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The Foo Fighters Should Torrent Their New Free EP

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At the turn of the century, when the file-sharing service Napster was taken down in a court of law rather than by the competition, Metallica got a lot of press for being against the service and testifying that it had lost the millionaires significant sums of money.

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But around that time, another band benefited by exposure to the Napster’s millions of users – Vermont-based Dispatch. Many people received their first introduction to the band at that time and lifelong fans were minted as a result. Like most bands, Dispatch makes most of their money touring anyhow. This example is presented as evidence of a heretical idea – not every content creator loses out because of file sharing.

Recently, Hacked writer Justin O’Connell wrote an article describing how the massive band the Foo Fighters, which is largely the brainchild of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, were providing an EP called Saint Cecilia as a free download to their millions of fans. O’Connell points out that distribution via Amazon Web Services or other cloud services is not free. While the cost is minimal, it got the writer to thinking: what could be done about that?

The BitTorrent protocol began to see wide adoption in the middle-2000s. Unlike Napster, BitTorrent is decentralized and has no central point of failure. As long as the torrent file and the files being shared exist somewhere online, the files are going to be accessible. There is no single company that can be held responsible for the use of BitTorrent. For years, this has created a stalemate between the entertainment industries and technology. The former has found numerous ways to recuperate lost revenues, including the heinous tactic of suing college kids for piracy.

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Also read: Popular Torrent Release Group YIFY Is Dead

Download barAnd while it may be true that BitTorrent is largely used for sharing illegal files, it is also true that the software is merely software, agnostic of your intent. That is to say, it could just as easily be used by someone like the Foo Fighters to distribute an album which might get costly to do from a centralized service. (Ironically, the new Foo Fighters album is already available on torrent sites, despite being available from a fast, central server.) Grohl and company could offload the cost of distribution onto the users since they have no intention to control the distribution of the files. Statistics become significantly harder to gather, but this can be dealt with by asking users to fill out a survey or something, inside the Torrent directory.

Rather than paying the bandwidth costs exclusively at one level, the band could let millions of people pay a small amount via their time or cable bills. For most people, there’d be no additional cost, and the files would be more reliably available (in the case of Amazon going down). Torrents could have helped Radiohead when they released In Rainbows for free, as well.

Despite popular belief, torrent files are integral to plenty of legitimate purposes. For example, the Xubuntu project uses a torrent file to distribute their ~1 gigabyte operating system. They also have centralized servers providing the file, but surely they would prefer that everyone be able to get the files via Torrent. Were it not for the stigma, perhaps this would be more feasible.

Decentralization may have the feature of making it impossible to shut down, and Torrent directories (such as the Pirate Bay) may have wound up taking the brunt of the impact from governmental and legal ire, but it also has the benefit of a distributed server model. The Torrent technology has also been utilized for competitors to Dropbox and the like, like TorrentSync. Point is, it’s not going anywhere, and as long as the reality is that many people are using it to get content, then bands and record labels and even movie studios would benefit by using it to their advantage, rather than carrying on with some delusion that they’ll ever shut it down.

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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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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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Are You Considering a Career in Crypto?

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In 2008, a bizarre and esoteric technology by the name of bitcoin was introduced to the world in a whitepaper penned by Satoshi Nakamoto. Just one decade later, that whitepaper would spawn a budding industry racing toward the trillion-dollar mark.

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At the time of writing, there are more than 1,550 cryptocurrencies trying to do a variation of what bitcoin has accomplished. Hundreds more are expected to be created this year alone. To bring these currencies online, startups, institutes and not-for-profits are depending on a talented workforce made up of engineers, analysts, marketers and business professionals.
That’s a long-winded way of saying the crypto-economy is hiring, and there’s no shortage of opportunity. Recently, freelance marketplace Toptal announced it was launching a blockchain engineering platform for talented technology professionals. As TechCrunch pointed out, this is a huge deal because Toptal represents about half of “on-demand engineering labor by revenue.”

Blockchain Talent Demand: By the Numbers

Blockchain engineering has quickly emerged as the fastest-growing segment on Toptal. Since January 2017, demand for professionals in this category has surged 700%. The company also reports that some 40% of fully managed software development jobs in the last month require blockchain skills and domain knowledge.

Toptal isn’t the only freelance community witnessing a surge in blockchain skills. Upwork also reported blockchain as the fastest-growing skillset in terms of revenue, with billings skyrocketing 35,000% year-over-year. For a site like Freelancer, bitcoin job posts grew 82% in the third quarter alone.

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It’s not just freelancing websites that are witnessing an upsurge in blockchain-related job posts. Last year, LinkedIn reported that finance companies saw a 900% increase in bitcoin-related job postings since 2014. There are now tens of thousands of users who list “blockchain” as one of their available skillsets.

At the time of writing, there are 1,060 “cryptocurrency” jobs listed on the U.S. section of Indeed.com, one of the world’s largest job boards. The “blockchain” job category had nearly 3,200 hits. Pretty much all of the jobs had a minimum salary of $70,000 per year and about 40% paid six figures.

Job Categories

From the author’s perspective, working in blockchain/crypto usually involves one of the following organizations:

  • startup company launching an initial coin offering (ICO)
  • an advisory service helping ICOs launch their product
  • a large technology or financial services company utilizing blockchain technology
  • an institute or not-for-profit researching blockchain applications and use case

In terms of job categories, you are mostly looking at the following:

  • Technical: Software developers, engineers, programmers and other IT specialists get the lion’s share of job postings.
  • Writing and Marketing: This is a fairly broad category that covers journalism, content development and copywriting. If you understand blockchain technology and the world of crypto and have good writing skills, there’s no shortage of opportunity.
  • Advisory Services: Domain experts can charge a premium advising startups on how to navigate the crypto sphere. Experts usually make it on to an ICO’s adviser page.
  • Legal: We are seeing a steady rise in legal services that assist token issuers navigate the regulatory requirements of cryptocurrency crowdfunding.

It’s clear from many of these categories that most people didn’t specialize in blockchain initially but have applied their skills and experience to the domain. Depending on how you view the future, specializing may or may not be a good idea.

In mainstream and institutional circles, blockchain is much more of a sure thing than cryptocurrency. That’s one place budding professionals can focus on if they do decide to enter the labor market.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 153 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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First Internet Bancorp: Breaking The Shackles

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Traditional bank stocks have been pretty boring until recently.  Yes, that is changing.  The prospects of a steeper yield curve could make for better earnings in 2018.  But if it weren’t for some of the exciting things to come along in financial technology, the S&P 500 financial index would still be stuck in the rut of underperformance.

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So let’s take a look at one of the early innovators that draw their roots to the small town of Fisher Indiana in 1999.  That was era of landline telephones and dial up Internet.

The Original Internet Bank  

So what makes First Internet Bank (INBK: NASDAQ) different?  For starters, they are the first state-chartered, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) insured Internet bank.

INBK does not have a conventional brick and mortar branch system. It operates through a scalable Internet banking platform.  That may not sound like a big deal since every bank around has mobile banking.

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Everybody in fintech wants to tap into branchless online banking but getting and FDIC charter isn’t so easy. It takes a huge amount of paperwork and lots of time to get approval.

Many startups like Simple attempted to enter the game acting as a broker for FDIC insured banks.  However, under banking rules growing out of the 2008 financial crisis, this proved a tuff road.  

So little old plane vanilla First Internet Bancorp has the key benefit of being an FDIC chartered and insured bank just like the big boys like Citibank and JP Morgan Chase but without the bricks and mortar branches.

INBK’s structure gives them nationwide reach. The implications for costs and customer acquisition being a major benefit.  Until more recently, however, capital limitations put the brakes on major expansion opportunities.  But now, things have changed.

What To Do With $150 Million

On August 8, 2017 INBK filed a registration statement for a $150 million secondary offering with all proceeds going to the company for “general corporate purposes.” Considering the market cap of INBK at the time was about $250 million, the offering was huge.  It substantially bolstered Tier One Capital.  That means for the first time in a while since the financial crisis that INBK could expand its deposit and lending base.

These days INBK’s balance sheet looks darn attractive with cash and deposits more than tripling since 2015 to $656 million and long term investments more than doubling to $2.4 billion.  INBK is exceptionally lean.  They have no long term debt.  When you add up all the fixed overhead like offices, computers and employees, it amounts to just a little under $15 million.  That, as they say, is chump change.  

Full Service Banking

INBK offers the usual assortment of commercial, small business, consumer and municipal banking products and services. They conduct consumer and small business deposit operations primarily through online channels on a nationwide basis and have no traditional branch offices.

Residential mortgage products are offered nationwide primarily through an online direct-to-consumer platform and are supplemented with Central Indiana-based mortgage and construction lending.

Consumer lending products are originated nationwide over the Internet as well as through relationships with dealerships and financing partners.

Commercial banking products and services are delivered through a relationship banking model and include commercial real estate (“CRE”) banking, commercial and industrial (“C&I”) banking and public finance.

A public finance team was established in early 2017, provides a range of public and municipal lending and leasing products to government entities on a nationwide basis.

Free At Last

In 2017 customers shelled out about $45 billion in fees to the banking industry in account service fees, check return fees, overdraft fees and more.  All of this was needed to cover the overhead of the bazillion bank branches.

In 20 years it is possible that 80% of all branches will be replaced by mobile devices. Perhaps there will be none at all.

With no branch overhead to cover, First Internet and others like them can offer appealing perks like free checking, no overdraft or bounced check fees.  That is a big selling point.

Customer Turnover Is Low In Banking

Customers hate those annoying fees but it takes a lot to get them to move.  Costs are often measured on the amount of marketing dollars needed to attract new customers.  There are many ways of measuring these costs so there is no single guide to the true cost.

One bank, BBVA placed the cost at $100.  Other estimates run as high as $145.  Both numbers include the cost of branches.

A study that I participated in several years ago placed the cost for an online bank as low as $50 per new customer.  The difference in these two numbers is just one reason why you should get excited about pure online banks.  First Internet Bank looks well positioned.

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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4.3 stars on average, based on 21 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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USA Technologies: Thinking Small To Grow Fast

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Malvern Pennsylvania is the home of USA Technologies, a town of just 3,000 people. In Malvern it pays to think small.  USA Technologies (USAT: NASDGM) is trying to make it big by thinking small.

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The word small ticket comes up frequently in USAT’s self-description. Here is why they want to be a big fish in a small pond.

What They Do For A Living

USAT provides wireless networking, cashless transactions, asset monitoring, and other value-added services to the small ticket, unattended Point of Sale (“POS”) market.  This sounds super cool, but what does it mean?

USAT developed something they call ePort technology.  When it is installed into things like vending machines, commercial laundries, amusement games, or stand alone kiosks so you no longer have to carry cash.  It is another application of network technology and it is spreading rapidly.

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While thinking small, USAT also developed ePort Connect, which amounts to a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)-compliant, comprehensive service that includes simplified credit card processing and support, consumer engagement services as well as telemetry, Internet of Things (“IoT”) and machine-to-machine (“M2M”) services, including the ability to remotely monitor, control, and report on the results of distributed assets containing electronic payment solutions.

Competitive Position

Company CEO Stephen Herbert claims the company is a leading provider in the small ticket, beverage and food vending industry.  They are expanding solutions and services to other unattended market segments, such as amusement, commercial laundry, kiosk and others.

Historically, these businesses have relied on cash for payment in the form of coins or bills, whereas, USAT systems allow the acceptance of cashless payments through the use of credit or debit cards or other emerging contactless forms, such as mobile payment.

How Does USAT Make Money

Revenues are generated from the sale of equipment and from license and transaction fees.  It is this last source that helps make USAT most interesting.

During the fiscal year 2017, 73.0% of revenues came from recurring license and transaction fees related to ePort Connect service and just 27.0% from equipment sales.

CEO Herbert believes that a service based business model, will create a high-margin stream of recurring revenues as a foundation for long-term value and continued growth.

Financials: Small Is Getting Big Quickly

USAT strategy seems to be paying off handsomely.  Revenues over the past five years have been growing a better than a 25% pace going from $29 million in 2012 to $104 million in the year ended June 2017.

For the six months ending December 2017 the company surpassed last years total ringing up about $43 million in revenues, a 30% increase.

In their February 8th earnings release, the company raised guidance for fiscal 2018 revenues to $140-$145 million and for adjusted EBITDA to between $13.5 and $14.5 million.

At this time four Wall Street firms cover the company and these folks expect USAT to earn $0.06 per share this year before tripling in fiscal 2019 to $0.18.

Cantaloupe Acquisition

Back in November USAT signed an $85 million deal to acquire Cantaloupe Systems, Inc based in San Francisco.  Just like USAT, Cantaloupe is a provider of cloud and mobile solutions for vending, micro markets and office coffee service.  The two companies tout the deal as bringing together complementary portfolios for the purpose of creating the industry’s top solutions platform.

The acquisition had only minor benefits to reported USAT first half results.  On a pro-forma basis, if the acquisition had occurred on July 1, 2016, first half consolidated revenue would have increased 26% year-over-year.

Management With Beverage Industry Background

CEO Stephen Herbert has considerable history in the beverage industry and has been CEO at USAT for over 5 years. In other words, he needs no on the job training.

For the 10 years prior to joining USAT in 1996, Herbert had been with Pepsi-Cola in their beverage division vending area.

The company believes Herbert’s intimate knowledge and experience with all aspects of USAT for over 20 years and his extensive vending experience at PepsiCo before joining USAT provide the requisite qualifications, skills, perspectives, and experiences to serve.  We would tend to agree.

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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4.3 stars on average, based on 21 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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