We've seen how change works once an initial innovation gets some measure of attention; it proceeds in sudden bursts, followed by periods of time where customers or other stakeholders become acclimated to its new concepts and ways of working.
Think about smartphones.
I remember a time not so long ago - at least for me - when everybody was using a BlackBerry. I had one. It was almost a badge of distinction in consulting if you had a "BlackBerry" versus a normal flip phone. It served to distinguish you as an early adopter and forward thinker, which is always an important impression to leave in technology consulting.
One thing I realize now, however, is that even then, smart phones were looked upon as more of a luxury than a necessity, and some people were still using paper organizers for their contacts and phone numbers. There were Roladex's on most large executive desks, where contacts could be efficiently flipped through manually by hand. Blackberries, with their messaging capabilities and ability to digitally manage contacts, were a step above the norm.
Nobody predicted what smartphones would become. Not even after our experience with the Internet. The Internet transformed commerce, and went through the usual boom-bust cycle, until finally the world started to understand the difference between a business that had true revenue and income potential, and those that were ephemeral, money-grabbing start-ups looking to cash in on the sudden popularity of anything with a dot com in its title.
Smart phones are still transforming us. When you drive down an urban street at night, you'll notice how many faces are lit up with a blueish glow emanating from a tiny device so small that the person is craning their head downwards to read it. Maybe they're absorbed in a text conversation or reading a map.
This transformation happened quickly in the grand scheme of things, over the course of ten years or so, but when you apply that same paradigm to crypto, it will fail. And here's why:
Crypto involves people's fortunes. It represents a dream - and not just the American dream, but the dream of financial independence for people worldwide.
When people that are new to crypto think of its potential, they intuitively understand the difference between fiat money printed by their nation's central bank, and the 'power of code' to stand behind a cryptocurrency that has a limited - and dwindling - global supply.
When the concept of crypto starts to permeate peoples' psyches worldwide, we will see a bull market in crypto that is unimaginable to most.
I know that there are some XRP fans out there that bought at very 'high prices' in early 2018, and they've probably used the approach of dollar-cost averaging to lower their overall 'price of XRP' in their portfolio; and they are wondering how long they'll have to wait, and even if the market will ever present an opportunity for them to profit on their purchase.
If you are one of those people, I can only share my own investment choices and observations, and tell you what I'm doing. I've seen firsthand that crypto has but one trajectory over the long term.
And when it moves, it doesn't move slowly. In a bear market, we've been accustomed to seeing small movements - both up and down - happen over a longer period of time. But bull markets in crypto are not the same; when investors start to realize what crypto is 'about,' it truly represents a concept that is profoundly different than owning stock in a company. Owning cryptocurrency is like making a bet on the future of digital money itself, declaring that there's a good chance that citizens of the world will prefer to invest in a decentralized, no-counter-party asset rather than a currency printed by a central bank.
And people tend to take action when they feel that time is running out.
And I believe - with all the honesty of my own investment direction - that time is short. The longest crypto bear market was just over a year long. We are now close to breaking that record, and if we've learned anything in crypto, it's to respect the cyclic nature of the cryptomarket. The highs - and lows - are getting higher year-over-year, despite the click-bait headlines promoted by mainstream media.
The world is not turning away from crypto-assets; it's turning towards them in greater numbers, and those new to crypto are quickly identifying XRP as the 'most likely leader' of the next wave, which appears to be timed parallel to worldwide banking adoption of XRP.
Remember how crypto works: When it happens, it's going to happen fast.
On January 8th, Ripple formally announced the signing of a slew of new customers, including five xRapid customers. In the mix was Euro Exim Bank, which specializes in corporate accounts and payments. 1
The excitement around Euro Exim Bank caught on quickly, and the company decided to build on the momentum of the announcement, updating their corporate website with new content and a video highlighting their new partnership with Ripple:
The one-minute video communicated the key benefits of Ripple technology, and ended with a nod to the 'Runs on Ripple" motto at the end of the short presentation.
Euro Exim Bank, while officially posting modest organization size and growth numbers, may be expanding quickly in 2019 judging from the consistent upward trajectory of its published financial statements. In addition, using xRapid will most likely provide it with a competitive advantage in the marketplace: I'm interested to observe how much their bank expands in the next year.
Proof of xRapid
The cryptomarket is not a completely sane or healthy new industry.
The competition among different 'coin tribes' and the protectionist practices of early Bitcoin holders have combined to add a strangely-toxic element to what would otherwise be a pure technological innovation where the best technology naturally rises to the surface.
In the case of XRP, we have to endure negative behavior from those that are motivated - for whatever reason - to protect Bitcoin's market share.
Instead of focusing on the performance differences between the two networks, or the inconvenient facts about Bitcoin's growing centralization, or even Bitcoin's massive electrical consumption, they instead focus on other items, intentionally distracting and drawing attention away from these matters.
One example that recently came to light was a video where an anonymous individual literally makes cold calls to customer service professionals at three of the businesses that have indicated that they're xRapid customers. He proceeds to ask (harass?) the customer service employees if their organization uses Ripple technology to transfer money, and believes that he's 'broken a story' when one of them seems confused or responds with a generic comment about SWIFT payments.
The timing for this attempted market FUD could not have been worse for its creator, however, as Mercury FX highlighted one of their biggest transfers using xRapid on Twitter, and Catalyst Federal Credit Union proudly published details about their xRapid implementation, all within days of this video surfacing.
As we say on Twitter, his video didn't 'age well:'
After the tweet from Mercury FX, several XRP Community members enthusiastically searched for more transactions on the ledger, and started conversations about the nuts-and-bolts steps involved in xRapid payment flows.
Here is the video from Catalyst Federal Credit Union:
It was a fairly specific update from Catalyst, and I get a strong sense of pride from the c-level executives at that organization; I'm guessing that their use of xRapid will allow them to achieve a high level of profitability when compared to their competitors, and afford them a significant short-term market advantage.
Congratulations to both Mercury FX and Catalyst, and it's great to hear about specific xRapid implementation details.
Future xRapid Customers
I've seen, unfortunately, some surprisingly (bad) behavior from those looking to protect Bitcoin's fading market share.
In this case, we have a self-described early Bitcoin investor literally cold-calling the businesses that have already publicly indicated that they are xRapid customers, supposedly to 'confirm' the information with a secondary source at the institution. What do we call this behavior?
Professional reporters do not ordinarily engage in these tactics.
It would be akin to somebody calling up a local CVS Pharmacy to ask a cashier if CVS gets most of its electricity from renewable resources. While important to the person calling, a customer service professional isn't really expected to be knowledgeable about such matters.
The same is true of a customer service professional at a bank; while some may know about payment flows, and how SWIFT operates versus Ripple technology, the institution's customers probably won't care as long as their payment is processed in real-time and at a low cost.
Unfortunately, if this is the type of behavior that we can expect from competitors in the cryptomarket, perhaps Ripple should keep its xRapid customers 'under wraps' for now, and only reveal details where it's fully anticipated that this negative behavior - let's just call it what it is; harassment - will occur.
In the meantime, we should change the focus back to proof-of-work and the topics that its fans are attempting to avoid, and start putting pressure on our local elected officials to put a stop to Bitcoin mining electrical usage in our various jurisdictions.
After all, insane energy consumption by Bitcoin miners is a real problem, not a manufactured one.
Coins.ph is Acquired
One of the 'partner exchanges' announced by Ripple prior to the SWELL conference in 2018 is Coins.ph, a Philippine-based crypto exchange that supports local fiat conversions into crypto.
It is a full-service exchange, complying with KYC and AML checks that go along with fiat conversions.
The announcement that they would be an xRapid exchange partner was very positive news, as it indicated that Ripple was targeting one of the high-frequency remittance corridors for xRapid: that of the Philippines.
On January 18th, it was announced that Coins.ph was being purchased by another company called Gojektech (Go-Jek).
For those that don't know it already, Go-Jek is a fast-growing Internet application that is focused on motorcycle taxis, in which owners provide rides to customers throughout urban areas of Indonesia. It's an amazing story about how a small company managed to rocket to massive numbers almost overnight. 2
On January 18th, it was announced that Go-Jek purchased Coins.ph for $72 million dollars. 3 According to TechCrunch, the CEO of Coins.ph was in the process of looking for more investment via a new funding round, when the Go-Jek deal suddenly came together:
“We had to make a decision on how we want to continue growing our business, and we felt like ultimately together with Go-Jek we could build something that is overall bigger and better for our customers.”
Further on, the article noted that Go-Jek had so far developed its own "GoPay" service which handles money transfers, offline payment, and other services. Grab, a competitor to Go-Jek, utilizes its own similar payment service.
It's not known if Ripple has approached either Go-Jek or Grab with any sort of proposal, but it's interesting that Coins.ph is a Ripple xRapid partner, and can handle settlement in a variety of currencies, including XRP, US Dollars, or the Philippine Peso (PHP).
The new investment from Go-Jek is a positive development for Coins.ph in any event, and it's something for XRP fans to keep their eye on as xRapid's footprint continues to expand globally in 2019.
Avasant is a global management consulting firm which competes with the usual 'Big Four' firms in specific areas of business globalization, including outsourcing and industry evaluations. It also provides intel, not unlike some of its competitors, in the form of periodic reports.
It publishes a series of reports that specialize in areas of cutting-edge technology, including blockchain.
In July of 2018, they released a new report titled "Blockchain Services RadarView 2018 Preparing for the Next Big Thing." 4
The report zeroed in on sixteen firms, dividing them into categories and then rating them against one another. One of these companies was UST Global, a company that offers software integration services for various technologies across the board, including that of blockchain technology.
The Avasant document included this statement when describing solutions that UST Global offers clients: 5
"Solution for an end-to-end Ripple-based international payments solution."
In some technical sales collateral, it's challenging to discern hyperbole from actual capability; however, even if this statement is more marketing than substance, it indicates a growing demand for blockchain technology-related services that include knowledge of Ripple solutions. It's a positive market signal for the RippleNet ecosystem.
Fintech Week - Washington DC
Fintech Week in Washington DC was held during the second week of November in 2018, at three different venues around the city. The event was a must-attend conference for those in the fintech industry that wanted to interface with the regulators that directly impact their industry in the United States. Keynote Speakers included the former Chairman of the FDIC, the current Chairman of the US CFTC, the US Comptroller of the Currency, and the Chief Lawyer for the US Department of the Treasury. 7
Ryan Zagone, Ripple's Director of Regulatory Relations, participated in a panel discussion on the first day, titled "Crypto Assets: New Developments." The event was facilitated by Ross Leckow, Deputy General Counsel of the Legal Department for the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 8
I hope that we'll eventually see some video of the panel discussion, because it included Ryan Zagone and other fintech professionals that currently seem to intersect between blockchain technology and regulation.
In addition to participating on the panel, Ryan Zagone also provided comments that were subsequently quoted by DailyHodl in an article published on January 16th. Speaking about the need for regulatory clarity, Ryan Zagone noted what was missing from regulators: 9
“The challenge for adoption comes back to policy. The policy uncertainty around some of the assets has limited adoption, particularly here in the US ...
... Today, the policy certainty in the US exists for Bitcoin and Ethereum, despite the fact that those are China-controlled platforms. So activity goes to those platforms. What we need to do from a policy perspective in the US is look at places where there are uncertainty.
And one place I’m speaking directly for me here is XRP, where it looks like Bitcoin. It’s decentralized. It’s open-source. We have a small 7% of the validation power on that. Rather small on there. Giving clarity to those ones that are very similar to Bitcoin and Ethereum that have the same characteristics and should be classified the same way. And then we’re creating a level playing field across all the cryptos.
I’m not anti-Bitcoin or anti-Ethereum, by any means. I think there’s a lot of great potential and breakthrough there. But we need to have a level playing field so the market can pick which ones they want to use and not be, as today they are, hindered by regulatory uncertainty."
His comments were spot-on when it comes to what most of us that follow XRP have observed: a straight-forward indication of Bitcoin's status, while the competitors to the 'model T' of crypto still await points of clarity.
It's 2019, and yet most of the crypto networks in existence are still awaiting clarification from US regulators as entrepreneurs head for the exits to much more crypto-friendly locations around the world. Reading Ryan Zagone's words, I cannot help but get the impression that time is running out for the United States to take positive steps to ensure that it's not left behind when it comes to blockchain technology.
Coil has emerged from a multi-month period of time where it seemed that the entire team was operating in 'stealth mode,' posting very little online. On January 17th, they indicated via Twitter that they'd processed everybody that had signed up on their 'wait list' for Coil membership, activating an unpublished number of new subscribers:
A follow-up tweet hinted at some of the work that the team has been doing, probably with Strata Labs to enhance and strengthen their infrastructure for the project prior to formal production roll-out.
In addition to the announcement about their soft roll-out, Ben Sharafian published a blog indicating an updated approach to how Coil is pursuing web monetization, called "Simplifying Web Monetization."
The gist of the article was that instead of relying on scripts, that the Coil team is now advocating use of a "meta" HTML tag for indicating Coil monetization. In his blog, Ben Sharafian noted that this new approach brings additional benefits from three perspectives: Security, performance, and simplicity.
With regards to security, he had this to say:
"Loading external scripts into your site is a big risk. The previous version of Web Monetization required external scripts in order to work. For sites that dealt with sensitive data, it could be a deal-breaker.
Web Monetization is now a static HTML tag. That means it can’t be used to compromise any sites."
In addition to supporting greater website security, the new approach is also simpler for website owners & operators to implement, relying instead on an extension in the user's browser. This eliminates the need for the scripting code that was previously experimented with in the first version of Coil.
The main website for Coil still contains the "Preview" label, but it's becoming apparent that the company is readying itself for the onslaught of new subscriptions that will eventually arise when they formally 'go live' with their service.
One of the scariest researchers in crypto is Thomas Silkjær.
With immediate enthusiasm, he was one of the first hobbyist data miners to query the public-facing Google database of XRP Ledger transactions that WietseWind published online. Previously, he'd been using free tools such as Bithomp to track wallet movements and analyze ledger activity at a low level, tracing wallets to their origin points, and connecting the dots to identify large XRP movements.
He was one of the most persistent detectives to track the wallet movements of the trader known as "BearWhale" in 2018.
With the Google BigQuery XRP Database now available, he was able to sort and cross-section data with greater precision. After WietseWind published the Google BigQuery database, Thomas sharpened his skills, analyzing the ledger, writing blogs about how others can do their own analysis, and then created his own graph database of the XRP Ledger - something that's never been done before.
And, when he saw scammers taking advantage of new crypto investors, unlike others, he did not blame the victim. He tracked down the scammers:
Now, those that prey on the hopes and dreams of others will face criminal prosecution. It's almost impossible to 'cash out' of an exchange without providing KYC documentation, and most likely, these individuals can be identified successfully at the point of fiat transfer.
Their days of enjoying their ill-gotten gains are now numbered, thanks to a digital detective in our midst.
Verso Exchange is a fascinating platform that intends to bridge the gap between centralized and decentralized exchanges, and attempts to capitalize on the strengths of each. For example, decentralized exchanges tend to be more attractive to crypto veterans that are cognizant of security around their crypto holdings. However, these decentralized exchanges have typically lacked liquidity. 10
Verso attempts to bridge the two together, to leverage the liquidity provided by a centralized version of its exchange.
It's an interesting idea, and it's one of several potential decentralized exchanges that are due to come online in the next year. Verso plans to go through an Alpha and Beta launch of its platform in quarter one and two of this year, respectively. 11
The centralized portion of their exchange is planned to be fully compliant with regulations that require KYC and AML, and the team's plan is to also facilitate fiat conversion into crypto. This implies interfaces to the traditional banking infrastructure.
Along these lines, one XRP fan noticed that the whitepaper for the exchange also points out the benefits of possible usage of Ripple's xCurrent and xRapid solution for handling this portion of the business:
"... through Ripple’s xRapid and xCurrent, Verso will be enabling transparent fiat to cryptocurrency settlements through Verso’s Fiat Exchange Gateway (VFEG). Upon deploying VFEG to South East Asia, the roadmap is to expand into the Middle East, major East Asia markets, Latin America, Australia, Europe, Africa and North America."
In most cases, XRP fans are preoccupied with the listing of XRP on an exchange, and in this case, there is even more for us to be enthusiastic about when it comes to Verso, since they might also pioneer the use of xRapid as one of the first exchanges to use it to settle movement of money onto a crypto exchange. Thanks to @XrpCenter (Twitter avatar) for the heads-up on the contents of the Verso whitepaper. 12
Bitrue Expands its XRP Listings
Bitrue, a Singapore-based exchange that began operations in 2018, has seen the wisdom of using XRP as a base pairing early on.
From its initial roll-out in mid-2018, to the present day, Bitrue has used XRP as a base pair, ramping up the number of currency markets it supports as we entered 2019. Their latest announcement built on that momentum, and announced more pairings to add to the list:
There are now a total of 26 XRP pairings on Bitrue, along with a myriad of other choices for traders.
Bitrue has also expressed, for their part, interest in eventually becoming an xRapid partner; this has consistently been communicated on more than one occasion, and it would be an interesting new corridor for Ripple to consider, depending on if the exchange can meet the requirements for an xRapid partnership.
BitPoint is a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange that's been in business since 2016, and has offices in Japan, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The company also does business in Malaysia, and is owned by Remixpoint, Inc. 13
On December 12th, the company announced that they were opening shop in Panama:
The article linked in the tweet indicated that Bitpoint Panama would be supporting direct USD pairings, which means that it will operate as a direct crypto on-ramp for those looking to convert their fiat into crypto.
I think the addition of a new Panamanian crypto exchange supporting XRP is a positive development, and hopefully we'll see it also support local fiat currency exchange for crypto as well, which may open up new corridors for XRP.
Coinfield is a large Canadian-based crypto exchange that added support for XRP in February of 2018, and announced at the end of September of last year that they planned to use XRP as a base currency as well. 14 It was an exciting development, because Coinfield is also a direct Canadian fiat-to-crypto on-ramp.
Making good on their promise to use XRP as a base currency, Coinfield began to methodically add more pairings later in the year, with corresponding updates and announcements on Twitter. 15
“In a very short amount of time, XRP has proven itself to be one of the most reliable and most cost-efficient blockchain networks in the industry. By adding XRP as a base currency in all trading pairs, our users can move funds in and out of different exchanges or different wallets in a matter of seconds. We are directly benefiting our users with a stable, proven base.”
Coinfield announced that they are available already in over 100 countries, and vowed to continue this aggressive expansion, with the goal of making the platform available to customers worldwide.
I think it's great that Coinfield is choosing to use XRP as one of their base currencies, and I think it's also important for XRP investors to support the exchanges which in turn support the XRP ecosystem. It's definitely something to keep in mind for both Canadian and other international customers that are able to use Coinfield.
On January 18th, @LeoHadjiloizou (Twitter avatar) tweeted that he'd compiled a list of all of the current XRP escrows that Ripple manages:
The link in the tweet navigates the user to a website where they can view all of the escrows in summary fashion, as well as view the total amount locked away at the bottom: 17
This page is a new feature of his website, XRP Arcade, which has an enormous amount of valuable and original content, organized in a fashion that is unique and usable for many that are fans of data analysis. For individual crypto researchers, XRP Arcade is a must-have in their list of links for researching the current state of the XRP Ledger.
Have you ever wanted to see a list of all the exchanges that use XRP as a base currency? It's in there. How about a listing of all 864 XRP markets globally? He's compiled and published that as well. Take a look, bookmark it, and explore: XRP Arcade
And while you're at it, consider leaving him a tip. Leonidas is one of the most dedicated compilers of XRP information that I've encountered!
XRP Telegram Bot
Denario Research is an independent developer that has published XRP-related development and guides in the past, particularly for those wanting to become Codius hosts. 18
He has continued his work, contributing a series of videos about how to 'Code an XRP Telegram Bot,' on YouTube. The informational links and announcements for the video series were done on Reddit, via his 'Denario Research' avatar. Here is the first video in his series:
Note that there are eight total videos (so far) for this subject.
It's great to see a developer tackling such a popular topic for crypto traders; for those looking to purchase or follow information about this trading bot, he provides a link to a new Twitter account specifically created for that purpose, called the Denario bot.
Ready Yourself for What's to Come
Do not lose patience with crypto.
I've seen dramatic market cycles before, and I know how destructive they can be to human psychology; the cryptomarket will go lower than you are comfortable with, and will rise higher than you expect. Unfortunately, these are two sides of the same coin, and it's more than some new investors can absorb.
If you own XRP, you have made a choice to purchase the cryptoasset with the most upside potential, measured by its enormous use cases.
The world, in the meantime, is learning about cryptocurrency and what it means to own digital money not issued by any government. In fact, some of the world's people are using it to hedge against volatile national currencies in the modern era, choosing to own a digital asset that can easily be exchanged with anybody else in the world for value.
XRP's value is recognized across the world the same way in Uganda as it is in Mongolia or in the United States. You can exchange it with anybody across the world for its market value, and that is the strength of no-counter-party decentralized assets; they are good anywhere you reside, and can facilitate commerce without regards to any man-made, artificial political divisions.
You and I are both still 'early to the party' when it comes to crypto.
I predict that there will eventually be two classes of nouveau-riche borne from crypto-assets: Those that were the original 'early adopters' such as Chris Larsen, Brad Garlinghouse, David Schwartz, and Stefan Thomas, and the rest of us 'Earlies' that will eventually capitalize on accumulation of digital assets at their currently-low prices.
The crypto-market is notoriously cyclical, and the bull markets happen with increasing speed and breathtaking volume.
Is it time for yet another cycle in crypto? The longest bear market in crypto's brief history was just over one year long. You must judge for yourself if you think we are at a point where the next cycle will begin, but it's evident from increasing levels of platform investment by mainstream finance that experts believe that the 'next wave' will dwarf the last one.
The cryptomarkets are fickle and high-risk; but for those of us that own XRP, it's all a part of the package, and we look forward to what 2019 has to bring - in terms of massive worldwide adoption as a store of value, as a speculative investment, but most of all, as a medium of exchange for moving money across the globe.
XRP is a stand-out when it comes to performance, scalability, security, decentralization, and censorship-resistance; and it will be a leader when it comes to true, utility-driven demand that will underpin these increasing levels of speculative interest from a global population that is putting a label on their financial dreams: XRP.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Marc-Olivier Jodoin