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Lightning Network Goes Live, Bringing Promise of Faster Bitcoin

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A newer version of bitcoin’s Lightning Network went live Thursday, bringing with it newfound promise of faster and cheaper transactions. For market enthusiasts, the highly-anticipated release could pave the way to a more efficient ecosystem that allows cryptocurrencies to fulfill one of their core mandates: provide decentralized payment systems.

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Lightning Network Daemon Gets Beta Version

In a Thursday blog post, blockchain startup Lightning Labs announced the beta release of the Lightning Network Daemon (LND), a new software that can be used to access bitcoin’s Lightning Network. Daemon is the fourth major release of the Lightning mainnet beta. Its backers view it as an important milestone in bringing faster and cheaper payments to the bitcoin network.

“With this release, LND has gained a considerable feature set, deeper cross-implementation compatibility, a new specialized wallet seed, comprehensive fault-tolerance logic, a multitude of bug fixes, and much more!” the company said.

The release comes after a yearlong consultation with thousands of developers and volunteers, who assisted Lightning Labs in testing the new protocol. While LND is not the only implementation of Lightning Network, all versions are intended to work with each other. Lightning Labs said more than 60 contributors participated in the beta.

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In the blog post, Lightning Labs also said it secured $2.5 million in funding from major investors that include Twitter CEO Jeff Dorsey, Tesla investor Bill Lee and Jacqueline Reses of Square Capital.

Bitcoin Fees Plunge

For all the fear, uncertainty and doubt engulfing cryptocurrencies lately, the release of Lightning Network Daemon is seen as an important milestone in bringing bitcoin payments mainstream. The cryptocurrency skyrocketed last year, but so did its transaction fee, hitting a high of $50.

Transaction fees skyrocketed last year, hitting a high of $50. Fees have fallen dramatically since then, but so have the number of transactions.

The new protocol aims to resolve network bottlenecks by opening up new payment channels between users. As a result, Lightning Network can process over a thousand BTC transactions per second, which is a tiny fraction of Visa’s 56,000 per second, but a dramatic improvement over bitcoin’s five per second.

Through the Lightning Network, users conduct transactions without having to go record them on the bitcoin ledger, thereby reducing delays and network bottlenecks. Once the Lightning channel is closed, only the only the balances are recorded on the bitcoin blockchain.

News of LND failed to stem bitcoin’s price drop on Thursday. The coin touched a session low of $7,682 before recovering around $8,200.

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 335 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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Netflix Shares Surge After Hours amid Record Growth in Subscriptions

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Netlix Inc. (NFLX) has proved it can raise prices and still attract a record number of new users. The Los Gatos, California-based streaming service added 7.41 million customers in the first quarter, smashing analysts’ forecasts by about 1.7 million.

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Netflix Earnings

In addition to adding a record number of subscribers, Netflix posted per-share earnings of 64 cents on revenue of $3.7 billion. Analysts in a consensus estimate called for earnings of 64 cents per share on sales of $3.69 billion.

International streaming dominated subscription growth with a net gain of 5.46 million new users. Europe and Latin America were largely responsible for the better than expected growth. U.S. additions totaled 1.96 million.

Netflix succeeded in adding new subscribers even as it hiked the price of its streaming service, a sign the company was delivering desirable content. In addition tot he 700 titles planned for release this year, the company is investing billions into original content. Moving to in-house production will allow Netflix to save money by avoiding hefty markups charged by rival studios.

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After falling 1.2% on Monday, share prices spiked 5.2% in after-hours trading. At $323.70 per share, the company should surpass $140 billion in market cap at the start of trading on Tuesday. That’s a 600% increase since 2014.

Share prices are recovering after a difficult stretch for so-called FAANG stocks, an abbreviation that represents Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet. FAANG investments lost more than $320 billion over a three-week stretch ending Apr. 2.

At the close:

Dominance of Over-the-Top Content

Netfix has established a dominant position in the market for over-the-top content, or OTT, which generally refers to internet-based streaming services. Cord cutters in the U.S. market alone topped 22 million between 2016 and 2017, bringing the total number of consumers without pay TV to about 57 million.

High-speed internet is not only disrupting traditional media, it is destroying it. This extends far beyond the entertainment segment to also include broadcast news and other mainstream media outlets.

OTT content could be worth $62 billion by 2020, putting companies like Netflix at the top of the heap for investors looking for promising plays during the tail end of the bull market.

The success of Netflix has spawned several paid and free alternatives, including emerging juggernauts like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Sling TV. Traditional media companies like HBO have also adopted the subscription streaming model.

As cord-cutting continues, price elasticity of demand could grow for streaming services. In other words, companies can charge more for their service without fear of lost revenue. That was certainly the case with Netflix during the past quarter.

 

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 335 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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Revolut: Apps For Cryptocurrencies

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For the last few months, it seems like we have been transfixed in the collapse of crypto prices, trying to figure out what is going to cause the next move up.  The answer is not easy to find. So I thought it might be an interesting change of pace to look at a fintech company that is participating in the crypto movement but has a few other cool things going as well.

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This may not fatten your investment account immediately but it should take your mind off bitcoin for a few minutes.  After that, who knows.

Big Valuation

Revolut is a UK based payments company in business since July 2015.  Last summer Revolut founders Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko raised over $66 million in VC funding and another $23 million from crowdfunding.  Yes, the Crypto buzz had something to do with their success. But there is quite a bit more.

Storonsky must be pretty good with a pitch deck considering the implied $200-$400 million valuation of the company.  He and his partner have deep experience in the global payments business. Nikolay spent years as a currency trader with Credit Suisse so he understands the absurd level of fees charged by the current system.

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The technical wizardry, however, rests with his partner Yatsenko. Vlad spent over ten years building financial systems for major Wall Street investment banks.  He serves as the company’s CTO.

Crypto Link: An Interesting Approach

According to company literature, the Revolut app allows customers to open a current account in under a minute, and includes a prepaid contactless MasterCard debit card.  So far there is nothing unusual about Revolut. But wait, there’s more.

The firm launched personal international bank account numbers (IBANs) across Europe just recently, and plans to integrate virtual currencies like bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin in the future.  This includes plans to add a wealth of new services in the coming months from the integration of cryptocurrency to pay-as-you-go travel insurance at the tap of a button.

Even before this gets accomplished, Revolut offers a currency exchange with 25 different currencies and a peer-to-peer payments service.  As Storonsky tells his story, “ . . . what we are demonstrating goes beyond banking.”

The one question investors are raising is how all these wonderful free services will be monetized.  An announcement this week should provide at least some answers.

CNP Fraud Prevention

Revolut has a new product aimed at tackling online card fraud. The mobile-only bank unveiled a virtual card that wipes a user’s card details and introduces new details each time they make a payment.

When people make an online payment, they enter card details and most often online retailers hold onto the data. This is where fraudsters have a field day.

In the trade it is known as Card Not Present (CNP) fraud.  As online shopping has increased steadily, CNP fraud has risen exponentially – something like 50% annually.

What happens is, every time you make a transaction, Revolut software deletes the card details so it’s impossible to make any transaction after that.  Just in case you were wondering, all the data remains in the browser of the customer. So the quality of customer service is not sacrificed.

Full Disclosure  

Revolut is not your typical ICO (i.e., all whitepaper and no product).  It is not fueled by any cryptocurrency or token. I first came across Revolut following their VC round last year and was impressed with the valuation, background of the founders and the business model.  I have no vested interest in the company. Someday the VC will want to cash out most likely through an IPO. So Revolut is a name you will want to keep track of.

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 60 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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ICOs Raise $3.2 Billion During First Quarter Even as Signs of Slowdown Emerge

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The market for initial coin offerings (ICOs) reached a new peak in the first quarter, although signs of a slowdown have begun to emerge amid fears of upcoming regulation and a general outflow of capital from the cryptocurrency space.

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ICOs Generate Billions

Crowdfunding campaigns raised more than $3.2 billion during the first quarter, according to the latest figures compiled by ICOData.io. The average project raised nearly $6.6 million, which is broadly consistent with the 2017 average.

While the total amount raised was down slightly from the fourth quarter, the months of January and February saw inflows of more than $1.2 billion each. That’s the first time inflows crossed the $1 billion mark in back-to-back months.

According to CCN, the majority of funds raised this year come from U.S.-based projects. Other major ICO project centers include China, Lithuania and Switzerland. If recent developments are any indication, Malta is also poised to become a front-runner in the ICO market.

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Signs of Slowdown Emerge

While solid overall, the first-quarter results may have signaled the start of a broad cool down in the ICO market. ICOs generated $601 million in March, less than half of February’s tally and the weakest intake since last August.

If last year’s slowdown was any indication, ICOs could be poised to heat up again very soon. However, last month’s sharp decline was accompanied by increased regulatory risk and signs of fatigue in the market. With 500 capital-generating projects released through the first quarter, the market is on track to exceed the 2017 total in just a few months.

 

In the heyday of ICOs, a whitepaper and decent concept were all that were needed to generate millions of dollars in funding. That’s when the market was flooded with flippers – speculators who bought tokens at a discount and sold them for profit one month later.

The market has evolved significantly over the past year, with many projects now requiring a lock-in period for token holders. This is especially the case for projects that offer steep discounts during the pre-sale.

But investors themselves are also holding ICOs more accountable these days. This includes demands for a minimum viable product (MVP) at the time the ICO is launched.

The sheer quantity of projects flooding the market has made investors more weary of fraudulent campaigns, cash grabs and generally weak concepts. It was reported earlier this year that nearly half of last year’s ICOs either failed at the funding stage or have gone out of business since the token raise was issued. An additional 13% are considered “semi-failed” despite still being operational.

That said, there’s little reason to believe startups will be ditching the ICO concept anytime soon. Many young businesses are looking to circumnavigate the venture capitalist-controlled market in an effort to retain greater control of their business and equity over the long haul. The main question investors need to ask is whether these companies have a viable use case for their token. Based on the success/failure rate of ICOs, the answer appears to be a resounding no.

 

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 335 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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