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Bitcoin Advocacy Group Coin Center Collects $1 Million in New Contributions


Washington, DC-based non-profit research and advocacy group Coin Center has raised more than $1m in new funding, the group announced this week.

Coin Center launched in 2014 with the aim of educating policymakers in the political heart of the US. The organisation, which kicked off with $1m in initial funding, has since focused on a range of research and policy initiatives in and around the country’s capital.

Contributing to the latest round of donations were a group of existing supporters and some new ones, including industry startups Abra, Bitso, ConsenSys, Lightning, OB1, Ripple, ShapeShift and SolidX, as well as a number of undisclosed individuals.

According to a blog post penned by executive director Jerry Brito, the funding will be used in part to further fuel Coin Center’s advocacy efforts.

A fundraising gala will be held in New York City in May to raise additional funds, organized in conjunction with CoinDesk’s Consensus 2017 blockchain industry conference.

Brito wrote:

“Your support of Coin Center – at any level – keeps our work going and helps keep the technology free and open. Thanks to all our current and future supporters.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which is a contributor to Coin Center.

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P2P Bitcoin Lender Bitbond Raises $1.2 Million in New Funding


Peer-to-peer bitcoin loan market Bitbond has raised $1.2m in new funding.

The web platform, which connects lenders and borrowers to facilitate the distribution of loans denominated in bitcoin, received the new funding largely from a group of angel investors, some of whom already have stakes in the startup.

The round was led by Şekip Can Gökalp, founder of Mobilike, a Turkey-based mobile ad network formed in 2009, and that was acquired last year.

Other investors include Janis Zech and Andreas Bodczek, who founded ad tech startup Fyber, and Alexander Graubner-Müller, co-founder and CEO of Germany-based online lender Kreditech.

According to Bitbond representative Chris Grundy, most of the funding will be devoted to business development and expansion. Bitbond, which is based in Berlin, has raised more than $2m to date.

Radoslav Albrecht, Bitbond’s CEO, added in a statement:

“The additional resources will help us to continue realizing our mission which is to make lending and borrowing globally accessible. We are happy to have such experienced investors supporting us on this exciting journey.”

The funding comes during a time of change for the broader bitcoin peer-to-peer lending market.

BitLendingClub announced in early December that it would, over the months ahead, begin closing down parts of its business, citing an unfriendly regulatory environment.

When reached for comment at the time, CEO Kiril Gantchev cited contacts with the Bulgarian government – and pending regulatory requirements – as the major impetus behind the site’s decision to to close. BitLendingClub is expected to completely halt services sometime in August.

Fellow P2P bitcoin market BTCJam, also citing regulatory concerns, moved to exit the US market last year.

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Northern Trust Goes Live With IBM-Powered Private Equities Blockchain


shutterstock 386514193 728x475 Northern Trust Goes Live With IBM Powered Private Equities Blockchain

Northern Trust revealed today it has been discreetly running what may be the world’s first functioning private equities blockchain.

Custom built for Switzerland-based management firm Unigestion, the platform was co-developed by Northern Trust and IBM using Hyperledger’s Fabric code base. Notably, the distributed ledger features an active node that is already providing real-time data to a European regulator.

However, the increased transparency and speed are just part of the reason why the bank with $6.7tn assets under custody decided to build the platform.

According to bank president Peter Cherecwich, the most significant business advantage the blockchain solution offers its clients is an accelerated time to market for a new crop of high-tech private equities funds.

The president of Northern Trust’s corporate and institutional services, Cherecwich called the shorter time to market a “huge advantage” for customers.

Cherecwich said:

“The biggest benefit for the clients, and for the ultimate investor, is this whole process will make the time to market for a new fund much faster. Those dollars that are today sitting on the sidelines waiting to be invested will be invested a lot quicker.”

According to the parties involved, development on the blockchain implementation started last year when Northern Trust contacted IBM to explore how the technology might simplify private equity, a known pain point with relatively few, but highly complicated transactions.

Instead of high-frequency transactions that have tested blockchain’s ability to scale, the private equities industry, worth an estimated $4tn, consists of large investments from a few parties over long periods of time.

“It’s labor intensive,” said Cherecwich. “And it really seemed like this would be a very good problem to solve with this new technology.”

A living blockchain

While both IBM and Northern Trust have previously announced proofs-of-concept, today’s announcement of a functioning blockchain is a first of its kind.

Specifically, counterparties in Unigestion’s blockchain-based private equities fund will each power their own node, including investment managers, general partners, limited partners, fund administrators, auditors and regulators.

The regulatory node itself is being overseen by the UK-based Guernsey Financial Services Commission, which regulates 2,000 licensees from the banking sector and other financial services around Europe.

Though nodes run by regulators will have broad access to the data, it will be the same type of information they already have, but on a real-time basis.

“If you’re a part of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, your membership will allow you to see more of the ledger because you’ve been granted permission,” IBM fellow and vice president of blockchain technology Jerry Cuomo told CoinDesk.

Access to those regulatory nodes and other nodes on the network is secured via IBM’s hardware security modules (HSM), offered as part the company’s high security business network custom-built for blockchain users.

“We run this ultra high-security blockchain network by taking the Hyperledger Fabric and melding it into this ultra-secure environment,” Cuomo said, adding:

“It doesn’t only leave cookie crumbs if your keys have been tampered with, actually, the hardware implodes on itself.”

Blockchain bottom line

With only a single client at the time of launch, Cherecwich tells CoinDesk transaction volume on the blockchain so far has been “obviously small”.

However, the aim is to create more complex products in the future, and to attract new clients with the quicker time to launch, helping its customers both make and save money.

Traditionally, changes to a private equity fund might be initiated by the administrator’s lawyer, who then contacts each participating fund’s lawyer, a process that can involve between 10 and 30 individuals, said IBM partner and blockchain vice president, Kevin Pleiter.

On average, Pleiter estimates a change to a private equity can take as long as six months, and account for 10% of total value put into a fund.

“Today, the way the private equity market works is the lawyers sit in the middle,” Pleiter told CoinDesk.

“They become the trust of the parties. What blockchain has done is said, we don’t need to transact through people.”

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But additional participants will likely be waiting at least a few more months before being admitted to the blockchain.

According to Cherecwich, his company is conservative at its core, in spite of the push into blockchain solutions, and as such, its planned growth trajectory is equally reserved.

Cherecwich points to the bank’s minimal headlines leading up to today’s announcement as evidence of a discreet strategy.

He said he’s in no rush to add the second and third clients to the service, calling the process for choosing new users “selective” in a statement.

Prior to adding additional clients he says the bank intents to spend the next two or three months collecting data on what works and what doesn’t.

Cherecwich concluded:

“Like my mom told me, one step at at time. Let’s launch this, and make sure the client’s happy.”

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Bitcoin Price Tops $1,000 For Longest Stretch in History


coindesk bpi chart4 Bitcoin Price Tops $1,000 For Longest Stretch in History

Bitcoin has now been trading above $1,000 for more than seven days, enjoying its longest-ever stretch above this key psychological level and providing traders with new evidence of support at this price, CoinDesk data reveals.

Overall, the price of bitcoin has been trading north of $1,000 since mid-day on 14th February, according to the CoinDesk USD Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), though it tested this level at times over the seven-day, 15-hour stretch.

Bitcoin prices have even rallied in the last few sessions, surpassing $1,100 earlier today and reaching a six-week high.

At the time of the report, bitcoin was trading at $1,115.70, up 3% for the day.

Looking back, the current run compares favorably to other positive periods of bitcoin trading, dating back to 2013, when it first tested highs above $1,000.

Bitcoin prices remained above $1,000 for roughly two days from 29th November to 30th November that year, and again from 3rd December to 4th December, periods that saw huge volatility in the bitcoin price.

Bitcoin prices 1st November, 2013 to 1st January, 2014

%name Bitcoin Price Tops $1,000 For Longest Stretch in History

Prior to this run, bitcoin’s longest period above $1,000 was from 2nd February to 9th February of this year, when it may have spent as much as six days, 23 hours above the mark.

Data from the BPI suggests that during this period, the price may have fallen below $1,000 on single exchanges, though averages were higher. Data from 3rd February, for instance, indicates a low of $995.87.

Bitcoin prices 2nd February to 9th February, 2017

%name Bitcoin Price Tops $1,000 For Longest Stretch in History

New support?

In the meantime, it remains to be seen how strong the support for bitcoin above $1,000 will be.

Petar Zivkovski, COO of leveraged cryptocurrency trading platform Whaleclub, spoke to this strong performance, noting that traders have so far strongly resisted any movements back below this mark.

“The only pullback we’ve seen on the rise above $1,000 is from $1,070 to $1,040, which is a healthy sign of bullishness,” he said.

Cryptocurrency fund manager Jacob Eliosoff said that he believes the price is more stable than it was both in January of this year and in 2013.

“That’s not saying much though. I remain very worried about the state of bitcoin’s development and culture, and I won’t be at all surprised if we drop back to $900 or $800 in the next few months,” he said.

Eliosoff emphasized the ongoing developments surrounding Chinese exchange withdrawals and the upcoming SEC decision about the Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF were two big points of uncertainty.

“After the dust settles on those, one way or another, price stability should come a little easier,” he said.

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Decentralized Web Gets Visual Aid With New Blockstack Explorer


Blockstack has released a new visual tool that gives a window into its budding bitcoin-powered internet.

The blockchain explorer, launched today as the ‘Blockstack Explorer’, gathers information about Blockstack’s domain name network, including its new “.id” and “.iot” domains, into a visual display for the first time.

As reported by CoinDesk, Blockstack is one of a number of projects seeking to leverage the bitcoin blockchain to build a new decentralized internet, one that will remove centralized servers and have its own dedicated browser.

While that’s not quite in place today, users now have a transparent view of a domain’s ownership history, which includes domain search functionalities grouped by name, address and block number.

block image Decentralized Web Gets Visual Aid With New Blockstack Explorer

Launched in 2013 as OneName, Blockstack made its start by embedding identification information directly into the bitcoin blockchain. Formerly utilizing the Namecoin blockchain, Blockstack began using the bitcoin in 2016, later recounting its lessons learned in a white paper.

Now the company is working to develop a full technology stack with a single, unified platform that developers can use to build a new network of sites.

The company has successfully raised $5.3m from investors in three public rounds, according to data from Crunchbase.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Blockstack. 

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