Blockchain Bites: Coinbase and BlockFi Make Big Hires, Tron Said to Get Coronavirus Relief

It's all about labor. Tron claims to have received employment protection while Dutch officials tell crypto companies to comply or die.

May 6, 2020 at 4:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:37 a.m. UTC

UPDATE (May 6, 17:50 UTC): This article has been updated to clarify that the claim about Tron receiving a pandemic relief loan originated from the project's Chinese social media channels, and to include a statement from a Tron spokesperson in the U.S.

It's all about labor.

Justin Sun's Tron platform claimed to have received a $2 million pandemic relief loan intended for small businesses. Coinbase has scooped up employees from the now-defunct TokenAnylist startup while BlockFi has poached two executives from Credit Suisse and American Express to join its lending firm. Here's the story:

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Top Shelf

Transaction Throttling 
BitMEX’s daily broadcast of transactions may be spiking Bitcoin fees. The exchange broadcasts thousands of transactions at once around 13:08 UTC (9:08 a.m. ET), leading to a fee increase every day, pseudonymous Bitcoin researcher 0xb10c contends.

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Hip-hop artist Akon is the latest celebrity to join the cryptocurrency industry, setting his sights on Africa with his Akoin token project. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Crypto Across Emerging Markets: Africa
Binance, Akon and other crypto pioneers are placing bets the future of money will be defined by African markets, where cryptocurrency awareness and usage surged dramatically over the past year. Exchange volume has steadily increased on the continent, with a notable spike during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Comply or Die
Dutch crypto companies must register with the Netherlands’ central bank by May 18 or cease operations immediately, the monetary authority said Monday. De Nederlandsche Bank is moving quickly to enforce Dutch anti-money laundering laws, which passed the Dutch Parliament last month.

Trouble Down Under
The CEO of fintech firm iSignthis has accused the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) of abusing its market-leader position by trying to delay the launch of ClearPay, a blockchain-based trading system on the rival National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX).

Movers & Shakers

  • Nervos Incubator Nervos has launched CK Labs, a virtual incubator, for early-stage startups building decentralized applications (dapps) on its public blockchain platform. The platform is headed up by Ben Morris, veteran of Status, an Ethereum-based messaging platform.
  • Coinbase Consolidation Crypto intelligence firm TokenAnalyst has shut down after nearly three years in business. Several employees have been scooped up by Coinbase, a representative confirmed. 
  • Traditional Hires Crypto lender BlockFi is adding two traditional finance executives to help the firm roll out new products and expand into new markets. Former American Express executive Wittney Rachlin will join as chief growth officer and former Credit Suisse executive David Olsson as global managing director of the European and Asian markets. 

All But Omni
Tether growth is hitting all-time highs across multiple blockchains, but the first protocol to support Tether is being left behind. Omni Layer, built on Bitcoin, has suffered negative growth in Tether transactions for the last 12 consecutive months. 

Bitfinex Flex
Bitfinex saw revenues of $21.4 million in Q1 of 2020. This represents a near doubling of revenues from last year’s first quarter. (The Block

Land Records
Swedish startup ChromaWay aims to make land ownership in Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay more transparent by putting records on a blockchain. The company announced its LAC PropertyChain pilot on Tuesday.

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Justin Sun

Tron's Relief?
Justin Sun’s blockchain platform Tron will receive $2 million in U.S. coronavirus relief intended for salary protection ... at least, according to a message sent to the project's WeChat and Weibo channels. (Decrypt)

Translated from Chinese, the message said: "The funds from the US government, on one hand, shows that TRON is legally compliant in the US and has the support of the US government. On the other hand, it also proves that the TRON team is recognized at home and abroad.”

However, when reached Wednesday, a spokesperson for Tron in the U.S. was more ambiguous, telling CoinDesk: “We are a private company and this being a financial matter, we are unable to comment. I am happy to share, however, that our first priority is to always follow laws/rules/regulations of the governing bodies wherein we build our worldwide community.”

The Small Business Administration (SBA), the agency overseeing the Paycheck Protection Program, declined to comment.

Seed Capital 
Bitcoin mining firm VBit DC brought in a $1.1 million seed funding round to build a mining operation in Alberta, Canada. (The Block)

Power to Burn
Ukraine's energy minister has advised the country’s state-owned nuclear power operator to consider using excess electricity for mining cryptocurrencies. Last week, a Chinese city asked blockchain firms to sop up extra hydropower produced during the upcoming rainy season. (The Block

Privacy Deep Dive
As the coronavirus crisis puts pressure on tech startups, privacy-focused firms are poised to last. A reliance on privacy intrusive contact tracing and “identity passports” to combat the viral spread is leading to a conscious effort to prevent data fragmentation and privacy leaks. “The move to remote working and widespread use of shadow IT devices has multiplied cybersecurity risks,” creating a huge opportunity for security-focused companies, said Radoslav Dragov, the Blockchain Lead for Europe at IDC.

CoinDesk Live: Lockdown Edition

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CoinDesk Live: Lockdown Edition continues its popular twice-weekly virtual chats via Zoom and Twitter, giving you a preview of what’s to come at Consensus: Distributed, our first fully virtual - and fully free - big-tent conference May 11-15. 

Register to join our seventh and final session Thursday, May 7, with speaker Felipe Duarte from DAOCanvas to show you how to roll your own DAO, hosted by Consensus organizer Bailey Reutzel. Zoom participants can ask questions directly to our guests. 

Market Intel

Daily Gains
Bitcoin jumped to a high of $9,220 at 10:20 UTC on Wednesday, having settled above $9,000 the day prior to register its first close above that psychological support in two months. Open interest – or the number of futures contracts outstanding on the CME – also rose to $351 million on Tuesday, the highest level since July 10, 2019.

Shorting Bitcoin
A new token lets traders make gains whenever bitcoin’s price falls. Swiss fintech firm Amun launched its BTCSHORT (BTCS) daily inverse token Wednesday, which returns a gain based on bitcoin’s (BTC) inverse price movements in a given 24-hour period. 

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CoinDesk Monthly Review: April 2020

CoinDesk Research's monthly review of crypto markets overviews returns, volatility and correlations of bitcoin, ether and other crypto assets - all in a macro context. Plus, we track growth in stablecoins and look at what past halvings can tell us about the upcoming one. The report is free to download.

CoinDesk Podcast Network

The Breakdown
Why crypto matters for financial inclusion, featuring Celo’s Marek Olszewski.

Who Won #CryptoTwitter?

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Ada Hui contributed reporting.

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