The majority of 2018, and the first month of 2019 have been given the colloquialism 'Crypto Winter,' which actually coincided with that season in the Northern Hemisphere: The 'Crypto Winter' claimed many blockchain projects as the market for digital assets slowly cooled, and the ICO market all but dried up over the same time period, racked by money-grabbing schemes, outright scams, and questionable business models.
It was an echo of the "Dot-com" boom, when virtually any business with a website was guaranteed a disproportionate amount of investment and speculative interest.
Some in the blockchain space sounded the alarm, including Brad Garlinghouse. Even during the red-hot price increases and investment bubbles in late 2017, he didn't back down from his viewpoint that crypto-assets needed to find a use case, and that those without any utility would eventually face trouble.
The Future Roots of Crypto
Long-term, the value of crypto-assets cannot be driven solely by speculation. Yes, there will always be speculators, but for an industry to truly grow beyond its start-up roots, true, utility-driven demand must replace wholly speculative interest.
And when people new to cryptocurrency analyze which cryptographic network has the largest potential value, most will arrive at the same conclusion given the same set of facts; XRP's cross-border payments use case is the largest. This is the use case where numbers like "billion" and "trillion" are bandied about casually by experts, and where specific corridors - those targeted by Ripple for remittance payments - are compared with these gargantuan proportions.
Ripple's xRapid solution, for example, can completely eliminate the need for pre-funding bank accounts in other countries. The amount of value locked away in these pre-funded accounts is estimated to be measured in the trillions. xRapid undoes this pre-funding requirement by dynamically sourcing liquidity through cryptocurrency exchanges where fiat is traded against the digital asset XRP.
New Kid On The Block
Most of us in the cryptomarket are familiar with XRP's value proposition, and xRapid has started to make traction that is now detectable on the partner exchanges where these transactions are occurring.
Despite his widespread fame for keeping a company laser-focused, Brad Garlinghouse - and other Ripple leaders - have also carefully entered another related market; that of micropayments.
Micropayments are payments that, using traditional means of settlement, are rendered infeasible due to processing fees. But by using XRP in combination with other scaling technologies such as the Interledger Protocol, these transactions can be conducted in a real-time, cost-effective manner.
Ripple is taking this new market very seriously.
Locked and loaded with Xpring, Ripple has been investing in each of the components necessary for super-charging its entry into the burgeoning micropayments space. This includes efforts at monetization of web-based content, whether it be applications, music, video, gaming, or other content. Micropayment monetization of creatives' work is the next frontier for digital assets, and XRP is the one that is poised to effectively address its needs.
Growing Root System
With additional entrants to the XRP ecosystem in the form of companies, applications, frameworks, and open-source code, XRP's root system is expanding and growing each day much faster than its older proof-of-work predecessors.
While it was enough for new projects to achieve a modicum of success with a mere listing of a cryptocurrency on an exchange in the early days of digital assets, the business world - and the new traders investing and buying digital assets - are now looking for something more. They're looking for real business usage, and only one digital asset can meet this need in all of the ways that investors seek.
General Crypto News: Pacte Law
France, having endured months of "Yellow-jacket" and "Red Scarves" protests, has now passed a controversial new law, known as the "Pacte Law." 1
The Pacte Law is a sweeping, pro-business measure that simplifies company creation, boils down a bureaucratic set of laws based on 49 different employee thresholds, and enacts approximately 70 measures to help grow small-and-medium-size enterprise (SME) businesses in France. 2 3
Among the provisions are rules that allow insurance providers to offer products based on investments in crypto-assets. 4
The rules are not a free-for-all, and insurance companies must pass their investments through "specialized professional funds" that have well-defined investor requirements. 5 The result, however, is that the new law opens the doors to enormous potential. The size of France's life insurance market alone is estimated at over 2 trillion Euros, or $2.25 trillion dollars. 6
The news was greeted with enthusiasm by the cryptomarket news media, and is the latest in a string of announcements demonstrating increasing amounts of mainstream investor adoption of crypto-asset investing.
My take: Although announcements like this take time to materialize into tangible economic results, as we see more of these opportunities to on-board traditional investors that want to diversify into crypto-assets with a portion of their portfolio, it's encouraging. But ... I'd like to see the investment follow rational analysis; instead of just blind, across-the-board purchases of crypto, it's better for the future of the market if projects with real utility receive the bulk of investment.
On April 15th, Ripple sent out the following tweet about a new Ripple Regionals event - another edition of their invitation-only customer conferences in various geographic centers that they are targeting with their software solutions:
Indus Bank seems to be the larger of the two banks listed as part of the company, and it has over twenty-five thousand employees and over $25 billion in assets. The bank has offices in London, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, where this latest Ripple Regionals event was held.
In fact, the name of the event was given as "Ripple Regionals Dubai," which shows that Ripple is globe-hopping to each of its desired payment corridors, and the tweet comes after multiple videos that have now been released from their "Ripple Regionals: Asia Pacific 2019" event as part of their official YouTube Channel.
Ripple Regionals: Asia Pacific 2019
The videos that Ripple finally released as part of its Asia - Pacific conference included testimonials from two separate banks: Siam Commercial Bank, and CIMB Bank.
The first video, a clip of Thomas (Kok Kiong) Tan, the Sr. Managing Director of the Group Treasury Sales & FX from CIMB Bank, was recorded during a fireside chat with Marcus Treacher, Ripple's Head of Global Accounts:
After a discussion about heady topics like 'nested transactions,' Thomas Tan provides the following frank advice for other banks thinking of joining RippleNet:
"You have the current SWIFT network, right? And, I think, that will probably continue for a while. But you have the emerging networks like Ripple(Net) and other networks.
So, I don't think you have anything to lose by hedging, and joining the alternate network."
Unsurprisingly, that's the quote that Ripple closed out the compact, two-minute segment with; it was a blunt but effective recommendation that demonstrates the clear direction many banks in Asia are taking.
The other video was a collage of clips from a presentation that was given by Paul (Thanaarmates) Arriyavat of Siam Commercial Bank:
Speaking about the size of the "pain point" of processing remittances for individuals and SME businesses, he noted:
"So, how big is the pain?
The pain is so big ... We're talking about sixty-eight billion US dollars flowing into South-east Asia. And we haven't even talked about SME flow, which is much larger than that."
Then later, to close out the short highlight, he comments about Siam's ability to process payments not just from Japan to Thailand, but also from and to other countries in their region:
"Without ... 'Multi-Hop,' we cannot actually execute this."
It was another high-impact statement from a Ripple partner that demonstrates how effective its software solutions have been in helping international banks process cross-border payments.
These two video clips were compelling, and adroitly communicated the superb capabilities that Ripple software brings to the table. My guess is that we'll be hearing about additional numbers of banks and other remittance processors jumping aboard in 2019, further expanding RippleNet.
A series of significant developments for Ripple centered around the small country of Luxembourg in the first half of April.
On April 11th, it was announced that the University of Luxembourg had become a recipient of Ripple's University Blockchain Research Initiative fund, or UBRI, for short. The money was said to be ear-marked for studies and research related to micropayments. Professor Radu State, from the University's Interdisciplinary Centre for Security Reliability and Trust (SnT), was quoted as saying: 9
"Users currently pay for web content either through subscriptions or with their data, through exposure to advertising,
There's currently no cost effective, practical way for people to pay per second to listen to music, access quality journalism or watch a film. But micropayments will allow us to pay as we consume, using tiny fractions of a cent that don't impact our budget."
Ripple also weighed in on the topic, with Even Schwartz, the co-creator of the Interledger Protocol, providing his take on the UBRI donation:
"The team at the University of Luxembourg is working on core research topics, such as optimizing Interledger routing and the design of Interledger connectors, to enable individuals to send payments over the Internet.
They have a unique combination of experience in traditional computer networking and blockchain technologies, and I'm excited to get more networking experts to work on Interledger."
The UBRI investment was a wise move by Ripple, as it's becoming increasingly apparent that Luxembourg is going to be one of the first-adopter countries that will benefit substantially from blockchain investment and growth in the coming years.
Contemporaneously with the UBRI investment, Luxembourg's Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna, sent out the following tweet:
The context and topic wasn't clear, and led to speculation about the meaning of the comment and photograph of both he and Chris Larsen, the Chairman of Ripple's Board of Directors, shaking hands. Some XRP Community members pointed out that Luxembourg was one country that had published guidance about various crypto-assets, including XRP.
One week earlier, the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (LPEA), a Luxembourg-based industry association, indicated their view that XRP was a "payment token," which led to some linking the development with the subsequent meeting between Chris Larsen and Pierre Gramegna. 10
Both of the developments - the UBRI investment and the high-level meeting between Chris Larsen and Pierre Gramegna - indicate that Ripple views Luxembourg as a potential ingredient in their corporate business development strategy.
The big news over the weekend was, of course, the European XRP Meetup in Amersfoort, Netherlands, on April 20th.
Wietse Wind organized the meetup, publishing an invitation link for people to fill out as far back as early March. 11 It seemed like this particular meetup captured the interest of a large number of European XRP fans, in addition to many who made the journey from other countries to join the party.
One of those people that journeyed from the UK to attend the gathering was Matt Hamilton, a YouTuber and XRP Community developer:
In a follow-up, I asked Matt Hamilton about his favorite part of the meetup, and about his general impressions:
"Fave part: The sheer diversity of the community. We had people from many different countries, from all different walks of life and backgrounds. All with different skill sets and experiences. I can’t think of any other situation in which you would get such a wide variety of people all under one roof. And everyone got on!
The meet-up was fantastically organised. The venue worked perfectly with just the right amount of space; Some indoor space, and (some) outdoor space. Places to sit and talk, both in small groups and more open discussions.
The photo mirror was a great idea and got lots of people chatting and having a bit of silly fun. The XRPayment system worked really well too. Really big thanks to Tom, Wietse and everyone else involved. And to everyone who came along. The number of people that had flown over from the US was amazing. Great that they came all this way for the event.
I think this has to become an annual event in the XRP calendar now!"
From the sound of the comments from others, Matt Hamilton might be echoing a common opinion. There may be a strong demand for an annual meetup in the Netherlands; and those that managed to attend this one will always be able to say "I was there at the first one!"
Announcement By Wietse Wind
As part of the perks for attending the meetup, Wietse Wind decided to make an important, two-part announcement during the gathering:
- Acquisition of a crypto-fiat and custodian crypto license
- Decision to pursue an EMI / Banking license
The crypto-fiat and custodian crypto license allows him to do more with some of his projects like the XRP Tip Bot and the XRPayments application. It raises the bar and professionalizes what had been two 'hobby' projects.
His decision to pursue a full Electronic Money Institution (EMI) / Banking license in Europe will support his vision of creating an online bank that would use XRP as its distributed ledger. This decision to pursue a banking license sparks the imagination, since no bank has yet been created from the ground up "on XRP;" his would be the first to pioneer this notion.
Since I was not able to attend in person, I found myself culling through various tweets with envy, looking through attendees' recounting of the cheerful celebration.
It may not be the same thing as having a pint of Dutch Ale, but his narration paints a colorful and engaging picture of the community celebration!
The project was hinted at a few weeks ago, on March 28th:
It was a payment processing application developed by team members at XRPL Labs, separate from their officially-scoped solutions listed on their home page; the application was demonstrated with a short video where Wietse Wind sends a Wirex payment, and then Ali sends some XRP from his XRP Tip Bot account.
"We wanted to make it (really) easy for the venue to be able to accept XRP at the meetup, so we decided that we would develop a really simple app and small platform to convert some amount of any currency into the equivalent of XRP, and then monitor incoming payments ...
... Instead of installing the app just on our devices for the meetup, we decided to (try to) release it to the app stores. The app is pretty simple, it just generates a destination QR (on ledger and TipBot) and awaits payments, to show the remaining amount to be paid or the payment confirmation screen. People can use any XRP wallet or the TipBot app to send payments.
Not really high tech, but exactly what a small store/bar/restaurant would need to make it easy to pay with XRP."
The team finalized the production-ready version of the application in time for the XRP Meetup in Amersfoort on April 20th, and sent out the following official announcement two days prior to the event:
The app is not for customers; the app is for brick-and-mortar vendors.
If you are a shop owner, you can download and install the application to accept direct XRP payments from your customers. In addition, the application has a handy feature for both the store owner and the customer; a currency converter that will indicate the current 'going rate' of XRP against any other currency, so that price conversions can be done more easily:
While there are some generic "crypto" payment processors, this is the first one from the team members at XRPL Labs. The community reacted with enthusiasm for the new application, and Tiffany Hayden tweeted a video of the app being used to process a payment for her beer:
The XRPayments application is not considered to be a long-term product for the team, however; it was meant to be a temporary and convenient way for vendors to easily process XRP payments, but Wietse Wind envisions the application being replaced by other major vendors in the space that will, when the XRPL Labs signing platform is available, integrate XRP payments into their standard 'check-out' flow:
"We will now focus on the Signing Platform & App, so there won't be a new XRPayments release any time soon.
Honestly: we hope our Signing Platform & App will make XRP payments so easy, that existing POS vendors will embed XRP destination QR codes into their existing solutions, for their existing customers."
Even though there probably won't be a "version 2.0" of the XRPayments application, it can still be used as a convenient temporary solution for those vendors looking to easily - and freely - process XRP payments in similar circumstances. I can see other XRP meetups using it like this. In addition to its use for vendors that wish to process XRP payments, it was also in the top five "top trending business apps" on the Google Play Store on April 20th. 12
The XRPayments app was only one of multiple surprises that Wietse, Tristan, and Ali had in store for attendees.
Genesis is a large crypto OTC platform that has, in recent years, expanded to include other lines of business such as collateralized crypto loans, along with cash loans against crypto balances.
The company has faced quarter-over-quarter growth, and recently reported their results of operations, noting an increase in the quarterly loan amounts. In addition, they provided a breakdown of the assets involved in the quarterly report, and noted that, after Bitcoin, XRP was the most popular crypto used in their loan program. 13
This news is consistent with other recent reports from large exchanges and crypto financial businesses, such as e-Toro, that have reported very high demand from those customers interested in XRP; it's one more data point as evidence that more and more crypto investors are making the switch to non-P.O.W. cryptos.
A new crypto exchange called "DeCurret" was approved by the FSA in Japan, according to a press release issued by the company on March 25th.
The company indicated that they'd begin spot trading on April 16th: 14
"As a registered service provider, DeCurret will launch spot trading services from Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Japan. As for opening accounts, DeCurret will start to accept users to open accounts from Wednesday, March 27, 2019"
The exchange supports trading of XRP.
An interesting note about DeCurret is its long list of shareholders, and the diversity contained within that list. Among the initial investors is the East Japan Railway Company, and also MUFG Bank. While MUFG Bank is still part of the Japanese banking consortium that has a stake in the success of the MoneyTap application, which uses Ripple technology to process cross-border payments, with its investment in DeCurret, the bank has shown that it will still compete directly against SBI VC in the crypto-asset trading space. 15
If an additional choice in the Japanese market means greater accessibility for XRP, then from the standpoint of an XRP owner, we should be supportive no matter if the exchange is run by SBI or some other bank.
The only other consideration would be if one or both exchanges would eventually be active participants in xRapid Solution delivery.
The Acorn Is Now A Tree
Each branch of the XRP Tree is now budding with the promise of future utility.
Micropayments is starting to blossom; Coil, while still in its 'preview' mode, has been working on Interledger changes and scaling technology in combination with other companies like Kava. And Stefan Thomas indicated that his company has already processed 5.9 billion payments.
xRapid, while encountering obstacles in the U.S. due to unclear regulations, has achieved traction in selected Asian and American corridors, and the volumes are now clearly detectable by those XRP fans looking to measure progress.
The global liquidity of XRP is at an all-time high, with increased daily trade volumes across 230 exchanges.
Large and small businesses are now 'building on XRP' with innovative approaches, designs and applications. Whether it is sharing economy apps, or any business that wishes to accept XRP as payment, everyday users are now able to spend their XRP for ordinary needs - and fun activities - like social tipping.
2019 has revealed only the beginnings of what will become fantastic levels of utility-driven demand for the one digital asset with the fastest settlement times, the highest on-chain scalability, uncompromising decentralization, and the widest array of robust business-ready features such as a decentralized exchange and crypto-conditions suite. Its roots are deep and strong - and they will energize XRP's vast growth upward and outward at astounding speeds.Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Jeremy Bishop