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Agate Interview with CEO and Co-Founder Hamed Taghvaei

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Hacked writer Joshua Larson delivered a positive review of blockchain based payments platform ‘Agate’ in one of our frequent ‘ICO Analysis’ features just two months ago. Beyond this, the company hasn’t been all that prominent in the news.

At the same time as this lack of coverage: Agate is hosting its public ICO event, in addition to having already released public source code for various aspects of its proprietary blockchain. It’s called ‘Agatechain’.

We decided to reach out to CEO and Co-Founder Hamed Taghvaei to find out more about the company directly, in addition to his thoughts on matters such as mainstream cryptocurrency adoption, Proof of Stake and top tips for future ICO creators.

What is Agate and How did it Start?

Agate is responsible for creating a handful of product solutions for the retail and e-commerce markets, in addition to user-to-user and user-to-merchant payments. In fact, on its website (near the top) the team makes it very apparent that it is proud to bear the label of being the ‘PayPal of Cryptocurrency’.

The company was founded by industry veterans including our subject Hamed Taghvaei who has “spent the past 17 years in the IT industry” where he took “the opportunity to meet [some] great people”.

“These include Hamed Ostad, who is one of the other Co-Founders of Agate. He has an impressive career in banking and payment industry for last 18 years including BPAY which is a very successful payment solution in Australia.

“I also met Ali Dorri who is among the first PhD candidates from UNSW University (Australia) who specifically focuses on blockchain technology.

“Agate advisors who I have met previously include Brenton Smith (former GM and VP of Dell Australia and Symantec respectively) who was working as Country Manager at the time, Dr Nikzad Rizvandi, and Dr Samaneh Movassaghi.”

Dr Movassaghi works for leading IT companies like Google and Philips, whilst Dr Rizvandi is “deeply involved with the Agate AI Engine”.

Agatechain

All of the solutions in Agate’s portfolio share a common foundation upon ‘Agatechain’, the company’s independent, open-source decentralised blockchain.

Agatechain was created as an alternative to pre-existing blockchains with the intention of tackling issues such as “transaction speeds, transaction costs and fees, and volatility” as well as making a solution which is “as simple as possible for mass adoption by merchants and users.

“For example, creating a token can be done in 3 second without any technical knowledge in our GUI wallet or by using Agate open payment gateway API.”.

Taghvaei continues:

“Our main focus with the Agate ecosystem is to resolve these issues.

“By using our iFiat ecosystem, we eliminate volatility that merchants and customers don’t need to worry about crypto currency fiat value at all.

“Running transactions through the agate blockchain with instant settlement with lowest fee will boost confidence of merchants towards accepting cryptocurrency in their physical or online shops.”

Furthermore, he claims to be proud of highlighting “Agate as a comprehensive ecosystem containing Fat Protocols and Fat Application in its different parts. In fact, that’s why we believe it can resolve fundamental obstacles to crypto adoption.”

Key Features

The ‘iFiat ecosystem’ utilises a stable-coin called ‘iFiat’ which operates alongside (and independent to) the team’s utility token, the AGT token. It helps to allow instant cross-token and token-to-fiat payments for business and private users.

Additional products and features as noted on their website and in their whitepaper include a Physical POS Terminal, a GUI wallet and Token Generator Engine (for creating coins and ICOs). Standard integrated functions include smart contracts, scalability and a block explorer.

Hamed Taghvaei in particular highlights the project’s AI engine, which was designed

“to help those who want to spend their crypto in the highest value. When users want to spend their crypto within the ecosystem or transfer it to their debit card, they can use our AI capability.

“Agate’s AI engine uses Andrej Karpathy, Tal Perry and Christopher Olah’s methodology and we have made a version of an RNN called a Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM).”

Taghvaei on the Industry

Whilst speaking to Taghvaei, we decided to take the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions that were not directly related to his project. In return, he gave us some observations and advice on the industry.

1. On Regulations

“It’s obvious that for any new technology and innovation there are lot of barriers, including regulations in financial market. There are not as many strong and clear regulations about cryptocurrencies or the idiosyncrasies of trading, exchange, mining, ICO, etc.

“We can see lot of positive initiatives from governments across the globe which will help this industry to shape up and grow.

“In Australia, there are certain rules for trading cryptocurrency and exchanges and the Australian government is working on ICOs specifically as well. I believe this will give more confident to companies, investors and consumers to use this technology.

“It is worth highlighting that putting too much red tape for entrepreneurs will slow down the adoption process, but it is clear that cryptocurrency is here to stay.”

2. Advice for other ICOs

“As an advisor for start-ups for few years I would say while there are many factors to make a business or ICO successful or failure but if I want to highlight top five elements for an ICO.

“I believe them to be as follows:

1. Make sure there is a real use-case for your blockchain project.
2. Investors invest on good teams including advisors, so make sure you gather the best ones available in the market. You must also ensure that they are relevant to your ICO.
3. The best idea without a product won’t sell, so make sure to create your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before pubic pitch.
4. Community is your main asset when it comes to crowdfunding so please build and handle your community with care.
5. Never forget that an ICO is simply a crowdfunding method and that you are starting a long-term venture, so make sure you design a sustainable business for future growth and support.”

Partnerships & Final Words

Hamed Taghvaei ties in parting advice with information regarding the status and nature of one of their key partnerships:

“In order to deliver a successful blockchain project you need more than just a good idea, product and committed team. You should consider it as a business.

“We consider ourselves lucky that we partnered with Engenesis as a venture builder at an early stage of Agate project. This partnership has given Agate an unmatched advantage in the market in terms of solution development capabilities.”

Other notable partnerships include the ACDA (Australian Digital Commerce Association) and FinTech Australia, of which Agate is a member.

Future features as visible on the company’s roadmap include the launch of the Agate Blockchain Main-net in Q1 2019. This is in addition to smart contracts and plugins / apps for WooCommerce (in Q2 2019), Multi-currency and multi-language support (Q3 2019), and the acquisition of a banking license (in Q4 2019).

The public ICO event is now on, with 65% of total supply (490,000,000 AGT) allocated for sale overall. The soft cap of $2,000,000 has already been surpassed, and the team is aiming for a hard cap achievement of $24,206,000.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Interviews

“Legal frameworks and governments will have to find a way to collaborate” – weiDex CEO Tito Titov

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We speak to Tito Titov, CEO of decentralized exchange platform WeiDex in light of the August 2018 release of their public beta MVP in addition to discussing the importance of research and development to blockchain projects, obstacles to mainstream crypto adoption and much more.

According to Titov, the beta has received “very positive feedback” and the team has been simultaneously working on the continuous improvement of “functionalities and UI / UX.”

Furthermore, a “stable version” is to be launched this month – which is developer jargon for an operational copy akin to what is more often referred to as a ‘full version release’.

What is weiDex?

‘weiDex’, according to the team’s website is a portmanteau which combines the word for the smallest available denomination of the Ether token (‘wei’) with a suffix that represents an abbreviation for decentralized exchanges (‘Dex’).

Its name refers to Ether and its parent blockchain: which have provided much of the foundations upon which weiDex is currently built. Even the public beta operates on the Ethereum testnet Ropsten.

Titov states that the company plans to “become the biggest and the most advanced DEX in the world” by way of “superior technology, usability, advanced functionality, performance and customer service.”

Who is Tito Titov?

“My name is Tito Titov. I am a blockchain enthusiast with a strong technical background and more than 5 years of experience as a full stack developer”

Tito Titov, as CEO, holds the greatest position superiority within the organisation. In early 2017 during a series of academic courses that only finished this year (MBA), Titov’s interest in blockchain was kindled.

He claims that he took a self-imposed ‘crash course’ in the subject by “actively reading, learning, coding and playing around in the blockchain-verse”. This is also the time in which he met four university colleagues who would go on to help found weiDex, after practising around with some “simple blockchain projects”.

This is a far cry from what he would have expected his life to become just over half a decade ago – and he claims that over the course of his academia, he developed a deep appreciation and understanding for the founding concepts of blockchain.

The Greatest threats to Blockchain

A symptom of the nascent state of blockchain is the need for continuous “performance and security” development – especially in light of frequently reported exchange hacks and attacks.

In response to a question regarding the largest threats to cryptocurrency at present, Titov responded that:

“the technology is still in early stages and it is not bulletproof. Every day, different vulnerabilities and new solutions are found, and so developers should adapt very fast. This will, however, get better (and better) with the time.”

Customer Is King

According to Titov, one of the primary focuses of weiDex is to “provide the best service for our customers at the lowest possible price.” and this manifests in a combination of new and familiar functions / features.

This extends to the service offerings inherent to the weiDex operational model, with airdrop rewards for token-holders on a regular basis and for successful referrals.

They also intend on maintaining “Free trades for all users during high trade volume times” according to their website.

Titov states:

“We’ve decided to allow free trades for our customers in certain conditions. E.g. we are aiming to reach 1000 ETH volume for the day. When this volume is reached, we will remove the trade fees.

In this way we will stimulate our clients to trade more actively. This logic is handled by our smart contract, so it is completely transparent and straightforward.”

Roadmap and Future

Tito Titov “truly believe[s] that R&D is the most important part of every high-tech project” and continues as such, the weiDex “technical team is constantly researching and working on new methods”.

“We are interested in state channels, plasma network, cross-chain transactions and we do believe that with the development of these technologies will bring more and more traders to decentralized exchanges.”

The weiDex roadmap appears to support this way of thinking also, with upcoming milestones such as Cross-chain atomic swaps (Q3 2019) to a ‘Crumb Cleaner’ and a ‘Bull / Bear Bomb’ (both due Q1 2019 and the former explained in their whitepaper). The latter of which is used for the instantaneous conversion of altcoins to and from WDX, the exchange’s proprietary utility token.

The public ICO event will run from the 20th October through the 20th December 2018 with a listed total token supply of 50 million WDX, a soft cap of $1.5 million and a hard cap of $12.5 million. 60% of all tokens will be allocated for sale and pre-sale stages.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Bitcoin

BlockState Interview Part One: Institutional Investment Framework Story

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The mainstream media narrative has shown an uncompromisingly negative bias towards institutional crypto investment of late and it only seemed fair that we got in touch with some people who have professional expertise in the field.

BlockState is a platform that aims to deliver a modular blockchain-based legal and technological infrastructure for financial institutions which combats the low interest and return rates offered by traditional asset classes.

We spoke to the three co-founders: Paul Claudius, Michael Weber and Samuel Brack regarding the nature of the project. In addition to how they met and how it all started, their current status, and their plans for the future.

BlockState in Brief

On their website, the BlockChain team states that their intention is to provide “a technological and legal bridge between blockchain technology and financial markets.”.

It is an infrastructural platform upon which organisations within these sectors build or inform their own solutions – and is unashamedly focused towards providing products for the institutional investment crowd.

On the One Hand…

When asked about the ethics, technological approach and modus operandi of BlockState, Managing Director Paul Claudius was eager to provide a comprehensive, dichotomised summary.

“On the one hand we are creating the basis for institutional investors to access the digital assets markets.

“Investment banks can’t simply open a wallet on their phone and start buying crypto-assets. They need a range of services and processes in place to make sure that they abide by regulation and their internal requirements.”

The BlockState consensus is that there are insufficient frameworks in place to mitigate the obstacles faced by companies unfamiliar with the many intricacies of the crypto-space at present.

This is not to mention the prohibitive nature of the past progression of technological and regulatory standards, which are largely non-standardized.

… And On the Other

The ‘other hand’ to which Paul refers to is the lack of blockchain or cryptocurrency integration at product or service levels within the institutional market.

For this reason: BlockState posits the second half of its service as an offering to:

“help institutions leverage blockchain to improve their existing processes… helping them tokenize financial products and using smart contracts to govern their execution… [to] save massive amount of resources while making their systems more transparent and efficient.”

In theory all transactions will be immutably recorded on the blockchain, which will ensure that all parties involved can access this data and that all transactions will be processed quickly.

Performance can distinguish a winning cryptocurrency from a useless dud.

The Three Musketeers

In addition to Paul Claudius, we got the opportunity to speak to fellow founding members Michael Weber and Samuel Brack.

Paul specialises in Strategy and Business Development, whilst Michael’s role is to take the lead on Product Development and Project Management duties. Their specialisms are Strategy and Business Development, and Product Development / Project Management (respectively).

Samuel Brack is the cryptocurrency brains of the operation and performs something of a hands-on position, donning the title of Chief Technology Officer. He sits in a more hands-on position, acting as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for BlockState.

Before BlockState

Paul recalls that the executive leadership team had “all already knew each other” before the BlockState project even began.

Whilst he and Michael Weber had made acquaintance whilst studying together at the ESPC Europe business school, Michael had met up with Samuel Brack as they were co-founding partners on a prior blockchain based project entitled ‘Goodcoins’.

Whilst they have sold their stake in Goodcoins since, Samuel at least considers his time on the project to have equipped him a knowledge which has been brought forth to BlockState.

Beginners Luck?

On a more personal level: Paul Claudius described his first interaction with the world of cryptocurrency as being the moment in 2012 in which a friend had recommended Bitcoin to him as a potential investment.

He has not disclosed exactly how much Bitcoin he purchased in 2012 but if story is true, considering the token’s contemporary value of $13: Paul would have made a profit of a whopping 51614.53% on his investment. No matter the amount invested.

Products, Pains and Peers

Michael Weber (product lead and project management professional) broke down the trio of primary services / product lines that BlockChain focuses on as being “asset management, dept capital, and derivatives” – with a perceived overlap between the three.

This is as well as the ability for tailoring packages for clients from these tested specialisms.

If these products names appear distinctive yet simple, then you would be correct. Of course, this is one of the main objectives of marketing – however it does not help a company to distinguish itself from its peers.

“While most focus on very specific needs, our infrastructure integrates solutions at every level of the financial product lifecycle, from issuance to reporting always with a view to improving current products on the market.”

This isn’t an easy task however, with obstacles to full-automation rearing their heads alongside undesirably long payment clearance times,

“Some of the major pain points specific to the asset management and derivatives markets and resource consuming operations are settlement and clearing, which can take up to 30 days… with manual processes like getting signatures and manual transactions.”

With a Little Help From My Friends

The three musketeers of BlockState with whom we have already spoken are supposed to possess their own unique-yet-compatible inventories of skills and experience. If the team has any luck it will prove a winning combination.

Three men cannot rule an empire alone however and as the popular idiom goes: successful leaders fill the gaps in their expertise by surrounding themselves with knowledgeable advisors. Following this, BlockState boast a roster of advisors who may just fit the bill for now.

They include (according to Paul):

  • “Patrick Storchenegger, co-founder of the Ethereum Foundation in Zug, is our advisor on legal questions. He brings years of experience from blockchain, capital market law and international tax and business consultancy…
  • “Andrea Voinea, who helped to structure the first Gold Exchange Traded Fund, is a seasoned professional from the asset management market…
  • “Ludwig Schrittenloher, who spent nearly six years at Credit Suisse, offers a breadth of knowledge in DCM and structuring…
  • “[and] Martin Schröder, currently a Director in an investment firm, is an expert in derivatives and also very knowledgeable in capital markets and structuring.”

Estimated Time of ETN

Looking not to the past or present, but forward to what the future may hold for BlockState (or at least, what they plan to happen), we asked Paul Claudius some closing questions in an attempt to reach some conclusions on what may come next…

“At the end of September, we will launch the CTF15 Exchange Traded Note, and it will also be listed on a major European Stock Exchange – to be announced soon…”

An Exchange Traded Note (or ETN) is “a type of unsecured, unsubordinated debt security”

Final Words

Perhaps more exciting even is the fact that the team are currently in the process of preparing the launch of an ‘Equity Token Sale’, issued as part of the company’s equity in a public sale.

According to Paul, it will be “one of the first companies ever to tokenize their equity in a fully regulated and compliant manner, driving the adoption of security tokenization in the financial space.”

Paul, Simon and Michael parted our discussion by asking to remind readers of a forthcoming event at which all three will be attending: the Delta Summit in Malta, which takes place from October 3rd to the 5th.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview coming soon: in which the team will deliver their commentary on recent news, the present situation; and future predictions on the market and industry.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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ICO

Hacked Exclusive: Tokeny’s Luc Falempin on Portfolio Investment in Cryptocurrency

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Investment / portfolio management software is arguably one of the most definitive examples of finance-meeting-technology (AKA ‘fin-tech’).

Beyond internal software utilised by market-leading fiat wall-street firms and hedge funds, a public and corporate market has been established for both individuals’ professionals and amateur traders with regards to managing their portfolios.

In comparison, the crypto space has seen little in the way of products focused towards either of these potential customer bases. There are, however there a handful of burgeoning companies which are seeking to establish themselves in this area.

The Origins and Objectives of Tokeny

To develop a more nuanced understanding of this unattended product area, we decided to speak directly to one of its progenitors: Luc Falempin – who is the Chief Executive Officer of forthcoming cryptocurrency focused asset-management platform Tokeny.

Falempin recalls that:

“Tokeny was created in 2017, with the ICO funnel following in November of the same year…

“When the ICO market boomed around 2007, [and] the user experience was relatively horrible and unsecure.”

He additionally states that, and his team felt that the answer (and conceptual ethos of the company) would be to empower all parties involved in token funding processes, by

“build[ing] the most reliable ICO platform [which provides powerful] tools to the token issuers, and to the ICO contributors.”

To have any hope of achieving these lofty objectives, the team seeks to:

“Create and provide a dashboard to security token issuers…

“A space for issuers to manage their investors (subscription phase and ongoing) … and for transactions and corporate actions: such as dividend payments and buybacks, or announcements to investors.”

Long Term Partnerships

Luc Falempin is something of a veteran in commercial leadership, despite having accomplished many of his achievements within a short period of time.

“I have been an entrepreneur for almost a decade now across various e-commerce, software, marketplace related markets… [accumulating] a deep experience in high-transaction-volume management, and multi-party platforms…

“I have also been involved with several ICOs, including Amchart and Verasity.”

Verasity in fact is not only a former associate to Falempin, but one which he has brought forth to the Tokeny project also. It is an organisation which recently concluded its public funding stage, due to having quickly accomplished their soft-cap goal.

On the Verasity website, the project team advertises it as a system which will:

“[Power] the New Era of Blockchain Enhanced Online Video”

Top Dogs

According to Falempin, many team members and advisors involved with or orbit Tokeny represent the continuation of strong, long term relationships that had been brought over “from [his] previous companies.”.

This extends to many of the company’s leadership team also, a well matched combination of professionals who possess a combined expertise and experiential wisdom, spanning multiple industries and disciplines.

“[They were] selected because of their (and my) unique networks.

“We can leverage [these] to continue the recruitment and sourcing of some of the best talent from the web industry, and from the financial industry.”

SICOP: The Sustainable Initial Coin Offering Protocol

If you read into the Tokeny / Verasity relationship in the press, you might notice mention of the latter’s recent accomplishment of gaining ‘SICOP’ certification: an acronym for ‘Sustainable Initial Coin Offering Protocol’.

SICOP is a proprietary regulatory framework created by the Tokeny team for their forthcoming trading platform and serves as a core component of their features arsenal.

Falempin describes it as a fantastic

“guarantee of quality for us [Tokeny], the issuer [or provider], and the investors.”

The system’s compliancy assessments are to be enforced primarily utilising human-authentication, especially for escalated claims.

This is to ensure to continued operational integrity and approval of smart contracts implemented within each participating issuer’s projects.

To ensure this, he says that:

“each smart contract we deploy is third-party tested for security reasons. It’s just one of the many conditions demanded for SICOP compliance.”

Cybersecurity and Smart Contracts

Tokeny (on its website) boasts to be the “only company dedicated to providing a secure end-to-end platform” for cryptocurrency investments at ICO and STO level. The latter term stands for ‘Security Token Offering’.

When asked about where he feels his platform falls in amongst its blockchain-as-a-service peers in this light, Falempin says that:

“Most companies working within ICO space claim to provide every kind of services for ICOs: from whitepaper, to tech via marketing and legal.

“At Tokeny we focus on the tech and select each project very carefully.”

Smart contracts have become somewhat ubiquitous in the current blockchain community of ICOs and other such projects, however they are mostly often used for automated exercising of mutually agreed terms with regards to utility functions.

SICOP utilises smart contracts for both purposes and Falempin says that

“The smart contracts are the brains behind all of the web interfaces we build.

“They provide security through guaranties and transparency to investors: with automated management and clients.”

Building on Progress

Tokeny has carefully opted to forgo a ‘trial and error’ approach to creating their regulatory framework; instead deciding to

“Work on top of reliable and established standards and protocols: ERC20 compliant tokens and Open Zeppelin, for example…

“With security tokens there is currently no standard on the market, however we have seen several good practices beginning to emerge.”

In this light, Falempin continues to claim that the team optimistically perceives themselves

“as a precursor for future change, whilst maintaining a dynamic level of compatibility with our potential peers”

The Big Picture

In light of their proposed future plans as viewable on either their homepage or across their social media pages (such as Twitter, a Telegram group, Medium, and more), these words from Luc Falempin ring particularly true

“So far, we’ve established a unique positioning on the market for ourselves – although we are also aware that we must remain vigilant and flexible…

“the market (of course) is evolving very fast.”

As he continued that

“Much alike many other organisations that operative within disruptive markets, we aim to become one of the primary instigators and market-leaders / exemplary institutions of this (relatively) new value-chain.

“Starting with the issuance of our tokens: we believe that we can help define standards and good practices on the market – and become a key player in the market over the following years.”

A more topical perspective of the potential value the services provided by Tokeny may deliver can be provided through consideration of recent negative press affecting traditional exchanges.

Just look at the recent allegations levied against popular ratings aggregate Coinmarketcap regarding the intentional publication and broadcast of incorrect or inaccurate trading data.

Such comes adjacent in importance to reportage on a all-but-proven hack which affected Binance just recently also.

Financial Security, Due Diligence, and KYC / AML

Another leading boast which is clearly noticeable upon looking at the team’s homepage is Tokeny’s prioritisation of “bank grade KYC and AML” (AKA ‘Know Your Customer’ and ‘Anti Money Laundering’) standards.

Luc Falempin elaborates that they:

“have integrated accredited / regulated KYC solutions to ensure the issuers can identify their respective token holders properly and maintain compliance.

“Our process is to verify an investor – with the majority of jurisdiction depending primarily on the issuer’s decision-making, as well as the investors themselves being segmented by investor-type (individual, accredited, institutional, etc.).”

Crypto Assets x Old Money: Bridging the Gap

By introducing industry-leading tools and features which acknowledge the requirements of both investors and token issuers, Tokeny appear to have a great chance of successfully bridging the gap between cryptocurrency and the traditional finance sector (fiat).

A great result of this would be an influx of new revenue into the market – assuring mutual benefits for all invested due to increased across-the-board coin values.

At present, Falempin claims that Tokeny

“ha[s] a huge demand from closed end funds (real estate, hedge fund, etc.), because we believe that tokenizing our shares will bring more liquidity and inclusivity to our investors…

“We also receive demands for asset backed tokens (art, gold, etc) …

“Of course, the ICO market is still growing as well.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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