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Israeli Team Signs First Launch Agreement In Google Lunar XPRIZE Competition

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Private space travel is moving closer to reality, and an Israeli team has staked its claim in the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

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SpaceIL, an Israel-based non-profit working to land a spacecraft on the moon, became the first team to produce a launch contract in the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. XPRIZE announced SpaceIL’s verified contract at a press conference in Jerusalem attended by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE. The “ticket to the moon” also marks the world’s first private lunar mission and Israel’s first moon mission.

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“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Weiss. He said the achievement represented a major commitment for a privately-funded organization.

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XPRIZE Incentivizes Space Entrepreneurs

The Google Lunar XPRIZE, created in 2007, incentivizes entrepreneurs to create affordable access to the moon and beyond.

The competition awards $30 million to teams who can land a privately-funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition video and images, according to XPRIZE.

The first team to complete the mission wins $20 million. The second team gets $5 million. Teams must prove private sources covered 90% of their mission costs. The teams have until the end of 2016 to announce a contract to launch a spacecraft. Teams must complete their missions by the end of 2017.

Bonus prizes are also available for technical and scientific achievements. These can include feats such as surviving the lunar night or visiting an Apollo landing site.

Israel Joins An Elite Club On Space Travel

“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China,” said Eran Privman, SpaceIL CEO. He noted that SpaceIL last year made significant progress toward landing on the moon, in both project financing and engineering design. He said the company is thrilled to finally secure a launch agreement.

SpaceIL has secured launch services from Spaceflight Industries; a U.S.-based company that recently purchased a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and will manifest SpaceIL’s spacecraft as a co-lead spot. It will sit in a capsule inside the launcher among a cluster of secondary payloads. Once the capsule separates from the launcher, it will release the spacecraft. The spacecraft will use advanced navigation sensors to guide it to the lunar surface. Engineers in a mission control room will send commands and corrections remotely as needed.

Also read: Watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 makes an almost-successful crash landing

Falcon 9 Launcher Designed For Safe Transport

SpaceX designed Falcon 9 for reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit, according to the company website. It designed Falcon 9 with a two-stage configuration that minimizes the number of events. With first stage engines, the rocket completes the mission, even if an engine shutdown should occur.

In 2012, Falcon delivered Dragon into the correct orbit to rendezvous with the International Space Station, according to SpaceX. This made SpaceX the first commercial company to visit the Space Station. SpaceX has made three flights to the space station, delivering and returning cargo for NASA.

SpaceX created Falcon 9 to deliver humans into space. It is working toward that goal under an agreement with NASA.

Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business, said his company is excited to work with SpaceIL to realize its mission and to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

The remaining 15 XPRIZE teams have until the end of 2016 to produce their own launch contracts, according to the BBC.

The U.S. team, Moon Express, last week said it will go on a New Zealand rocket. The X Prize Foundation told the BBC it could not verify a launch contract.

Images from Shutterstock and SpaceIL.

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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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Blockchain Talent Demand Surpasses Supply

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If there’s any group in the global workforce that is sitting pretty it’s blockchain developers. Their success has unparalleled with anything in the stratosphere, yet they’re still receiving offers with compensation packages rivaling that of CEO pay packages. And many of them have already become millionaires from investing in the coins of the market leaders they helped to build, including bitcoin and Ethereum, which means they’re less incentivized to join other projects for the size of the offer alone.

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Decentralized World

The thing to remember about blockchain pioneers is that they set out on the mission of a decentralized world not so that they could be subject to the whims of cryptocurrency prices. They are just as focused on the social impact of the blockchain as they are the success of their respective projects. Consider Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin, who during the peak of the cryptocurrency market rally at year-end 2017 tweeted the following reminder to his followers –

Buterin went on to use Venezuela as an example, whose economy is in tatters. He was dismayed that bitcoin’s price posts were getting more traction than “how Venezuelans were being rescued by crypto.”

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If the corporate culture reflected Buterin’s mission rather than dangling a six- or seven-digit compensation package in front of recruits, they might have more success attracting top blockchain talent.

Talent Battle

Meanwhile, blockchain startups are creating roadmaps with product release dates obligating them to have top development talent in-house, all of which is leading to projects getting stuck and helping to fuel the hiring frenzy. It’s not solely blockchain startups, however.

Global corporations including certain FANG stocks are no longer waiting on the sidelines as ICOs raise billions of dollars and the cryptocurrency market cap has balloons to nearly $400 billion, all of which has placed a high bounty on the pool for blockchain talent. If you have any doubts, consider again Ethereum co-founder Buterin. As Hacked.com previously reported, Buterin tweeted about having received a job offer from Google.

David Schwartz, whose Twitter profile describes him as “one of the original architects of the XRP network,” told The Wall Street Journal how both a startup and a big tech play attempted to poach one of his team members, each of them offering the Ripple developer a million dollar signing bonus.

Meanwhile, the blockchain, a public immutable ledger where transactions are recorded and joined together in individual blocks, has become a catchphrase, one that can mean the difference between hits on a LinkedIn profile or not. According to the Journal story, there are thousands of available jobs posted on the social platform hunting blockchain talent through the early part of May, reflecting more than a 150% jump versus all of last year.

But just as regulators have said they don’t want to rush into crafting any policy in response to market performance, employers should similarly take a step back before throwing everything but kitchen sinks out to software developers. Some companies are developing talent in-house, which is another route to consider. But overall, hiring companies could be much more effective at recruiting blockchain talent if they understood the mission behind decentralization.

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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4.4 stars on average, based on 7 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. Full disclosure, she's invested in bitcoin.




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Crypto Hedge Funds Grow 64% Over the Past Year as Institutions Embrace Digital Currency

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After spending much of the last eight years bashing cryptocurrency, Wall Street is beginning to embrace the digital asset class more intently than ever before. Case in point: the number of cryptocurrency hedge funds has increased 64% over the past year. As it turns out, Goldman Sachs isn’t the only institutional player pivoting toward cryptocurrency.

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The Rise of the Crypto Hedge Fund

There are now 287 hedge funds devoted to cryptocurrency trading, compared with 175 a year ago, according to data from Autonomous Next. Astonishingly, there were only 20 crypto hedge funds in existence in 2016.

Over the past year, at least 100 hedge funds have been launched for the sole purpose of trading cryptocurrency. At this rate, institutions will play an increasingly pivotal role in the digital currency market in the very near future.

Digital currency exchanges are betting big on institutional money. San Francisco-based Coinbase recently unveiled four new products designed to unlock up to $10 billion in institutional capital currently sitting on the sidelines. This includes a new custodial service that will provide institutions with a trusted steward to safeguard their digital assets.

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As for hedge funds themselves, April saw a huge turnaround in terms of profitability, as firms played the crypto-market rebound to great success. In the process, they gained more than 80% compared with March.

The Next Bull Market

Coinbase has put forward the position that institutional capital will be responsible for the next great bull market in cryptocurrency. If 2017 was the year of the retail investor, 2018 and beyond will largely be driven by institutions. A close examination of Google search trends seems to support this view.

The 2017 bull market was accompanied by a wave of new entrants into the cryptocurrency market, as evidenced by the surge in Google search results for terms like “bitcoin” and “cryptocurrency.” If we use the same metrics, we can conclude that cryptocurrency has lost its buzz among new traders. For example, a term like “cryptocurrency” achieved a Google Trends score of 12 in the most recent week, down from a perfect 100 at the start of 2018.

That said, hedge funds are still a long ways away from dominating the crypto market.  In fact, institutional adoption remains weak overall in spite of the recent growth. This was recently pointed out by Tom Lee, the Wall Street crypto analyst leading research at Fundstrat Global Advisors.

In Lee’s view, cryptocurrencies failed to rally during blockchain week because of adoption hurdles at bank as well as a lack of custodial tools among major institutions. Using the same logic, Lee concludes that institutional demand is one of the missing ingredients for a large rally in prices.

However, Lee has maintained a strongly bullish outlook on crypto assets, including a price forecast for bitcoin of $25,000 by the end of the year.

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 415 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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Walmart’s Flipkart Deal: The Dawn of a New Day in India

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It’s the dawn of a new day in India, particularly cross-border investment, thanks to Walmart’s groundbreaking controlling stake in Bengaluru-based e-commerce darling Flipkart. Walmart has tried for years to no avail to enter the South Asian country, until now.

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As a result of the deal, Walmart now has five seats on the online retailer’s board and is poised to play an influential role on the direction of the company — including a possible Flipkart IPO — setting the tone for further investments into the region in the interim.

It’s $16 billion deal values Flipkart at a whopping $21 billion and helps the Arkansas-based big-box retailer to compete more fiercely with Amazon, considering that the integration goes smoothly. Walmart has chosen a controversial target company to kick things off. Flipkart has been at the center of a saga ironically surrounding a previous cross-border investment.

Amazon is fighting back, however, as evidenced by it reaching into the belly of western India including Gujarat’s Bhuj, where some residents don’t even have online access. Amazon is taking an Etsy-like approach there with a focus on handmake craft items that are unique to this corner of the world.

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No doubt corporations around the world have it on their radar as a possible harbinger of more cross-border investment activity to unfold in the region.

Gopal Jain of Mumbai-based private equity firm Gaja Capital told The Financial Times: “India continues to be perceived in global boardrooms as a tough place to do business in.” But he also said that as a result of this deal, global executives have gone from “being on the heels to being on the toes.”

India’s Cross-Border Investment

The overhaul of India’s international investment has been two decades in the making. And while India Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his administration has opened the doors to foreign investment, there still hasn’t been much evidence of that. For instance, cross-border M&A into India totaled $14.5 billion last year, lagging the performance of other developing countries including Brazil and China by as much as 50%, as per Dealogic data cited in the FT.

Indeed, the last time that a deal of anything close to the size of Walmart’s Flipkart acquisition was more than a decade ago in the telecom space when Vodafone took a majority position in Hutchison Essar. That deal left a sour taste in the mouths of would-be pursuers given hostile tax environment in which Vodafone was forced to operate.

Prime Minister Modi has the opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that India indeed is open for investment. If the Walmart deal can somehow help to shake the stigma that is attached to foreign investment into India, as evidenced by the “tax terrorism” that’s been attached with the region, it, in fact, could reflect the dawn of a new day for cross-border M&A in India.

Feature 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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4.4 stars on average, based on 7 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. Full disclosure, she's invested in bitcoin.




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