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Uber Just Got Cheaper In The US And Canada And Its Drivers Are Pissed

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Uber just got cheaper in eighty cities in the US and Canada, and Uber drivers are pissed. “We’re reducing prices to heat up demand,” the company wrote in an e-mail to drivers for its Uber X and Uber XL services. Demand, many drivers point out, does not necessarily mean higher earnings for them, and they claim instead they’re subsidizing the new rates with paltry earnings.

Drivers claim that while Uber continues making the same rate as before the rate cut, their earnings are directly impacted; indeed, in some markets, they will be subsidizing the costs to chauffeur passengers. Since Uber actively prohibits drivers from collecting data in its driver agreement, there is not much insight available publicly into Uber driver data.
driveragreementOne Denver driver, in breach of his Uber contract, supplied me with his pre-rate cut driver data in spreadsheet form. His data demonstrated that, on 75% of rides, his net earnings were less than $5 and 15% of his driver fares net less than $1 after taxes and expenses. Denver is one of the higher paying markets for Uber drivers.

His data demonstrated that, on minimum fare rides, which account for 30% of total driver rides, Uber deducted nearly 50% of the total fare for itself. Before the recent rate cut, and after taxes and expenses, he earned between 55 cents and 90 cents per mile on minimum fares, which comprised 30% of his rides. Coming up with how much a driver earns per mile is difficult because Uber does not calculate miles driven towards a passenger.

Read More: Uber Drivers Don’t Want To Die On Cross-Border Trips Into Mexico

The 2015 IRS estimate for costs to operate a vehicle is 57.5 cents per mile. Drivers in multiple North American cities reported making less than this amount per mile after the new rate cuts, such as in Detroit where drivers earn 30 cents per mile.

When the tech giant launched its new cost structure, Uber marketed a new “guarantee” to drivers. In order to be eligible for the guarantee, drivers must accept two rides per hour (sometimes demand does not allow for this) and be online during pre-stipulated “peak” hours. Otherwise, the guarantee is voided. I spoke with one former Detroit Uber driver, where rates are among the lowest, who stopped driving after the new rates were announced.

“It’s a joke,” the driver, who wished to stay anonymous, said.

Can’t make any money now, and the guarantees are a joke too.

The driver notes that Uber rates were already less expensive than a taxi’s in his city. “Now this is a minimum wage job at best,” he noted.

Read More: Uber Drivers Are Planning The Biggest Uber Strike In History

YouTube personality Uber Man, whose city earns nearly twice as much as Detroit, released a video in which he quit in protest of the new Uber rates. He calls the rate cuts “drastic and widespread.” He cites that many drivers will now essentially be paying to drive their passengers around, such as in Detroit. Drivers claim that Uber will be making the same exact money as before.

“The ones that are still driving are the ones that have no clue what their actual expenses are,” Colorado Springs Uber driver Karac Kirby said, listing some of the expenses.

“I do need the money, but there is none to be made.”

In Houston, drivers are striking, and claim to have caused a false surge in the area due to too few drivers on the roads.

“When I started in 2014, it was roughly three cents a mile and sixty cents a minute [to drive] and now we’re at 87 cents a mile and 11 cents a minute,” one Houston area driver told a local news stations covering the strike.

In a survey conducted of 215 Uber drivers, 92.1% believe the new rates are “terrible.” 90.6% do not believe they can make a “livable wage” at the new rate. 48% do not know if they will continue driving for Uber, while 40.7% say they will not. The overall sentiments from those who left comments in the survey are disgust, anger and discouragement.

An Uber spokesperson stated to me via e-mail that the company foresaw a slowdown for January based on data from the company’s five-and-a-half years of operation. “Reducing prices for riders can keep drivers busier,” the company wrote in an e-mail to Hacked. The company confirmed they will keep a close eye on the seasonal price cuts to understand the results and will reverse them  “if we don’t see drivers do as well or better.”  

While drivers remember previous rate cuts becoming permanent, the company cites examples in the past where price cuts were temporary, such as in Charlotte where a 40% price cut became a 29% price cut, and “earnings for drivers grew by nearly 20%.” The company also noted that in two cities, including Seattle (where Lyft recently lowered rates but kept driver pay the same), they reversed price cuts because prices were clearly too low “and earnings have remained stable since.”

Uber drivers shared with me stories of past wage cuts which, while marketed as temporary, became permanent.

Featured image from 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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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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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Bitcoins and Gravy

    January 15, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Well what is coming is a DECENTRALIZED model that will effectively put Uber and Lyft out of business. It’s going to take a few years, but it’s coming and there’s no stopping it. These new decentralized business models will allow drivers to make 100% of the profits, set rates competitively and have safeguards built in that will NOT allow price fixing, monopolies or anti-trust violations.

    Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, VRBO . . . your days are numbered y’all! So go on and rape, rob and pillage indiscriminately while you can . . . you dirty, greedy bastards!!!

    • Brunoxxx

      January 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Dufus independent single owner taxis have been around for many decades. Your iq seems to be in lock step with the decline in bitcoin cash value and is prone to speculation for upticks.

    • Brunoxxx

      January 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Yeah god and heaven forbid someone smarter than you making a “killer app” and raking in the big bucks you’ll never see.

    • Dimitri Andre

      January 30, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      yea right lol!! combine openbazaar (https://openbazaar.org/) with coinbase.com or uphold.com to take care of volatility and problem solve

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Business

Is Apple on the Verge of Another Big Revenue Stream?

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As we’ve seen companies start to build out new revenue streams and enter new markets, it has become increasingly clear that the big 5 are turning into huge conglomerates. Amazon is a media company, Google is the dominant producer of mobile operating systems, and Facebook is now talking about blockchain and other expansion possibilities. So with this, Apple is now making the move to become “the Netflix of news” and expanding their Apple News product to include a subscription option.

Apple’s New Business

With slowing iPhone sales, Apple needs another big win in order to maintain their “most valuable company in the world” status. And moving into the news niche isn’t entirely surprising. They did popularize streaming music using iTunes, after all. Then Apple Music came along, which makes Apple News seem like it has a logical evolution to be a subscription service.

The interesting thing about the timing on Apple’s announcement is that Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets have laid off journalists recently, so the industry is clearly hurting.

Pushback on the Structure

Controversy has arisen regarding the financial cut Apple is proposing to take. The plan is for Apple to keep 50% of revenue and divide the rest up among the publishers based on the length of time spent consuming their content. Granted, Apple already has the Apple News app, which has proof-of-concept, but publishers are still going to be hurting if they are only entitled to half of the $10 per month fee that Apple is expecting to charge.

Unlimited content for a single monthly fee is a very appealing model for users, and with an estimated 90 million subscribers (potentially delivering more traffic than Facebook), that would give publishers a high number of potential viewers. However, the problems don’t end with the financial aspect. Because of the structure of the app, these publishers wouldn’t have access to the subscription information (e.g. emails or credit card information) which would hinder their back-end marketing abilities.

In business, the back end is usually where the most money is made, and publishers would effectively lose this capability, as well as the ability to retarget using programmatic ads. Apple is planning on designing the app to use an algorithmic selection which doesn’t favour any particular publication. This is good for allowing discovery, but hinders each publisher’s ability to build brand value with readers the way a single subscription would. The differentiation disappears.

Aggregating Customers and Publishers

For Apple, the end goal for all of this is to aggregate a ton of different news suppliers, and then benefit from the same network effects that companies like Netflix thrive upon. Even though Apple News won’t come with the same advertising capability or deliver any traffic to the actual website, it is likely to draw publishers in for one simple reason: they have users.

The fact is, publishers weren’t going to get pageviews from these readers anyways, just by nature of them already using Apple News. Even though there is an intense level of competition and no way to get a direct-to-consumer relationship, it is better than nothing. Aggregators work because users want them, since nobody wants to choose a few publications to subscribe to.

Apple’s success in this endeavor will depend on what publishers do, but it seems like the obvious prediction is many of them will join so as to not miss out on revenue. The publishers with a higher degree of brand value may stay independent, but those will be few and far between.

Where Facebook has had rougher times, and both Amazon and Netflix have been moving in a positive direction, Apple has been relatively stable. This move could represent a swing in the right direction.

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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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 147 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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