Tag Archives: markethive

Blockchain Low Among Corporate Investment Priorities, PwC Finds

Blockchain Low Among Corporate Investment Priorities, PwC Finds

   Business, Data

'Big Four' consulting firm and accountancy PwC has published a detailed report on the current state of blockchain at large companies. The report provides unique insight into the blockchain industry in a very specific sample-set: companies with 500 employees or more but from the legacy banking sector and financial technology startups. If you read between the lines though, the message is clear: it's go, time. While investment last year was at an all-time high, future plans to invest show other technologies taking precedent. The technology is moving out of the lab, and dividends will likely be expected soon.

From the report:

"The technology is moving from hype to reality and we will likely see business use cases becoming more common."

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they expect their companies to incorporate blockchain into their production by 2020. But a separate section about upcoming investment plans paints a different picture. While half of all financial technology companies intend to focus on blockchain in the next 12 months, only 19% of large banks made the same claim.

On a list of future investment areas related to technology among the same-sized companies, blockchain was near the bottom, with only 20% of respondents saying they would invest in the next 12 month. At the top of the list was 'data analytics' with 74% of respondents expecting to invest during the same period, followed by 'mobile' with 51% and 'artificial intelligence' with 34%, respectively.


PwC blockchain investments

Other interesting takeaways from the report include that 90% of payment companies are "heavily invested" in blockchain and plan to adopt the technology as part of a production system by 2020. Twenty-four percent of the respondents identified as "very or extremely familiar" with blockchain, an increase of 7% since last year, with North American respondents being the most familiar across regions. While 77% expect some sort of live implementation of blockchain by 2020, 55% say it could happen as soon as 2018.

As with the other so-called 'Big Four' accounting firms, PwC has been positioning itself as a leader in the blockchain industry. In November, the firm released details about Project Vulcan to study bitcoin, and last month, it joined the Crypto Valley Association in Switzerland. Going forward the report finds that the most likely business use cases for early blockchain implementations were payments infrastructure, fund transfer infrastructure, and digital identity management.

The report concluded:

"We have also seen growing interest in the technology from insurance companies in areas such as personal and marine insurance, including claims processes."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Music Groups Band Together to Build Blockchain Rights Solution

Music Groups Band Together to Build Blockchain Rights Solution

Drums, Instrument, Music

Three societies tasked with protecting the intellectual property rights of musicians, writers, and other content creators have joined forces to build a blockchain solution to prevent piracy. Powered by Hyperledger's open-source Fabric distributed ledger, and managed by IBM, the nascent platform is being designed to create a tangible connection between the time content is created and the time it is consumed.

Founded by the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers; the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music; and PRS for Music, the joint project has the potential to help prevent online piracy by tracking more sophisticated data about music content on the blockchain.

In the face of generations-old concerns for the compensation of musicians and composers, however, it is worth noting that the blockchain solution currently being developed only has potential to help artists according to the rights granted by their contracting companies. The chief executive of PRS for Music, Robert Ashcroft, explained in a statement how real-time reporting of data about the digital consumption of content could empower a diverse set of stakeholders and lead to new business models.

Ashcroft said:

"If blockchain can help us achieve this, it will unlock opportunities for developers of new digital applications, increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders."

Similar to blockchain consortia in other industries, the goal of this joint music initiative is to create and adopt a shared, decentralized database that streamlines the flow of data. Unlike those consortia, however, the information the group wants to track is metadata about artistic works with real-time updates and more advanced tracking capabilities.

Although still in the early stages of development, the improved ability to track the ownership of legally protected creative works could eventually help confirm the legal owner of a work and the origin of disputed works.

Boosting artists

The formation of the joint initiative is the largest movement yet by what might be considered members of the legacy creative infrastructure providers. Since 2006, earnings for the US music industry alone have declined by about $5bn, largely due to the shift to the online streaming of music, according to The New York Times.

Of the total industry revenue, musicians earn on average about 20%, and one study found that 77% of the recorded music revenue went to just 1% of musicians. To help even that disparity, a number of blockchain startups have already responded to calls for a shared, distributed ledger to track artists' intellectual property and give them more control over their creations.

Startups like dotBlockchain Music (dotBC), Mycelia, MusicChain and Ujo Music have all, in their own way, set their sights not just on preventing piracy, but cutting out unnecessary middlemen.

Growing interest

However, based on today’s announcement, it would appear the music industry has come a long way since the early days of blockchain adoption. Once considered to be largely resistant to the transparency afforded by blockchain development, industry firms are now openly exploring the technology.

In April of last year, PRS for Music hosted a debate about blockchain technology, and two months later, SACEM was one of several legacy music companies to join the Open Music Initiative – aimed specifically at using blockchain to better serve musicians.

The least active of the three partners appears to be the historically litigious ASCAP, which has an online presence mostly limited to linking to articles about blockchain's dubious potential. Back in March, though, the group’s newly appointed CEO made a provocative statement first intimating at a potential change in tone. Describing her interest to increase international collaboration on technological solutions, Elizabeth Mathews concluded:

"If we work on these proof of concepts in areas like blockchain technology and others, the benefit will far outweigh the status quo."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Is Still Underrated

Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Is Still Underrated    

So what’s the deal?

The numbers on social media marketing are impressive. More than half of small businesses in the United States are planning to increase their social media marketing budgets in 2017, and the number of businesses using social media marketing has increased, year over year, for more than a decade.

Still, social media marketing remains underrated. Business owners and marketers frequently treat it as a second thought—something for an intern to handle, rather than a strategically deep mode of building your reputation and attracting new traffic. Some have even abandoned the idea altogether, refusing to spend any time or money on a strategy that nets a positive ROI for up to 92 percent of businesses that use it.

Why isn’t everyone on board with the strategy?

The "fad" angle.

Believe it or not, some people still believe that social media—or its use as a marketing strategy—is still a fad just waiting to fizzle out. This is an argument I could have understood back in 2007 when social media platforms were only in use by a small percentage of the population. But now that Facebook has reached more than 1.2 billion users and is still growing, with a corporate foundation that rivals those of Apple or Google, it’s a hard argument to defend. Users have gotten used to the idea of socially interacting online, and platforms keep evolving in new ways to maintain their interest.

You get what you pay for.

Psychologically, people tend to place more value on things that cost more money. For example, in a blind taste test of identical wines whose only difference is price, people claim that the more expensive (yet compositionally identical) wine tastes better. Take this principle to social media marketing; it’s free to claim and build a business profile and to post regularly (as long as you aren’t leveraging paid advertising). Because of that, people don’t value it as much as they do paid advertising. They’re also less likely to pay a professional to work on a social media campaign, knowing that—technically—anyone could do it for free (even if they never actually do it).

Unmeasurable effects.

The return on investment (ROI) of social media is hard to measure, and I’ll be the first to admit it. One of your biggest goals is attracting a large following of people who are enthusiastic about your brand and improving both your brand’s reputation and brand awareness. These aren’t as objectively measurable as on-site conversions, but they can and do lead to greater consumer interest, which manifests as sales eventually. Trying to pin down an exact value for all these benefits is next to impossible, even for the pros, so the value of a social media campaign is almost always underreported.

Anecdotes.

People also use anecdotal evidence as a basis for their opinions about the strategy. For example, they may know of another business who used social media and didn’t see any results, so they stay away from it in the present. However, these anecdotal examples often don’t examine the types of tactics these businesses used, and they certainly don’t represent the average across multiple businesses.

Apples and oranges.

Ironically, these same business owners often cite the fact that anecdotal evidence can’t prove a strategy’s effectiveness for everybody. They point to major influencers or big businesses in the social media world, and explain that social media works for them because it fits naturally with their industry, or because they have the resources to invest in a heavy campaign. It’s true that some industries may be naturally inclined to perform better on social media than others; tech companies and consumer-facing businesses are two good examples. However, social media marketing can be used by practically any company—it may just require an adjustment to your approach.

Poor targeting.

Some businesses look at their own results and use those results as a gauge of the long-term potential of their campaign. But they may not realize that their strategic targeting is interfering with their results. For example, if you buy 1,000 followers using some super cheap follower-adding service, but only 4 or 5 of them ever interact with your posts or visit your site, it could be that the remaining 995 don’t belong to demographics relevant for your business, or that you haven’t been using the right engagement strategies to cultivate interest. Don’t underestimate the potential of a well-researched, strategically focused campaign.

Lack of investment.

Effective social media marketing can’t be done on a whim. It needs to be planned, researched, and strategically executed. That means you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time or a significant amount of money to see results; and since many business owners aren’t willing to make that investment, they never see a fraction of their potential results. By that point, they’ve seen what a small investment does, and they’re unwilling to make the jump to a larger investment.

Social media marketing isn’t an “underground” strategy; it’s talked about heavily (and I should know), and there’s no shortage of content covering its feasibility and best tactics. But the perceptions of marketers and business owners are still lagging behind the evidence, and they’re only hurting themselves in the process. The more you learn about the effective implementation of social media marketing, the more plainly beneficial it seems—but you have to treat it as a legitimate marketing strategy if you want to research it appropriately.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

 

Email marketing, SEO, content creation, social media, influencer outreach, lead nurturing. Yes, inbound marketing encompasses them all. And let’s face it – that’s enough to inspire fear in the steeliest and most seasoned of digital marketers. With so many tactics to consider and too many leads to deliver it’s easy to lose focus of what you’re trying to achieve. That’s where a well-crafted plan comes into play. Below we’ll reveal the strategic 7 step process that will help you deliver a customer-warming, boss-pleasing, prospect-loving strategy that’s achievable, realistic and bang on target.

Define Your Personas

Inbound marketing is all about your customers – you have no business in the um… business, if you center your plan around any other silly tactics, tricks or gimmicks. The first step of your plan should, therefore, focus on understanding what makes your customers click, tick and get excited. Get to the heart of your customers’ thoughts, behaviors, problems, needs, and desires by creating well-fleshed-out, fully-defined and real-to-life personas.

Use HubSpot’s (free) Make My Persona Tool to create personas worth referencing. Your entire inbound marketing strategy should be built around your core personas – you’ll storm ahead of your competition if you consult these fictional customers at every stage of your planning process. This includes when you’re creating blog posts, crafting email campaigns and conducting keyword research – you can even bring them into your brainstorm meetings to add real insight and depth to your ideas.

Discover Your Customer’s Triggers

Pain Points – You need to understand at which points your customers interact with your messages. It is important to identify the pain points your customer's experience and the problems they encounter to make them search for your product or service. This core insight alone can add true depth to your messages.

Think about it – identifying your customers’ pain points enables you to target people with both reason and emotion at a time that makes sense to them. You’re basing your messages on real solutions rather than assumptions. And make no mistake about it – your competitors will assume rather than take the time to identify real solutions for real persona problems. That way you’ll win.

Different Needs for Different Stages – You’ve probably heard many digital marketers talk about the concept of context. Not all of your customers have the same needs – some arrive at different points of the buying funnel. When mapping out your pain points it’s essential to add context by considering the needs and desires of your different customer types at each separate stage of the operation.

Set Your Inbound Marketing Objectives

You will need to determine from the outset which inbound marketing objectives you would like your strategy to achieve. These should support and help you achieve both your digital marketing objectives and your business objectives. For example, if lead generation is the most important objective for your business, your inbound marketing plan should be centered around generating leads. And every tactic you employ should support your lead generation mission.

As with every digital marketing plan, your inbound marketing metrics need to be SMART. That means strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If in doubt, identify the information your CEO would want reported back to him/her in the boardroom – you need to answer the ‘what’, ‘how many’ and ‘when’ of your plan. For example, ‘We’re going to generate 200 new leads in a quarter.’ Each KPI needs to be realistic and achievable based on the success of past campaigns along with the predicted success of your inbound plan.

Define Your Content Strategy

Content is an integral part of inbound marketing. You will, therefore, need to create a content marketing plan to form the beating heart of your inbound marketing strategy. This is how you will keep your customers engaged with your brand and nourished with rich and valuable information. This is how you will keep your name on their minds at the point when they’re ready, willing and able to buy.

The Objectives – Your content strategy objectives should be SMART and need to support your inbound marketing objectives. Maybe they’ll be similar. If your inbound marketing objective is lead generation, for example, your content strategy should certainly support this.

Competitor Analysis – The purpose of this phase is not to copy your competitors but to define how you can be better. Research your competitors content marketing and investigate what they get up to on social media using a social media monitoring tool like Hootsuite. Sign up to their newsletter so you can partake in their lead nurturing campaigns and use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to track backlinks and discover how your competitors score on their overall SEO performance.

The Content – First it’s important to define how your content will help your customers. Will it educate them? Inspire them? Entertain them? Then you can decide on the types of content you’ll create and the topics you’ll tackle. For example, will you concentrate solely on blogging or will you try video marketing and webinars? Will you create long form posts or opt for shorter but more regular features? Will you seek industry expert opinions?

More questions to consider at this phase include: Is lead generation important for your business and if so will you create gated whitepapers to help you generate new, quality leads? If you have a shoe company will you stick to writing about shoes or will you venture into the area of fashion and lifestyle?

Distribution – It’s equally important to create a plan for distributing your content. Will you enlist the help of industry influencers or will your trial paid promotion options like LinkedIn advertising, Facebook and Twitter ads or third party platforms?

Define Your Lead Nurturing Plan

Sometimes your customers will discover your website when they’re not quite ready to buy yet. Maybe they need more questions answered, maybe they need more time to decide whether it’s the right product/service for them, maybe they want to research competitor offerings or maybe they don’t have the money saved at that point in time. Whatever their reason for stalling, it’s your job to keep them warmed up for the sales team to prospect or until they’re ready to buy.

Automated email trigger campaigns provide the perfect means to nurture leads. It gives you the ideal opportunity to keep prospects engaged with your content, your brand and your mission. You can segment your lead database based on the action your prospects took to give you their details. You can then set about creating a series of tailored and relevant messages.

Establish Your Influencer Outreach Agenda

Building quality relationships with key industry influencers is one of the most important components for inbound marketing. That’s because these people hold significant reach and authority in your industry. They have already established trust and have hundreds of thousands of social media followers – followers who look just like your customers.

The Target List – Use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you identify and create an outreach list of potential influencer targets. Then you can set about creating mutually beneficial relationships with these industry influencers. Always give more than you take – offer value and lots of it well in advance of asking for anything back. Once you have established a true connection with these influencers you can ask for a quick quote and a potential share in the politest and most humble manner possible.

Guest Blogging Plan – It’s also important to define your guest blogging approach at this stage. Research potential relevant and influential blogs in your niche and read the submission guidelines. You’ll can create a pitch at this stage if you wish but you will have to make sure it’s customized and relevant for every publication you approach. Read this guide ‘Influencer Cheat Sheet: How to Connect, Engage & Get What You Want’ for more tips on how to perfect your personal approach.

Decide How to Analyse & Report

Now that you have your inbound marketing plan in place you will need to decide upon the tools you’ll use to report on the progress of your objectives and the success of your KPIs. Will you, for example, use Google Analytics to track your goals and conversions? Will you use BuzzSumo to track the success of your content marketing and break down your shares by platform? Will you use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to monitor your SEO progress?

Want to become an Inbound Marketing Specialist? Our Online Professional Diploma in Search Marketing is created, validated and accredited by industry experts and will give you the specialist knowledge needed to thrive in the field.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The Business Development Mix: Do You Have the Right Stuff?

The Business Development Mix: Do You Have the Right Stuff?
Aligning your sales process with your target markets

  

Ever since the release of the Society for Marketing Professional Services / SMPS Foundation report, Sell. Do. Win Business. How A/E/C Firms are Using Staff to Win More Work (pdf), I’ve had a number of very interesting conversations with senior sales and marketing executives as well as firm principals. The research – which included almost 1400 surveys and several dozen phone interviews – reinforced some assumptions and provided clarity on others related to architectural practice, engineering practice and construction industry business marketing and business development.

If there is one over-arching theme to be gleaned from the research, it is that A/E/C firms are spending more money on business development (BD) than they have in the past – and they intend to increase spending in the future. This conclusion is not based upon any concrete expense forecasts (e.g., percent of net revenue spent on BD), but rather the significant growth of both seller-doer and dedicated business developer positions at architecture, engineering, construction, and related firms.

Compared with ten years ago, architectural firms have increased the number of business developers they employ by 20%, engineers by 34%, and construction firms by 45%. A decade ago we were enjoying the pre-recession boom in the A/E/C industry, so the growth in dedicated BD professionals is significant.

   BD Staffing Trends - Past 10 Years

                                     Business Development Staffing Trends – Next 10 Years
For the number of seller-doers compared with ten years ago, the statistics are equally impressive. Thirty-three percent of architects have increased the number of seller-doers on staff, while 43% have increased the amount of time that their seller-doers spend doing business development. For engineers, the numbers are greater: 45% of firms have added seller-doers while 45% have increased the percent of time that seller-doers focus on the sales portion of the equation. And for contractors, 41% have added seller-doers while 49% report that their seller-doers spend more time on business development than they did a decade ago.

To firm executives, this means one thing: more overhead. So what gives? Why are firms willing to increase their labor expenses for business development? There are numerous factors driving this trend, but the reality is that we are in a highly-competitive marketplace. Client loyalties have changed: whereas a decade ago there was so much construction happening that a lot of firms could “sit back and wait for the phone to ring” (it’s never really that easy, is it?), that isn’t the case anymore. We’re in a new era of purchasing, with the dreaded “three-bid mentality” destroying long-term relationships and potentially negatively impacting the owners/clients – when the A/E/C firm that knows their culture, facilities, and/or structures isn’t the low bid and newbies come in, this could be a good thing. Or a very bad one!

Third-party facilities managers are increasingly common, as are prequalification/screening firms. So a client you’ve worked with for twenty years may suddenly outsource A/E/C hiring decisions to a firm that doesn’t know you, or require you to go through a screening process (often online) to see if you meet their “new” criteria. Contract language is changing as well, with the dreaded “duty to defend” clause appearing in an alarming number of contracts, forcing firms to walk away from existing clients because the contract terms have become unacceptable – or even uninsurable.

Beyond that, Baby Boomer clients are retiring in droves, taking with them the loyalty to certain architecture, engineering, environmental, consulting, or construction firms, and their replacements often have no loyalties, forcing you to “start from scratch” with a long-term client. Furthermore, depending upon your geographic area and the markets you serve, there may very well be a lack of work to go around. Some areas and markets are booming; others not so much.

So because of these many reasons, and others, A/E/C firms need to have more “feet on the street” when it comes to business development. They need to search wider and deeper to find new clients – or even gain repeat commissions with past or current clients. But this isn’t permanent, is it? Certainly, the tide will change. Right? Well, according the SMPS/SMPS Foundation research, firms believe we are in a new norm – one that may become even more extreme over the next decade.

Survey participants were asked about anticipated staffing changes in the coming decade. Fifty-one percent of architectural firms anticipate adding even more seller-doers while 38% expect to hire more business developers. Engineers are projecting significant expansion of these positions as well, with 59% of firms planning to add seller-doers and 52% expecting to add dedicated business developers. The numbers were similar for construction firms, with 52% anticipating adding seller-doers and 53% adding business developers over the coming decade.

  
BD Staffing Trends - Next 10 Years

That’s huge. And again, that translates to major increases in overhead, above and beyond the increases that firms are seeing today. So where will this money come from? Profits? Cutting expenses in other categories (including non-labor marketing expenses)? The money must come from somewhere, but firms are expecting a simple formula to play out:

More business developers + more seller-doers = more contracts.

Simply put, in order to grow, they have to expand the ranks of people involved with sales. And they hope – expect – that “a rising tide will lift all boats,” so that ultimately they aren’t spending more for business development labor as a percentage of revenue, otherwise it comes directly off the bottom line. But are A/E/C companies approaching business development wisely? Do they have the right stuff, baby?

As much as firms would like to have a one-size-fits-all, out of the box approach to BD staffing, the reality is that every firm needs to develop the formula that works best for them, and their unique circumstances. This begins with a thorough understanding of your target markets. The majority of successful firms are focused on a few primary markets. Yes, there are still generalists, but they increasingly struggle when competing against niche firms, often being unable to pass the “sniff test” when it comes to baseline qualifications.

So take a good, hard look at the markets you pursue. Where do your firm credentials exist? How about staff credentials, which are often of equal or greater importance to firm experience? Are these markets profitable? Just because you do a lot of K-12 education work doesn’t mean you should, particularly if you keep losing money on projects!

When you truly understand your firm’s areas of focus, you next need to match your business development approach to those markets. Alignment is critical here, or you’ll struggle to maximize the value of your BD staff. Some markets make a lot of sense for the seller-doer approach. Clients are highly sophisticated and expect detailed, technical-driven conversations from the very first meeting. Failure to align your salespeople with the clients’ expectations can be the kiss of death: you won’t be invited back for a second meeting. An example of a market like this would be industrial or health care.

Even if the roadmap you are developing seemingly requires all seller-doers,t discount the role of the dedicated business developer. Other markets, however, do not require such technical conversations early on. The gatekeepers, and even decision makers, may not be technical in nature, and a non-technical business developer may offer perfect alignment for the client needs, excelling at the front-end “getting to know you” conversations. Local governments, for instance, often fall into this bucket.

Maybe all of your target markets favor the seller-doer approach, maybe they all favor the dedicated business developer. Most likely, there is a need for both. If you are a small firm, having a dedicated business developer may not be an option; yes, there are some very small firms that have fulltime sellers, but that is not the norm.

Even if the roadmap you are developing seemingly requires all seller-doers, don’t discount the role of the dedicated business developer. Recent SMPS research has found that the role of sales professionals is changing, evolving. They are still actively doing business development, but increasingly they are coaching seller-doers, training them to be effective sellers. They are looking at strategic plans and aligning the sales programs. And they are often the first voice or face that a prospective client encounters, opening the doors for the seller-doers. I often hear it said that business developers are openers – they open the doors at prospective clients, while seller-doers are closers – they are closing deals, landing contracts.

Because both roles are so critical, firms are adding and will continue to add both positions. But only you can determine what makes the most sense for your markets, your services, and your geographic regions. One size only fits one size, so don’t try to force square pegs into round holes – you may lose clients, project opportunities, and talented staff along the way.

And for many firms, losing talented staff is as terrifying a proposition as not landing new project commissions. Highly effective seller-doers are rare, and when a company loses one, they may lose a lot of business when that person leaves. Likewise, while only 8% of participants in the SMPS/SMPS Foundation survey reported that they can’t find qualified business developers, that number will certainly grow in the coming years. Rainmakers are retiring, and veteran business developers – who came into the A/E/C industry in the early days of the profession (until the late 1970s, it was illegal and considered unethical for professional services firms to sell or market) are retiring. Plus, the demand for BD professionals – and seller-doers – is growing, so it will become more difficult to find these positions in the future.

So what’s the takeaway? Look at your markets and your BD approaches to ensure that you are aligning the sales function with the client/prospect needs. Evaluate your staffing and identify the gaps. And develop a plan to ensure that you are not only effectively responding to the market today, but will be in the coming years.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin’s value is set to soar – three predictions for the future of the cryptocurrency

Bitcoin's value is set to soar – 
three predictions for the future
of the cryptocurrency

  

Utah Software Engineer Mints Physical Bitcoins

Bitcoin and digital currency more broadly is one of the most divisive concepts of our time. The idea of a currency which is not controlled by a state or a corporation and which maintains such a high level of privacy for its users is a much-needed relief for some and a threat to the whole economic and political system to others. One thing is certain: its value has soared over the past 12 months from just over $400 per bitcoin a year ago to over $1,350 in recent weeks.

Here are three predictions for the future of bitcoin…

Bitcoin will be closer to £3,000 by the end of the year

As bitcoin is primarily used for trading or transferring value, the value of bitcoin is controlled by the total value of goods in transit tied to bitcoin as the payment medium. As more and more trade is taken up using bitcoin as the transaction medium, the value of bitcoin will rise to equal that trade.

With non-digital currencies, this valuation fluctuation can be controlled by the government or state monetary authority controlling supply (through variation in the amount of currency created) and controlling demand (through setting interest rates). However, governments cannot control the supply of bitcoin so as the currency becomes more widely used, a continuous increase in the value of bitcoin is predicted. This theory is born out of research undertaken by the World Economic Forum.

Money laundering poses a big threat

While many will associate the use of bitcoin with the purchasing of illicit materials from sites such as the now defunct Silk Road, there are now potentially much more lucrative opportunities for criminals. The dark or shadow economy is estimated to take up somewhere in the region of 17 percent of the world's total GDP. Due to the level of anonymity bitcoin provides, there is a huge opportunity for its use to avoid anti-money laundering legislation. Any increase in use here would result in a reflected uplift in the value.

Governments will try to control bitcoin (and fail)

As bitcoin becomes more pervasive, we predict governments will try to control it, try to understand more detail about how it is being used and try to monitor its use in the dark economy. However, because of the structure of bitcoin, and the encryption and anonymity which is baked into blockchain there is very little opportunity to control this. The only clear way for nation states to control the distribution of the currency would be for them to buy up the supply and stockpile bitcoin, as many have done with gold.

Regardless of what bitcoin is being used for, the key takeaway is that it is being used more and more widely and that this expanding use is resulting in a corresponding uplift in value which shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin prices jump as Japan makes the cryptocurrency legal

Bitcoin prices jump as Japan makes the cryptocurrency legal

  

  Japan IT Finance MTGOX-BITCOIN

Bitcoin prices have surged following Japan’s decision to allow the cryptocurrency as a legal method of payment, marking a major step in its adoption. The price of a bitcoin rose above $1,140 (£909) according to Coindesk’s price index. Just over a week ago one bitcoin was trading below $1,000. Japan's new law will mean bitcoin exchanges have to comply with anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer regulations. The cryptocurrency was drawn to Japanese regulators' attention by the spectacular collapse of the Tokyo-based Mt Gox exchange in February 2014.

The push to institutionalise bitcoin had been dealt a blow by the failure of a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracking the currency to gain regulatory approval from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Japan recognises Bitcoin as a valid

The SEC had been concerned by the lack of regulatory oversight in the bitcoin spot exchange market, which would allow market manipulation and fraud. Yet the move by Japan recognises bitcoin as a valid part of the financial infrastructure, setting an example which other governments will watch closely.

Pavel Matveev, co-founder at bitcoin platform Wirex, said: “Japan has fired a starting pistol in terms of cryptocurrency adoption. “Japan’s recognition of consumers’ appetite for cryptocurrency payments is an important development and provides other governments with food for thought if they wish to compete in an increasingly globalised and digital world."

Bitcoin’s adoption has slowly moved from the more arcane, even anarchic, corners of the libertarian internet towards being increasingly accepted in the mainstream. However, the cryptocurrency still faces barriers to institutional take-up, with massive volatility in prices and scepticism from regulators stemming from bitcoin’s central role behind online black market payments.

There are also concerns within the developer community around bitcoin’s architecture. It is based on distributed ledger technology which means every user has an identical record of payments, stored in the blockchain.

However, the rapid expansion in bitcoin activity has led to debates about increasing the size of the blocks. Some in the bitcoin community fear a “hard fork” in which two competing versions of the cryptocurrency exist, fragmenting a market with little central control.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How the Blockchain is Being Used Beyond Bitcoin and Finance

How the Blockchain is Being Used Beyond Bitcoin and Finance

  

The clouds of misconception and skepticism around bitcoin were

so dark in the initial years that it hid the genius behind it.  In trying to understand bitcoin, it brought into the spotlight the technology that underpins it –
the blockchain.

During the World Economic Forum at Davos, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund spoke about virtual currencies and released a paper titled “Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations.” The paper examines virtual currencies as well as blockchain. It reads, “VC schemes and distributed ledger technologies can strengthen financial efficiency by facilitating peer-to-peer exchange while reducing transaction times and costs, especially across borders…Beyond payments systems, distributed ledger technologies have implications for a wide range of markets and financial market infrastructures as a fast, accurate and secure record keeping system, including for stock exchanges, central securities depositories, securities settlement systems or trade repositories.” While blockchain has applications beyond bitcoin, the two are intertwined. In fact, bitcoin can be called a beautiful, first application of this amazing technology.

Improving the Ledger

Throughout history, records of transactions have always been an essential part of tracking information, be it in commerce or government activities. Such recordings created ledgers, which house these records. Blockchain supports digital distributed ledgers that record and store data.  The data is ‘distributed’ across a whole network, which can be open to everyone (“unpermissioned”) or restricted in terms of participants (“permissioned”).

Blockchain’s distributed ledger has great potential of cost-saving especially for international remittances for the banking system. According to the IMF report on virtual currencies, “The costs of sending international remittances, however, are notoriously high: as of 2015, the global average cost of sending small remittances (for example US $200) is 7.7%, though this has declined from just below 10% in 2008. In contrast, the cost with Bitcoin is estimated to be about 1% (Goldman Sachs, 2014).” Banks are looking to act fast as blockchain-based remittance systems have already made a debut; in the Philippines and Kenya, such platforms offer transfers via bitcoin and back into fiat currency.

Besides cost advantages, the other area where banks are looking to benefit from blockchain is efficiency in operations. The use of this technology will help them get rid of ‘headache work’ like manual processes, middlemen, huge data entry and verifications; blockchain making all possible at a faster speed and greater accuracy. The blockchain technology is being looked at as a great invention, which has many potential uses in many other industries such as music, healthcare, diamond, real estate and more. Even governments are showing interest in the breakthrough technology.

Blockchain Moves Beyond Finance

A recent report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser says, “distributed ledger technology provides the framework for the government to reduce fraud, corruption, error and the cost of paper-intensive processes. It has the potential to redefine the relationship between government and the citizen in terms of data sharing, transparency, and trust. It has similar possibilities for the private sector.” The diamond industry, which is highly prone to fraud, has already embraced the blockchain technology. Everledger is a permanent ledger for diamond certification and related transaction history. It provides verification for insurance companies, claimants and law enforcement. According to Everledger, “£200 million is spent by insurers each year for tackling fraud.”

Likewise, the real estate industry can benefit greatly from the blockchain technology. According to Ragnar Lifthrasir, “Putting property titles on the Bitcoin blockchain will bring the real estate industry out of its existing 18th-century technology. Title insurance is a $20 billion industry. It’s estimated that the total annual cost of fighting and resolving title fraud is $1 billion.”

The healthcare industry has shown interest in the blockchain technology and companies such as Facto, Tierion, DNA.Bits, BitHealth, and Gem are working on such projects. A tweet in October 2015, revealed a project for Philip Healthcare Group in collaboration with Tierion. The health care sector holds a lot of confidential information, like records of medical history, diseases, payments, and treatment. The blockchain not only provides a solution to the concern over the security and privacy of such sensitive data, it would help eliminate the huge costs incurred by hospitals and healthcare service providers in managing the patient and other such information.

Not far behind is the music industry, which has its own tailor-made blockchain. PeerTracks, a music streaming, and retail company is the first outfit to use the brand-new MUSE platform, in partnership with Danish exchange CCEDK and OpenLedger. OpenLedger, through its Danish registrar CCEDK, is now offering a fiat gateway – enabling anyone to buy MUSE for USD via the OPENMUSE/OPEN.USD market. On platforms using the MUSE network, such as PeerTracks, all the payments made by consumers, and income generated by artists, are in crypto-USD, so there is no confusion about how much a track costs – and no issues with crypto’s trademark volatility.

The technology is also being put to use for creation of decentralised credit rating and KYC. “Algorythmix has been named the most transformative use of blockchain in Citi Mobile Challenge APAC 2015, for “Cetas – The decentralised KYC and Credit rating framework. Cetas is a decentralised platform which enables sharing of the KYC data using blockchain.” There are many other projects working around the blockchain technology like Microsoft Corporation’s (MSFT) Azure Blockchain as a Service program, and the Open Ledger Project spearheaded by IBM overseen by the not-for-profit Linux Foundation. The project involves other big names like Wells Fargo & Company (WFC), London Stock Exchange Group Plc., Accenture Plc. (ACN), Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), Digital Asset, Intel Corporation (INTC) and many more.

The Final Word

This is just an overview of the multiple projects being worked around this innovative technology. The blockchain technology, still in its early years, has thrown down the gauntlet in front of the current systems, challenging them to overhaul.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchain Mormons, ICOs, Aliens, Football: London Scene Round Up

Blockchain Mormons, ICOs, Aliens, Football: London Scene Round Up

  

Mormons seeing the light in Blockchain

Our London Correspondent Nick Ayton, the Sage of Shoreditch, reports on new promising ICOs, Mormons seeing the light in Blockchain, Satoshi run over in Picadilly, Blockchain entrepreneur abducted by aliens and CityChain 2017 which was a huge hit! In short, another exciting week in fintech capital whereby some Blockchain is apparently seen as a religion.

Proof of Donation

The Mormon church realized Proof of Donation consensus could be a blessing in disguise. Forget the West End play called “Book of Mormon” and let me introduce you to the Ledger of Mormon. Obsessed with record keeping, the church that is, it wouldn’t be long until it was adopted by one of the mainstream faiths. “The Ledger of Mormon is the perfect place to record all donations that come from our communities” mentions Donald Osmund.

“The Mormon community is funded by its community members and from other donations, with each recorded on the Blockchain as a separate transaction where all members of the Mormon church can see what others are contributing.”

“We decided to adapt the Proof of Work consensus alogorithm as on Sundays the server room got hot which made the lights dim as the donations were processed in real time. So we came up with Proof of Donation that is less labor and resource intensive.”

ICO RoundUp

Among the upcoming ICOs, I am looking forward to is Metal. Announcing the ICO its founder Marshall Hayner told me about their Proof of Payments Processed consensus that allows everyone to get rewarded for every dollar spent. Other ICOs are Aeternity delivering Lightning-based Smart Contracts that is already active, and of course Cosmos and TaaS ICOs gaining pace with the big one Storj attempting to solve the decentralized storage challenges of Blockchain that is expected anytime soon.

Satoshi in Hospital

Satoshi gets run over by a chocolate lorry delivering Easter eggs.

CT: I got a call from Vittalark Buttering who seemed very panicked on Tuesday.
Vittalark Buttering:
He is not that badly hurt you know.

CT: Who? Like I didn’t know.
VB:
Satoshi’s been run over by a chocolate duck shaped van on Picadilly.

CT: Is he Ok?
VB:
I think so, he is at the Royal Chelsea Hospital and I am on my way to see him. Apparently, he was impaled on chocolate bunnies and might not be able to eat chocolate ever again.

CT: Well that is a relief. Maybe he could design Proof of Cocoa.
But before I got an answer the line went dead and Vitallark was gone. We hope Satoshi makes a full recovery and he con continue to eat chocolate.

CityChain 17 lands at IBM Southbank

Following a successful Blockchain for Business People event to hot ticket, this week was CityChain 17 with some familiar names speaking. The event didn’t disappoint as it was produced by ‘mbn solutions’ based in Glasgow who are at the center of the Scottish Blockchain movement which has seen Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Parliament support.

Hosted by Paul Forrest (Chair) and organized by Michael Young there was a healthy dose of Hyperledger ever present but it was Gideon Greenspan CEO CoinSciences and brains behind MultiChain that for me stole the show, although Dave Birch at Consult Hyperion was the audience’s favourite delivering an amusing talk announcing “Blockchain is a religion, not a technology” soundbite. With talks from Simon Taylor, Director of Blockchain at 11:FS, Peter Bidewell at Applied Blockchain and John McLean of IBM CityChain have shown it was a well-rounded event, definitely one for your Blockchain Calendar.

Abducted Again

West Ham Football Club Fan and Blockchain entrepreneur abducted by aliens, again… CT Catches up with Billy Whizz after another alien sighting when Billy’s pork pie goes missing.

CT: So Billy what happened this time?
Billy Whizz:
As usual I had just purchased a pork pie on my way out of the ground where once again we let a 2 goal lead slip.

CT: Talk us through what happened…
BW:
It was different to last time. I had just taken a bit of my pie when I was covered in a blue light.

CT: The police?
BW:
Not it was over my head, and then I was in a misty room and it was really hot.

CT: You sure it wasn’t in the back of a Police Van?
BW:
Are you going to take this seriously or not?  When I looked down my pie had gone, and I saw some shadows at the back moving around and it sounded like they were eating my pie. Then I was back on the ground, in Upton Park Road, which is strange because West Ham doesn’t play there anymore.

CT: Did they tamper with you?
BW:
Of course not I understand Blockchain you know…

Well, Billy, there is a pattern emerging, you shouldn’t buy food after the game as it seems the aliens are hungry at this time and are tracking you.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

White House: Fintech ‘Changing Relations’ to Finance

White House:
Fintech ‘Changing Relations’ to Finance

  

US government interest in fintech continues to trend as the White House hosts a dedicated event – and says fintech is leading reforms for consumers and institutions alike.

White House Acknowledging Fintech

  

The remarks were made by Adrienne Harris, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy following the FinTech Summit event Friday, which she led. “Technology is changing the way consumers relate to their finances, and the way institutions function in our financial system,” Harris’ blog post summarizes.

The event played host to a range of financial industry figures – “stakeholders from across the financial technology (fintech) ecosystem, including traditional financial services institutions, fintech start-ups, investors, thought leaders, and policy makers” – and discussed everything “from big data to blockchain,” she writes.

Government representatives were also present, including Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who moderated a panel on how to ensure fintech startups and big business have the resources and support to innovate for the benefit of the US economy. Also discussed Friday were allusions to the problem of financial data handling in the US and its potential risk to consumer integrity, following a report the government published in May.

“[F]inancial data can help prevent fraud, assist consumers with managing their financial lives, and prompt access to credit for underserved populations,” Harris reports. “But these opportunities also come with risks for consumers, including risks to privacy and civil rights.” A recent Bitcoin.com piece on the problems of legacy finance for US consumers demonstrates the growing awareness of the need for change from businesses, and policy makers would appear to be making similar – if more understated – acknowledgments.

Also acknowledged were the empowering of developing-world communities to increase “resilience” through fintech, specifically mobile-based payment networks such as those active in Kenya and India.

Too Little Too Late?

More broadly, however, Harris’ comments point to a hypothetical reality which for cryptocurrency users is already the here and now. She writes:

Imagine a world in which your phone can help you make financial decisions […] Imagine a time when, as a small business owner, you can accept payments online from all over the world in minutes. Or when you can send money to relatives back home instantly and automatically.

For those with an awareness of the Bitcoin industry’s many financial service providers – from remittance to merchant solutions and beyond – calls to “imagine” such a world may well sound behind the times. While the White House may consider fintech to be “increasingly changing” consumer and business habits, the increasingly common perception is that cryptocurrency-based alternatives have already done so for an increasing section of the world’s population.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Be As You Are ….