Blockchain Bites: Bitcoin Moons, Crypto Orbits, Celebrities Struck by NFTs

Also: Paxos' $142 million Series C, Amex' FalconX investment and Core Scientific's massive ASIC purchase.

AccessTimeIconDec 17, 2020 at 5:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:44 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin is on a tear, bring the rest of the crypto market with it. Years of heads down building during the bear market is beginning to pay off – and not just because bitcoin's price is charting new territory – with tons of funding announcements and business expansion. Here's the story ...

Top shelf

Serious Series C
Paxos brought in $142 million in its latest funding round. The crypto service provider with big-name clients including PayPal, Credit Suisse, Societe Generale and Revolut now looks to double its workforce and expand its suite of products. “We are not a unicorn,” CEO Charles Cascarilla said, but it is a big fish going after a OCC-granted national bank license.

Amex invests...
In the white-hot institutional trading platform FalconX. Announced Wednesday, American Express Ventures pumped an undisclosed amount into the trading solution with $3 billion in monthly transactions volumes. “Amex Ventures invests in startups as a way to better understand emerging areas of the payments ecosystem,” Harshul Sanghi, global head of Amex Ventures, said.

Massive buy
Core Scientific has purchased over 59,000 state-of-the-art crypto miners, tripling its mining set-up in three southern states. The blockchain and AI infrastructure provider now commands the largest fleet of Bitmain Antminer S19 rigs outside of China. With bitcoin prices moving into uncharted territory, it’s likely many mining groups, companies and factories are in profit. Just today, mining marketplace NiceHash has finally reimbursed those affected by a 4,640 bitcoin heist in 2017.

Quick bites

  • BIG BANKS: Few financial institutions have been supportive of crypto but some forward-looking banks are positioned to ride bitcoin’s rally. (CoinDesk)
  • RIPPLE NABS: Sandie O’Connor, a JPMorgan vet with ties to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of Financial Research, for its board. (CoinDesk)
  • COINBASE DIDN’T: Crash during bitcoin’s surge, but CEO Brian Armstrong did allude to the exchange’s multiple outages this year in a letter warning newbies to play it safe. (CoinDesk)
  • $1B ETH: That’s the value of all the ether staked on Ethereum 2.0 right now. (The Block)

Market intel

Driving bitcoin?
Exchange data shows signs of pent-up demand for bitcoin as the cryptocurrency rallies to new highs. According to data provided by CryptoQuant, there was an unusual spike in the number of stablecoin inflow addresses for all exchanges, an indicator of “extreme buying power,” between 13:30-13:40 UTC yesterday. “Looking forward to 2021, we should expect the outsized bids of institutions to have a much greater determining influence on the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” Artur Sapek, founder of CryptoWatch, said. 

Small caps
Litecoin’s price reached three figures for the first time in 16 months earlier on Thursday. The seventh-largest cryptocurrency by market value soared to $103.19, its highest since Aug. 5, 2019, rallying more than 20% in 24 hours on bitcoin's coattails. It's now up nearly 150% year to date. The rest of the crypto market is likewise in the green. 

At stake

Next fun trend (NFTs)
Last year when I was helping to put together CoinDesk’s Year in Review series I kept hearing about the nascent world of decentralized finance, more popularly referred to as DeFi. Just a melange of decentralized apps (dapps), automated protocols and novel financial tools, DeFi exists to disintermediate traditional financial systems – like insurance and trading pools – from third parties.

At the time DeFi was a billion dollars or so in crypto, a sub-economy of the larger Ethereum-verse. But it exploded into the public consciousness this year. With some $16.2 billion in total value locked (TVL – the amount of crypto pledged to various smart contracts), DeFi drove some of the biggest stories in crypto this year. There were protocols that launched and quickly became unicorns, no shortage of hacks and exploits and now even mergers, acquisitions and copycats. It was big enough for the Financial Times to write an explainer.

This year, as I again assist my indefatigable editor Ben Schiller in putting together CoinDesk’s Year in Review 2020, I’ve tuned my ear to the rumbling of what could be the next big trend in crypto. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a sexy name like DeFi, nor is it a novel field, but non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are the crypto tools the cool kids are talking about.

NFTs are blockchain-based tokens that can represent real-world or purely digital objects. Like bitcoin, they derive their value from cryptographically ensured scarcity, meaning each token is one of a kind and cannot be copy and pasted like, say, a .jpeg. So far, NFTs have mostly been associated with a strange digital art scene, but the technology can be applied anywhere that a digital object can find value in being irreproducible, I’m told

This past year several notable artists have become interested in NFT technology. Sean Ono Lennon, John and Yoko’s son, sold an original artwork this week. House musician Guy J sold the rights to one of his songs – for 40 ETH – on the NFT platform Rocki. Meanwhile, rapper Lil Yachty has sold a digital collectible for $16,050. Renowned digital artist Beeple sold a collection of NFTs on Nifty Gateway for a whopping $3.5 million.

It’s a wild scene, and if the rumor mill is working it’s just getting started.

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