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Langston Thomas

1 year ago

A Simple Guide to NFT Blockchains

More on Web3 & Crypto

JEFF JOHN ROBERTS

1 year ago

What just happened in cryptocurrency? A plain-English Q&A about Binance's FTX takedown.

Crypto people have witnessed things. They've seen big hacks, mind-boggling swindles, and amazing successes. They've never seen a day like Tuesday, when the world's largest crypto exchange murdered its closest competition.

Here's a primer on Binance and FTX's lunacy and why it matters if you're new to crypto.

What happened?

CZ, a shrewd Chinese-Canadian billionaire, runs Binance. FTX, a newcomer, has challenged Binance in recent years. SBF (Sam Bankman-Fried)—a young American with wild hair—founded FTX (initials are a thing in crypto).

Last weekend, CZ complained about SBF's lobbying and then exploited Binance's market power to attack his competition.

How did CZ do that?

CZ invested in SBF's new cryptocurrency exchange when they were friends. CZ sold his investment in FTX for FTT when he no longer wanted it. FTX clients utilize those tokens to get trade discounts, although they are less liquid than Bitcoin.

SBF made a mistake by providing CZ just too many FTT tokens, giving him control over FTX. It's like Pepsi handing Coca-Cola a lot of stock it could sell at any time. CZ got upset with SBF and flooded the market with FTT tokens.

SBF owns a trading fund with many FTT tokens, therefore this was catastrophic. SBF sought to defend FTT's worth by selling other assets to buy up the FTT tokens flooding the market, but it didn't succeed, and as FTT's value plummeted, his liabilities exceeded his assets. By Tuesday, his companies were insolvent, so he sold them to his competition.

Crazy. How could CZ do that?

CZ likely did this to crush a rising competition. It was also personal. In recent months, regulators have been tough toward the crypto business, and Binance and FTX have been trying to stay on their good side. CZ believed SBF was poisoning U.S. authorities by saying CZ was linked to China, so CZ took retribution.

“We supported previously, but we won't pretend to make love after divorce. We're neutral. But we won't assist people that push against other industry players behind their backs," CZ stated in a tragic tweet on Sunday. He crushed his rival's company two days later.

So does Binance now own FTX?

No. Not yet. CZ has only stated that Binance signed a "letter of intent" to acquire FTX. CZ and SBF say Binance will protect FTX consumers' funds.

Who’s to blame?

You could blame CZ for using his control over FTX to destroy it. SBF is also being criticized for not disclosing the full overlap between FTX and his trading company, which controlled plenty of FTT. If he had been upfront, someone might have warned FTX about this vulnerability earlier, preventing this mess.

Others have alleged that SBF utilized customer monies to patch flaws in his enterprises' balance accounts. That happened to multiple crypto startups that collapsed this spring, which is unfortunate. These are allegations, not proof.

Why does this matter? Isn't this common in crypto?

Crypto is notorious for shady executives and pranks. FTX is the second-largest crypto business, and SBF was largely considered as the industry's golden boy who would help it get on authorities' good side. Thus far.

Does this affect cryptocurrency prices?

Short-term, it's bad. Prices fell on suspicions that FTX was in peril, then rallied when Binance rescued it, only to fall again later on Tuesday.

These occurrences have hurt FTT and SBF's Solana token. It appears like a huge token selloff is affecting the rest of the market. Bitcoin fell 10% and Ethereum 15%, which is bad but not catastrophic for the two largest coins by market cap.

Vivek Singh

Vivek Singh

2 years ago

A Warm Welcome to Web3 and the Future of the Internet

Let's take a look back at the internet's history and see where we're going — and why.

Tim Berners Lee had a problem. He was at CERN, the world's largest particle physics factory, at the time. The institute's stated goal was to study the simplest particles with the most sophisticated scientific instruments. The institute completed the LEP Tunnel in 1988, a 27 kilometer ring. This was Europe's largest civil engineering project (to study smaller particles — electrons).

The problem Tim Berners Lee found was information loss, not particle physics. CERN employed a thousand people in 1989. Due to team size and complexity, people often struggled to recall past project information. While these obstacles could be overcome, high turnover was nearly impossible. Berners Lee addressed the issue in a proposal titled ‘Information Management'.

When a typical stay is two years, data is constantly lost. The introduction of new people takes a lot of time from them and others before they understand what is going on. An emergency situation may require a detective investigation to recover technical details of past projects. Often, the data is recorded but cannot be found. — Information Management: A Proposal

He had an idea. Create an information management system that allowed users to access data in a decentralized manner using a new technology called ‘hypertext'.
To quote Berners Lee, his proposal was “vague but exciting...”. The paper eventually evolved into the internet we know today. Here are three popular W3C standards used by billions of people today:


(credit: CERN)

HTML (Hypertext Markup)

A web formatting language.

URI (Unique Resource Identifier)

Each web resource has its own “address”. Known as ‘a URL'.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

Retrieves linked resources from across the web.

These technologies underpin all computer work. They were the seeds of our quest to reorganize information, a task as fruitful as particle physics.

Tim Berners-Lee would probably think the three decades from 1989 to 2018 were eventful. He'd be amazed by the billions, the inspiring, the novel. Unlocking innovation at CERN through ‘Information Management'.
The fictional character would probably need a drink, walk, and a few deep breaths to fully grasp the internet's impact. He'd be surprised to see a few big names in the mix.

Then he'd say, "Something's wrong here."

We should review the web's history before going there. Was it a success after Berners Lee made it public? Web1 and Web2: What is it about what we are doing now that so many believe we need a new one, web3?

Per Outlier Ventures' Jamie Burke:

Web 1.0 was read-only.
Web 2.0 was the writable
Web 3.0 is a direct-write web.

Let's explore.

Web1: The Read-Only Web

Web1 was the digital age. We put our books, research, and lives ‘online'. The web made information retrieval easier than any filing cabinet ever. Massive amounts of data were stored online. Encyclopedias, medical records, and entire libraries were put away into floppy disks and hard drives.

In 2015, the web had around 305,500,000,000 pages of content (280 million copies of Atlas Shrugged).

Initially, one didn't expect to contribute much to this database. Web1 was an online version of the real world, but not yet a new way of using the invention.

One gets the impression that the web has been underutilized by historians if all we can say about it is that it has become a giant global fax machine. — Daniel Cohen, The Web's Second Decade (2004)

That doesn't mean developers weren't building. The web was being advanced by great minds. Web2 was born as technology advanced.

Web2: Read-Write Web

Remember when you clicked something on a website and the whole page refreshed? Is it too early to call the mid-2000s ‘the good old days'?
Browsers improved gradually, then suddenly. AJAX calls augmented CGI scripts, and applications began sending data back and forth without disrupting the entire web page. One button to ‘digg' a post (see below). Web experiences blossomed.

In 2006, Digg was the most active ‘Web 2.0' site. (Photo: Ethereum Foundation Taylor Gerring)

Interaction was the focus of new applications. Posting, upvoting, hearting, pinning, tweeting, liking, commenting, and clapping became a lexicon of their own. It exploded in 2004. Easy ways to ‘write' on the internet grew, and continue to grow.

Facebook became a Web2 icon, where users created trillions of rows of data. Google and Amazon moved from Web1 to Web2 by better understanding users and building products and services that met their needs.

Business models based on Software-as-a-Service and then managing consumer data within them for a fee have exploded.

Web2 Emerging Issues

Unbelievably, an intriguing dilemma arose. When creating this read-write web, a non-trivial question skirted underneath the covers. Who owns it all?

You have no control over [Web 2] online SaaS. People didn't realize this because SaaS was so new. People have realized this is the real issue in recent years.

Even if these organizations have good intentions, their incentive is not on the users' side.
“You are not their customer, therefore you are their product,” they say. With Laura Shin, Vitalik Buterin, Unchained

A good plot line emerges. Many amazing, world-changing software products quietly lost users' data control.
For example: Facebook owns much of your social graph data. Even if you hate Facebook, you can't leave without giving up that data. There is no ‘export' or ‘exit'. The platform owns ownership.

While many companies can pull data on you, you cannot do so.

On the surface, this isn't an issue. These companies use my data better than I do! A complex group of stakeholders, each with their own goals. One is maximizing shareholder value for public companies. Tim Berners-Lee (and others) dislike the incentives created.

“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.” — Berkshire Hathaway's CEO

It's easy to see what the read-write web has allowed in retrospect. We've been given the keys to create content instead of just consume it. On Facebook and Twitter, anyone with a laptop and internet can participate. But the engagement isn't ours. Platforms own themselves.

Web3: The ‘Unmediated’ Read-Write Web

Tim Berners Lee proposed a decade ago that ‘linked data' could solve the internet's data problem.

However, until recently, the same principles that allowed the Web of documents to thrive were not applied to data...

The Web of Data also allows for new domain-specific applications. Unlike Web 2.0 mashups, Linked Data applications work with an unbound global data space. As new data sources appear on the Web, they can provide more complete answers.

At around the same time as linked data research began, Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin. After ten years, it appears that Berners Lee's ideas ‘link' spiritually with cryptocurrencies.

What should Web 3 do?

Here are some quick predictions for the web's future.

Users' data:
Users own information and provide it to corporations, businesses, or services that will benefit them.

Defying censorship:

No government, company, or institution should control your access to information (1, 2, 3)

Connect users and platforms:

Create symbiotic rather than competitive relationships between users and platform creators.

Open networks:

“First, the cryptonetwork-participant contract is enforced in open source code. Their voices and exits are used to keep them in check.” Dixon, Chris (4)

Global interactivity:

Transacting value, information, or assets with anyone with internet access, anywhere, at low cost

Self-determination:

Giving you the ability to own, see, and understand your entire digital identity.

Not pull, push:

‘Push' your data to trusted sources instead of ‘pulling' it from others.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Change incentives, change the world. Nick Babalola

People believe web3 can help build a better, fairer system. This is not the same as equal pay or outcomes, but more equal opportunity.

It should be noted that some of these advantages have been discussed previously. Will the changes work? Will they make a difference? These unanswered questions are technical, economic, political, and philosophical. Unintended consequences are likely.

We hope Web3 is a more democratic web. And we think incentives help the user. If there’s one thing that’s on our side, it’s that open has always beaten closed, given a long enough timescale.

We are at the start. 

Olga Kharif

1 year ago

A month after freezing customer withdrawals, Celsius files for bankruptcy.

Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Celsius, speaks at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon. 

Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a month after freezing customer withdrawals, joining other crypto casualties.

Celsius took the step to stabilize its business and restructure for all stakeholders. The filing was done in the Southern District of New York.

The company, which amassed more than $20 billion by offering 18% interest on cryptocurrency deposits, paused withdrawals and other functions in mid-June, citing "extreme market conditions."

As the Fed raises interest rates aggressively, it hurts risk sentiment and squeezes funding costs. Voyager Digital Ltd. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, and Three Arrows Capital has called in liquidators.

Celsius called the pause "difficult but necessary." Without the halt, "the acceleration of withdrawals would have allowed certain customers to be paid in full while leaving others to wait for Celsius to harvest value from illiquid or longer-term asset deployment activities," it said.

Celsius declined to comment. CEO Alex Mashinsky said the move will strengthen the company's future.

The company wants to keep operating. It's not requesting permission to allow customer withdrawals right now; Chapter 11 will handle customer claims. The filing estimates assets and liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion.

Celsius is advised by Kirkland & Ellis, Centerview Partners, and Alvarez & Marsal.

Yield-promises

Celsius promised 18% returns on crypto loans. It lent those coins to institutional investors and participated in decentralized-finance apps.

When TerraUSD (UST) and Luna collapsed in May, Celsius pulled its funds from Terra's Anchor Protocol, which offered 20% returns on UST deposits. Recently, another large holding, staked ETH, or stETH, which is tied to Ether, became illiquid and discounted to Ether.

The lender is one of many crypto companies hurt by risky bets in the bear market. Also, Babel halted withdrawals. Voyager Digital filed for bankruptcy, and crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy.

According to blockchain data and tracker Zapper, Celsius repaid all of its debt in Aave, Compound, and MakerDAO last month.

Celsius charged Symbolic Capital Partners Ltd. 2,000 Ether as collateral for a cash loan on June 13. According to company filings, Symbolic was charged 2,545.25 Ether on June 11.

In July 6 filings, it said it reshuffled its board, appointing two new members and firing others.

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James White

James White

1 year ago

I read three of Elon Musk's suggested books (And His Taste Is Incredible)

A reading list for successful people

Daniel Oberhaus via Flickr

Elon Musk reads and talks. So, one learns. Many brilliant individuals & amazing literature.

This article recommends 3 Elon Musk novels. All of them helped me succeed. Hope they'll help you.

Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Page Count: 193
Rating on Goodreads: 4.23

Arthur Dent is pulled off Earth by a buddy seconds before it's razed for a cosmic motorway. The trio hitchhikes through space and gets into problems.

I initially read Hitchhiker's as a child. To evade my mum, I'd read with a flashlight under the covers. She'd scold at me for not sleeping on school nights when she found out. Oops.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is lighthearted science fiction.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • “Space is big. You won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

  • “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”

  • “On planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars, and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.”

the Sun Tzu book The Art Of War

Page Count: 273
Rating on Goodreads: 3.97

It's a classic. You may apply The Art of War's ideas to (nearly) every facet of life. Ex:

  • Pick your fights.

  • Keep in mind that timing is crucial.

  • Create a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

  • Obstacles provide us a chance to adapt and change.

This book was my first. Since then, I'm a more strategic entrepreneur. Excellent book. And read it ASAP!

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

  • “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

  • “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Peter Thiel's book Zero to One

Page Count: 195
Rating on Goodreads: 4.18

Peter argues the best money-making strategies are typically unproven. Entrepreneurship should never have a defined path to success. Whoever says differently is lying.

Zero to One explores technology and society. Peter is a philosophy major and law school graduate, which informs the work.

Peters' ideas, depth, and intellect stood out in Zero to One. It's a top business book.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes are:

  • “The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.”

  • “The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”

  • “If your goal is to never make a mistake in your life, you shouldn’t look for secrets. The prospect of being lonely but right — dedicating your life to something that no one else believes in — is already hard. The prospect of being lonely and wrong can be unbearable.”

Wayne Duggan

Wayne Duggan

1 year ago

What An Inverted Yield Curve Means For Investors

The yield spread between 10-year and 2-year US Treasury bonds has fallen below 0.2 percent, its lowest level since March 2020. A flattening or negative yield curve can be a bad sign for the economy.

What Is An Inverted Yield Curve? 

In the yield curve, bonds of equal credit quality but different maturities are plotted. The most commonly used yield curve for US investors is a plot of 2-year and 10-year Treasury yields, which have yet to invert.

A typical yield curve has higher interest rates for future maturities. In a flat yield curve, short-term and long-term yields are similar. Inverted yield curves occur when short-term yields exceed long-term yields. Inversions of yield curves have historically occurred during recessions.

Inverted yield curves have preceded each of the past eight US recessions. The good news is they're far leading indicators, meaning a recession is likely not imminent.

Every US recession since 1955 has occurred between six and 24 months after an inversion of the two-year and 10-year Treasury yield curves, according to the San Francisco Fed. So, six months before COVID-19, the yield curve inverted in August 2019.

Looking Ahead

The spread between two-year and 10-year Treasury yields was 0.18 percent on Tuesday, the smallest since before the last US recession. If the graph above continues, a two-year/10-year yield curve inversion could occur within the next few months.

According to Bank of America analyst Stephen Suttmeier, the S&P 500 typically peaks six to seven months after the 2s-10s yield curve inverts, and the US economy enters recession six to seven months later.

Investors appear unconcerned about the flattening yield curve. This is in contrast to the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT +2.19% which was down 1% on Tuesday.

Inversion of the yield curve and rising interest rates have historically harmed stocks. Recessions in the US have historically coincided with or followed the end of a Federal Reserve rate hike cycle, not the start.

Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

1 year ago

SaaS payback period data

It's ok and even desired to be unprofitable if you're gaining revenue at a reasonable cost and have 100%+ net dollar retention, meaning you never lose customers and expand them. To estimate the acceptable cost of new SaaS revenue, we compare new revenue to operating loss and payback period. If you pay back the customer acquisition cost in 1.5 years and never lose them (100%+ NDR), you're doing well.

To evaluate payback period, we compared new revenue to net operating loss for the last 73 SaaS companies to IPO since October 2017. (55 out of 73). Here's the data. 1/(new revenue/operating loss) equals payback period. New revenue/operating loss equals cost of new revenue.

Payback averages a year. 55 SaaS companies that weren't profitable at IPO got a 1-year payback. Outstanding. If you pay for a customer in a year and never lose them (100%+ NDR), you're establishing a valuable business. The average was 1.3 years, which is within the 1.5-year range.

New revenue costs $0.96 on average. These SaaS companies lost $0.96 every $1 of new revenue last year. Again, impressive. Average new revenue per operating loss was $1.59.

Loss-in-operations definition. Operating loss revenue COGS S&M R&D G&A (technical point: be sure to use the absolute value of operating loss). It's wrong to only consider S&M costs and ignore other business costs. Operating loss and new revenue are measured over one year to eliminate seasonality.

Operating losses are desirable if you never lose a customer and have a quick payback period, especially when SaaS enterprises are valued on ARR. The payback period should be under 1.5 years, the cost of new income < $1, and net dollar retention 100%.