Category Archives: Business

Fake news of a fatal car crash wiped out $4 billion in ethereum’s market value yesterday

“Vitalik Buterin confirmed dead. Insiders unloading ETH” read the title of the post on 4Chan, the notorious online message board frequented by internet trolls. “Fatal car crash,” it went on. “Now we have our answer. He was the glue.”

“ETH” refers to ethereum, the world’s second most valuable cryptocurrency, which was invented by a 21-year-old, Vitalik Buterin, in 2015. The currency’s price has risen by 50 times this year so far, and many market watchers have wondered when the gains would stop. The price was already in the midst of a sudden decline yesterday that saw about $4 billion wiped off its total market value, and according to the post, Buterin’s untimely death explained it and heralded a crash.

It turns out that Buterin wasn’t dead, nor involved in a car crash. He took to Twitter to prove that all was well, but how to supply evidence that he was indeed behind the Twitter account? In the cryptocurrency equivalent of posing with the day’s newspaper, he scrawled out some data linked to the latest block (you can see that data for yourself here) mined on the ethereum blockchain on a piece of paper and took a selfie with it. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange did something similar to dispel rumors of his demise by reading out data from the bitcoin blockchain on a live stream in January. Buterin then posted the selfie on Twitter:

Ethereum’s slide seemed to hit a bottom after the hoax was posted on 4Chan, recovering about 10%. Despite yesterday’s steep sell-off, it’s still trading 39 times higher than it was at the start of the year.


Fake news of a fatal car crash wiped out $4 billion in ethereum’s market value yesterday


Ethereum Set to Eclipse Bitcoin, Only Question is When

To some people, Bitcoin is an experiment that can end in one of two ways: it will either fulfill its promise to become the “Internet of Money” or it will die a fiery death at the hands of regulators.

But what about a third option, in which a rival like Ethereum overtakes Bitcoin?

The rise and rise of Ether

Ether, the native coin of Ethereum, has risen more than 5,000 percent in 2017. It peaked at $396.40. Investors first attributed the surge in the Ethereum price to its faster platform, which processes transactions more quickly than Bitcoin’s. But it turns out that transaction times are just the tip of the iceberg.

Smart contracts, initial coin offerings (ICOs), variable block sizes – the evidence is overwhelmingly in Ethereum’s corner, regardless of what you might hear from so-called purists within the Bitcoin community. Even major institutions are siding with Ethereum. For instance, the Central Bank of Russia is currently testing an Ethereum fork for its own monetary system. This will effectively create the world’s first national cryptocurrency, a service that Bitcoin is incapable of providing.

Some in the community argue this unchangeability is precisely what protects Bitcoin price. To them, Blockchain technology only exists in service to Bitcoin to the singular vision of a decentralized currency. 


Can Bitcoin emerge as a global digital currency?

This question is hotly contested, even by futurists like Ray Kurzweil. The famous head of Google’s engineering lab recently said that Bitcoin’s instability is a serious threat to its monetary ambitions. 

“Currencies like the dollar have provided reasonable stability,” said Kurzweil. “Bitcoin has not. And it’s not clear to me that the whole mining paradigm can provide that type of stability.”

When he talks about stability, Kurzweil is referring to the kind of short-term volatility that is associated with risky investments. Currencies are not supposed to follow these roller coaster-like patterns. They are not supposed to lose 10 percent of their value in a day, as Bitcoin has done on a regular basis. They should, instead, keep fairly steady for a long while. Put another way, today’s price should be tomorrow’s.

That is how currencies establish credibility and secure buy-in from the population at large. If the general public believes that tomorrow’s price is going to be drastically different, it can lose faith in the currency and that would be disastrous.

Whatever existential criticisms that might exist of the US dollar, few people would argue that tomorrow is a concern for the Greenback. Bitcoin cannot boast similar reliability. Its price is an open question from one day to the next.

Ethereum casts a wider net than just money

What happens if we shelve this idea of a global digital currency? Does Blockchain technology become irrelevant? Of course not. It actually becomes far more relevant.

Take, for instance, a study from the Energy Web Foundation (EWF) in partnership with a Blockchain startup called Grid Singularity. The study shows 200 use cases for Blockchain technology in the energy sector, including ones for renewable energy certificates, peer-to-peer energy sharing networks and customer billing. 

10 major energy firms have joined the EWF in order to take advantage of these applications. However, none of them can be executed on Bitcoin’s platform. The EWF had to turn to Ethereum’s smart contracts for these particular services, which speaks to my earlier point: Ethereum casts a wider net than Bitcoin.

It fulfills the true potential of Blockchain technology by expanding beyond money, beyond Bitcoin, into everything else. More and more innovators will be drawn to Ethereum’s smart contracts, ICOs and faster transaction speeds. As a natural result, they have to use Ether tokens on the platform, suggesting that ETH prices will continue to skyrocket.


Tesla is talking to the music labels about creating its own streaming service

Put this one in the “You can do that, but why would you want to do that?” file: Tesla is talking to the music industry about creating its own streaming music service.


Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity.

Label sources aren’t clear about the full scope of Tesla’s ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering.

The bigger question: Why doesn’t Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start — especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.?


“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”

But if Tesla does want to provide music to its customers — it delivered over 100,000 cars as of January and has taken 400,000 preorders for the Model 3, due out this summer — the labels are happy to sell their stuff to the company.

They would like as many customers as possible and don’t want to end up in a world dominated by a handful of streaming outlets. Right now, Spotify and Apple have the clear lead: Spotify says it has at least 50 million paying subscribers for its service, and Apple says it has 27 million.


Bitcoin In 2017 ‘Has Most Elements Of Bubble’: Forbes

Forbes has declared Bitcoin’s 2017 price growth “has most of the elements of a bubble” and will ultimately burst. 

Drawing similarities with conventional financial asset bubbles, Panos Mourdoukoutas writes that huge adopter interest will preclude a mass exodus, leaving hardly any value at all.

“Investors who have been around Wall Street long enough know all too well that when money becomes tight and investment promises aren’t fulfilled, bubbles and manias end; and millions made are lost much faster than they were made,” he wrote. “And then some.”

Talk of a bubble-like scenario in Bitcoin was a serious topic even within the cryptocurrency community this year.

Bullish opinions

Opinions varied widely, with commentators such as Vinny Lingham suggesting only too rapid price growth beyond $3000 would produce the danger of extremely volatility.

Others were more bullish, predicting a boom and bust cycle similar to Bitcoin’s November 2013 performance with the currency reaching ever new heights.

Forbes meanwhile suggests the current status quo is one where “investor hype” is already present but mass interest and mass “mania” have yet to appear.

“[…T]here’s one thing still missing to turn the bubble into mania: a broad participation beyond the ‘pioneers’ and the ‘early adopters,’ to ‘early majority’ along the Rogers Curve,” Mourdoukoutas continued.

“That’s when the demand for Bitcoin reaches a cascade and turns into mania, as a critical mass of investors rush to buy ‘hot’ Bitcoins for the promise they hold — rather than for the fundamentals they display.”


Alibaba Would Accept Bitcoin Before Amazon, Google

Alibaba should be the next global giant to accept Bitcoin according to 4,500 participants in a survey this week.

52 percent of respondents to the survey by Digital Currency Group creator Barry Silbert believe the Chinese marketplace is next in line to embrace the virtual currency.

Other options included Amazon (31 percent) and Google (12 percent), while only five percent of those answering on Twitter believed Facebook would be the first of the group to get serious about Bitcoin.

A total of 4,571 votes were cast, with Silbert confirming the results on Thursday. 

Recent noises from the Alibaba ecosystem may well have informed the outcome, with a Japanese move set to make Bitcoin payments an indirect option for the site in the future.

Amazon, for its part, has also been increasingly active in the Blockchain space, working with Silbert’s Digital Currency Group on a startup initiative.

So far, however, it has stopped short of announcing any direct relationship with Bitcoin.

Meanwhile, a couple of months after announcing it would accept Bitcoin across its international platform, Czech retail giant Alza revealed this week customers could even use the virtual currency to buy a Tesla electric car.


This high school dropout who invested in bitcoin at $12 is now a millionaire at 18

Erik Finman made a bet with his parents that if he turned 18 and was a millionaire, they wouldn’t force him to go to college. Thanks to his savvy investments in bitcoin and the current all-time high valuation, he won’t have to get his degree.

“I can proudly say I made it, and I’m not going to college,” Finman said.

He currently owns 403 bitcoins, which at the current $2,700 a coin puts his bitcoin value at $1.09 million. He also has smaller investments in other cryptocurrencies, including litecoin and ethereum.


Bitcoin is very volatile, and the value could decline rapidly. A technical analyst told CNBC he believes bitcoin will only go up to $2,800 before the value recedes, while others think it may reach $100,000 in a decade.

Finman thinks its best days are still ahead. “Personally I think bitcoin is going to be worth a couple hundred thousand to a million dollars a coin,” he said.

Bitcoin and the blockchain technology it is built on allow people to cut out the middleman, Finman explained. For example, an open source blockchain ride-share platform would allow users to power the service on their phones using peer-to-peer technology without a central hub. It would allow the drivers to get more money by cutting overhead costs, he added. It could also create the next evolution of the internet, one which wouldn’t be reliant on servers.


The first time, he turned $1,000 into $100,000

Finman began investing in bitcoin in May 2011 at the age of 12, thanks to a $1,000 gift from his grandmother and a tip from his brother Scott.

Though he’s close with his family — which he calls the “Elon Musk version of the Kardashians” — growing up in “small town” Idaho outside of Coeur d’Alene wasn’t easy. Finman was especially frustrated with his high school teachers, and begged his parents to let him drop out at 15.

“(High school) was pretty low quality,” he said. “I had these teachers that were all kind of negative. One teacher told me to drop out and work at McDonald’s because that was all I would amount to for the rest of my life. I guess I did the dropout part.”

Surprisingly, his parents — who met pursuing their Ph.D.s at Stanford — agreed. Finman sold his first bitcoin investments at the end of 2013, when they were valued at $1,200 a piece.

With the $100,000 Finman launched an online education company called Botangle in early 2014 that would allow frustrated students like him to find teachers over video chat. He also used the funds to move to Silicon Valley, did some fun things like meet Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and traveled.

“I really liked Colombia,” he said. “It was fun, but a little sketchy. Some interesting stuff happened. I was held up at gunpoint there, which is pretty scary, but I have this emergency button I programmed in Android that puts you on speaker but turns off audio automatically and dials [a local emergency number].”

“Maybe I’ll turn that into an app,” he added. “It’s handy.”

It was hard getting people to take a 15-year-old tech entrepreneur seriously, Finman admitted. He recalled being called in to interview with a “really, really high-up” unnamed Uber executive, who instead of listening to his Botangle pitch discouraged him and told him he would never win the bet with his parents.

Eventually he found a buyer for Botangle’s technology in January 2015. The investor offered either $100,000 or 300 bitcoin, which had dropped in value at that time to a little more than $200 a coin. He took the lower cash value bitcoin deal because he believed it was “the next big thing.”

“My parents asked ‘Why don’t you take the more cash?”‘ Finman explained. “But I thought of it more of an investment.”

Since then, Finman has been managing his family and his own bitcoin investments. He’s also kept busy on other projects, including working with NASA to launch a rocket through the ELaNa project. One thing he won’t do is go back to school.

“I never got my GED, and I don’t see the value in it,” Finman said. “The purpose of that would be to get another education level and get a job. I had to learn through running a business. Instead of writing essays for English class, I had to write emails to important people.”

Although the rest of his family has degrees — his brother Scott went to Johns Hopkins at 16 and now has an enterprise software company, while his other brother Ross went to Carnegie Melon at 16 for robotics and is now pursuing his Ph.D. at MIT — he’s happy learning about the real world from experience.

“The way the education system is structured now, I wouldn’t recommend it,” Finman said. “It doesn’t work for anyone. I would recommend the internet, which is all free. You can learn a million times more off YouTube and Wikipedia.”


Lyft rolls out new tipping prompts as drivers pass $250 million in tips earned

Lyft is touting a metric that its main rival can’t crow about – tip money earned through the platform. Lyft famously offers an in-app tipping option for riders, while Uber does not; and since Lyft announced that drivers had collectively earned over $100 million in tips four years after the company started its ride-hailing business, it’s been providing updates on the earning potential represented by tips on a semi-regular basis. Today, it has a new update on total earnings, and it’s rolling out new features that could contribute even more to tip-based earning potential.

Just two-and-a-half months ago, Lyft announced that total tips had passed the $200 million milestone, so the additional $50 million accumulated between now and then has come at a faster rate than ever before. A few factors might be helping out here: First, Lyft has greatly improved its footprint in the U.S. in the beginning of 2017, expanding to well over 100 new cities. Second, Lyft is gaining ground on Uber in terms of market share as Uber reels from its cultural and leadership problems, at a rate that we haven’t seen before between the two rivals.

Lyft is now going to start showing new pre-set tip options in rides to hopefully help drivers earn more on longer rides, the company revealed today. On trips where the fare is above $25, riders will now get $2, $5 and $10 tipping options instead of $1, $2 and $5 choices (custom tip options also remain for all rides). Lyft says than in its initial small group testing, it’s already seeing tips rise on those rides where the cost is over $25 and people are seeing the new selections.



Lyft rolls out new tipping prompts as drivers pass $250 million in tips earned

JAY-Z’s Name: The Hyphen Is Back, And Now It’s in All Caps

JAY-Z is back. Not only is his new album 4:44 out later this month, June 30, as a Tidal exclusive, but he’s brought back the hyphen in his name as well. Back in 2013, after the release of his album Magna Carta Holy Grail, Hov dropped the hyphen, effectively making him Jay Z. But now, a Roc Nation rep confirms to Pitchfork that the hyphen is back, and the rapper is also officially formatting his name in all caps. So, JAY-Z it is. Before the official 4:44 reveal, he also shared a snippet of the upcoming film by the same name, soundtracked by a clip of his new song “Adnis.” The album announce featured his name formatted as “JAY:Z.” In addition to that announcement, this weekend also saw JAY-Z and Beyoncé usher their new twins into the world.


Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.4 Billion

Amazon agreed to buy the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion, in a deal that will instantly transform the company that pioneered online shopping into a merchant with physical outposts in hundreds of neighborhoods across the country.

The acquisition, announced Friday, is a reflection of both the sheer magnitude of the grocery business — about $800 billion in annual spending in the United States — and a desire to turn Amazon into a more frequent shopping habit by becoming a bigger player in food and beverages. After almost a decade selling groceries online, Amazon has failed to make a major dent on its own as consumers have shown a stubborn urge to buy items like fruits, vegetables and meat in person.

Buying Whole Foods also represents a major escalation in the company’s long-running battle with Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the United States, which has been struggling to play catch-up in internet shopping. On Friday, Walmart announced a $310 million deal to acquire the internet apparel retailer Bonobos and last year it agreed to pay $3.3 billion for and put Jet’s chief executive, Marc Lore, in charge of Walmart’s overall e-commerce business.

“Make no mistake, Walmart under no circumstances can lose the grocery wars to Amazon,” said Brittain Ladd, a strategy and supply chain consultant who formerly worked with Amazon on its grocery business. “If Walmart loses the grocery battle to Amazon, they have no chance of ever dethroning Amazon as the largest e-commerce player in the world.”The idea of Amazon, a company founded 23 years ago on the premise of shopping from the comfort of a computer screen, moving forcefully into the crowded field of brick-and-mortar retail, with its limitations on selection and lack of customer reviews, once seemed ludicrous. But in the past several years, the company has dabbled with stores, opening or planning more than a dozen bookstores around the country.