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ICO Analysis: Voise

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The current generation is the passionate generation, the creator generation, the founder generation. Where our parents saw things like finding a job as paramount to life, millennials, empowered by technology, seek to create, create, create. The problem has always been: how do you make a living doing this? Most platforms don’t pay for very well, direct distribution requires a platform, and only the rare few actually make it to the “top.” More than one technology has been built with the concept of the blockchain in order to help creators. Creativechain is one we covered recently, and now, enter Voise, for the music industry.

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Let’s start by pointing out that Voise is not the first music-oriented blockchain application. Bittunes has long sought to “represent the other 99%” with the help of the blockchain and cryptocurrency support. Its platform has been in development for a few years now and focuses on a fairer way for artists to monetize their content. From a blog post by Bittunes:

Digital downloads were just too tricky, apparently.. So the Industry opted for Streaming music instead. Pretty good for music fans, terrible for Artists. In short, the industry has not provided any real leadership, and here we all are, heading toward a world in which no one owns any music.. But let’s focus on the real issue, Money.

So we must take into account that, like everything else in the budding blockchain space, Voise will be far from alone in its mission. Now let’s give it a proper look.

We at VOISE think the creation of a decentralized platform that gives 100% of the revenue to the creator of the content is the solution to this problem.

Voise takes a far more technical approach to the problem, and, as stated above, seeks to get the artist a much larger share of their music sales – the whole pie, in fact. This is dissimilar to Bittunes, which has the interesting addition of payments to those who purchased the tracks first. As an example, Bittunes says that out of $1 million made from an artist’s work, Bittunes would take $200,000, users who’d purchased the track would take $400,000, and the artist would take $400,000. This is a 60% loss to the artist, and in some ways less equitable than other models. It would encourage sales in the ecosystem overall, but it’s hard to envision a future where artists are jumping all over something like that.

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Voise, conversely, uses the Ethereum token platform and currently has its own wallet. Its token is called Voisiums (VSM). While VSM can be stored in the traditional Ethereum wallet, it’s more costly to make purchases when VSM are stored in a normal wallet as opposed to the Voise wallet. In true decentralized fashion, the cost of content will not be dictated by the platform itself, rather by the artists. Voisiums will be tradeable on open exchanges supporting them, giving artists an opportunity for secondary and tertiary income through trade. Anyone who sold a few hundred albums for bitcoins over the past few years knows: this can certainly be a benefit if you can stand to wait for the value of a token to appreciate.

The platform will also offer free samples, which is crucial in modern music distribution, so much so that services which pay artists almost nothing per play like Spotify and YouTube are key ways that artists connect with listeners anymore.

Unfortunately, while the idea seems cool, it does not currently seem very well fleshed out. Let’s dive into the team behind it and see if we can rebuild confidence there.

Who is Behind Voise

Voise co-founder Ivan Rosetti graduated with an IT degree in 2008, worked for Dell as a software engineer for four years, and now is working on Voise. Not much to say there. The experience at Dell can mean a lot of things, but one thing it is sure to mean is that Rosetti has experience with building what users want.

Developer Isaac Rodríguez appears to be working on the backend of things. A LinkedIn profile that comes up for him shows him also as a Dell employee, which is perhaps how he and Rosetti met.

Then there is Ying Hao Chen, who is working on the user interface and the graphics for the platform, which will be a very important role in an artist-focused endeavor such as Voise.

So, not a lot here in terms of relevant experience. This is not a death sentence for the thing, of course, as their roadmap calls for ample time to get things together. It definitely raises the hairs on the arms of the investor, though, this lack of development, strategic, or marketing experience.

A member of the Voise team recently commented on their Bitcointalk thread, regarding the difference between them and competing project Musiccoin:

We have a maximum number of tokens to be able to give a value to each one.They focus more on streaming and us in the sale of the author’s content.

To make us bigger we have planned strong marketing plans. Our intention is also to introduce in the community artists who are not involved in crypto.

Investment Details

The ICO is going to go live at 02:00 AM GMT of May 6th 2017. 160 VSM will be generated for each Ether that is invested into the ICO, and a total of 8% of those will revert to the team for the purposes of development. Here are a couple of tables that break down the distribution of invested funds:

As the above chart states, a maximum of 575,000 Ether will be collected, for a total issuance of 100,000,000 VSM.

As you can see, their real minimum to get the project going is 20,000 Ether, or close to $2 million. That is the point where they begin to develop the real objectives of the road map – in theory.

You can get information on investing once the ICO goes live at ico.voise.it.

The Verdict

Unfortunately, while their intentions seem genuine, the thing seems half-baked at present. The Whitepaper is sparse with real technical details, the software is not currently existent (which was not true of Aragon, another Ethereum-based ICO). The team appear to have little to no history developing these types of applications, so problems can arise. This half-bakedness is a huge vulnerability in terms of competition.

While Creativechain has a detailed roadmap and competent blockchain developers in its stable, Voise appears to have little or none of the above. It could, sadly, result in vaporware or exit scam with very little nudging.

The use of the Ethereum platform for this application is a great idea. The Voise team are giving themselves until the end of the year to develop the alpha version of the platform, and perhaps during that time they can build momentum and acquire a sort of first-mover advantage over anyone else who might try to do the same thing. Yet, to do so they are seeking to raise at least the equivalent of more than $75,000, and with their current offering of information and experience it seems less than likely that they will actually achieve this goal.

As such, the safety rating for this ICO is unfortunately low: a 3.4. The platform is very cool and interesting, or has the potential to be, and should be revisited at a later time in order to see if it went anywhere, or is going anywhere, and at that time it may be safer and smarter to invest. But at this point, it would be immoral for the author to suggest that you invest any more than your attention into the project.

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ICO Analysis: Bloom

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Credit scoring serves an integral function in the lending process. Yet, in 2015, U.S. Congress declared credit scoring to be a monopoly controlled by one organization: FICO. The data analytics company is responsible for scoring more than 90% of top U.S. lenders, leaving some 26 million Americans unable to obtain credit.

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A similar monopoly exists globally. More than one-third (38%) of the world’s population does not have a bank account, and 3 billion people are unable to qualify for a credit card. Although creditors would love to serve this untapped market, traditional credit bureaus cannot score prospective borrowers unless they’ve already taken on debt.

Against this backdrop, Bloom has emerged as a global, decentralized credit protocol that addresses existing limitations in lending by applying blockchain technology to credit scoring and risk assessment.

Bloom is a protocol for assessing credit risk through federated attestation-based identity verification and the creation of a network of peer-to-peer and organizational creditworthiness vouching (“credit staking”). – Bloom Whitepaper (2017).

Through the Bloom protocol, lenders will be able to issue complaint loans on the blockchain at affordable rates. In doing so, the Bloom protocol seeks to address five overlapping issues:

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  1. Cross-border credit scoring: Credit histories in one jurisdiction do not apply to other jurisdictions, forcing borrowers to re-establish their credit score when they relocate.
  2. Backward-looking credit assessment: Borrowers with no credit history are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to obtaining a loan or credit card.
  3. Lenders are limited in terms of global reach: Lenders are usually unable to serve borrowers in underdeveloped markets because they lack identity and scoring information to base their decisions.
  4. Risk of identity theft: When applying for a loan, borrowers must bear all their personal information, giving potential hackers more information to commit fraud.
  5. Lack of competition: The credit scoring industry is heavily concentrated, resulting in an uncompetitive market.

The Bloom protocol is based on three components. Together, the seek to overcome the five challenges posed above.

  1. BloomID: Identity attestation allows borrowers to obtain a global secure identity, making it easier for creditors to assess them.
  2. BloomIQ: A credit registry that tracks current and historical debt obligations tied to a borrower’s BloomID.
  3. Bloom Score: The credit score measuring consumers’ creditworthiness.

The company has laid out how this protocol will improve on the current system of credit evaluation:

The Bloom protocol improves the current credit ecosystem by creating a globally portable and inclusive credit profile, reducing the need for traditional banking infrastructure and opaque, proprietary credit scores. This means both traditional fiat lenders and digital asset lenders will be able to also securely serve the 3 billion people who currently cannot obtain a bank account or credit score.

Bloom Token

The Bloom token (BLT) is powered by the Ethereum blockchain, and will serve both as a currency and governance mechanism on the network. In other words, BLT will allow organizations to evaluate user identity and credit worthiness. The companies using the Bloom network will pay for identity verification and risk assessment using BLT.

As such, the BLT token can be used in three ways:

  1. Scoring Proposals: The BLT token essentially serves as the governance mechanism for the network. Through token-based voting, bad actors are held to account.
  2. Security: BLT allows the Bloom network to implement fees for invitations. By imposing small costs on each transactions, attacks are not economically viable.
  3. Payment: The token serves as the primary currency on the Bloom network.

The Team

The Bloom team consists of four core members: Jesse Leimgruber, Ryan Faber, Alain Meier and John Backus. The founding team members have backgrounds in computer science, digital marketing and blockchain. John Backus’ resume strikes our attention given his role as research scientist at the Stanford Bitcoin Group.

In addition to the founding team, Bloom has three advisers on board, including Meg Nakumura, CEO of Shift Payments. Joseph Urgo has also been recruited from District0x, an Ethereum dApp. David Raphael of Infinity Media also brings with him experience in conversion rate optimism. Overall, the brains behind Bloom appear to be well qualified and highly focused.

Verdict

Very few ICOs are as highly regarded as Bloom. This massive undertaking has the potential to become a highly lucrative enterprise. Bloom’s expansion into credit card services is also commendable. To speed up adoption, the company will launch the BloomCard, a blockchain credit card intended to serve as the model for all future credit providers.

On the flip side, significant challenges remain. Unless they are addressed, the company may struggle winning over institutional adoption. Providing a clearer implementation timetable is also needed to win over investors.

Risks

  • The credit scoring industry is mired in regulations that become even more complex when the moment we cross borders. Bloom has not outlined how it intends to navigate these issues. -3
  • Although the team has outlined a roadmap for implementation, no dates are provided. How fast will they be able to scale? Is the existing team sufficient in reshaping the global credit scoring industry (i.e., overtaking FICO)? -2
  • There’s probably a good reason why many people struggle to get credit. Is Bloom’s business model inherently risky? And will creditors be willing to take a gamble on borrowers with bad or no credit? -2

Growth Potential

  • Bloom is presented with an undeniably lucrative opportunity to link creditors with unbanked populations. More than one-third of the world’s population does not have a bank account and many more do not have access to credit. +4
  • The credit industry has been under the microscope following Equifax’s massive data breach, which exposed the private information of 143 million users. The combination of BloomID and security for invitations makes Bloom a much more secure platform. +4
  • Unlike other ICOs, Bloom’s multi-purpose token adds real value to the business. +2
  • The Bloom platform is likely to benefit from positive publicity tied to its admirable business objective of expanding credit options to all. +2

Disposition

Factoring all the above, we give Bloom a score of 5 out of 10. It should be noted that the ICO launch date has yet to be announced, which means our rating may be revised once details of the pre-sale surface.

Bloom is a highly ambitious project that, if realized, will benefit society in many ways. But there are glaring concerns related to regulation, credit risk and implementation that still need to be addressed. Combined, these factors could adversely impact institutional adoption.

The Bloom protocol will be developed in six major phases, culminating in the democratized autonomous credit infrastructure. The pace and timing of that roll out has yet to be determined, a clear sign that Bloom is still in its early concept stage.

Investment Details

No ICO pre-sale information has been provided yet. Users are encouraged to follow Bloom’s website or subscribe to their newsletter for the latest information.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

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ICO Analysis: Grid+

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Let’s get one thing straight, Grid+ and Power Ledger are NOT offering the exact same product. The reason why I started with this disclaimer is that this is most prominent question being asked wherever Grid+ is being discussed. For our readers not familiar with Power Ledger, you can check out our review here.

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While both Grid+ and Power Ledger are designed to shake up the energy market, the difference lies in their approach towards solving the problem. Power Ledger’s core product revolves around creating marketplaces where people will be able to sell their excess energy to those who need it. Power Ledger focuses on peer-to-peer energy trading as their main value proposition. On the other hand, the long-term vision of Grid+ involves creating a marketplace for energy trading, they are more focused on reducing the costs of retail electricity.

So, what does Grid+ plan to do?

Grid+ focuses on disrupting the existing utilities, where they aim to remove the intermediaries and sell electricity at wholesale rates to the end users.
The 4 major elements of electricity supply chain are energy generators, transmitters, distributors and the utilities. Utilities are responsible for administering and billing customers, and their associated costs are a significant overhead to the end user’s electricity bill as discussed in the whitepaper:

An energy utility buys electricity in the wholesale markets, pays the distribution system operator a fee for getting the electricity to the customer, and then bills the customer for the service at a large markup over their cost of goods sold. Typically only about 50% of the cost of retail electricity is used to pay for the electrical energy itself. The other half is tied up in administrative burden, marketing, and risk management associated with bad debts.

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By operating as a utility itself or licensing its technology to electricity generators, Grid+ will be able to bring down the cost of retail electricity significantly. Grid+ will automate the processes of billing and settlement which are largely manual and a significant portion of the overhead costs. By using the Ethereum-based smart contracts, payments will get recorded automatically without any payment processors. For the Texas market, Grid+ will bring the cost of $0.115/kWh down to $0.068/kWh, which translates to a customer saving ~38% on electricity.

Smart Agent

At the core of Grid+ technology is the Smart Agent. The Smart Agent is an internet enabled proprietary hardware, which users will have to buy to participate in the Grid+ ecosystem. The Smart Agent will read from the household smart meter and pay for the electricity usage in real-time. The users do not need to have any understanding of the blockchain technology, the Smart Agent takes care of that.

Longer Term Vision

As the costs of storage/batteries drop it will be in the economic interest of the consumer to buy batteries to store excess electricity. Once this occurs there will be situations where customers will not want to interact with wholesale markets directly, but rather trade energy locally. The Smart Agents will calculate the user’s energy requirements and sell excess energy in a peer-to-peer manner. Also since the middlemen aka the utilities are removed, users can directly view prices shown by the wholesale distributors, which vary according to the supply and demand. This will enable users to perform price arbitrage of electricity i.e. buy low and sell high!

The Token and Crowraise

Grid+ will operate with a two-token model, with each token being ERC-20 compliant. The BOLT token will be treated by Grid+ as a stable-coin, redeemable by Grid+ customers for $1 worth of energy from Grid+ and backed by USD deposits. The GRID token will allow Grid+ customers to purchase electricity from Grid+ at wholesale price. In particular, each GRID token may be redeemed by a Grid+ customer for 500 kWh of electricity from Grid+ at the wholesale price available to Grid+ in the jurisdiction in which the customer is located at the time such electricity is actually purchased.

The GRID token will be distributed during the ICO, with a fixed number of 300 million tokens scheduled to be minted. As mentioned above, the GRID token will be a credit on the GRID+ platform, redeemable for the right to purchase 500 kWh of electricity at wholesale price available to GRID+. Once redeemed, the tokens will be burned thus increasing value for the existing token holders. The price pegged BOLT tokens will be used to carry out transactions on the platform.

The crowdsale begins on October 30th. Of the total 300 million tokens, 90 million are available for sale. Each GRID token is priced at $1.15 for the ICO with a hardcap of $75 million USD.

The Team

Grid+ is a part of Consensys, which is a “hub” for similar blockchain based projects. Along with Grid+, Consensys is behind many other well known projects like BTC Relay and BlockApps.

ConsenSys has spent two years working with some of the brightest minds in the energy space, which has culminated in the formation of Grid+. The Grid+ team leverages experience from other ConsenSys teams, Ethereum startups, and massive Fortune Global 50 energy companies to design a system that will fundamentally change the way consumers interact with their energy providers.

The cofounders and the team have been selected to lead the Grid+ project after proper vetting by ConsenSys. There are 8 team members and 9 advisors listed. Ethereum cofounder Joseph Lubin is one of the advisors.

Verdict

Grid+ does not necessarily focus on clean energy or for that matter any “type” of energy. The core product is focused on disrupting the energy grid and providing cheap electricity to the end users, no matter where the electricity comes from. Grid+ might turn out to be a big boon for hydrocarbon power companies, as they would be able to sell electricity at rates cheaper than renewables. But then Grid+ is just a utility which is simply billing the customers and doing the administrative works. The benefits coming in for customers are also great. The project is actually improving an inefficient system and claims to lower electricity bills by almost 35-40%. Around $40 million USD have already been raised in the presale, which shows there is a considerable interest for the project.

The only point of concern is some ambiguity around the GRID token. The token has no other value apart from being a sort of coupon for getting 500 kWh electricity at wholesale prices. But since the same condition applies for GRID tokens all over the world, and electricity prices show a wide variation based on geographies; how would the token be valued by the markets? There would always be an upper cap to the value of the tokens, from a “trader” view, this coin will never be actually worth more than 20-30% of 500kWh of electricity at retail value. Currently the token is valued at $1.15 for the ICO, and it will immediately start trading at a price which is equal to the delta of the wholesale and retail price of 500 kWh electricity, which according to many estimates could vary from $4-7 making the ICO price a bargain.

Risks

  • The GRID tokens are nothing more than coupons for cheap electricity and will always have an upper cap. -1.5
  • The project can only operate in deregulated markets. At present there are only 2 states with deregulated electricity markets in the US. -2
  • There is some initial investment for users in the form of buying Smart Agents, which might prove to be a barrier. -0.5
  • There is no working product like Power Ledger has. They have not even applied for the creation of utility yet. -3

Growth Potential

  • From a business perspective, there is a good potential for Grid+ to grow considering the potential benefits for power generation companies and the end users. +3
  • Being a part of Consensys lends a huge credibility to the project. +2
  • $40 million USD have already been raised in the presale, $13 million raise by Power Ledger pales in comparison. +2
  • As the GRID tokens can immediately be redeemed for 500 kWh of wholesale priced electricity, the current token price of $1.15 is at a discount to the expected future price. +4

Disposition

We arrive at a score of +4 for Grid+. This is lower than the +6.35 we gave to Power Ledger. The absence of a working product and ambiguity surrounding GRID token’s valuation reduces the rating for Grid6.

Investment Details

The ICO begins on Oct 30th at 12pm EST. You can participate in the ICO here.

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ICO Analysis: UTRUST

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With the advent of cryptocurrency, it’s clear that the future of digital payments is upon us. Until now, advances in blockchain technology have occurred outside the purview of digital payments between buyers and sellers. That’s until UTRUST came along.

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UTRUST is an ambitious payment system that enables buyers to use their favorite cryptocurrency to pay for merchants for goods and services. Merchants or sellers enjoy the safety and convenience of receiving funds in fiat currency, while buyers get the added protection of UTRUST as mediator. The platform combines the payment protection features of existing fiat systems with the innovative features of blockchain.

UTRUST has labeled itself the “crypto-contender to PayPal,” a sign that the company is aiming to take the reigns as global payments leader.

The UTRUST Platform aims to provide the consumer protection buyers take for granted in traditional online purchases, acting as amediator, resolver of conflicts, enabling the possibility of refunds to mitigate fraud, while shielding the merchant from crypto-market volatility. We want to build upon the best features of cryptocurrencies, enabling fast transactions, lower fees and low cross-border transaction friction, enabling merchants to sell to a growing worldwide audience of crypto-holders. In sum, we aim to build the payment API for marketplace integration that will become the crypto-contender to PayPal. – UTRUST Whitepaper (2017)

In demonstrating its value proposition, UTRUST has issued the following comparison chart. The chart provides a compelling snapshot of what the company hopes to achieve.

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Source: UTRUST Whitepaper.

There’s plenty of hype surrounding UTRUST. The startup raised more than $1.5 million in 90 minutes during its August pre-sale, demonstrating huge demand for a global cryptocurrency payment platform. Following the huge support received during the pre-sale, UTRUST has boosted its infrastructure and support staff in preparation for its public initial coin offering (ICO) Nov. 2. Thousands of investors have already registered to buy the ICO, so this one is expected to move very quickly.

The initial $1.5 million investment has allowed the startup to secure a schedule for technical development, as well as further its marketing iniatives.

UTRUST Token

As the company states, the purpose of the crowdsale is to raise enough capital to “establish a de-facto payment platform in the cryptocurrency world and become lead Fintech startup in digital payments.”

In support of that vision, UTRUST is offering a ERC20-compatable token over the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum was the natural choice for a project of this nature, given the platform’s industry standard for issuing custom cryptocurrencies. The Ethereum ecosystem also has several other advantages, including development tools, wallets and exchanges. The ability to integrate smart contracts is also a strong value proposition offered by the Ethereum network.

The UTRUST token serves as an investment stake in the company as well as a transactional token for buying goods and services on the platform. As such, the token serves a number of functions inside the platform, including:

  • facilitating buyer/seller transactions;
  • allowing users to spend tokens on merchants that support the platform; and
  • the ability to sell the token in the exchange, privately or hold it for future use.

Each time a buyer pays with cryptocurrency through the platform, a percentage of the transactional fee is used to buyback a UTRUST token and remove it from the market. In other words, the removed tokens will be completely destroyed, thus reducing the total number of tokens in supply and boosting future demand, adoption and value for contributors.

As the following image illustrates, buyers will be able to purchase goods and services with any major cryptocurrency or UTRUST tokens. The latter has the added benefit of no conversion fee. Sellers receive the funds in the fiat currency of their choosing, allowing them to withdraw directly to their bank account, retain inside the wallet or convert to another cryptocurrency.

Source: UTRUST Whitepaper.

The company plans to deliver a transactional platform for the first quarter of 2018. This first iteration of the platform will be supported by a wallet app connecting buyers and sellers. The pilot launch will feature select merchants, with a more expanded rollout in the third quarter of 2018.

The Team

The UTRUST team includes professionals with a background in management, payments and cryptocurrency. The company is headed by Nuno Correia, who serves as Chief Executive Officer. Nuno is an early cryptocurrency adopter, and has been involved in the market since early 2011. This includes founding several B2C ventures.

The management team also includes a CIO, CTO, CPO, Head of Engineering, VP of Marketing, Head of Design, Head of Operations and others. Six engineers are also retained, in addition to nine advisors. The team is one of the strongest the author has seen for an early stage ICO.

Verdict

Make no mistake – UTRUST is a powerful platform with a strong value proposition. It is aiming to resolve the biggest issue holding back mainstream cryptocurrency adoption – namely, the ability to use digital tokens as a payment for actual goods and services. As a transactional payment API, the platform strikes a fine balance between consumer protection and convenience.

That being said, the company has yet to offer any implementation details, leaving investors unable to truly verify the claims. Although this is expected to be resolved sometime next year when the platform launches, it is something investors should bear in mind.

Risks

  • A lack of implementation details or working prototype. -2
  • The whitepaper states that the platform converts cryptocurrency into fiat and holds it in escrow until it is released to the seller. However, no information on the escrow feature is provided. -1

Growth Potential

  • UTRUST is operating at the forefront of the cryptocurrency payment arena, which gives it unique first-mover advantage in a rapidly expanding market. The lack of cryptocurrency payment options is a major issue that UTRUST is trying to resolve. +6
  • Sellers will be delighted to learn that they can receive payments in fiat currency. This gives them the opportunity of serving the cryptocurrency market without having to actually set up a crypto account. +2
  • Hugely successful private raise suggests investors are extremely passionate about the project. +2

Disposition

If you’re bullish on cryptocurrency, UTRUST is the opportunity to put your money where your mouth is. Consumers are craving a PayPal for cryptos, and UTRUST is delivering. If crypto payment processing is as coveted as industry proponents say it is, then UTRUST provides huge potential.

Against this backdrop, we give UTRUST  a rating of 7 out of 10. We feel this rating is justified given the prevailing gaps in the crypto payment arena, and the role of UTRUST in filling an important niche in the market. UTRUST essentially gives merchants access to a growing audience of cryptocurrency holders. For buyers, UTRUST provides a safe, reliable and secure platform for actually buying goods and services in cryptocurrency.

Investment Details

To participate in the UTRUST token sale, click here.

  • Project Type: Crowdsale
  • Opening Date: Nov. 2, 2017
  • Platform: Ethereum (ETH)
  • Total Supply: 1 billion
  • Raise Limit: $50 million USD
  • Token Price: $0.065 USD
  • Accepted Tokens: BTC & ETH

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock 

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