With a market capitalisation of around $181 billion at the beginning of March, Bitcoin is the most popular of all the cryptocurrencies and is the centre of most cryptocurrency discussions (Forbes, 2018). Developed in 2009 by someone using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is a virtual currency that is decentralised and able to facilitate transactions without the need of financial intermediaries like banks (CNNMoney, 2018). Since Bitcoin’s creation, there has been a boom in the creation of alternate coins with different purposes. For example, Steemit; a platform for writers to publish their work, rewards their writers with a coin called Steem (Steem, 2017).
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyler Cochran; CEO of Metatip to learn more about alternate coins and how they are being launched.
Metatip is a cryptocurrency enterprise that is built on the Metaverse Blockchain and seeks to improve convenience in peer-peer and peer-enterprise transactions through their mobile wallet app. Transactions can be conducted within 30-90 seconds at one of the lowest cost; currently 0.0001 ETP per transaction. As part of Mr Cochran’s vision of improving accessibility of cryptocurrency to all, the app is made to be very user-friendly and suitable for individuals and SMEs which are not tech-savvy. Like its virtual currency, Metatip is not based in any one country and has staff working all over the globe from Malaysia to Switzerland.
Trends in the region
Mr Cochran sees that there are a growing number of companies moving towards integrating blockchain technology into their business models. This view has also been echoed during the Tech in Asia City Chapters’ (Kuala Lumpur) recent meeting with many of the speakers highlighting blockchain’s potential to disrupt traditional sectors. In particular, Joshua Wei country manager of OwlTing Malaysia; a company enabling local merchants to open mobile shops to reach global customers, said that putting food products onto blockchain secures food supplies and also “is a huge beginning for us to start predicting crop shortages and bumps in food supplies… just by starting with farmers, we can potentially unlock benefits promised by big data and IoT as well” (Techinasia, 2018). Here in Singapore, Bluzelle; a local start-up that helps other organisations build decentralised database systems to increase security of storing and managing information, has also helped HSBC to secure their protocols in areas such as Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance (Forbes, 2018).
Additionally Mr Cochran sees that Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is now the best way to raise funds. In 2017 alone, more than $5.6 billion was raised through ICOs while “traditional” venture investing in blockchain start-ups amounted to only around $1 billion. This is a huge leap from $240 million raised from token sales in 2016 (Business Insider Singapore, 2018).
Riding on the trends
To enable more companies to adopt blockchain technologies, Mr Cochran has positioned Metatip to facilitate fast and cheap transactions between consumers and enterprises by launching their own coin; META Token, which is built on the Metaverse blockchain (click here to learn about what the Metaverse is). By building on the Metaverse, organisations can easily adopt the META Token given that the Metaverse has an easy integration which is transparent and fast. The META Token also boasts transaction speeds that are ten times faster than bitcoin and 1000 times cheaper per transactions which make it suitable for micro-transactions which will be especially applicable for transactions between consumers and small businesses. Additionally Mr Cochran wants to serve unbankable industries. For example, he wants to enable Medical Marijuana establishments to transact in META Tokens given that the US federal government still classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug which has caused banks to avoid handling money from marijuana retailers to avoid the risk of being charged with money laundering (The Economist, 2018).
To raise funds to grow Metatip, Mr Cochran has also opted to conduct an ICO. Unlike traditional investment funding, there is no authoritative credit rating agency like S&P or Moody’s for tokens and thus cryptocurrency enterprises have to ensure that their offerings appeal to public vetting sites. These are some of the sites that Metatip has contacted:
In addition to having credibility, interest also needs to be generated to conduct a successful ICO. To do this, Metatip organises giveaway events through their social media channels like telegram and twitter to spread more awareness on their ICO. In particular Mr Cochran sees that telegram has become an increasingly important tool for cryptocurrency advertising and it has been called “the main hub for cryptocurrency watchers and investors” in an article by Bloomberg, 2018. This is because it has become common for cryptocurrency-enthusiast to start their own telegram channel and post crypto/blockchain related materials such as trading signals, news and upcoming events to educate their community. Mr Cochran’s marketing team is also exploring the use of iOS apps and will be doing a promotion launch @ bitcointalk forum – bounty campaign, once their app is released.
Mr Cochran feels that the greatest hindrance to the realisation of blockchain’s full potential is the lack of acceptance. For all the hype, blockchain is still a relatively new technology and not many understand or are even aware of the applications of the technology beyond being a trading instrument for speculation. In a poll conducted last year on 1,000 Americans by LendEDU, found that only 31.6% of Americans have heard of Ethereum (the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation) and only 24.9% of Americans had even heard of ICOs with 21% thinking that investing in ICOs is illegal and 61.1% being unsure of its legality (LendEDU, 2017). Without understanding and corresponding awareness of the capabilities of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, Mr Cochran feels that getting consumers and enterprises to adopt these new technologies will be an uphill battle.
The lack of homogeneity in regulations is also a challenge given that Metatip was born an international company with no single country as its base. In Asia, Japan and China have taken an almost opposite stance towards cryptocurrencies. Last year Japan became one of the first jurisdictions to legalise bitcoin as a payment method and recognised cryptocurrencies as an asset. On the other hand, China banned digital-asset exchange and ICOs. Other countries in Asia tend to fall in between the spectrum with Hong Kong not banning but warning cryptocurrency platforms against trading securities without permission; Singapore calling cryptocurrencies an “experiment” with no case to ban trading and India announcing that it will take measures to curb usage since cryptocurrencies are not considered as legal tender (The Business Times, 2018). Outside Asia, the Russian Ministry of Finance has published a draft to legalise cryptocurrencies and trading on licensed exchanges, but stopped short of recognising cryptocurrencies as a means of payment (SCMP, 2018). In the US, cryptocurrency trading tend to fall into a jurisdictional grey area as there is no single federal US watchdog of virtual currencies (Reuters, 2018). With widely differing regulations, launching a world-wide cryptocurrency solution is a messy challenge for Mr Cochran.
Recognising the need for public awareness on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, more educational courses on these technologies are emerging. For example the Wisconsin School of Business will soon join Duke Fuqua School of Business, Oxford Said School and Imperial College to offer courses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain (BusinessBecause, 2018). Here in Singapore, our Singapore University of Social Sciences also offers blockchain programming workshops (SUSS, 2018). With more education on these new technologies, discussions on viability can enter a more meaningful stage where discourse will be on facts rather than what the technology is assumed to be.
Future of cryptocurrencies
When Bitcoin first launched, the world was introduced to the massive disruptive potential of what a decentralised virtual currency can achieve. Since then, other new coins such as META Tokens have been invented and are able to address specific needs even better than Bitcoin. Funding the development of such alternate coins has also become easier given that this new technology has also brought in a powerful new method of crowd funding; the ICO, which greatly democratizes the way companies are funded. However Mr Cochran believes that to unlock the full potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, education and regulations on these new technologies have to improve.