What happens when you show up at a friend's house ahead of schedule? In my experience, I've been set to work to help move furniture, prepare food, or set up tables or chairs. In essence, I've been "put to work," even though I transform eventually into my new role as party attendee when other guests start to arrive.
It's something good friends do for each other; it's informal, and we all (generally) have generous natures enough to want to lend a helping hand.
Is this what happened to us in crypto? Are we all looking around at each other and saying 'well, the rest of the guests will show up eventually, but in the meantime, let's get things ready?'
My guess is that you may be silently grinning to yourself with knowledge of how accurate this metaphor may be; if you look at the overall size of the market, even with the most recent autumn rallies that have been starting to bubble crypto steadily upwards, the numbers indicate we haven't hit our stride. At last glance, the entire market capitalization ranged somewhere in the neighborhood of $210 billion dollars.
Whether or not you are in the category of crypto followers that is thankful for a continuing opportunity to purchase crypto-assets at low prices, this diminutive capitalization indicates an absence of expected market participants.
And so we wait for more guests to arrive, and in late 2018, some of us have hints that they are starting to join the party. Whether it's Ripple's sudden jump in institutional sales of XRP, the surging popularity of the XRP Tip Bot, or the rush of people wanting to monetize their websites with Coil, there is an electricity in the air.
This crypto party may not begin with an official announcement, but something tells me that we'll know when it's in full swing.
On Friday, November 9th, Ripple announced via Twitter that MUFG Bank, the largest Japanese bank and fifth-largest bank worldwide, is planning on implementing Ripple technology to underpin payment flows to and from Japan and Brazil: 1
The tweet referenced a press release that went into greater detail about the banking giant's plans, and featured a short history of the two banks' previous dealings, which included an investment by MUFG in 1973. It turns out MUFG's history in Brazil can be traced all the way back to 1919, coinciding with a large wave of immigration from Japan to Brazil. 2
The announcement was not specific about which Ripple solution would be used; regardless, the news that one of the largest banks in the world is planning on using Ripple tech to move money across the Pacific ocean for such a significant corridor was received very positively by all stakeholders concerned.
The World Bank lists Brazil as having had approximately $1.3 billion in remittance outflows in 2016, which puts it 34th worldwide. 3 While the corridor to Brazil may not be a major one from a comparative perspective, keep in mind that the specific Japan-Brazil corridor may be one of the largest individual channels for money transfer when measured from one specific country to another.
Emi Yoshikawa, Ripple's Head of Global Operations & Partnerships, tweeted about the historical reasons for this large remittance corridor:
There's a lot more to the story behind the size of this relationship between Brazil and Japan; and for those of us interested in how Ripple technology is reshaping international banking, news of MUFG's deal with Banco Bradesco is another example of tangible progress.
TechCrunch is a technology news site and multi-media company founded in 2005 by Michael Arrington and Keith Teare. 4 The company collects and publishes general industry information about companies, and also hosts its own series of conferences throughout the year in different countries. 5
The company's next two-day conference will be from November 19-20 in Shenzhen, China. 6
Ripple will be represented by Emi Yoshikawa:
The TechCrunch conferences tend to be about more than just blockchain technology, instead focusing on a wide swath of fintech and general technology innovation. The attendee list includes large corporations, as well as venture capitalists and startups, and sponsors a "hack-a-thon" during the weekend leading up to the conference.
SEB Comments about RippleNet Results
On October 23rd, an online magazine called "The Banker" interviewed Paula da Silva, Head of Transaction Services at Skandinaviska Enskilda Bank (SEB), a Swedish bank. It was part of the activities associated with the SIBOS conference from October 22 - 25:
About three minutes into the video, the interviewer, Joy Macknight, asks Paula da Silva about what SEB is doing with Ripple:
Question (Joy Macknight): "I also know that SEB has been working with Ripple in cross-border payments. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you're doing with Ripple; again, what are the benefits?"
Answer (Paula da Silva): "We are exploring the DLT (distributed ledger technology). We are not using any crypto; we are not fit for that yet...
(Regarding) the DLT, we are exploring how the benefits look, and how to connect those two legacy systems, as we have to live with both for quite a long time probably.
... we have all customers of SEB doing transfers of intracompany between Sweden and the US; they are on the Ripple platform. So we have a couple billion going through that, and we are trying to understand how that goes ... and also in the future, exploring what could be the next step for this."
Before XRP holders become too excited by this last statement, I'll remind them that SEB is one of the most forward-thinking banks in Europe, and has also experimented with R3 and other platforms; however, hearing about the actual dollar amounts transacted through RippleNet was a step above hearing 'proof of concept,' and was very encouraging in combination with Paula da Silva's intriguing statement about "the next step."
In a recent blog, I described how NEXO, a new crypto platform, is supporting consumer lines of credit using cryptocurrency as collateral. The company had just added XRP to their list of supported choices. 7
NEXO represents a merging of retail banking services and the cryptocurrency market, and exemplifies a trend that will most likely continue: This was recently demonstrated by the addition of XRP support for crypto-backed loans by "Cred," a company that provides hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of credit.
"As a Cred borrower, I appreciate how responsive Cred is to my needs. They continue to impress me with their ability to act as a trusted bridge between the traditional financial services ecosystem and the crypto community.
Cred is successfully building the next generation of lending and earning products and their recognition of XRP as an asset class is important.”
In addition to Michael Arrington, the company lists Gregg Kidd, a former Ripple employee, as an advisor. 10
The company describes its service as a "decentralized lending ecosystem that facilitates open access to credit anywhere and anytime." The platform uses Ethereum smart contracts, but also necessitates what looks like a comprehensive list of banking and exchange partners to finance and deliver the loans. 11 The various partners behind the project have been in business providing loans before the rise of cryptocurrency trading popularity, and are now applying some of these concepts to the crypto market.
Thus far, the site & its accompanying blog do not list any specifics about interest rates; only that usage of their token will allow users to access more advantageous loan terms. 12
I greet the news of this type of service with a mixed reaction; I don't like the idea of people mixing crypto ownership, which is volatile to begin with, with taking out loans. But ultimately, I'm more of a pragmatist about the fact that this trend is probably unavoidable. And, if the interest rates are reasonable, then this platform can provide a valuable service in enhancing liquidity for the overall market, and for individuals in specific.
In early September of this year, I wrote about a new service that was being developed by WietseWind to allow people to easily purchase XRP through the use of an instant bank transfer. He called the new service XRParrot.
XRParrot's users are required to enter their mobile number, the IBAN number from their bank account, and then specify a destination wallet for the XRP. The XRParrot service would then transfer the specified amount of Euros from their bank account and then purchase and deliver the XRP to the wallet they indicated.
At the time of the announcement, XRParrot was not yet in use, but now WietseWind has successfully beta tested it with a small group of users:
The feedback has been positive, with one of the participants saying: 13
"The XRParrot is ... from Wietse Wind. You will receive xrp in one of the fastest, easiest, cheapest, and definitely most convenient ways."
That kind of feedback from a beta tester is significant; in addition to the one-time transfer that this beta tester is talking about, WietseWind also has plans to allow a user to set up a periodic withdrawal from their bank account.
WietseWind indicated that XRParrot will go live 'this month,' so very soon, those in Europe will have the opportunity to transition Euros using one of the most convenient services available in crypto, and support the creator of the XRP Tip Bot at the same time!
My original blog on XRParrot contains more detail on how the service works behind the scenes using XRP's decentralized exchange (DEX): XRParrot for Fast & Easy Euro-to-XRP Conversion
St Jude Fundraising Update
An XRP fan named KingBlue (Twitter handle) was one of the first people to recognize the potential for using the XRP Tip Bot for fundraising for charitable organizations or other worthy causes. His enthusiasm was evident - and contagious!
Because he was 'the first' to champion the XRP Tip Bot as a fund-raising device, however, he was by definition the first one to face some of the logistical challenges involved. How would St Jude receive their XRP? Who would handle the coordination between the nonprofit and members of the community? Instead of admitting defeat, however, KingBlue worked with the XRP Tip Bot's creator, WietseWind, to overcome these obstacles. He even documented how he addressed each one, and some of the 'lessons learned' so that other future charity fund-raisers could better anticipate what would be needed prior to using the platform.
This last part is what really convinced me that @KingBlue was not just a person with their heart in the right place, but a potential leader that demonstrated an ability for the XRP community to positively and directly impact worthy causes like St Jude. St Jude Children's Research Hospital's mission is to: 14
"... advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay."
I've covered KingBlue's ongoing efforts at raising money for St Jude in previous blogs, and I will continue to bring updates from him on fundraising, and also any new endeavors for bringing further attention to the cause.
On November 10th, CKJ Crypto News, a popular XRP YouTube channel among fans, conducted a full-length forty-minute video with Kingblue:
The interview covered the entire history of his efforts at fundraising for St Jude, and also focused in on some incredible recent developments:
- A pledge by Suzy Trader from Esoteric Trading Solutions to match up to 4,000 XRP with another donor. Note that this comes after her generous 1,500 XRP donation!
- KingBlue's participation in Uphold's membership drive and their potential prize money
To build their customer base and also promote their new trading app, Uphold is sponsoring a competition where they are giving away up to $500,000 for the most referrals.
KingBlue spotted this as yet another win-win opportunity for St Jude, and launched a new fund-raising campaign; essentially, the more referrals he can provide to Uphold, the more money that he can raise:
The grand prize in Uphold's contest is $25,000, so this would be a significant win for the campaign.
For those that would like to immediately help by joining Uphold, the process is simple; just sign up with Uphold using the following link - the link itself was created by @kingblue_XRP for the St Jude Referral Program Challenge:
If you'd like to learn more about the effort, King Blue has comprehensively documented his campaign as usual in a publicly-available Google Document he links to in his Tweet. Here is a direct link to that Google doc: Kingblue XRP St Jude Uphold Referral Program
Esoteric Trading Solutions
As it was mentioned in the video, @susietrader (Twitter avatar) from Esoteric Trading Solutions donated 1,500 XRP along with @AdamKoleda, another investor, and went even further: She indicated that if another individual would donate 4,000 XRP, she would match that amount: 15
It's an incredibly generous gift from @susietrader and @AdamKoleda;
A few hours after CKJ's video aired, an XRP Community member, @PatrickYoung604 (Twitter avatar) stepped forward with a pledge to match @susietrader:
It was a fantastic act of generosity, given less than forty-eight hours after @susietrader made her offer.
To keep up-to-date on the ongoing progress for XRP Community-sponsored fundraising efforts for St Jude, I recommend checking on KingBlue's Twitter account to get the latest information.
I wish him luck in the St Jude Referral Program Challenge; if he wins, it could mean an additional $25,000 for St Jude's, which would be a phenomenal amount of money for that very worthy cause.
Hardware Wallet Support
Earlier this year, an XRP Community developer stepped forward to help some hardware wallet manufacturers successfully and more securely integrate with the XRP Ledger. He also pursued his own project, dubbed the "XRP Toolkit," and created a development road-map that contained more detail than some ICO white-papers I've seen.
The XRP Toolkit promises to provide a popular alternative to users who are famliar with Ethereum's "MyEtherWallet," which allows users to do the same thing on the Ethereum network.
Along the way to integrating his login with these hardware wallets, RareData was able to learn quite a lot about their individual plans and current capabilities to support XRP. To conveniently display this information in one location, he volunteered to create a matrix that summarizes the current state of XRP hardware wallet capability in the cryptomarket:
As you can see from his list, each of the hardware wallets offers a different set of capabilities native to its own platform, and in addition, most only support the basic 'payment send and receive' capability necessary for secure storage.
In addition to this basic payment functionality, RareData and other XRP Community developers are working with these manufacturers to help integrate the additional XRP API functions that the network supports, such as setting of trust lines and escrow creation. These additional options will enable RareData to then update the XRP Toolkit to reflect these capabilities for those users that login through their hardware wallet.
RareData is currently working with Secalot in a private beta release to test these functions.
For those who haven't already purchased a hardware wallet, you may be interested to note some of the pricing information that RareData was able to obtain at the bottom of the chart; it's obviously a point-in-time estimate, but it gives you some idea of the cost involved.
RareData has demonstrated his commitment to supporting the XRP ecosystem by creation of the XRP Toolkit, and also by working closely with these hardware wallet manufacturers to help support XRP; I appreciate his efforts in this regard, as well as his ability to concisely communicate the current status of XRP hardware support.
Note: Not all hardware wallets supporting XRP were covered here, and some manufacturers have multiple models and devices, such as the Ledger (Nano, Blue, etc..)
The Party Preparations are Nearly Complete
There's no question we are early to the party, but let's make the most of it; many of us have jumped in with both feet, donating our time and energy to raising money for philanthropic organizations, developing community-sponsored, open-source applications, or creating Internet content of some kind.
Whatever way you'd like to contribute - even if it's just keeping up-to-date on crypto news so you can make informed decisions - do not make the mistake of thinking that the party has been canceled.
In 2017, the gathering of crypto was like a line at an exclusive urban club, where, instead of attempting to gain entry into a small venue, long lines waited for spots in crypto exchanges.
This is where another major clue is available for helping to predict how this next onset of interest in crypto-assets will be different; last year at this time, there were a handful of worldwide exchanges that supported moderate increases in customer numbers. When the sudden uptick in investor demand happened, many of the largest exchanges couldn't process the applications; in some cases, requests for membership were rejected with the comment that applications were no longer being accepted.
In the case of XRP, 2018 is entirely different in this respect; we now have more than four times the number of global exchanges, and many of these new ones have sprung up in previously-underserved geographic markets, extending the potential reach of growing investor demand.
And while the general trend is positive for crypto-assets, and it is a party where 'everybody in crypto is invited,' there is one crypto-asset that has the potential to benefit from many times its current speculative-only interest ... in real, utility-driven demand.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to James Bold