The power players of consumer finance in the 21st century will be crypto-native companies who build with blockchain technology at their core.
The crypto landscape is still nascent. We’re still very much in the fragmented, unbundled phase of the industry lifecycle. Beyond what Genesis Block is doing, there are signs of other companies slowly starting to bundle financial services into what could be an all-in-one bank replacement. So the key question that this series hopes to answer:
Which crypto-native company will successfully become the bank of the future?
We obviously think Genesis Block is well-positioned to win. But we certainly aren’t the only game in town. In this series, we’ll be doing an analysis of who is most capable of thwarting our efforts. We’ll look at categories like crypto exchanges, crypto wallets, centralized lending & borrowing services, and crypto debit card companies. Each category will have its own dedicated post. Today we’re analyzing big crypto exchanges. The two companies we’ll focus on today are Coinbase (biggest American exchange) and Binance (biggest global exchange). They are the top two exchanges in terms of Bitcoin trading volume. They are in pole position to winning this market — they have a huge existing userbase and strong financial resources. Will Coinbase or Binance become the bank of the future? Can their early success propel them to winning the broader consumer finance market? Is their growth too far ahead for anyone else to catch up? Let’s dive in. https://preview.redd.it/lau4hevpm7f51.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=2c5de1ba497199f36aa194e5809bd86e5ab533d8
The most formidable exchange on the global stage is Binance (Crunchbase). All signs suggest they have significantly more users and a stronger balance sheet than Coinbase. No other exchange is executing as aggressively and relentlessly as Binance is. The cadence at which they are shipping and launching new products is nothing short of impressive. As Tushar Jain from Multicoin argues, Binance is Blitzscaling. Here are some of the products that they’ve launched in the last 18 months. Only a few are announced but still pre-launch.
Binance is well-positioned to become the crypto-powered, all-in-one, bundled solution for financial services. They already have so many of the pieces. But the key question is:
Can they create a cohesive & united product experience?
Binance is strong, but they do have a few major weaknesses that could slow them down.
Traders & Speculators Binance is currently very geared for speculators, traders, and financial professionals. Their bread-and-butter is trading (spot, margin, options, futures). Their UI is littered with depth charts, order books, candlesticks, and other financial concepts that are beyond the reach of most normal consumers. Their product today is not at all tailored for the broader consumer market. Given Binance’s popularity and strength among the pro audience, it’s unlikely that they will dumb down or simplify their product any time soon. That would jeopardize their core business. Binance will likely need an entirely new product/brand to go beyond the pro user crowd. That will take time (or an acquisition). So the question remains, is Binance even interested in the broader consumer market? Or will they continue to focus on their core product, the one-stop-shop for pro crypto traders?
Controversies & Hot Water Binance has had a number of controversies. No one seems to know where they are based — so what regulatory agencies can hold them accountable? Last year, some sensitive, private user data got leaked. When they announced their debit card program, they had to remove mentions of Visa quickly after. And though the “police raid” story proved to be untrue, there are still a lot of questions about what happened with their Shanghai office shut down (where there is smoke, there is fire). If any company has had a “move fast and break things” attitude, it is Binance. That attitude has served them well so far but as they try to do business in more regulated countries like America, this will make their road much more difficult — especially in the consumer market where trust takes a long time to earn, but can be destroyed in an instant. This is perhaps why the Binance US product is an empty shell when compared to their main global product.
Disjointed Product Experience Because Binance has so many different teams launching so many different services, their core product is increasingly feeling disjointed and disconnected. Many of the new features are sloppily integrated with each other. There’s no cohesive product experience. This is one of the downsides of executing and shipping at their relentless pace. For example, users don’t have a single wallet that shows their balances. Depending on if the user wants to do spot trading, margin, futures, or savings… the user needs to constantly be transferring their assets from one wallet to another. It’s not a unified, frictionless, simple user experience. This is one major downside of the “move fast and break things” approach.
BNB token Binance raised $15M in a 2017 ICO by selling their $BNB token. The current market cap of $BNB is worth more than $2.6B. Financially this token has served them well. However, given how BNB works (for example, their token burn), there are a lot of open questions as to how BNB will be treated with US security laws. Their Binance US product so far is treading very lightly with its use of BNB. Their token could become a liability for Binance as it enters more regulated markets. Whether the crypto community likes it or not, until regulators get caught up and understand the power of decentralized technology, tokens will still be a regulatory burden — especially for anything that touches consumers.
Binance Chain & Smart Contract Platform Binance is launching its own smart contract platform soon. Based on compatibility choices, they have their sights aimed at the Ethereum developer community. It’s unclear how easy it’ll be to convince developers to move to Binance chain. Most of the current developer energy and momentum around smart contracts is with Ethereum. Because Binance now has their own horse in the race, it’s unlikely they will ever decide to leverage Ethereum’s DeFi protocols. This could likely be a major strategic mistake — and hubris that goes a step too far. Binance will be pushing and promoting protocols on their own platform. The major risk of being all-in on their own platform is that they miss having a seat on the Ethereum rocket ship — specifically the growth of DeFi use-cases and the enormous value that can be unlocked. Integrating with Ethereum’s protocols would be either admitting defeat of their own platform or competing directly against themselves.
The crypto-native company that I believe is more likely to become the bank of the future is Coinbase (crunchbase). Their dominance in America could serve as a springboard to winning the West (Binance has a stronger foothold in Asia). Coinbase has more than 30M users. Their exchange business is a money-printing machine. They have a solid reputation as it relates to compliance and working with regulators. Their CEO is a longtime member of the crypto community. They are rumored to be going public soon.
Let’s look at what makes them strong and a likely contender for winning the broader consumer finance market.
Different Audience, Different Experience Coinbase has been smart to create a unique product experience for each audience — the pro speculator crowd and the common retail user. Their simple consumer version is at Coinbase.com. That’s the default. Their product for the more sophisticated traders and speculators is at Coinbase Pro (formerly GDAX). Unlike Binance, Coinbase can slowly build out the bank of the future for the broad consumer market while still having a home for their hardcore crypto traders. They aren’t afraid to have different experiences for different audiences.
Brand & Design Coinbase has a strong product design team. Their brand is capable of going beyond the male-dominated crypto audience. Their product is clean and simple — much more consumer-friendly than Binance. It’s clear they spend a lot of time thinking about their user experience. Interacting directly with crypto can sometimes be rough and raw (especially for n00bs). When I was at Mainframe we hosted a panel about Crypto UX challenges at the DevCon4 Dapp Awards. Connie Yang (Head of Design at Coinbase) was on the panel. She was impressive. Some of their design philosophies will bode well as they push to reach the broader consumer finance market.
Early Signs of Bundling Though Coinbase has nowhere near as many products & services as Binance, they are slowly starting to add more financial services that may appeal to the broader market. They are now letting depositors earn interest on USDC (also DAI & Tezos). In the UK they are piloting a debit card. Users can now invest in crypto with dollar-cost-averaging. It’s not much, but it’s a start. You can start to see hints of a more bundled solution around financial services.
Let’s now look at some things that could hold them back.
Slow Cadence In the fast-paced world of crypto, and especially when compared to Binance, Coinbase does not ship very many new products very often. This is perhaps their greatest weakness. Smaller, more nimble startups may run circles around them. They were smart to launch Coinbase Ventures where tey invest in early-stage startups. They can now keep an ear to the ground on innovation. Perhaps their cadence is normal for a company of their size — but the Binance pace creates quite the contrast.
Institutional Focus As a company, we are a Coinbase client. We love their institutional offering. It’s clear they’ve been investing a lot in this area. A recent Coinbase blog post made it clear that this has been a focus: “Over the past 12 months, Coinbase has been laser-focused on building out the types of features and services that our institutional customers need.” Their Tagomi acquisition only re-enforced this focus. Perhaps this is why their consumer product has felt so neglected. They’ve been heavily investing in their institutional services since May 2018. For a company that’s getting very close to an IPO, it makes sense that they’d focus on areas that present strong revenue opportunities — as they do with institutional clients. Even for big companies like Coinbase, it’s hard to have a split focus. If they are “laser-focused” on the institutional audience, it’s unlikely they’ll be launching any major consumer products anytime soon.
Coinbase Wrap Up
At Genesis Block, we‘re proud to be working with Coinbase. They are a fantastic company. However, I don’t believe that they’ll succeed in building their own product for the broader consumer finance market. While they have incredible design, there are no signs that they are focused on or capable of internally building this type of product. Similar to Binance, I think it’s far more likely that Coinbase acquires a promising young startup with strong growth.
Other US-based exchanges worth mentioning are Kraken, Gemini, and Bittrex. So far we’ve seen very few signs that any of them will aggressively attack broader consumer finance. Most are going in the way of Binance — listing more assets and adding more pro tools like margin and futures trading. And many, like Coinbase, are trying to attract more institutional customers. For example, Gemini with their custody product.
Coinbase and Binance have huge war chests and massive reach. For that alone, they should always be considered threats to Genesis Block. However, their products are very, very different than the product we’re building. And their approach is very different as well. They are trying to educate and onboard people into crypto. At Genesis Block, we believe the masses shouldn’t need to know or care about it. We did an entire series about this, Spreading Crypto. Most everyone needs banking — whether it be to borrow, spend, invest, earn interest, etc. Not everyone needs a crypto exchange. For non-crypto consumers (the mass market), the differences between a bank and a crypto exchange are immense. Companies like Binance and Coinbase make a lot of money on their crypto exchange business. It would be really difficult, gutsy, and risky for any of them to completely change their narrative, messaging, and product to focus on the broader consumer market. I don’t believe they would ever risk biting the hand that feeds them. In summary, as it relates to a digital bank aimed at the mass market, I believe both Coinbase and Binance are much more likely to acquire a startup in this space than they are to build it themselves. And I think they would want to keep the brand/product distinct and separate from their core crypto exchange business. So back to the original question, is Coinbase and Binance a threat to Genesis Block? Not really. Not today. But they could be, and for that, we want to stay close to them. ------ Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
Liquid links all partner exchanges into a high speed global banking system with bitcoin being its reserve currency.
The technology is nothing new
This isn't about the tools, this is about the final product. Liquid is a production ready crypto-graphically secure token exchange system, backed by Bitcoin (I'm using Big B on purpose, because we're talking about the blockchain.) I watched the R3 video the other day, then read about Liquid and immediately knew that Blockstream's announcement could not have came at a better time. R3 was all pie in the sky, but Liquid is a production ready deliverable. IMO, that's why bitcoin is going up.
not yet sure whether Liquid provides some cryptographic receipts for deposits. If they don't - the network isn't entirely gox-proof.
Liquid is an interoperable sidechain that extends the Bitcoin blockchain while adding an auditable, cryptographically-strong commercial privacy component. Using this arrangement, Liquid leverages the reliability and security of the Bitcoin network without trusting a centralized third party. This new construction establishes a security profile inherently superior to existing methods of rapid transfer and settlement, and is directly applicable to other problems within existing financial institutions.
Anyway, enough with ThePiachu's abysmal analysis! On to the beating heart!
Liquid will improve capital efficiency and market liquidity by facilitating rapid and secure transfers between accounts held at any participating exchange or brokerage.
All members of Liquid will be connected and able to exchange bitcoin and fiat. Not only that, but this is what BTCC said
provide nearly instantaneous global interexchange transfers for our users
This means I can have an account with BTCC and Kraken and shift money between my accounts on different exchanges in a blink of an eye. Can you imagine the arbitrage that can be accomplished with such a system and the resulting liquidity?
[...] initial launch partners include Bitfinex, BTCC, Kraken, Unocoin, and Xapo, and discussions are underway with another dozen major institutional traders and licensed exchanges.
Bitfinex (US), BTCC (China), Kraken (Europe, Japan, Canada), Unocoin(India), Xapo debit card. Who's missing? ... another dozen .... :D The entire ecosystem is going to be connected within the next few months. That's the heart of a new banking system, all backed by bitcoin. What's next? Connect the merchants and wallets.
Intervention by Visa spelled an end to European crypto debit cards for the majority of customers on Thursday. Around a dozen crypto companies were affected by the shutdown, which instantly wiped out their services across Europe. Issuers such as Bitwala, Tenx, CryptoHawk, Bitpay, and Xapo were left high and dry after a Visa subsidiary stopped processing payments. Two of the companies affected have since spoken to news.Bitcoin.com, revealing their plans to find an alternative solution. News.Bitcoin.com reported on a sudden crackdown on crypto cards within Europe, orchestrated by Visa subsidiary Wavecrest. The report explained how “the prepaid cards, which have become extremely popular in the crypto community, provide a means of indirectly paying for goods and services using cryptocurrency.” Bridging the gap between fiat and crypto is one of the biggest challenges cryptocurrency platforms face. Hybrid cards, which allow a debit card to be funded with crypto and then used to make purchases in the local fiat currency, were seen as a smart solution. That all changed this week when hundreds of thousands of European crypto-holders found their cards had been rendered useless. CRYPTOHAWK CryptoHawk is an upcoming cryptocurrency exchange that will hosts the world’s most popular digital currencies, and also offer its own currency that entitles owners to a share of the company’s profits. In addition to their online exchange service, the company is also very interested in helping cryptocurrencies gain widespread use and acceptance; they’ve announced plans to distribute credit cards that allow payment with cryptocurrencies in brick-and-mortar stores, and ATMs that will enable the immediate purchase of cryptocurrencies with cash. CryptoHawk indicates that its exchange will offer most of the world’s popular digital currencies, but its website doesn’t mention when the service will launch, which fiat currencies it will accept, and whether regulations will forbid the citizens of any country from participating. its exchange service, CryptoHawk hopes to eventually offer credit cards and ATMs that will allow cryptocurrencies to be used in brick-and-mortar locations all around the world. However, these ambitious goals may not be realized for some time. Furthermore, CryptoHawk is offering its own token, the HAWK, that is interesting among digital currencies because it functions like a share of stock; owners are entitled to a monthly share of the company’s profits. The HAWK is an ERC-20 compliant currency, meaning it can be stored in any wallet that supports Ethereum, though their values are not related. TENX TenX started life as OneBit, a payment card linked to a bitcoin wallet. When Bitcoin began to give up some of it’s cryptocurrency market share, the OneBit team identified an opportunity in developing an exchange platform that could open their project to this broadening market TenX is pitching its debit card as an instant converter of multiple digital currencies into fiat money: the dollars, yen and euros that power most everyday commerce. The company said it takes a 2% cut from each transaction and has received orders for more than 10,000 cards. While transactions are capped at $2,000 a year, users can apply to increase the limit if they undergo identify verification procedures.
Bitwage -> Bitreserve -> Gateways: Bitcoin is ready for the (savvy) Unbanked
I was playing around with Bitreserve & Coinapult today and was blown away by what's already offered. These services are just in their infancy and already can be integrated with the existing bitcoin infrastructure. Let's say you are a low-income worker without a bank account Why don't you have a bank account?
Living paycheck to paycheck means you don't maintain a high enough minimum balance.
This is by no means a cakewalk Yet for a savvy individual with access to the internet (yet no bank account), there now exists a legitimate way to use bitcoin. Bitcoin is becoming less of a privilege for those with excess money to experiment and more utilitarian for the people who need it most. Plus, with this modular model, there is so much room for competitive services to solve problems. And in this ecosystem, the problem solvers affect the world (not just those with bank accounts).
During the interview, O’Brien, who served as the CEO of VISA UK for six years from 2008 to 2014, said that his team is attempting to increase the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether as currencies and legitimate payment methods by allowing users to spend cryptocurrencies on a daily basis to pay for products and services. He said:
“The idea is that cryptocurrency is actually quite difficult today to use as an everyday method of payment. If you were to go to an exchange with your bitcoin or your ether it would probably take you 3 to 7 days to get that money paid out into a normal bank account. What Crypterium will do is make that whole process seamless and give an opportunity for a consumer to actually use their cryptocurrency to pay for everyday items.”
The short-term strategy of the startup is to leverage the experience of O’Brien in the traditional finance industry and his connections in the credit card service sector to secure a strategic partnership with Visa or Mastercard and release cryptocurrency-backed debit cards. While many projects and companies such as Xapo, TenX, and Coins.ph have utilized Visa-partnered banks to launch cryptocurrency debit cards, the companies were forced to shut down their debit card services due to the crackdown on cryptocurrency debit cards by Visa in 2017. Last year, Visa emphasized that it had to close down the debit card services of cryptocurrency startups because the services were initiated without the permission of Visa through third party service providers. There exists a possibility that projects like Crypterium could release official cryptocurrency debit cards in the future if they can cooperate with either Visa or Mastercard directly. “That card will be attached to a wallet that we’ve created and every time the consumer makes a transaction we will receive a request for that transaction in our systems, we will check the bitcoin or ether account and provided that they’ve got sufficient balance we will execute a trade and mark their bitcoin balance for a trade and approve the transaction. You can be in a store and all of that’s done in a fraction of a second,” said O’Brien.
Starbucks Chairman’s Skepticism
Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz has said that he is interested in a cryptocurrency that can be easily accepted by mainstream merchants. Previously, CCN reported that Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz is interested in the cryptocurrency market and the adoption of digital currencies. But, Schultz stated that he would only be interested in a cryptocurrency that can be widely adopted and embraced by retailers and large-scale merchants like Starbucks. “I personally believe that there is going to be a one or a few legitimate trusted digital currencies off of the blockchain technology. And that legitimacy and trust in terms of its consumer application will have to be legitimized by a brand and a brick and mortar environment, where the consumer has trust and confidence in the company that is providing the transaction,” said Schultz. A separate cryptocurrency developed with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems to appeal to retailers is unnecessary if projects can use existing cryptocurrencies with market dominance like bitcoin and ether to process day-to-day payments, even if it requires a third-party service like Visa’s debit card network to kickstart the adoption of cryptocurrenies. Featured news from network Join our telegram group:https://t.me/scryinfo1
PSA: Announcement after days of waiting... Xapo has replied (loudspeaker)
Hi there, We have created a blog post to address the debit card fees here: http://blog.xapo.com/ As explained on the post Xapo does not have banking licenses to issue our own cards. We are working with a card issuer who has the capabilities to do this under an existing Visa program. The fee structure we shared last week came directly from them and are costs associated with this program. In other words, these fees would not be collected by Xapo and instead are sent over to the partner. We've followed through with launching this product so that we can operate and test a true debit card on an large existing network (Visa) that automatically withdraws bitcoins from the user's account at the POS. We knew the initial product would have things that need to be worked on as it is the first of its kind in a new industry. We didn't, however, expect the community to assume we were scammers or liars. To be clear not a single user has been charged for this product or paid for something different than what was promised. We do, however, have plans to charge a one-time $15 fee in the future. As we have clarified on the post we will not be charging monthly fees for the Xapo debit card. We should have indicated that these fees are for an existing program and will change once the official card is launched. We realize that this may have hurt our brand. I do, however, want to make sure our users who have taken the time to reach out, like yourself, know our true intentions. We continue to stand by this product and are launching it to provide additional benefits to bitcoin holders around the world. The choice to use it or not is up to you. Let me know if you have other questions. We will honor your request to cancel your card but wanted to bring some clarity around what has happened over the past few days. Regards, Fernando
Bitcoin wallet provider Xapo has announced that its much-anticipated bitcoin debit card will launch by the end of this month after accepting pre-orders since April. The new cards will be accepted by any business that accepts debit cards or credit cards from its network partner, though the company has yet to disclose the name of that card network.
Video: http://moneyandtech.com/apr24-news-update/ Here's what's happening today in Money & Tech: Bitcoin wallet provider Xapo today announced the launch of what they describe as the first international bitcoin debit card. The Xapo Debit Card will be available in both digital and physical card form, and accepted anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Transactions will work much like with a debit card. Xapo will first verify that the requested amount is available in the account, and then authorize the exchange of funds via BitStamp. Physical cards will begin shipping to Xapo customers in two months. Russia held its first ever Bitcoin Conference in Moscow Wednesday, where bitcoin experts from around the world expressed their confidence in the future of the digital currency, despite growing restrictions and rumors of a government ban. The situation in Russia has been rocky since the government's February statement that the use of any monetary instruments or surrogates other than the ruble is forbidden. However, when asked at the Bitcoin Conference whether that bitcoin ban indeed exists, one speaker responded by saying, “Nobody knows, and nobody cares.” Dubai has finally received its first bitcoin ATM, which has been installed in an office in Dubai Media City, and is stirring up both excitement and debate in the country. To date, the Middle East has been one of the least integrated regions into the global Bitcoin network, partly due to concerns over recent industry thefts and regulatory crackdowns in neighboring countries. However local enthusiasts see this ATM as a strong step toward broader adoption, given the region’s large youthful population and high percentage of unbanked. Mt. Gox bankruptcy proceedings commenced today in Japan, led by appointed bankruptcy trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi. Kobayashi released a five-page statement today detailing the proceedings, which will include an investigation into CEO Mark Karpeles' liability. The Bitcoin Foundation is now conducting elections to fill the two open industry seats on its Board of Directors, left vacant since the resignation of Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles, and the arrest of Charlie Shrem. Nominations have now been closed, and campaigning is under way. Among the fifteen vying for these two open seats are BTC China CEO Bobby Lee, GoCoin co-founder Brock Pierce, Gyft CEO Vinny Lingham, and Huobi CEO Leon Li. Voting will open to all current Bitcoin Foundation industry members on April 21st. Since its considerable cyber theft in February, Silk Road version 2.0 has been trying to rebuild and repay its users' lost bitcoins. As of April 8th, as many as 50% of their affected users have already had their lost funds repaid. However, many have yet to log in and claim them. According to the site's administrator Defcon, “over 1000 BTC is sitting in the wallets of victims who have not logged in since the hack.” Defcon went on to say, “We are blown away to be part of such a resilient community. It is clear that Silk Road is a movement, not just a marketplace.”
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