state that it will launch in Q3.

“Dedicated to the digital space, Blockchain.TV is launching in the third quarter of 2022, bringing breaking news, entertainment, and trending digital activity about Crypto, Web3, and the Metaverse.”

Falcone quietly began buying up broadcast stations under the name Madison Technologies in 2020, which was rebranded to GoTV last year. According to reports, he owns channels in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston.

A Shady Past

In 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed securities fraud charges against Falcone and his hedge fund firm, Harbinger Capital Partners. The agency alleged that Falcone used fund assets totaling $113 million to pay his taxes.

He was also accused of conducting an illegal ‘short squeeze’ to manipulate bond prices and unlawfully buying equity securities in a public offering after having sold short the same security during a restricted period.

The 59-year-old moneyman is being sued by New York State for $12 million in back taxes. He has been forced to sell off assets and property, including a Hamptons estate, in recent years to pay off the debts.

One respondent on Twitter said Phil Falcone is a disgrace, adding, “He’s raised money for a crypto TV network that is just a way for him to make more money. He’s not interested in helping people learn about cryptocurrencies, he’s only interested in making money.”

Featured image courtesy of FN London

DeFi Lending Sector Sees Investor Exodus Amid Market Meltdown

Industry analytics firm DappRadar has just released a report on the situation, and it doesn’t look pretty. On May 13, the firm reported that DeFi’s total value locked (TVL) is down more than 40% over the past seven days.

It stated that the slump had been caused by investors flipping tokens into stablecoins in preparation to cash out into fiat. However, the massive slump in token prices would also have impacted TVL, a dollar-based figure.

At the time of writing, DappRadar was reporting a nominal TVL of $83.4 billion, a dump of 48% since the beginning of the year.

Terra Fallout Spooks Investors

The report stated that the collapse of the Terra stablecoin and its LUNA token had sent shockwaves through the DeFi ecosystem.

“Amidst massive concerns for Terra, UST, and LUNA, traders appear to be getting spooked and moving large quantities of stablecoins out of protocols.”

This is the opposite of what happened during the previous bear market in 2018 when crypto lending protocols performed well.

It added that the UST fiasco has affected DeFi lending as the stablecoin’s downfall has resulted in concerns from investors and regulators over the viability of such assets. UST was trading at $0.145 at the time of writing and the world’s largest stablecoin, Tether, was also marginally below its peg.

Circle’s USDC appears to have emerged unscathed this week and has even traded above its peg briefly. DappRadar noted that USDC trading volume has exploded over the past few days, peaking at almost $25 billion on May 13. Typical volumes for the stablecoin are around $5 billion per day, it noted before adding:

“The future of stablecoins has been thrown into doubt, but it is well worth remembering that, unlike UST, which is backed by crypto assets, the majority of stablecoin assets are backed with more tangible support.”

DeFi Tokens Tank

According to CoinGecko, DeFi-related tokens have tanked 47% overall during the past seven days. The total market cap for all DeFi coins was close to $100 billion this time last week. Today, it is just $52.7 billion, and a sea of red is still enveloping most of them.

Tokens for major lending protocols are all down heavily over the past week. AAVE has dropped 38% this week, KAVA is down 45%, and COMP has fallen by more than 32% during the past seven days, as reported by DappRadar. Additionally, Chainlink’s LINK and Uniswap’s UNI have both lost around 34% over the past week.

SEC Commissioner Calls for Accelerated Stablecoin Regulations After the UST Fiasco

Peirce, also affectionately known as ‘Crypto Mom,’ said that there might soon be movement on stablecoin regulations in the U.S. The comments came at an online panel debate hosted by the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) policy think tank on May 12.

“One place we might see some movement is around stablecoins,” she said in reference to tighter regulations for the crypto sector. Talking about the collapse of the TerraUSD stablecoin, she added, “that’s an area that has obviously this week gotten a lot of attention.”

The SEC has an opportunity to “capture digital currencies, and the technology platforms where they are traded” under its jurisdiction, she added, according to Reuters.

Stablecoin Fallout Troubles Lawmakers

The wheels of bureaucracy and regulation turn very slowly in the United States, and nothing specific has been detailed regarding an approach to stablecoin regulation. However, in light of this week’s events regarding UST, things may now be accelerated.

Nothing good is likely to come out of tighter controls over crypto as SEC Chain Gary Gensler still considers them as securities. He believes stablecoins and crypto pose a threat to money markets and the banking sector, so they should come under the same controls that they have.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is also pushing for more stringent regulations for digital assets. This week she told a Senate banking panel that the current market turmoil illustrated the need for an “appropriate” regulatory framework.

Hester Peirce has taken a more productive stance suggesting a “trial and error” approach to regulating stablecoins, stating:

“There are different potential options for approaching stablecoins…and with experimentation, we need to allow room for there to be failure.”

Calls for Global Crypto Regulation Body

In a related regulatory development, a senior official has called for a joint body to regulate cryptocurrencies on a global scale.

At the same OMFIF conference, chair of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) Ashley Alder said:

“If you look at the risks we need to address, they are multiple and there is a wall of worry about this (crypto) in the conversations at an institutional level,”

He added that a global group to align crypto rules was clearly needed, comparing such an organization to groups already operating for climate change or Covid-19.

“But I do think now it’s seen as one of the three C’s (COVID, climate, and crypto) so it’s very, very important. It has gone up the agenda, so I would not expect that to be the case the same time next year,” he stated.

Featured Image Courtesy of BusinessInsider

SEC Chief Reiterates View That Crypto Assets Are Securities

The policymaker has continued to stake a claim for the crypto asset industry for his agency tasked with regulating securities in the United States.

According to Gensler, cryptocurrencies should be regulated the same way as securities. In a speech on reducing risk and increasing transparency of derivatives at the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Annual Meeting on May 11, he said:

“Most crypto tokens involve a group of entrepreneurs raising money from the public in anticipation of profits — the hallmark of an investment contract or a security under our jurisdiction,”

Security or Not Security

Gensler is angling for full control over the regulation of the crypto sector, which is likely to result in harsh restrictions for companies and investors in the country.

He claimed that very few crypto assets operate like commodities or digital gold, which is why his agency should have jurisdiction over them rather than the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“Most crypto tokens are investment contracts under the Supreme Court’s Howey Test,” he added.

The Howey Test refers to a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court case for determining whether a transaction qualifies as an investment contract. Under U.S. law, an investment contract exists if there is an “investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits to be derived from the efforts of others.” Gensler believes this is the case for most digital assets.

If American lawmakers determine cryptocurrencies to be securities, companies dealing with them would come under the stringent regulation, and registration requirements that firms offering securities are subject to.

According to Gensler, if a derivative contract known as a swap is based on a crypto asset, it is a security-based swap and subject to SEC registration, he added:

“It’s important to recognize that if the underlying asset is a security, the derivative must comply with securities regulations.”

Gary_Gensler
Gary Gensler. Source: Bloomberg

The SEC Chair also wants to see decentralized exchanges that offer derivatives registered with the agency.

Those opposing this line of thinking, such as Senator Cynthia Lummis and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, believe that crypto assets are commodities and should be regulated by the CFTC.

Crypto Market Continues to Crash

The call for tighter regulations comes at a time when crypto markets are falling hard into what could be another prolonged bear market.

The cumulative market cap has been hammered a further 13% on the day in a fall to $1.2 trillion, its lowest level in about a year.

Featured Image Courtesy of Bloomberg

Coinbase Shares Plunge as Company Reports Q1 Losses of $430M

The exchange’s trading volumes fell around 44% between January and March as it reported worse than expected earnings for the period.

Crypto markets were largely range-bound for Q1 with few opportunities for short-term traders, resulting in the exchange volume slump. Coinbase derives as much as 85% of its revenue from above industry average transaction fees, so that decline has directly impacted its profit for the period.

On May 10, the company reported net losses of $430 million, far greater than the $47 million expected by Wall Street analysts, according to the Financial Times.

Coinbase Revenue Slump

Revenues fell 35% year on year to $1.16 billion, way off analyst expectations of around $1.5 billion. The firm blamed the falling crypto markets and increased volatility in 2022 but remained optimistic for the future:

“We believe these market conditions are not permanent and we remain focused on the long term.”

Revenue derived from transaction fees still made up the lion’s share of the total at 87%. The rest came from subscriptions and services.

Its crucial monthly transacting users (MTU) figure had fallen to 9.2 million, which is nearly 20% lower than in Q4, 2021. This was also lower than analyst expectations of 9.5 million. Earlier this month, CEO Brian Armstrong predicted that there will be a billion crypto users in the next decade.

Trading volume on the platform fell from $547 billion in Q4 2021 to $309 billion for the first quarter of 2022. Of this total, just 24% were retail traders, with the vast majority being institutional. It reported that institutional trading volume was $235 billion, a decrease of 37% compared to Q4.

The number of assets on the platform also fell by 8% for the period. At the end of Q1, funds on the platform were $256 billion, down from $278 billion at the end of Q4. “The sequential decline was driven by lower crypto asset prices, partially offset by billions of dollars in net inflows,” the report explained.

COIN Slumps to ATL

Coinbase stock has fallen to an all-time low as a result of the worse than expected earnings report. COIN was down 16% in after-hours trading Tuesday after sliding about 13% in the regular session.

The share price is currently $61.55, according to MarketWatch. It has now tanked 84% from its all-time high of over $400 when it went public in April 2021.

Crypto markets have tanked around 50% over the same period from their all-time high. Total market capitalization currently stands at a ten-month low of $1.47 trillion.

Senator Introduces Financial Freedom Act to Allow Crypto in Pension Plans

The Republican lawmaker believes the government should not limit the type of assets that people can select for their retirement plans.

In an op-ed for CNBC on May 5, Tuberville wrote that:

“The federal government has no business interfering with the ability of American workers to invest their 401(k) plan savings as they see fit.”

In March, the U.S. Department of Labor released regulatory guidance in an attempt to prohibit 401(k) accounts from investing in crypto assets, singling out that specific asset class. A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored defined-contribution pension plan.

Advocating Financial Freedom

Previously, pension plan participants could use “brokerage windows,” a tool used by savers to self-select their retirement investments. “The agency’s new guidance ends this tradition of economic empowerment in favor of big-brother government control,” added Tuberville.

The Senator strongly believes that Americans should be able to invest their retirement savings as they choose. The Financial Freedom Act will enable them to do exactly that if it passes Congress, where there is a lot of resistance to the crypto industry.

The bill would prohibit the Labor Department from limiting the type of investments U.S. citizens can have in their retirement accounts. He reiterated:

“Whether or not you believe in the long-term economic prospects of cryptocurrency, the choice of what you invest your retirement savings in should be yours — not that of the government.”

Senators such as Tuberville and Cynthia Lummis are battling to make crypto assets more accessible to Americans and stem the tide of heavy-handed regulation that the incumbent political stalwarts seem intent to impose.

Warren on The Warpath

In a related development, crypto’s most vehement critic, Senator Elizabeth Warren, has been on the warpath yet again. This time, the Massachusetts policymaker has taken aim at investment giant Fidelity over its plans to include crypto as part of retirement packages.

In April, the country’s largest 401(k) pension provider announced that it will include Bitcoin on its platform. Warren has taken umbrage at this, claiming that “Bitcoin’s volatility is compounded by its susceptibility to the whims of just a handful of influencers.”

She sent a letter to Fidelity’s CEO this week, along with Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, asking what measures the company is taking to combat this volatility. It is not the first time Warren has attempted to quash the sector with legislation.

As Tuberville pointed out, however, it should be the individual’s choice, not that of a handful of senior politicians that are hell-bent on crushing the industry in its entirety.

Featured Image Courtesy of CNN

Institutional Investors Cooling on Crypto as Weekly Outflows Top $120M

Digital asset manager CoinShares broke down the numbers in its weekly digital asset fund flows report released on May 3.

Capital has flown out of major crypto asset funds for four weeks in a row, and the total for the past seven days was $120.1 million. The total for the 4-week run was $339 million, according to the report.

There were similar outflows at the beginning of the year, but CoinShares said it has not been as bad just yet.

“This doesn’t reflect the same bearishness seen at the beginning of this year, although it is close to the $467m outflows witnessed.”

Bitcoin Funds Battered

The majority of those outflows were from Bitcoin-based funds resulting in the largest single week of outflows since June 2021, with $133 million exiting BTC funds.

The researchers said it was difficult to ascertain the exact reason for the exodus aside from the “hawkish rhetoric from the US Federal Reserve” and recent declines in the asset’s price.

Ethereum funds also saw outflows totaling $25 million last week, it added. So far this year, only five weeks have seen Ethereum outflows, and the year-to-date figure is $194 million.

Most of the altcoin-based funds also retreated, but multi-asset funds bucked the trend with a $1.9 million inflow for the period. There were also minor inflows for Terra and Fantom-based products. Only funds based on the FTX token saw measurable inflows with $38 million, CoinShares reported.

Geographically, things were evenly split, with the Americas comprising 41% and Europe 59% of the outflows. The ProShares group lost the most with $91 million leaving their funds, while ETH Group and 21Shares lost $35.5 million and $32.5 million, respectively. Purpose bucked the trend with an inflow of $54.7 million.

Total year-to-date fund flows are still in positive territory, however, at $270 million through with the current sentiment, that number is dwindling. CoinShares itself posted a decline in total revenue for Q1 of 42%.

Crypto Markets Keep Falling

Total crypto market capitalization has fallen to its lowest level since mid-March, according to CoinGecko. The big figure currently stands at $1.81 trillion, having lost a further 1.2% over the past 24 hours.

Bitcoin dipped below $38,000 earlier today after losing a similar percentage, and Ethereum is now just below $2,800, having lost 1.8% on the day. All of the altcoins in the top twenty are in the red at the time of writing aside from NEAR, which is up 2.7% on the day.

Quantum-based random number generator for Web3 games and wallets launched

The QRNG uses a fluctuating quantum system to guarantee unpredictable randomness, which can be used in Web3 gaming and gambling.

Researchers at Australia National University have teamed up with blockchain oracle provider AP13 to launch the first Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG).

The joint effort will allow Web3 entities to access a completely unpredictable random number generation system that is highly secure and free to use.

Random number generators are not new, but the QRNG system is the first of its kind to generate a random number using quantum mechanics. This provides the first genuinely random number mechanism beyond the pseudo-mathematical systems currently used that may be biased or repeated.

There are several traditional applications for random numbers, such as gambling and lotteries, sports and competitions, and sampling and statistics. As more organizations look to embrace the world of Web3, a tamper-proof, true random number generator not reliant on third parties will be required.

API3’s QRNG measures random quantum fluctuations in phase and amplitude of an electromagnetic field in a vacuum to guarantee unpredictable randomness and generate the numbers. Dr. Aaron Tranter from the ANU Research School of Physics explained the process to Cointelegraph:

“Quantum mechanics predicts that a vacuum, generally regarded as the absence of 'things', actually contains particles popping in and out of existence. This is the origin of the term vacuum noise. This noise is fundamentally random and can actually be measured using a laser, optics, and some fast electronics. We measure these fluctuations and convert them into random numbers which are then served to the AWS cloud for distribution via an API gateway.”

The system is currently available as an application programming interface (API) for 13 blockchains, including Ethereum, BNB Chain, Arbitrum, Avalanche, Optimism, Polygon, Fantom, and Moonbeam. Users need not pay for the service, but there will be a minor network fee for calling the API.

Web3 and Metaverse gaming could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of such a system as games continuously rely on a degree of randomness and unpredictability to keep players engaged.

Blockchain-based gambling applications would also greatly benefit from a tamper-proof random number generator, resulting in greater trust in the betting platforms.

Dr. Tranter added that people can use random numbers for whatever application they want, from the generation of unique NFTs and artwork to automated decision making. He explained:

“For example, if you wanted to draw randomly from a pool of clients for a task then you would want to ensure that you are truly sampling randomly. This could include distribution of resources, assigning of tasks and even decentralized quorums for voting.”

He added they could also be used for crypto wallet generation since the current solution of pseudo-random number generators can often result in repetition or have complex patterns that could be exploited. “A QRNG is guaranteed to be truly random by the laws of quantum mechanics, removing this loophole,” he added.

Related: Quantum computing to run economic models on crypto adoption

Web3 applications that involve public participation, such as random token distribution or drawn winners, will also benefit from a tamper-proof system.

API3 QRNG is hosted by the Australia National University Quantum Optics Group on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and all data passed between servers is encrypted. Additionally, the random numbers are destroyed after use, so the firm never has access to them.

Goldman Sachs Offers Its First Bitcoin-Backed Loan

The move is a significant step for the investment bank as Wall Street continues to embrace digital assets. According to a spokesperson for the bank, the secured lending facility loaned cash collateralized by BTC held by the borrower.

The deal was interesting to Goldman because of its structure and 24-hour risk management, they added according to Bloomberg.

The arrangement allows crypto owners to receive fiat such as USD by using their crypto as collateral, but it is a first for the Wall Street bank.

Big Banks Warming to Crypto

The move is another sign that big banks are embracing crypto and broadening their services to incorporate clients with digital asset investments. Goldman already has a crypto assets team and traded its first-ever over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin options in March, becoming the first major U.S. bank to do so, the report added.

Earlier this month, Goldman announced that it planned to add to that offering with OTC Ethereum options. Analysts at the bank have cited Ethereum’s upcoming ‘Merge’ and upgrade to proof-of-stake as being bullish for demand for the asset.

According to the global head of digital assets for Goldman Sachs’ private wealth management division, Mary Rich, the bank wants to follow Morgan Stanley by offering crypto investments for its private equity clients.

The big banks are following in the footsteps of more specialized firms such as Jefferies Financial Group, which is expanding banking services for crypto clients. BlackRock also invested heavily recently by contributing to a $400 million funding round for stablecoin issuer Circle.

Damien Vanderwilt, co-president of Galaxy Digital Holdings, commented that accepting crypto assets as collateral is the next step beyond services such as wealth management, trading, and investment banking for Wall Street banks. Crypto-centric banks such as Silvergate Capital already provide loans for crypto collateral.

Goldman Sachs Foray Into Crypto

The Wall Street behemoth was anything but optimistic in regards to the cryptocurrency industry up until a year ago. It went from having a digital asset trading platform to halting it years later while also bashing BTC in the meantime.

In one particular case from May 2020, the bank said bitcoin is not an asset class. Some months down the line, though, Goldman started changing its tune by hiring a crypto research team, publishing several bullish reports, predicting a $100K price tag for BTC, participating in funding rounds, and, perhaps most notably, filing for a bitcoin ETF.

Over 10% of Americans Will Own Crypto by Year-End: Research

According to a forecast on the crypto industry released on April 20 by research firm Insider Intelligence, nearly 34 million Americans will own cryptocurrency by the end of the year. That equates to around 10% of the population, though the company reported a higher figure of 12.8%, possibly taking the adult population figures into account rather than the total.

The researchers predicted that the number of U.S. adults who own and use crypto for payments will double digits by 2023. It added that 3.6 million Americans would use digital assets as a payment method at some time this year.

Crypto Adoption Surging

Crypto payments will surpass $10 billion in total transaction value globally for the first time in 2022, the forecast informed. According to the figures, this is an increase of more than 70% from 2021.

Insider Intelligence forecasting analyst Nazmul Islam commented on the meteoric rise of cryptocurrency adoption in America:

“In 2021, cryptos became easier to purchase within apps consumers were already using, and while major financial institutions embraced crypto investments. Add hype surrounding meme stocks like Dogecoin to this easier accessibility, and you have a huge spike in ownership rates.”

The report predicted that more than 37 million U.S. adults will own crypto in 2023, or around 14% of the population. Demographically, the largest ownership group will be those aged 25 to 34, followed by the 35 to 44 age group.

Source: Insiderintelligence.com
Source: Insiderintelligence.com

Bitcoin remains the most popular digital asset for American investors, with 25.2 million holders this year, up 16.7% over last year. Ethereum investors will total 13.1 million in the U.S. by the end of this year, an increase of 26.8% from 2021.

Transaction Value Surging

By the end of 2023, transaction value will grow another 55.4% to exceed $16 billion from around $10 billion this year, it reported. Principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, David Morris, commented that 2021 was all about networks building crypto payments infrastructure, and growth in stablecoin adoption, before adding:

“We also expect that more crypto options will be layered into how people pay, like cards and digital wallets. These factors should spur high crypto payment growth rates over the next few years.”

The company stated that it derived the data and methodology from analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research and media firms, government agencies, and public companies.

Earlier this month, CryptoPotato reported that more than 50% of Americans believe crypto will be the future of finance.

UK Central Bank to Raise $420 Million to Up Crypto Scrutiny

Britain’s banking regulator is planning to seek funding from the institutions it administers in order to increase its oversight of the crypto industry.

The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) plans to raise £321 million (around $420 million) for the year through February 2023, according to Bloomberg.

The regulatory body will also be going on a hiring spree seeking 100 staff to aid the effort. The PRA plans to “ask firms to report their crypto asset exposures, treatments, and future investment plans,” according to an announcement on April 20.

Crypto Still too Small

The Bank of England is concerned that the $2 trillion crypto industry is now large enough to pose a threat to its own financial system. This is a notion that has been echoed by central banks around the world over the past year.

However, crypto is a tiny fraction of the $469 trillion global financial system, representing just 0.42% of the total amount, according to the BoE.

It did warn that crypto is now larger than the subprime mortgage industry that caused the 2008 financial crisis, though failed to mention that this was largely the fault of the banking system at the time.

The United Kingdom has become increasingly anti-crypto recently. With no clear regulatory framework, many companies have left the isles to seek friendlier jurisdictions.

Central Bank Angst

There are very few central banks around the world that are supportive of the cryptocurrency industry. This is simply because their job is to control the finances and monetary flows of their respective countries and citizens. They cannot control what happens with decentralized assets, hence the increasing efforts to quash them and prevent people from adopting and using them.

In a report this week, IBM laid out some primary reasons why central banks hate crypto.

“Now if you, as a central bank, don’t control the value of the currency used by your population, you can no longer control inflation or the safety, stability, and soundness of your economic and financial systems.”

With inflation skyrocketing across the globe, it seems then that central banks have completely failed to do their jobs.

To name a few, the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Reserve Bank of India, People’s Bank of China, Bank of Thailand, Central Bank of Hungary, Bank of Ireland, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, have all made moves to restrict or block the usage of crypto recently.

Many have also accelerated their central bank digital currency (CBDC) programs in an effort to compete with the rising tide of decentralized money.

Binance US Receives Money Transmitter License in Puerto Rico

Binance US, the highly regulated division of the firm devoted to North American clients, has been awarded a “money transmitter license” in Puerto Rico.

It marks the fourth such license approval for the company in as many months, according to the April 19 announcement. It added that it is working to acquire the few remaining licenses which will permit operations in all US states and territories.

Officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island is an unincorporated territory of the United States and has been since 1898.

Binance Expansion Continues

Binance US CEO Brian Shroder said the firm’s goal was to offer its fully regulated services in all of America’s 50 states and territories before adding:

“Puerto Rico, in particular, is an important market for the growth of crypto and we look forward to continuing to offer its residents secure, reliable, and low-fee access to a robust selection of tokens.”

The granting of the Money Transmitter License from the Puerto Rico Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions follows a $200 million funding round that valued the firm at $4.5 billion.

It plans to use the capital to improve its spot trading platform, develop a suite of new products and services, and invest in marketing and customer education materials.

Binance US has received the license in three other jurisdictions this year – West Virginia, Connecticut, and Wyoming. It currently operates in 45 states and seven territories.

The firm is also rumored to be mulling an initial public offering (IPO) this year or next. A successful stock market listing would make Binance US the second crypto exchange to go public in the US after Coinbase. However, crypto services provider BlockchainCom is also preparing an IPO that could be as soon as this year.

Middle East Hub

Binance international has made aggressive moves to expand into the Middle East and North African (MENA) markets as restrictions and regulations mount in the West and many Asian countries.

Earlier this month, the company was granted an in-principal approval from Abu Dhabi Global Market. CEO Changpeng Zhao has also eyed Dubai for its global headquarters and his base. The firm also has a similar license to operate in Bahrain as it eyes the region to tap new markets and establish a base from which it can operate without pressure from overreaching central banks and financial regulators.

Monero crypto of choice as ransomware ‘double extortion’ attacks increase 500%

A surge in ransomware in 2021 has also resulted in a surge in Monero usage as the method of payment as more criminal groups want only XMR.

A new report by blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace highlights the growing role that privacy-focused cryptocurrencies such as Monero are playing in the rising tide of ransomware.

“Current Trends in Ransomware” delves into trends observed during 2021 but was only released this week. The firm revealed there was almost a 500% increase in “double extortion” ransomware attacks from 2020 to 2021. These are cyber attacks in which malicious actors steal a victim’s sensitive data in addition to encrypting it.

The report echoes similar findings from analytics firm Chainalysis which reported that overall ransomware crypto payments topped $600 million for the period.

The new research found that last year saw increasing demands for ransom payment in Monero (XMR), with attackers adding premiums for payments made in Bitcoin (BTC) ranging from 10 to 20%. At least 22 ransomware strains (from an incomplete list of more than 50) only accept XMR payments, and at least seven of them accept both BTC and XMR, it added.

“Higher prices for BTC are most likely seen by the ransomware actors as a premium for dealing with the increased risk in using an easily traceable cryptocurrency like BTC.”

The report cited a Russian-speaking ransomware gang called Everest Group which claimed to have hacked the U.S. Government in October last year. According to CipherTrace, Everest Ransomware is “currently trying to sell the data for $500,000 in XMR.”

Another example was the Russian DarkSide group responsible for the U.S. Colonial Pipeline attack in May 2021. The ransom could be paid in either XMR or BTC, but the cost was higher for the latter.

The REvil ransomware group also switched from demanding BTC to demanding payments in XMR only in early 2020.

Related: Don’t blame crypto for ransomware

Monero is a privacy-based cryptocurrency that uses a combination of technologies such as mixers, ring signatures, and stealth addresses that obfuscate sending and receiving wallets. This is why it has become the primary asset of choice for those demanding ransoms.

For that reason, Monero and other highly privacy-focused cryptocurrencies such as Dash and Zcash have been delisted by some exchanges in countries such as the U.K. and Japan.

The Monero blockchain will be hard forked in July to further enhance its anonymity and privacy properties.

Emirates Flies Into the Metaverse With Airline NFTs

The United Arab Emirates national carrier has announced that it will be launching collectible and utility-based NFTs, with the first project already underway.

In an announcement on April 14, Emirates stated that it will be launching NFTs and “exciting experiences in the Metaverse” for its customers and employees.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive, said that the region was already a leader in the digital economy:

“Dubai and the UAE are blazing the way in the digital economy, having a clear vision supported by practical policies and regulatory frameworks in areas such as virtual assets, artificial intelligence, and data protection.”

Flying into the Metaverse

The company also stated that its Emirates Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be repurposed into a center for innovation. It aims to attract global talent to “bring to life the airline’s future-focused projects including those relating to the metaverse, NFTs, and Web3.”

Emirates employed virtual reality (VR) technology on its website and app more than five years ago to offer travelers an immersive 3D view of aircraft interiors and onboard experiences.

It was the first airline to launch its own VR app on the Oculus Store, showcasing interactive cabin interior experiences onboard its flagship A380 aircraft. The move into the Metaverse is the next step for the airline and its quest for high-tech experiences. The CEO stated:

“It is fitting that our future-themed Emirates Pavilion at Expo is being repurposed as a hub to develop cutting-edge future experiences aligned with the UAE’s vision for the digital economy.”

He added that the airline is excited about the “opportunities in the digital space of the future and are committing a significant investment in financial and resourcing terms.”

There were no further details on what NFTs would consist of or how they could interact with passenger experiences.

NFT Market Outlook

This week, Japan’s leading messenger service, LINE, also announced NFT plans with the launch of a new marketplace. It was also reported that Amazon could sell NFTs in the future, according to the company’s chief executive.

NFT trading activity has remained at about $35 million in daily sales volumes for the past few days, according to Nonfungible.com. The Bored Ape Yacht Club collection remains the most popular in terms of weekly sales, which are around $47 million.

Featured Image Courtesy of Travel Daily

Tether to Reduce Holdings of Commercial Debt in USDT Reserves

Tether’s chief technology officer, Paolo Ardoino, said the company will reduce its commercial debt holdings, speaking to CNBC on April 13 at the Paris Blockchain Week Summit.

The world’s largest stablecoin is currently backed by a mixed bag of commercial debt holdings, cash, and cryptocurrencies, but it has yet to produce a full official audit of its reserves.

“Over time we will keep reducing the commercial paper, we aren’t finished yet with the reduction,” he stated.

Commercial Paper Reductions

Ardoino added that the firm had moved the money from this commercial paper to US Treasuries. Tether has already been reducing its commercial paper, or short-term corporate debt holdings, in an effort to provide more transparency regarding its reserves.

The company cut its commercial paper holdings by 21% in Q4 2021, additionally, it almost doubled its allocation to Treasury bills or short-term liquid government debt. Commercial paper made up a little over 30% of Tether’s total reserves in the fourth quarter, down from more than 44% in the third quarter.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the stablecoin’s reserves, drawing a great deal of scrutiny from US lawmakers. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) fined Tether $41 million last year for “making untrue or misleading statements” that USDT was fully backed by fiat currencies.

Tether agreed to provide a breakdown of the assets backing its digital currency as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General. However, it has yet to disclose which companies it holds commercial paper for.

“Our journey towards increased transparency is not finished yet,” Ardoino said but did not elaborate on further details.

Stablecoin Ecosystem Outlook

The current USDT supply is 82.6 billion, according to the Tether Transparency website. This is pretty close to its highest ever level and represents an increase of 80% over the past 12 months.

The vast majority of this supply is split almost evenly across the Tron and Ethereum networks, with the former having slightly more at 41.7 billion USDT. On April 13, the company announced that it had launched the stablecoin on Polkadot’s Kusama network.

Tether’s closest rival, Circle, has just over 50 billion USDC in circulation, which is an increase of 355% over the past 12 months. In total, the stablecoin market is worth $186 billion, which represents around 9.7% of the total cryptocurrency market capitalization.

Meta’s Metaverse Under Fire From Facebook Whistleblower

Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen rattled cages at the firm last year when she exposed thousands of documents accusing the social media platform of spreading misinformation.

The files revealed sensitive content that ranged from human trafficking to harmful nationalist groups to Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. At the time, she said Facebook “prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users.”

Haugen, who has invested in crypto, has now set her sights on the Metaverse after the company rebranded to Meta to pursue its virtual world domination plans.

Repeating Facebook’s Mistakes

Speaking to Politico on April 12, she said Meta has made “very grandiose promises” about how there is safety by design in the Metaverse before adding:

“But if they don’t commit to transparency and access and other accountability measures, I can imagine just seeing a repeat of all the harms you currently see on Facebook.”

For the company’s Metaverse to really work, it will involve installing intrusive hardware such as sensors, microphones, and cameras in homes and possibly public spaces to gather the data to replicate in the digital world.

If Zuckerberg’s vision of the Metaverse becomes a reality, the amount and type of data the firm can harvest will be mind-boggling. Haugen has reiterated her concerns over privacy and user protection. She stated that the company’s main goal is to create the most detailed picture of its users as possible in order to serve them targeted advertising.

“You don’t really have a choice now on whether or not you want Facebook spying on you at home. We just have to trust the company to do the right thing.”

Companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have already launched “personal assistants” with the sole purpose of getting to know their users better by mining data, all for the benefit of the firm’s bottom line.

The Metaverse takes this a stage further as the users are fully immersed in the virtual realm through the usage of hardware such as VR headsets and gloves.

Beware All Who Enter

According to the New York Post, Zuckerberg has said that Meta plans to let creators sell virtual items in its Metaverse. The catch is that Meta intends to keep a cut of nearly 50%, and that is just the start.

It is clear that the company is betting heavily on greater profits from its foray into the digital world. This will be the worst thing for those using it, they will see more of their online privacy eroded and more of their personal data sold, stolen, or manipulated.

Additionally, their digital devices will be subject to more misinformation, scams, hacking, malware, and phishing attacks as the firm has yet to prevent those on its Web2 social media platform.

a16z’s Chris Dixon tops ‘Midas List’ by turning $350M into $6B in 2021

Chris Dixon has topped the Forbes “Midas List” as the most successful venture capital investor in 2022.

Crypto venture capital firms have been investing at unprecedented rates recently and Andreessen Horowitz is one of the industry’s leaders making huge returns on their investments.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) general partner Chris Dixon has topped the Forbes “Midas List” of the world’s best venture capital investors in 2022.

Seldom does a crypto or Web3 funding round finalize without a16z being involved somehow. According to an April 12 report by the publication, Dixon turned the $350 million Crypto Fund I into realized and unrealized gains of $6 billion in 2021. That equates to an eye-watering 17.7x gain according to “sources with knowledge of the fund’s financials.”

By comparison, the overall cryptocurrency market itself only managed a 200% gain from $780 billion on January 1, 2021, to $2.3 trillion by the end of December of the same year.

a16z got into crypto early, leading a $25 million funding round into Coinbase in 2013. By the time Coinbase went public in April 2021, the firm held a 15% stake following 14 more funding rounds. The shares were worth $10 billion on the first day of trading resulting in a 60x return for the company. However, this was several years before Dixon’s crypto fund was launched in June 2018 with $300 million raised in total at the time according to Crunchbase.

There have been other notable investments by a16z including decentralized exchange Uniswap, the Avalanche blockchain, NFT creator Dapper Labs, and Ethereum staking platform Lido, all of which have surged in valuation or collateral since.

Dixon, who rarely appears for interviews, told Forbes:

“My job is not to predict the future. My job is to be smart enough to know who the smart people are who will.”

The company is currently raising funds for the world’s largest crypto fund worth a whopping $4.5 billion. In January, the firm said it planned to raise $3.5 billion for the fund, in addition to another $1 billion for Web3 seed investments.

Journalist Alex Konrad said that a16z “plans to roll back its crypto fund into the firm — making crypto core to its main funds, akin to cloud or the internet.”

Related: Venture capital year in review 2021: Cointelegraph Research Terminal

Concerns have been raised by some crypto industry observers that too much venture capital involvement and investment in a project may erode its decentralization. a16z's holdings of the UNI tokens and sway in governance votes for  has been a particular issue. But either way, the crypto industry’s most prominent VC firm is still hunting for new investment opportunities in the sector.

Fintech Firm Bolt Acquires Crypto Startup Wyre for $1.5B

The acquisition is worth a whopping $1.5 billion, making it one of the largest in the sector that did not involve a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Crypto mergers and acquisitions have surged over the past year, and there has been $1.25 billion worth of deals done in the first quarter of 2022. This latest one will put activity on track to eclipse the $4.9 billion in crypto-related M&A in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Payments Firms Want Crypto

Bolt, founded in 2014, operates in the online-payments space with a “one-click checkout” service for merchants called “CheckoutOS.” The report added that the firm has had $1.3 billion in venture capital investments and was valued at around $11 billion.

Wyre provides services for retail and business customers to exchange currencies and crypto assets between banks and wallets and a digital asset trading platform.

Bolt and Wyre will be operating together to develop new payments channels for the mainstream, including cryptocurrencies. Wyre CEO Yanni Giannaros stated:

“Today, we’re making history and joining forces to reinvent the way that people interact with commerce and crypto … Simply put, we want to allow every retailer to transact easily in cryptocurrency, removing long-standing barriers.”

He added that the firm is committed to providing its partners and builders with the tools and infrastructure needed to “create powerful crypto experiences.”

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow added to the sentiment, stating, “when I wrote the draft business plan for Bolt, I had always imagined cryptocurrency at its center.”

The acquisition will also allow users to purchase NFTs through Bolt’s platform using Wyre APIs. Wyre is also used by Apple Pay which has recently moved into crypto payments through integration with MetaMask.

Last year, Wyre partnered with the Polygon Ethereum scaling protocol to provide a fiat-to-USDC on-ramp.

Strike and Shopify Team Up

In related payments news, Strike has partnered with e-commerce giant Shopify. The move will enable U.S. merchants to receive global payments in Bitcoin and cash out in USD.

Strike uses the Lightning Network for BTC payments, making transactions much faster and cheaper than native Bitcoin.

Speaking at the Miami Bitcoin event this week, Strike CEO Jack Mallers said that the payments processing industry has been stagnant for 50 years, and it was time to revolutionize it with crypto payments.

67% of Cardano holders underwater and most bought less than 1 year ago

ADA prices are sliding back towards a dollar, putting more holders in the red as gains are eroded.

As Cardano (ADA) prices fall back towards the psychological one dollar level, more and more investors are finding themselves with unrealized losses by holding on to the digital asset.

Cardano’s ADA token has had a bearish week. The price has fallen 11.4% since Monday resulting in more holders being in the red. More significantly, ADA is now 64.7% below its September 2 all-time high of $3.09 and is in danger of falling below a dollar over the next few days should the trend continue.

According to IntoTheBlock’s “in/out of the money” indicator, more than two-thirds, or 67% of ADA holders, are underwater. A quarter of Cardano investors are in the green, and 9% of them are at a breakeven point.

The indicator identifies the average cost at which the tokens were purchased and compares it to the current price, which was $1.09 at the time of writing.

The analytics provider reported that 3.41 million ADA addresses are in the red compared to just 1.25 million in the green.

In/Out of the Money: IntoTheBlock

A related metric is the amount of time the token has been held. The vast majority, or 76% of ADA holders, have held it for between one and 12 months. Just 11% of Cardano investors have held the token for more than a year, and those are the ones that are still in profit.

From a technical standpoint, ADA has turned bearish and could quite quickly revisit its 2022 and yearly low point of around $0.80, which occurred in mid-March. This would plunge even more investors into the red unless they sell at a loss.

The slide in prices could be tied to the network not living up to high expectations set around the launch of smart contracts.  In terms of the numbers of decentralized applications (DApps), Cardano is still something of a wasteland with DeFi Llama reporting that there are just ten DeFi protocols running on the network with a combined total value locked of around $233 million.

Cardano co-founder Charles Hoskinson however believes that many Cardano dApps are waiting for the Vasil hard fork in June to launch. The "Basho" phase of the Cardano upgrade roadmap will focus on scalability and smart contracts with new technology called Hydra to boost network throughput even further.

Related: Cardano Foundation and the University of Zurich expand academic blockchain research

In terms of other fundamenta Cardano is looking relatively strong. Network demand surged to record capacity earlier this year when the much-hyped SundaeSwap decentralized exchange was launched.

Santiment reported that Cardano was the most developed crypto project on GitHub in 2021, and Cardano NFT bonds were unveiled this week, providing another investment vehicle on the network.

However, unless there is a significant turnaround in trading sentiment, the ADA selloff may start to accelerate, putting more holders deeper underwater.

The Sandbox Mulls Another Funding Round, New Acquisitions, But no IPO

According to Sebastien Borget, chief operating officer and co-founder, the firm is planning “aggressive” moves in mergers and acquisitions. The firm has doubled its employee count since last year to 200 and intends to grow even larger in 2022.

The Sandbox is looking toward organizations that are “creating compelling metaverse experiences for users,” according to Borget.

On April 6, Bloomberg reported that the company has no plans on going public just yet. Borget added:

“From what I see, most private companies went public after they had hundreds of millions of users. We are very proud to have 2.3 to 2.4 million users right now. Let’s talk again in a few years.”

Massive Metaverse Plans

The Sandbox, which is majority-owned by blockchain gaming developer Animoca Brands, raised $93 million in November 2021 from investors led by Softbank. Animoca previously raised $2.5 million in funding for the development of The Sandbox in 2019.

The Metaverse platform has recently expanded into virtual events and concerts by selling digital land to artists and performers and tickets to fans.

One of the latest big names to use The Sandbox is Snoop Dogg, who made his latest music video in the Metaverse with his digital doppelganger. The platform has also secured partnerships with big names in fashion and banking recently.

Last month, international banking giant HSBC partnered with The Sandbox to open opportunities in financial services and e-sports.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Animoca Brands’ valuation had surged to $5.5 billion following a fresh funding round worth $360 million.

SAND Price Outlook

The native token for the Metaverse platform, SAND, has not reacted to the bullish outlook by its COO. The token has depreciated by 7% on the day and was trading at $3.2 at the time of writing, according to CoinGecko.

SAND has slipped more than 8% over the past week, the majority of that coming in the past few hours. The Metaverse token is now down 62% from its November 25 all-time high of $8.40.

There is around 1.1 billion SAND in circulation from a total supply of 3 billion tokens. This gives it a current market capitalization of $3.7 billion.

Crypto billionaires increase by 60% in a year: Who made Forbes annual list?

There are now 19 billionaires on the crypto-rich list as seven more join the ranks of the industry’s wealthiest executives and founders.

The Forbes crypto billionaires list has been updated, and the number of individuals who have made vast fortunes in digital assets has increased substantially.

The crypto elite list now has 19 billionaires on it, which is seven more than last year and expands the list by 58%. The publication released its latest crypto richest on April 5, but the king of the crop remains unchanged.

Binance CEO and founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is still the richest man in the industry and now the 19th richest in the world due to his relatively newly accrued wealth. The outlet has downgraded CZ’s fortune from an estimated $96 billion last year to a current estimation of $65 billion. This still makes him the most affluent person in the industry, however.

FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has secured the second spot after “CZ” with a whopping $24 billion in estimated net worth. He has been dubbed the “Crypto Robin Hood,” as he has repeatedly stated that he wants to give the majority of this fortune away. But with $24 billion still on hand, he's clearly not managed to do so yet.

Coinbase CEO and founder Brian Armstrong is in third place with $6.6 billion. Ripple’s Chris Larsen and the Winklevoss twins from Gemini remain on the list with around $4 billion to their names.

Newcomers to the crypto billionaires list include FTX co-founder and chief technology officer Gary Wang with a net worth of $5.6 billion from his 16% stake in the company. and Nikil Viswanathan and Joseph Lau, co-founders of the blockchain and Web3 company Alchemy. The pair reportedly have a net worth of $2.4 billion each, ranking them at eleventh.

OpenSea NFT marketplace co-founders Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah are also newcomers on this year’s crypto-rich list with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion apiece.

There are several other notable names on the list, including Song Chi-hyung, the founder of South Korea’s Upbit exchange, who is reportedly worth $3.7 billion. Executive vice president of South Korea’s Dunamu, Kim Hyoung-nyon, owns an estimated 13% of Upbit, giving him a net worth of $1.9 billion.

Related: 3X as many crypto figures make it onto Forbes 2021 billionaires list as last year

MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor has remained a crypto billionaire with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion. Company stock has quadrupled in the last two years following a big Bitcoin bet that has paid off.

Forbes originally published the first crypto elite list back in 2018 when just a handful of executives made the grade. Back then, the bar was much lower, with a wealth figure of $350 million to get on the list.

Visa should be ‘scared’: Lightning Labs raises $70M to add stablecoins

The firm has built a new protocol called Taro to enable stablecoins to be sent and received on the Bitcoin Lightning Network.

Bitcoin software firm Lightning Labs has secured a large funding round enabling it to further develop the Lightning Network for faster, cheaper Bitcoin and stablecoin transactions.

The $70 million Series B funding round was led by Valor Equity Partners, with participation from Baillie Gifford, Goldcrest Capital, and several other angel investors. Lightning Labs builds additional features and software for the Lightning Network (LN), Bitcoin’s layer-two transaction solution.

The funding will be channeled into a new protocol it has developed called Taro, which will enable stablecoins to be transferred using the LN, according to reports. Lightning Labs will not issue stablecoins, but the infrastructure will allow them to be sent over the network.

Stablecoin transactions were made possible with the Bitcoin Taproot upgrade in November 2021, which also introduced smart contract capabilities.

The firm believes that Taro will enable further Bitcoin adoption as it potentially allows the unbanked in developing countries to send money using stablecoins.

Speaking to Forbes, Elizabeth Stark, CEO and co-founder of Lightning Labs, said, “That’s really significant because the potential here is for all the world's currencies to route through Bitcoin over the Lightning Network.” Speaking to Tech Crunch, she added:

“If I were Visa, I’d be scared because there are a lot of people out there that have mobile phones, but now don’t need to tap into the traditional system.”

Lightning Labs raised $10 million from its Series A in September, which followed a $2.5 million seed round in 2018.

The LN is currently being used extensively in El Salvador, the first country to make Bitcoin legal tender. It has also been put into action on the payments platform Strike and the tipping tool on Twitter. The current network collateral is 3,693 BTC, worth around $167 million, a 5.8% increase over the past month, according to the stats.

Related: First publicly listed, purpose-built Lightning Network company launches new accessible platform

Stablecoins are now an integral part of the digital currency ecosystem and are slowly being accepted by global regulators. The latest to give fiat-pegged assets the green light is the United Kingdom's Economic and Finance Ministry which intends to adjust the existing regulatory framework to incorporate stablecoins as a payment method.

Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge Hacker Starts to Move Stolen Ethereum (ETH)

There has been some activity on the blockchain address that was flagged as being involved in the hack on the Axie Infinity Ronin bridge last month.

There have been several transactions over the past couple of hours from the suspect Ethereum address. The first was the movement of 1,000 ETH valued at approximately $3.5 million to another address.

Several more transactions of 100 ETH subsequently followed, all of them going to the Tornado Cash Ethereum mixing service. The movements were noticed by Chinese crypto analyst Colin Wu on Monday morning.

Tracking Stolen Crypto

Major exchanges are seldom used by criminals because most of them now require extensive KYC (know-your-customer) procedures. Even those that do not provide fiat conversions have had to bow to global regulators. However, CryptoPotato did report that some of the funds were moved into exchanges such as FTX, Huobi, and CryptoCom, all of which have vowed to take action.

Malicious actors are more likely to attempt to obfuscate the transactions, often several times, before they can finally cash out into fiat somewhere. The founder of Immutable Vision commented that this could lead to tighter regulations and punishment for legitimate investors.

“This is when privacy blockchains fail and acts as ammunition for stricter regulations which impacts legitimate retail and institutional investors,”

This is exactly what has happened to the traditional banking industry, which is now a minefield of restrictions and bureaucracy for the average Joe.

Tornado Cash has become the weapon of choice for crypto hackers and scammers. It provides private and anonymous transactions for Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens by breaking the on-chain link between source and destination addresses. A perfect solution for someone wanting to move stolen assets.

The Ronin Bridge, which enables cross-chain transfers to and from the Axie Infinity ecosystem, was exploited for more than $610 million in late March. Sky Mavis, the company behind Axie Infinity, has since stated that it is fully committed to reimbursing the victims of the epic heist.

ETH Price Outlook

Ethereum prices are trading flat on the day at around $3,500 at the time of writing, according to CoinGecko. The asset has had a solid fortnight with a gain of 22.4% for the period as it shadowed its big brother.

ETH prices are currently down 28% from their November 10 all-time high of $4,878.

$13 Trillion in Total Addressable Market for the Metaverse, Banking Giant Citi Says

Citi has taken a deep dive into the virtual world in a March report titled “Metaverse and Money.” The banking giant has predicted an extremely bullish future for the Metaverse following a slew of high-profile firms signaling their intentions to enter online digital worlds in one way or another.

City predicted that the next evolution of the internet (Web3) and the Metaverse will develop beyond gaming and will encompass commerce, art, media, advertising, healthcare, and social collaboration. Such a large ecosystem could be a multi-trillion dollar market, it stated:

“The total addressable market for the Metaverse could be between $8 trillion and $13 trillion by 2030, with total Metaverse users numbering around five billion.”

Major Investment Required

To reach such a lofty market value, there will need to be a lot of infrastructure development, Citi added. The report stated that the content streaming environment of the Metaverse will likely require a thousandfold increase in computational efficiency.

To get there, major investments will be needed in computing, storage, network infrastructure, consumer hardware, and game development platforms, it stated.

Citi claimed that cryptocurrencies would play a huge role in the Metaverse, adding that they will need to coexist with existing forms of money.

“Different forms of cryptocurrency are expected to dominate, but given the multi-chain trend in the crypto ecosystem, cryptocurrency will likely coexist with fiat currencies, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and stablecoins.”

For this to happen, the digital asset industry and any major Metaverse ecosystems will need to be regulated, and digital property rights will need to be addressed.

The company also hinted that there are likely to be two forms of Metaverse – a closed version similar to Web2, which is what companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) are aiming to create, and an open decentralized, community-governed Metaverse that will be the Web3 version.

In mid-March, HSBC partnered with The Sandbox to purchase virtual land for e-sports and gaming developments.

Fast-Food Going Virtual

A growing number of big brand names have signaled their Metaverse intentions in recent weeks. Fast-food firms are scrambling to get a slice of the Metaverse pie, and Yum! Brands are the latest to do so.

The firm, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), has submitted multiple trademark applications for non-fungible tokens (NFT) and Metaverse products and services this week.

It follows the likes of McDonalds, Dunkin’, and Hooters, all of which have recently filed for virtual food and restaurant-related trademarks.

MetaMask Allows iPhone Users to Buy Crypto With Apple Pay

On March 29, MetaMask announced a raft of updates to its mobile version 4.3.1, the most significant was the Apple Pay integration.

The catch is that Apple does not directly support crypto payments through its own platform, so it has to be done via Wyre, which does support crypto and integrates with Apple Pay.

Users can now also buy crypto with debit or credit cards, eliminating the need to send ETH to the app in advance. Apple Pay users can deposit a daily maximum of $400 into their wallet using their Visa or Mastercards and the Wyre API.

Credit Cards for Crypto

MetaMask also uses the Transak payments platform to allow users to buy crypto with their credit or debit cards. However, those wishing to use either payments platforms must complete KYC (know-you-customer) process.

Using MetaMask on layer-1 does also incurs gas fees, however, even though the firm says it does not profit from them. MetaMask also has its own fees, which are 0.875% of the transaction.

One of the other updates was support for gasless transactions, which is when private blockchains, or a project or protocol, pay for the gas on the user’s behalf.

On March 15, CryptoPotato reported that MetaMask surpassed 30 million monthly active users, making it one of the most popular crypto wallets available today. The news also revealed a $450 million fundraising round for ConsenSys, the Ethereum solutions firm behind the wallet.

On March 16, ConsenSys CEO Joseph Lubin announced that MetaMask will be launching its own token and DAO. There was very little info on the token, but long-term MetaMask users will be hoping for an airdrop similar to Uniswap’s.

Beware Fake Wallet Apps

Being one of the top wallets for crypto trading makes MetaMask a target for hackers and scammers. Cyber security firm ESET has recently revealed an elaborate scheme to distribute fake wallet apps to Android and Apple mobile devices.

The research stated that the scheme has been going on since May 2021, and fake wallet apps for MetaMask, Coinbase, Jaxx, and Trust Wallet have been disseminated on social media groups on Facebook to target Chinese users.

Several of them even made it onto Google Play Store, but the tech giant removed them back in January.