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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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4.5 stars on average, based on 3 rated postsMultiple journalists and analysts are behind the name Edward Talliot.




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How You Could Profit From The Fairfax County Investment In Morgan Creek Digital

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Morgan Creek Digital recently scored what it says is probably the first investment in the known crypto asset universe from a U.S. pension fund.

Two pension plans in Fairfax County, Virginia are anchor investors in a new $40 million venture-capital fund, according to a statement from the company. Other investors include an insurance company, a university endowment and a private foundation, said Morgan Creek Digital founder Anthony Pompliano, who declined to provide further details.

Fairfax County Retirement Systems manages three separate defined benefit plans, two of which invested in the Morgan Creek Digital fund, said Pompliano. Katherine Molnar, chief investment officer of one of the funds said in a statement that blockchain technology is an “emerging opportunity” that offers an “attractive asymmetric return profile.’’

Morgan Creek Digital, which is an affiliate of the investment manager Morgan Creek Capital Management LLC, exceeded its original target of $25 million for the fund. Its pitch: all traditional assets will eventually be represented by digital tokens, while the influx of intellectual capital into digital assets will create positive returns. It also argues that cryptocurrencies are not correlated to traditional assets, giving investors unique exposures.

The fund created by Morgan Creek Digital in New York is investing in cryptocurrency giant Coinbase, which was recently valued at $8 billion, and several lesser-known startups, including Blockfi, RealBlocks, TrustToken, Harbor, Open Finance Network, CityBlock Capital, Namebase, Good Money and Digital Assets Data.
As much as $4 million of the investment could eventually be used to purchase cryptocurrency directly, though that has not happened yet.

This sort of development is crucial for the digital asset markets to evolve. Let’s take a closer look at Morgan Creek Digital’s other blockchain companies, and see if there might be equity or token opportunities.

CityBlock Capital

CityBlock Capital offered a digital security token sale on the SharesPost platform, representing perhaps the lowest-barrier investment opportunity for someone looking to tag onto the Fairfax County investment in Morgan Creek Digital.

CityBlock’s NYCQ Blockchain Infrastructure Fund invests in companies building blockchain-based capital markets infrastructure. From the instantaneous settlement of trades, elimination of intermediaries, and the reduction of fraud, the fund’s portfolio companies include clearing houses, exchanges, depositories, makers of market aggregation tools, securities services firms, data analytics, smart contract auditors, and issuance platforms. Its focus is early-stage firms, with ten percent of its funds going to late-stage companies.

CityBlock’s digital tokens are designed to represent ownership interests in the fund. Investors will be able to buy and sell these assets on SharesPost’s Alternative Trading System (ATS), which is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

TrustToken

If you’re looking for a stablecoin, this Morgan Creek Digital-backed option might be a nice tool to escape crypto-volatility. TrustToken’s first token is TrueUSD, a stablecoin redeemable one-to-one for U.S. dollars. Over its initial four months of trading, the coin’s market increased to $85 million as investors look for stability in the unstable world of crypto. The token has a $61 million hard cap on the token allocated over three tranches of $0.12, $0.14 and $0.16 per trust token.

In the TrueUSD system, dollars are kept in the escrow accounts of multiple trust companies, not a bank account. Those accounts verified by an independent third party that issues monthly reports on the funds held in collateral.

Blockfi

In need of liquidity and have a lot of crypto you could put up as collateral? Blockfi is now operating in the US, and could be the business solution you need. BlockFi is a New York-based secured non-bank lender of  USD loans to cryptoasset owners who collateralize the loan with cryptoassets. Blockfi iquidity is available to both individuals and institutions. Client Bitcoin and Ether is held with a registered custodian. Loans are issued in USD to their bank account.

BlockFi currently operates in 35 US States, lending to retail investors and companies. It raised approximately $1.5 million in seed funding earlier this year from ConsenSys Ventures, SoFI and Kenetic Capital, followed by Galaxy Digital Ventures investment of $52.5 million. $50 million, the lion’s share of the capital, will be used to loan to BlockFi’s customers. The remaining $2.5 million represents an equity investment in the company from Galaxy and earlier backers.

Namebase

Namebase offers probably the most unique idea in which Morgan Creek Digital invests. This platform enables the registration of top-level domains on the Handshake blockchain. As a fork of Bitcoin, Handshake allows users to register domain names. Registration records are maintained by a decentralized network of nodes. Handshake is compatible with the existing domain name system. It is easily integrated with mainstream browsers.

Handshake uses the Bitcoin software with some extra transaction types allowing users to bid on names on-chain. Handshake forked everything about the Bitcoin node software while not forking the UTXO set, like in the case of Zcash. The Handshake project plans to distribute 70% of the coin supply to open source developers, projects, and non-profits without any contractual expectation of work.

Bakkt

The Bakkt Bitcoin Daily Future is a physically delivered daily futures contract on Bitcoin traded in BTC/USD. It’s still subject to regulatory approval, but ICE plans for them to be traded on its electronic trading platform which is regulated by the CFTC. ICE Clearing US, the main counterparty for all ICE cleared forex futures trades, will clear and guarantee all trades, to be settled in physically delivered Bitcoin “in the regulated Bakkt Warehouse.”

Bakkt raised $18.2 million to develop a global digital assets platform and a bitcoin futures product. Owned by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which in turn is owned by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Bakkt’s investors include Boston Consulting Group, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners, ICE, M12 (Microsoft’s VC fund), Pantera Capital and Protocol Ventures.

Digital Assets Data

This financial technology and data company build enterprise-grade software and data feeds for crypto hedge funds and other market participants. The companies data, information and transparency tools will be applied to crypto assets, including currencies, platforms, applications, side chains, security tokens, and initial coin offers (ICOs) through subscription services offered to hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Harbor

While companies like Polymath stole much of security token show in early 2018, Harbor’s blockchain-based platform and compliance protocol has also been built to transform private securities like commercial real estate offerings an investment funds into more liquid forms of private investment.

This institutional-grade onramp for issuers and investors is an end-to-end service. Investor on-boarding to the platform encompasses KYC, AML, accreditation and tax forms, signing of documents, funding, and other tasks. The Harbor compliance protocol manages complex rules and regulations governing securities on issuance and secondary transfers.

Open Finance Network

Created in 2014, The OpenFinance Network (OFN) uses blockchain technology to create an U.S. regulated security token platform. “We wanted to give users the control over their funds. Since with security tokens, there is a lot of overhead holding tokens on a centralized platform. So to put capital to better use, we went with self-custody. We are not entirely decentralized though, and we think this is attractive to all types of users.”

Open Finance Network is comprised of the ledger, the token and the adaptors. Open Finance’s a global registry of assets that are represented by security tokens as well as entities such as broker-dealers, transfer agents, custodians or escrow agents that can be used on different security token processes.

Good Money

Good Money is a new type of banking platform founded by Gunnar Lovelace. When a new customer signs up with Good Money, they receive an equity share – in other words, they become co-owners. Lovelace says customers could hold as much as 70% one day.

Good Money operates similar to a credit union, which are non-profits, and offers members no ATM or overdraft fees. 50% of its profits are invested into green projects and charitable donations. The platform’s customers vote on where profits should be invested, but the options will only include sustainable investments, like clean energy and reforestation efforts.

RealBlocks

RealBlocks is creating a real estate capital markets platform designed to connect users globally so they can more easily raise capital for real estate. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the platform allows organizations to raise capital through the issuance of tokenized securities.

On the platform, investors can directly purchase ownership interest in real estate with digital and fiat currencies. The platform also claims to provide a mechanism for peer-to-peer liqudity. According to RealBlocks, “anyone in the world is now able to directly invest, raise capital, and obtain liquidity for investments in real estate.” The platform also provides a mechanism for peer-to-peer liquidity. By using RealBlocks, anyone in the world is now able to directly invest, raise capital, and obtain liquidity for investments in real estate.

Conclusion

“There’s a belief in the institutional world that if the industry will be around for a long time, it will be very valuable,’’ Pompliano said in a phone interview. “The smart money is not distracted by price but looks at the long-term trends, and believes they’re betting on innovation as a great way to deliver risk-mitigated returns.’’

Today, even police officers and other state employees in Virginia’s Fairfax County are now looking forward to retirement with potential dividends from bitcoin. Two separate pension funds that collectively manage $5.1 billion in assets for the state’s police force and other employees have joined a $40 million investment in the Morgan Creek Blockchain Opportunities Fund.

If you look at the startups in which Morgan Creek Digital is invested, there are few token options. Using TrueUSD to hedge your crypto-investments offers one opportunity to augment your investment strategy. More interestingly, the CityBlock Capital security token represents an alternative to other VC-backed securities tokens, such as Blockchain Capital’s BCAP.

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 2 rated postsJustin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused CryptographicAsset.com. Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.




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Electric Minerals: Tesla, Chrysler Feel the Heat as African Nations Demand Bigger Cut

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Officials from mineral-rich African nations met with representatives from the ‘big mining’ industry at the Mining Indaba investment conference in Cape Town this week, with each hoping to make headway amid newly-simmering economic tensions.

Those tensions have been fuelled by a realization on the part of certain African nations that they now hold all the cards when it comes to producing minerals essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles.

As such, countries like Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia have demanded a bigger piece of the pie from mining companies, so much so that the CEO of multi-billion dollar mining company, Barrick Gold, has already labelled the situation ‘untenable’.

This economic standoff threatens to makes itself felt in the U.S, where both political and financial pressure has already hit electric car manufacturers hard – in the balance books and on the assembly lines.

Africa Wakes Up

Electric cars use almost ten times as much copper as conventional cars – 185 pounds compared to around 18 pounds. The amount used in the production of electric busses is a staggering 800 pounds.

Zambia recently raised taxes on copper by 5%, and announced plans to add a further 10% if (when) the price of copper exceeds $7,500 per tonne. Currently, a tonne of copper costs $6,200 on the world market.

When Barrick Gold CEO, Mark Bristow, called the situation untenable, he was referring specifically to demands made by Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo. The Tanzanian government is currently attempting to squeeze a $190 billion tax payment from gold mining company, Acacia. Meanwhile, the DRC continues to flex as many muscles as it can, safe in the knowledge that the modern world relies on its cobalt and tungsten.

With western nations, and particularly the eurozone, making strong commitments to converting to green energy in the coming decades, electric car firms now find themselves being pushed and pulled in several directions.

On the one hand, they must innovate quickly enough to keep pace with government fuel efficiency targets; while on the other they must balance the environmental and financial cost of acquiring the minerals required to make their machines more efficient.

Playing Hardball

Both Tanzania and DRC refused to send any delegates to the Cape Town conference; instead choosing to dig their heels in and stick to their guns.

The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, was present at the conference, and as custodian of Africa’s second largest gold reserves, Addo spoke up in favour of African nations getting the best deal possible. He said that international companies should no longer expect any special relationships or deals from African nations, and that:

“…The people of Africa do not have to be poor for others to be rich.”

Major mining companies voiced concerns that they would be forced to shut up shop and find somewhere else to mine for minerals. Some have even gone so far as to begin exploring new ways to make electric vehicles which don’t rely on Africa’s conflict minerals.

Tesla Effect

Tesla’s Elon Musk has been very vocal about the fact that his company has to move away from reliance on the ‘Blood Diamond of Minerals’ (cobalt), and that the next generation of Tesla vehicles would not use any at all. Last year he tweeted:

“We use less than 3% cobalt in our batteries & will use none in next gen…”

Last year, an analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Caspar Rawles, described how cobalt use has already been greatly reduced by the likes of Tesla and Panasonic – but that they may have reached a ‘bottom’. He said:

“Tesla uses a formulation called NCA (nickel, cobalt, aluminum) that is already very low-cobalt. Over the last six years, Tesla and Panasonic [which supplies batteries to Tesla] have reduced cobalt dependency by about 60 percent already. That’s already very low. We think it’s going to be difficult for them to go much lower because you run into engineering problems.”

New Sources?

Cobalt isn’t a problem in itself, it just so happens that some of the most mineral-rich nations also happen to be mired in decades-old conflicts and civil wars. And those are often exacerbated, not helped, by the influx of foreign money.

But in 2017, Tesla made moves into the small Canadian town of Cobalt – which has, as it happens, a huge supply of… cobalt. As quoted in Bloomberg, Roger Bell, director of mining research at London-based firm Hannam & Partners, said:

“Anybody who has cobalt outside the DRC is in a better situation because carmakers are very worried about their supply chains.”

Within months of the move into Cobalt, two cobalt mining companies saw their stock rise from between 90% and 600% – purely on speculation, and despite having zero revenue at the time.

Breaking the reliance on African minerals is a major goal for global manufacturers, and Tesla’s Conflict Minerals Report from 2017 aimed for the same:

“Tesla does not and will not accept human rights abuses in our supply chain. While Tesla’s responsible sourcing practices apply to all materials and supply chain partners, we recognize the conditions associated with select artisanal mining (ASM) of cobalt in the DRC.”

Tesla published the names of all of their supply chain interactions in the report, and filed it with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the same year. Tesla has been one of the ‘cleanest’ operators when it comes to conflict minerals, but its two rounds of worker layoffs at the end of last year – including over 50% of its delivery force – highlights the difficult industry it finds itself in.

Fiat Chrysler Coughs Up

Italian-American car company Fiat Chrysler recently felt pressure from the other side of the fence, when it was forced to pay a $77 million fine for failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements in the United States.

The FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) stock price sunk 15% in the past week, and is only now starting to rebound. A gap between financial targets and economic reality caused the stock price to drop, and FCA continue to lobby the Trump administration for a relaxing of fuel economy laws. Fiat Chrysler say the laws target them unfairly due to their cars increased default size and bulk compared to cars in the general market.

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 146 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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Netflix Price Hike Helps Bag $10 Million Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Documentary

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Shortly after Netflix announced it would be raising the costs of subscriptions for U.S customers, the movie streaming giant just splashed out $10 million to secure a documentary on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Bearing the politically provocative title of Knock Down the House, the movie was subject to a bidding war at the Sundance Film Festival last week, where Netflix outbid competitors such as Amazon and Hulu to gain rights to air it on their platform.

The $10 million figure was only revealed this week, however, and it immediately takes its place in the record books as the largest purchase ever recorded for a documentary film at Sundance.

Netflix Economics

As discussed previously on Hacked, the price hike enacted by Netflix – which saw standard subscriptions rise from $7.99 to $9.99 per month – is unlikely to affect the company in a negative way. While the stock price did stumble earlier in the week, it recovered 2.6% rapidly just days later.

HD and multi-screen subscriptions were subject to the largest price hike in the company’s history – from $10.99 up to $12.99; an increase of over 18%. The premium plan, which encompasses streaming on four seperate devices, rose from $13.99 to $15.99, making it more expensive than competitor HBO NOW for the first time in its history.

One of Netflix’s main advantages is its international user-base – one which reached as high as 117 million in 2018. Only 55 million of those users came from inside the U.S, which begs the question: how did a documentary about a regional political representative in New York’s 14th district become the most sought after cinematic property in Sundance history?

Knock Down the House

According to the plot summary:

“The film follows four women who decided to run for Congress in the 2018 United States elections: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia. Vilela, Bush, and Swearengin lost in the primary round, but Ocasio-Cortez won the election.”

Whether it’s true or just an attempt at legend, the story goes that director Rachel Lears began working on the film the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

The film won the Sundance Favourite award last Thursday, and has accumulated a score of 6.1/10 from twenty-four votes on IMDB; and a 100% positive score from eight early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. On reviewer from IndieWire gave the film a ‘B’ rating, adding:

“Stylistically, the film isn’t at all fussy: on-screen graphics are straightforward and informative, and Lears leaves the editorializing out of her introductory captions, though the film’s score often proves manipulative during the most unnecessary of times.”

With recent Sandra Bullock starrer, Bird Box, estimated to have been viewed by over 80 million households, it will be interesting to see if Knock the House Down translates just as well to an international audience. Although, Netflix can probably afford to take a hit for the sake of pushing its new political favourite.

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 146 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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