Are you a business owner?
After several stints in technology consulting, I struck out on my own, and I can tell you one thing about technology investments by business entrepreneurs: When it's your own financial future on the line, you want the technology that you use to be dependable, and you want reliable, predictable results when you use it.
The newest technology, blockchain, rests on decentralized participation.
In essence, the aspects of stability and reliability are measurements that rely on the strength of a network's participants. In the case of Bitcoin, its network is comprised of an all-volunteer hodge-podge of original Bitcoin investors, mining consortiums and private businesses, and its divisive network governance has been a major source of criticism. Its network fees have been prone to periods of instability, reaching so high that the annual Bitcoin conference decided it would have to stop using Bitcoin for payment in 2018.
In a recent blog, I talked about the importance of strong network champions, and XRP is, by all measurements, the network that has the strongest champions. These champions include Ripple, Coil, and a growing assortment of start-ups that have placed their futures squarely on the network's health and growth.
There's a reason for this.
Ripple's Xpring initiative is operating as an invisible hand, guiding the expansion of the entire ecosystem in ways that support XRP's growth; we've seen this in recent investments in securities tokenization, music industry monetization, community-developed secure custody tools, and now with their recent investment in Kava, the Interledger Protocol.
And when you look at the XRP Ledger, it is a case study in stability over time, successfully closing out over forty-five million ledgers. Its ledger close time is consistently under four seconds, and its spam-prevention measures have successfully warded off malicious actors since its inception.
This is the type of reliability that both small business owners and large corporations and banks are looking for. Strong sponsorship, growing network participation, and a vibrant amount of strategic investment have combined to make the XRP Ledger the most dependable and reliable network in the cryptomarket, and in short order, the cryptomarket will find out just how much these aspects of technology are valued when it comes to actual business usage.
Gone are the days when experimental blockchain networks would receive unlimited attention from investors; they are now expecting results, and those results can only be delivered by a network with a proven track record of incredible performance, scalability, stability, reliability and governance. That network is the XRP Ledger.
General Crypto News
Around the world, countries are vying to claim their spots in the growing fintech cryptomarket, whether it's to foster blockchain technology projects, research, and education, or to clarify regulations so that companies feel more welcome to operate in their jurisdictions.
This trend was exemplified on February 25th, when Bahrain's central bank issued guidance for those dealing with crypto-assets. Khalid Hamad, the executive director of banking supervision at Bahrain's central bank, provided the following comments: 1
"(the) introduction of the rules relating to crypto assets is in line with its goal to develop a comprehensive rules for the fintech ecosystem supporting Bahrain’s position as a leading financial hub."
The move was made under increasing competition from other Middle East banking leaders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Ripple has a strong presence in all three of those countries; the RippleNet network provides a ready-made alternative for any banks looking to quickly transition to real-time cross-border payments.
Who To Follow: Kava Labs
Kava Labs is a fascinating startup based in San Francisco.
The company is small; their official website currently lists six team members, and all of them seem laser-focused on creating interoperability between various crypto networks. Creating interoperability is a tall order. In addition to using the Interledger Protocol, the team members must be well-versed in computer science and mathematics to be able to solve the problems that they're addressing with their software.
Kava Labs has done work for other blockchain projects, including helping the Cosmos project make their blockchain technology ILP-enabled.
They've also done work for Coil, and are now the recipients of Ripple's Xpring funding (more on that later).
The reason I'm listing their company under my recommended "who to follow" section for this blog is that they may be a critical piece of the puzzle for growing the Interledger network of connector operators. They've already published some of their code on Github for those interested, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they contribute to the ILP knowledge base.
When a Silicon Valley company posts solid growth numbers quarter-over-quarter, and their client list grows steadily into the hundreds, there is often a secondary market of integrators that develops organically, and usually you can find many of these practitioners working for some of the 'Big Four' consulting firms and their competitors.
Such is the case, for example, with 'Salesforce' software or 'Mulesoft' API software.
Both of these companies found it necessary to create 'certification paths' for software integration, to provide a minimum level of industry recognition to those professionals that have the requisite knowledge to integrate their solutions.
While these professionals don't work directly for the companies in question, they serve to expand the reach of the solutions that are implemented under license.
My guess is that some of these 'Big Four' companies are now monitoring Ripple software adoption, in preparation for what may become a wave of banking adoption. One of these firms is Accenture, and in a recent company blog, trends in the payments industry are analyzed, with Gareth Wilson, Accenture's Managing Director of Global Payments, providing the following statement in a category titled "Building Trends:" 2
“Ripple’s network for cross-border transactions will continue to grow significantly, attracting more banks and corporates, leading to rising transaction volumes.”
In addition, he predicts that central banks will be using DLT to issue counter-party assets (i.e. stablecoins), and that banks will adopt real-time payments throughout the world.
These statements from Accenture underscore the very premise behind Ripple's value proposition for banks and remittance companies, as well as corporate treasurers. Their technology is poised to enable this trend now, not at some date years in the future; it's a positive signal for Ripple's growth.
SBI Remit is a service that was upgraded to use Ripple technology - specifically xCurrent - by SBI in 2017, targeting the remittance corridor between Japan and Thailand.
The numbers of Thai workers in Japan may surprise you; they comprise a significant percentage of the work force, numbering somewhere in the neighborhood of 45,000 individuals.
On August 3rd, Ripple profiled the use of its xCurrent product in SBI Remit, demonstrating how its technology is enabling low-cost, cross-border payments:
The video demonstrated in a succinct fashion the benefits of using Ripple's banking software, and showed how it offered a service which essentially provided a non-SWIFT option for transferring money, for banks and major remittance processors.
As a follow-up, CyrptoEri (Twitter avatar), noticed some startling growth numbers being posted by SBI Remit after its implementation of xCurrent. While the service has been in existence for nine years, the dollar amount of transferred money has doubled since it implemented Ripple's software: 3 4
The report doesn't go into detail about the specifics, but I'm guessing that low-cost, real-time payments are very attractive to Thai workers looking to transfer money back home, especially when compared to higher-cost SWIFT-based banking services that take days to settle.
The tenth episode of the Ripple Drop was released by Ripple, and it profiled the opening of their new London office, and the recent "Ripple Regionals" event focusing on European blockchain technology partners:
Jared Vallair, a Workplace Designer for Workplace Operations, provided his perspective on Ripple's new headquarters, indicating that his team had studied the strengths and weaknesses of other Ripple offices to design the new UK office, with a heavy focus on local art.
For his piece on the "Ripple Regionals: Europe" event, Reinhard Cate interviewed Amy Hirth, Ripple's Senior Associate of Global Events, for her perspective.
Her background regarding the "Ripple Regionals" event was unsurprising, and most of us had already deduced its purpose and focus; however, she also hinted at another "Ripple Regionals" event in Bangkok, Thailand, and reminded viewers that planning had already begun at Ripple for the third SWELL conference, scheduled for early November.
She indicated that this year's SWELL conference would be taking place in Singapore, a country which has taken positive steps to solidify its leadership in the blockchain technology space, with streamlined guidance for digital assets and blockchain technology companies.
If for no other reason than to see a sneak preview of Ripple's London office, I recommend watching Ripple's latest two-and-a-half-minute addition to their library of Ripple Drop episodes.
I'd first heard about Kava Labs by reading a blog by Evan Schwartz, a Lead Engineer from Ripple.
The blog was specifically about how ILP will "...Interconnect All Blockchains and Value Networks," and it contained a section that talked about the current state of the Interledger network. In that section, it referenced various projects and businesses that were participating in the ILP ecosystem.
In subsequent days, I learned that the team at Kava had some very specific skill sets, and now it seems that its team has charted its course precisely towards the Interledger network. On February 28th, Ripple announced that they'd be investing in Kava through their Xpring initiative, and described Kava's new focus as "the world's first Interledger solutions provider." 5
The Kava team, for their part, released a video on February 25th explaining their new focus:
Vanessa Pestritto, a Director of Xpring at Ripple, indicated:
"The team has worked on open source plugins for the Bitcoin Lightning Network and Ethereum. These plugins enable BTC, ETH and XRP to be sent via the Interledger network. Kava services blockchains, wallets and exchanges to integrate with Interledger to enable cross chain transactions.
Led by co-founders Scott Stuart, Brian Kerr, and Ruaridh O’Donnell, the team continues to explore formats to increase adoption of Interledger and will be announcing more projects soon."
This addition to the Xpring list of investments makes logical sense that we can all understand; Interledger is the important protocol on which the Coil team is building out their solution, and promises to enable scaling of blockchain transactions in a way that chain-specific, second-layer technologies seem to struggle with.
There are many individuals and businesses that would jump at the chance to operate a paid ILP connector; perhaps this move by Ripple is their recognition of the potential behind individuals and businesses that are willing to participate in the "IP of blockchains."
Ben Sharafian from Coil recently published code that others can use to activate and display a "Coil Counter" at the bottom of their website(s):
The counter will show up in the lower-left portion of the page, and display how much XRP has been earned via Coil donations.
The link to the Github repo: https://github.com/interledgerjs/web-monetization-scripts#including-the-script
This is a great addition to the Coil ecosystem that a lot of sites will want to use to display and encourage Coil use; I predict that we'll be seeing this counter adopted in ubiquitous fashion by many content creators.
If you're interested, WietseWind is asking for people to RSVP:
It sounds like a great opportunity to meet the team from XRPL Labs, along with some other XRP developers and stakeholders from the Netherlands.
Wietse Wind has sent out an update for those interested: He's moving the time of the meetup to April 20th.
XRP added to Coinbase
For many of the 'old guard' in the XRP Community, the biggest news this week was Coinbase's decision to list XRP.
I had petitioned Coinbase to consider a listing in 2017 when Coinbase had played a dominant role as a Western crypto on-ramp and gatekeeper. Although its worldwide ranking has given ground to the exchanges that had made early decisions to support XRP, the US-based exchange still plays a major role, and undoubtedly moves a tremendous amount of fiat value through its pipeline.
Just days ago, Coinbase began the series of announcements with its decision to first go live with XRP support on its exchange platform, known as "Coinbase Pro." The company then followed up a few days later on February 28th with an announcement that they'd updated their main fiat on-ramp site at Coinbase.com:
Even if Coinbase's position is not as important globally as it once was, the listing is still great news for the XRP Community, and it serves as a significant morale-building achievement.
For those in the XRP Community that have wanted to see this listing for more than a year now, I have just one word for you: congratulations.
Hodl Finance is a digital lending company that is loosely related to SAVY, a peer-to-peer lending platform. The team describes Hodl Finance in simple terms:
"HODL Finance is the European crypto-backed loans on demand company serving crypto hodlers (sic) around the world."
Like other new platforms such as CredEarn, they offer interest on some types of crypto deposits, with increasing levels of interest associated with longer loan terms. 6 The site also makes it easy for crypto-related businesses to obtain funding via their platform, which is the flip side of the card in their business.
On January 4th of this year, the company decided to add support for those wishing to use their XRP as loan collateral.
Thanks to @LeoHadjiloizou (Twitter avatar) for the reminder of this interesting addition to the number of crypto lending platforms now supporting XRP.
Trade Satoshi is a UK-based exchange established in 2018.
It has a wide variety of markets, and at last count handled approximately $500 thousand dollars' worth of trades per day, placing it at approximately the 175th position among worldwide exchanges. Most of the their current volume is comprised of BTC trading pairs.
On February 28th, @LeoHadjiloizou (Twitter avatar) noted that they'd added XRP among their list of supported cryptocurrencies:
It was a wise move for the new exchange, and hopefully their decision provides additional trading volume for their platform; for XRP holders, it's another liquidity end-point to add to the list of worldwide exchanges supporting our preferred digital asset.
Stronghold is a US-based crypto exchange notable for two main reasons: It's issued its own USD-backed stablecoin known as "Stronghold USD," or "SUSD," and it has historically served as one of the main on-ramps and off-ramps for the Stellar network, and even built its 'distributed exchange' on the Stellar network. 7 8 9
On February 28th, however, Stronghold announced that they'd be adding XRP pairings, simultaneously reducing the number of Stellar pairings:
It was an interesting move, and could signal a re-positioning of the platform; it's unknown whether Stronghold has any plans to 'move' its distributed platform to the XRP Ledger, which also has a distributed exchange (DEX) where other exchanges have issued their own stablecoins.
XRP fans were enthusiastic about the news, and perhaps Stronghold is looking to strengthen its competitive position by adding high-volume pairings like XRP to move it up in the worldwide rankings; it currently ranks approximately 116th globally. I predict that the addition of XRP will help it increase its daily volume, and boost its profile higher. 10
Bittrex Upgrades Transaction Speed
On Monday, February 25th, Bittrex published information about an upgrade to their exchange platform. 11
The upgrade, according to its announcement, will accomplish the following objective:
"Once the update is completed, Bittrex and Bittrex International users will enjoy noticeably faster orderbook updates and overall order execution, as the new engine will have the capacity to execute even more orders per second. In fact, after the upgrade, your orders will be processed at a rate 20 times faster than before."
The announcement caused some on social media platforms to speculate about the impact on the xRapid solution with Ripple, and whether the changes were related to Ripple's liquidity-sourcing solution. Essentially, Bittrex serves as one leg for many xRapid transactions, providing a USD-to-XRP fiat conversion corridor.
The same announcement from Bittrex elaborated on the changes, indicating richer options for placing orders:
- Maker-Taker and other features for liquidity providers and high-volume traders
- New ways to add fiat to your accounts
- Account management improvements (access to full transaction history, account statements, and more)
- New order types and options, including Market Orders
- More Flexible Conditional Orders which will eliminate the need for reserve
- funds when making conditional orders, allowing traders more flexibility without tying up money in conditional trades
Even if these changes are not directly related to xRapid, they signal a move towards greater customer options for those using Bittrex, and serve to attract some traders looking to access these additional features.
Let's Move Crypto Into The Future
The next stage of adoption for digital assets is not more experimentation and false promises: it's the usage of a scalable, decentralized, secure, and reliable digital asset.
The days of unbridled investments in "any business with blockchain in the name" is drawing to a close. Banks, financial institutions, corporate treasurers, and small-and-medium-size enterprises are looking to use reliable technology.
Reliability in the cryptomarket is a direct function of the level of sponsorship strength, and it's apparent that the XRP Ledger is the one network with the strongest sponsorship, and its investments in supporting ecosystem technologies has paved the way for large-scale adoption.
As members of the XRP Community, we can do a lot to keep things focused on where we're going; many of our goals have been achieved, but there are more ambitious milestones that await.
No matter the role that you choose to play: Passive investor, hobby developer, small business owner, artistic creator, writer, or YouTuber, we can all share in the blinding vision of the future that is now taking shape. Decentralized "Internet money" was not a fantasy of misguided college youth; it's a reality that's been revised and improved, modernized with scalable technology.
And if you're new to crypto, welcome! Know that you have the opportunity to own - and support - the most scalable, fast, reliable and dependable digital asset: XRP
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Tyler Lastovich