California startup incubator Boost VC took a markedly different approach to its latest batch of early-stage companies, known in its own internal parlance as Tribe 6.
But with their latest batch, CEO Adam Draper and co-founder Brayton Williams didn’t abandon their long-standing commitment to bitcoin, so much as take a step back. Tribe 6 still featured five blockchain startups, all of whom presented their product pitches at a Demo Day event in early October.
This time around, rather than hold its product showcase at the end of the program, Boost planned the event some weeks prior in an effort to offer greater help to its entrepreneurs as they sought to secure investments.
Draper told CoinDesk in October that the decrease in bitcoin startups in Tribe 6 was primarily due to the increased regulatory burden placed on bitcoin blockchain startups. The funding environment for startups, he said, was not a factor, citing data that indicates six of the 22 startups in Boost’s last class had so far secured follow-on investments.
Overall, Draper remains optimistic about the industry, adding that he hopes to see the number of blockchain startups equal the number of VR firms as part of its Tribe 7 batch, which is now accepting applications.
According to Mender, Joystream aims to use bitcoin as a way to allow BitTorrent users to compensate others for their work in bringing content to the distributed network.
"BitTorrent is organized into small communities. To be part of these groups you have to leave your computer on for a certain amount of time, or upload a certain amount of content in exchange for how much you want to download," Mender explained.
JoyStream instead would allow users to compensate those who want to perform these tasks with bitcoin, in exchange for benefits such as faster download speeds and increased content access, sending payments in real-time alongside downloads.
Mender said a "very, very early" version of the product was released last month on the bitcoin testnet, meaning it currently does not exchange real bitcoins.
Currently, the platform has just “a few hundred” users, though it hopes to attract more as its nears a formal launch of services supported on the bitcoin blockchain.
Representing the international bitcoin community in the latest class was Singapore-based bitcoin options exchange CoinUT.
The startup believes vanilla options will appeal to risk-averse bitcoin traders looking to hedge against volatility in its price, while binary options will appeal to those with a more aggressive risk appetite.
Currently, CoinUT options are denominated in bitcoin only, with minimum trades set at 0.001 BTC (roughly $0.30) and a 40% margin set as the threshold users need to meet to maintain positions. Users can hedge bitcoin positions for up to two months.
CoinUT’s creators have suggested that they are now working to create a socialized loss system and considering whether to add support for alternative digital currencies.
According to Unocoin president Sunny Ray, the platform has seen a 23% increase in users over the past month as bitcoin’s price climbed to its highest levels seen so far in 2015.
Ray said Unocoin now has 30,000 registered users, with 3,000 of these new customers joining within the last three days. Further, he is optimistic this user growth will continue due to what he called the need for bitcoin in a part of the world where access to banking services remains limited.
Ray told CoinDesk:
As for its application to Boost, Ray said this was borne out of a desire to work with bitcoin believers like Adam Draper and his father and Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Tim Draper.
"To build a bitcoin business, you need the most wealthy and successful people in the world on your side," Ray concluded.
One of the longest-operating stealth projects in the industry, Epiphyte has been building blockchain solutions for the enterprise financial community since 2013.
Epiphyte can be viewed as one of the earliest attempts by the technology’s entrepreneurs to tap this now growing market, as the startup won a $50,000 prize as part of the Sibos 2014 trade show, where it was named "Fintech startup of the year".
Led by former Zynga senior product manager Edan Yago, Epiphyte touts "instant settlement for trades and transactions" but few details are public about its partners and offerings.
Still, Epiphyte does offer insight into its ambitions on its website, which reads:
Another startup focused on investments, Wealthcoin is an app that allows users to speculate on stocks and bonds with bitcoin.
As the global bitcoin market becomes more stable, Wealthcoin offers a way for investors to leverage their bitcoin holdings to seek new types of financial gains. So far, the startup has attracted 200 users and has $10,700 in bitcoin under management to its closed beta.
There, users select investments by identifying their risk preference, whether conservative, moderate or aggressive.
"We work with advisors to build our portfolios using modern portfolio theory," Wealthcoin co-founder Simon Burns told CoinDesk, explaining that such portfolios then mirror indexes such as Nikkei or the S&P 500.
Burns indicated users can opt out of investments at any time, and that there are no minimums on investment amounts. The startup charges a fee equal to 1% of its assets under management annually, though installments are paid on a monthly basis.
Wealthcoin said that it is currently navigating the "regulatory approval process" and that a larger public beta is expected to be available soon.
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