Subtle Observations of Leadership

Hodor

Hodor

I blog about Ripple & XRP. FULL DISCLOSURE: All views are my own. I do not work for Ripple; I am not a professional financial analyst, and the majority of my crypto holdings are XRP.

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With all the slick marketing that now pervades the cryptomarket, it's sometimes difficult to pay attention to the small things.   It's the concept of distraction, and unfortunately, most people are vulnerable to its effects.  

When headlines on social media promote conflict over content, or the news looks for a sound bite that will 'hook' onlookers, the quiet information and messages are lost - and it's those salient points, sometimes swirled around like grains of sand in an undertow, that can reveal valuable insights.

Unless you are able to attend a crypto conference in person, or have another opportunity to interact directly with some of the companies, organizations, or individuals championing your crypto-asset, you're forced to learn from information that is 'out there' in cyberspace - information available to anybody that cares to take the time to look.  

In the case of XRP, we know that several companies could dramatically impact the near-and-long-term adoption of the digital asset.   While there are many companies that are building on or using XRP, the biggest company among them is Ripple.   One subtlety about Ripple is that many of the original founders of XRP that eventually formed the company still work there - either actively in a day-to-day role, or on the Board of Directors.   One example is David Schwartz, their current Chief Technology Officer (CTO).  

For those that are new to XRP, there is a reason we hold David Schwartz in high esteem;  his actions bespeak a humble, thoughtful, and precise scientific mind.   He has - before and after his promotion to a C-Level executive - taken the time to interact with those in the XRP community.  

This is the sort of nuance that may be lost if new crypto traders are just looking at the headlines, but it's an important observation that can help you understand the culture of an entire company, along with the people running it.   A poster on Reddit recently was surprised to see that, in addition to all his other interactions, David Schwartz is an active contributor to a community site for developers, called Stack Exchange. 1

On Stack Exchange, individual developers contribute their knowledge to try and help others with difficult tasks, or author content that can be used in open-source projects.   In this case, you can find a wealth of contributions from him on the topic of C and C++ programming;  he is often answering questions completely unrelated to XRP.  2  Yes, he's a noted speaker on topics of C++ architecture;  but contributing in a volunteer capacity is not required.   Yet he does it anyway.  

It's these types of subtleties that you must evaluate when assessing leadership.  And in this case, it exemplifies the culture that is part of the largest company championing XRP adoption.  

Ripple News

On October 12th, Ripple profiled a video released over two months prior, titled "Liquidity Provisioning:"

The next day, I covered the video in a blog, and I assumed that Ripple would be releasing an Insights article to accompany the new video.  

But no article was forthcoming.

In fact, the video was notable for its absence of coverage ahead of the SWELL conference, and I believe that this timing was intentional:  I believe (un-sourced) that Ripple wanted to wait until the formal announcement of xRapid's production release before talking at length about usage of XRP as a liquidity provisioning alternative within RippleNet.   Instead, Ripple focused on revealing xRapid exchange partners (Bittrex, Bitso & Coins.ph) two weeks later, setting the stage for a dramatic customer announcement at SWELL in the first week of October.  

Now that the formal announcement is in the rear-view mirror, Ripple released a new Insights article about the video, stating:

"RippleNet supports three types of liquidity arrangements:

  • Traditional bank-to-bank fiat relationships, also known as nostro accounts.  This arrangement is supported because it can be optimal for high volume transaction corridors and uses existing bank-to-bank relationships and accounts.  
  • Third party fiat relationships.  This allows banks to prioritize those nostro accounts that make the most sense for them, but then augment them with third party relationships that can overcome the high cost of liquidity in more expensive corridors.  Banks can keep the nostro accounts they want and rely on this third party to handle their medium and lesser volume transaction corridors.  
  • The digital asset XRP.  Financial institutions can use XRP and its inherent benefits of speed, scalability and low cost to expand reach into exotic or lower volume corridors without holding new or additional nostro accounts.  XRP becomes an on-demand liquidity pool for transaction parties.  "

The most exciting part of the new Insights article was not referenced in the linked video, however.   In the Insights article, Ripple talked about 'pathfinding,' stating:

"With RippleNet’s pathfinding capabilities, financial institutions can even link together multiple liquidity arrangements within the same transaction..."

If I didn't know any better, this was a description of Multi-Hop, the feature that Ripple profiled in a separate Insights article on September 28th.   3   But let me be clear - the description in Ripple's Insights article seems to go much further than Ripple's description of Multi-Hop:  they are now talking about how a single transaction could potentially utilize different liquidity options.  

While I had speculated about this in a previous blog, suggesting that banks only using xCurrent could potentially utilize xRapid to settle "down the line" via a separate bank that (in turn) is using xRapid itself, this article lends weight to that interpretation:  We now know that banks could utilize more than one liquidity option, depending on which one is the least-expensive route found by this new 'path-finding' capability.  

It's a narrow topic, and I predict that most of those following XRP won't 'get it' - at least not at first glance.   This component opens the possibility of any bank on RippleNet leveraging the efficiencies of using more than one constituent liquidity approach to settle a large transaction - including using XRP.   I'm sure there's more to it than that, but the concept, elaborated from the more generic information in the video, has now been made public.  

Setting aside the exciting potential for using digital assets like XRP, this path-finding option is an amazing innovation for banks and remittance processors:  Ripple is basically saying that their software will automatically determine the cheapest path for completing a transaction, helping any institution arrive at profound cost savings.  

This is an exciting announcement, and goes beyond just the release of the video in early August;  it's an important development for those of us following the real-world use of crypto-assets to settle international transactions.  

Official Announcement by Catalyst Reveals Details

Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union is the name of the credit union that is implementing xRapid for sourcing liquidity;  it's headquartered in the United States in Plano, Texas, with three other branch offices in California, Georgia, and Hawaii.  
On October 1st, Ripple announced the first three institutions that were to go live with xRapid, including MercuryFX, Cuallix, and Catalyst.  4

It was a ground-breaking announcement, and was followed up by representatives of each of these organizations participating in the SWELL conference.   In one of the SWELL sessions, titled "The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room - Digital Asset Adoption," Brad Ganey, the SVP and COO of Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union, presented commentary about his organization's experience in implementing xRapid.   5

And the latest news?

An XRP fan - Leonidas - noticed that, on October 9th, Catalyst published an update on their xRapid implementation, indicating:  6

"Through our subsidiary companies’ technology platforms, Catalyst Corporate will leverage XRP – through xRapid – to test the instant transfer of money across borders on behalf of our member credit unions.  We have signed a production contract and are currently building out our test plan."

Usually, the building out of a test plan in an implementation life cycle indicates that the construction phase of the project is nearing completion.   This is very encouraging for those that are following xRapid developments, and is also instructive in terms of which companies would be responsible for any material increases in XRP volume levels detected from Bitso, as Catalyst indicated they will be targeting the corridor to Mexico:

"Catalyst Corporate will target sending its first international transaction via Ripple’s network to Mexico."

I don't know how long Catalyst is planning for its test phase, but this latest information provides some additional guidance to those of us that are closely following xRapid news.   It's exciting no matter the details, as xRapid's production deployments - for Catalyst and others - are outlined in sharp relief.  

XRP News

The name of the next major upgrade to XRP is known informally as Cobalt.   The architectural underpinnings of Cobalt were authored by Ethan MacBrough, a computer scientist & researcher that previously worked for Ripple (he is now a Lead Scientist at Coil).  

He organized his findings in a paper, published on February 21st, 2018.  

Cobalt, if implemented, would result in a significant improvement on the current consensus algorithm used for validating transactions;  these improvements would include greater through-put (transactions per second), and increased fault-tolerance.   The anticipated improvements are speculative at present, but some have predicted dramatic advancements for network metrics.  

In a series of tweets responding to a question from Kieran Kelly, Ethan MacBrough indicated that Cobalt would not be implemented in 2018.   In the same thread on Twitter, he also indicated that the peer review of the document was a success, but that the implementation of the changes would 'take a long time.'  His honest answer may not be the response some XRP fans were hoping for, but it indicates a careful and considerate approach towards code governance that I definitely like to see.  

It is also reflective of Coil team members sticking to the facts as they best know them, rather than avoiding tough topics.   It's this ethical approach to communication that gives me even more confidence.   If Cobalt will result in the metrics and performance anticipated, I don't mind waiting a bit longer!

Money 20/20 Payments Race: Wirex Survey

The "Payments Race" is a race between cities that is sponsored by Money 20/20, which organizes a series of conferences focused on payments.   The contest is reminiscent of a reality television series, where approximately five different teams compete to race between two cities using only one form of payment.   In previous races, gold coins, mobile payments, and cash have won.   For the next race, there are five new competitors:

  • Team Card: Brittany Cooper
  • Team Cash: Denis Trufin
  • Team Checks: Renee Howard
  • Team Cryptocurrency: Max Meilleur
  • Team Mobile Devices: Megan Hayes

The competition is probably more of a publicity stunt than a true race, but regardless, the cryptocurrency chosen for "Team Cryptocurrency" will gain some level of attention.

Wirex, the company that hosts a variety of banking services and a crypto wallet & exchange, created a poll via Twitter to gauge their customers' preference for which cryptocurrency should represent "Team Cryptocurrency," and thus far the voting has been dramatically in favor of one digital asset in particular:

Wirex survey

The sample size is quite large and statistically significant:  support for XRP on Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year, and the social media momentum for XRP adoption has been felt across the cryptoverse.   Wirex's survey confirms that XRP has been bubbling with increased levels of interest.  

XRP Training via Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft's signature platform for web development based on Microsoft (and other) technology.   It allows developers to create and deploy applications on a cloud platform using a software-as-a-service (SAAS) approach, and has been consistently updated by Microsoft to include new technologies such as IoT support.  12   13

Azure also hosts a marketplace for training materials by third parties.  

On October 12th, DeistXrp (Twitter handle) noticed that this marketplace included, among a variety of other blockchain training, a package for those looking to learn how to 'build on XRP.' For those that are interested in constructing their own application, follow the link here:  Link to Training  14

EnterBillions

Enter Billions is a small group of developers who are putting together the tools for building streaming payments that integrate with the XRP Tip Bot, and possibly their own browser extension available in the Chrome Web Store.  

Enter billions Website

Their initial goals are to build at least one application that integrates with social media, called "You're Welcome" or "YW" for short.   Its goal is to use streaming XRP payments to help social media users reward positive behavior online, specifically Twitter in its first incarnation.  

Paycent

Paycent is a Singapore-based company that provides two main services:  a mobile wallet, and a debit/credit card funded directly with crypto holdings.   The service is connected to either one, and essentially, the company converts the crypto-asset into a local fiat currency on-the-fly.   How does it do this?   The white-paper specifies:  15   16

"The digital asset to fiat conversion takes place automatically at the time of transaction.  The Paycent App itself functions as an exchange where users can conveniently convert all types of blockchain assets into Paycentos tokens and vice versa without any service fee incurred.  Users can choose among the different digital assets for any particular transaction or purchase from the Paycent App."

The service isn't a unique concept, despite what it communicated in the marketing material in the white-paper and their website.   However, it will provide another option for crypto investors to spend their crypto on daily purchases.   And on October 12th, they announced that they were adding support for XRP. 17

The company was founded by an ICO, which is still ongoing.  18

The addition of Paycent to the XRP liquidity ecosystem is a welcome addition;  it will be interesting to see how many crypto owners sign up for the service, as the card fee is a bit higher than some traditional card offers that only support fiat currency.   I think it's a valuable addition to crypto overall, and provides an avenue for investors to spend some of their funds on daily bills if necessary.  

Arrington Capital - LCX - Binance

When I covered the creation of LCX, a new Binance-backed European crypto on-ramp for enabling customers to convert their Euros to crypto, I neglected to mention the connection to the Arrington XRP Capital Fund.   LCX is based in Liechtenstein, and in fact, that's what the "L" stands for in the acronym, which, in its full version is "Liechtenstein Cryptoassets Exchange."  19

The exchange was formally announced the week of August 17th this year, with both Michael Arrington and Changpeng Zhao ("CZ" for short) participating in a discussion with Monty Metzger, the CEO of LCX.  

The event was discussed on Michael Arrington's XRP Capital Fund website.   This was market-shaking news, as Binance has become one of the leading global exchanges in crypto, and CZ's star has risen along with his exchange.   In fact, Michael Arrington spent some time comparing the CEO of Binance to the likes of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos.   The article glowed about CZ, but it neglected to mention much about the new exchange - LCX.  

However, recently, an XRP fan noticed that the XRP Capital Fund website had been updated with information about partnerships & investments:  20

XRP Capital Fund Investments

I knew that Michael Arrington was impressed with CZ and Binance, and investing in LCX is a step in the right direction.   It hasn't been formally announced which crypto-assets that LCX will support at launch;  however, one of the pictures released from the event formally announcing LCX was with CZ, Michael Arrington, and Ethan Beard, Ripple's Senior Vice President of Xpring, which is Ripple's fund for investing in businesses that specifically support the adoption of XRP:

eTotor message

There's been no formal announcement, but based on the presence of Ethan Beard, I wouldn't bet against LCX supporting professional custody of XRP at launch.  

CrypToe Man Gets New Website

CrypToe Man (Twitter avatar) is an individual that sells crypto-related clothing - specifically known for his socks - to anybody interested.   He was made famous by various members of Ripple's executive staff - including Brad Garlinghouse - displaying his wears on high-profile videos and panel discussions.  

On October 11th, he announced a new website via Twitter:

Crypt Toe Man Tweet

While he's known for the socks, his new store carries more than just his signature apparel item;  here is an XRP watch, recently seen on the wrist of David Schwartz, Ripple's Chief Technology Officer:

picture of XRP watch

Wearing XRP memorabilia is an interesting way to break the ice about XRP and cryptocurrency generally;  the public is becoming more and more interested as time passes, and the more that we can help XRP gain exposure, the more likely it is to be adopted by mainstream designers, developers, financial institutions, and crypto investors.  

'The Little Things' are Important

Every project has leaders; even decentralized ones.  

In the crypto space, each cryptographic network usually has at least one sponsoring institution, whether it's a nonprofit foundation, a company, or a governmental unit.   When you examine these sponsoring organizations, you'll see that they usually have clear, delineated lines of decision-making.   As an amateur crypto researcher and investor, it's up to you to correctly gauge the effectiveness of this leadership, and see past the marketing spin that is usually directed outwards.  

How does that organization communicate?   What have the team members participated in prior to their roles in that organization?   What non-organization activities and leadership endeavors are these individuals involved in?

Those are all good questions for you to ask as you do your own research (DYOR), but in addition to those, you should also think about the difficult-to-identity characteristics:   What does that organization not say or do?   What markets is that organization not targeting with their network and its preferred crypto-asset?   Sometimes the absence of something can reveal the profile of an organization's leadership just as clearly as those that are formally communicated.  

XRP leaves you with a number of companies and organizations to look at in addition to Ripple.   Coil, Omni, PolySign, Uphold, and small companies benefiting from further Xpring funding are all good candidates to examine.   The leaders of these organizations vary in their background, geography, and characteristics;  some may eschew the spotlight.   Others are master communicators that seem to magnify the impact of their message.  

I'm not well-versed on all of these companies, but I've noticed a few things about Ripple:

  • Ripple hires new people to complement gaps in talent
  • Ripple handles itself ethically
  • Ripple conforms to regulation or even anticipated regulation
  • Ripple steers clear of distractions

Do you notice how, even though each of these characteristics could materially contribute to the greater success of championing XRP adoption, that very few news outlets would be willing to cover such topics?   It's because they don't have bright lights or 'pizazz' in terms of a news story.  

Sometimes the hardest work for an organization to do, is to focus on the quiet aspects of leadership - the areas that are not pushed forward on a stage.   It's this wisdom of management that's on display at Ripple, Coil and other organizations in the XRP ecosystem.   Remember this:  While the larger news media may want to distract you with sound bites, you must look deeper, and discover 'the little things' that will catapult XRP's adoption.
xrp symbol
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Matteo Vistocco

  1. https://old.reddit.com/r/Ripple/comments/9mo3e5/til_david_schwartz_is_an_extremely_active_user_on/
  2. https://stackoverflow.com/users/721269/david-schwartz
  3. https://ripple.com/insights/siam-commercial-bank-pioneers-ripplenets-multi-hop-feature/
  4. https://ripple.com/insights/ripple-highlights-record-year-xrapid-now-commercially-available/
  5. https://youtu.be/2Ihw7BLK9ak
  6. http://catalystcorp.org/communications/catalyst-news/2018/10/09/catalyst-corporate-partners-with-ripple-on-blockchain-for-cross-border-payments?pid=4&selfid=33&tid=2
  7. https://breakermag.com/about-breaker/
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Currency_Group
  9. https://grayscale.co/xrp-investment-trust/
  10. https://grayscale.co/bitcoin-investment-trust/
  11. https://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-price-spikes-but-bull-reversal-is-still-1k-away/
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Azure
  13. https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/overview/what-is-azure/
  14. https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/techlatest.rippledevelopersuit?tab=Overview
  15. https://paycent.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/PYN-Whitepaper.pdf?v=4.1
  16. https://paycent.com/faq/
  17. https://twitter.com/PaycentGlobal/status/1050724828510994432
  18. https://paycent.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/ENGLISH-Whitepaper-09122018.pdf
  19. https://medium.com/lcx/lcx-announces-liechtenstein-cryptoassets-exchange-c72a2f997a26
  20. http://arringtonxrpcapital.com/

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Hodor

Hodor

I blog about Ripple & XRP. FULL DISCLOSURE: All views are my own. I do not work for Ripple; I am not a professional financial analyst, and the majority of my crypto holdings are XRP.

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