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Uber Surges Prices During Sydney Hostage Crisis; Offers Free Rides Amid Backlash

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During the recent Sydney hostage crisis in Australia, one company may have profited off of the panic of potential customers trying to flee to safety. That’s right, while a hostile hostage situation unfolded and hostages tried to escape, Uber’s taxi service raised prices for rides to almost $100 AUD ($82 USD) for rides.

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Reports of gunshots frightened the streets of Sydney. Man Haron Monis is an Iranian man known for sending hate mail to the families of fallen soldiers who was apprehended once police stormed the building with automatic weapons and flash grenades to save the unknown number of hostages. At one point prior to police intervention, five hostages escaped, sending the unidentified gunman into a frenzy.

As the Washington Post covered the story, Uber charged $100 a ride to “escape.” While the sentiment seems a bit harsh, it does seem as though someone at Uber Sydney does have to initiate surge-pricing somewhat manually; it doesn’t seem to be a pre-planned, automated event.

Surge-pricing encourages more Uber drivers to get on the road and pick up rides as the drivers know they’ll profit more during those times. Unfortunately, it’s proven to not be a good tool to use in a crisis from a public relations standpoint.

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Within an hour of initiating the surge pricing, Uber retracted the decision. Katie Curran, an Uber spokesperson, spoke with the Washington Post and released a statement amidst the backlash:

We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney. Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely.

Uber also wrote a blog post and tweeted that riders who were subjected to surge pricing could get a refund on a transaction by emailing supportsydney@uber.com.

Uber Experiences Even More Public Relations Nightmares

Uber Sydney Hostage HackedIn 2012, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman criticized Uber for practicing their surge pricing techniques during the Hurricane Sandy crisis. Uber announced this past summer that it would make sure to cap prices during emergency situations, but it seems to not be practicing that in full effect just yet.

Prior to that, Uber’s SVP of business, Emil Michael, was quoted saying that he believed Uber should investigate and smear journalists due to the negative image the company received. He was targeting a single editor, trying to expose any dirty laundry she had hidden away in her personal life for criticizing the company.

The sentiment was met with overwhelming backlash, so Uber decided to apologize. Unfortunately, the apology was not through Michael himself, but a public relations employee. The statement was released through an Uber spokeswoman, saying the following:

The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.

Now the company is facing yet another public relations disaster and hoping that free rides and refunds can fix the damage to the Sydney community.

Images 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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Clay Gillespie a writer and reporter for many different platforms across the tech industry. He holds a B.S. in Public Relations from Ball State University, and freelances for different clients in technology and cryptocurrency. For more information, visit his personal website, claygillespie.com.




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  1. Alex Gorale

    December 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Price Gouging saves lives.

    After or during a disaster high prices is one of the only reasons a business has to continue to operate. If prices are forced to artificially low prices you create a run on the market. E.g. a $.50 bottle of water during a crisis is probably worth $5.00.

    If I get to the market first I am going to buy all the water. I would rather have more than not enough. This prevents other people from having access to the commodity. In Uber’s case, the supply of driver’s is fixed. The demand rises during a disaster. Also, the supply is lowered because people are tending to their emergency.

    The people who remain in service during an emergency deserve to set the price for their good or service just like anyone else.

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Market Overview

What We Know So Far About Vitalik Buterin’s New DAICO Fundraising Model

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The founder of Ethereum recently proposed a new crowdfunding model designed to minimize the risks associated with initial coin offerings (ICOs).

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Introducing DAICO

In a post on the Ethereum Research Forum earlier this month, Vitalik Buterin outlined a method for merging ICOs with some of the benefits of the DAO. The end result is a system that improves the existing ICO model by reducing both risk and complexity.

Buterin’s new decentralized fundraising platform will be called DAICO, which combines the existing ICO concept with a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). Put simply, a DAO relies on smart contracts to hardcode specific rules that an organization follows from inception. Although this concept has been around since 2009, it has only recently been put to use with projects like “The DAO.”

Prior to being shut down by U.S. regulators for violating securities laws, The DAO sought to improve governance by democratizing ownership of tokens and allowing creators to implement whatever rules they wanted. This is more or less what the DAO system promotes. The rules hardcoded into the system essentially dictate how the organization operates.

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Buterin proposed the following diagram to illustrate how the DAICO concept evolves:

DAICOs vs. ICOs

As pointed out by Coinsquare, the DAICO fundraising model begins very much like an ICO. It allows startups to raise funds and investors to pay for tokens via Ethereum. And like ICOs, DAICOs can structure their crowdraise however they like, including implementing strict KYC standards. After the crowdsale, the tokens can be listed and traded on any exchange.

Where the two methods differ is around how the funds are ultimately used. The current ICO model allows team members to use the funds in any method they choose, whereas DAICOs enable investors to control which portion of the funds team members can access. If the team wants to spend money on marketing, hire employees or invest in infrastructure, they need to “tap” their investors for approval. Investors then vote on whether to grant the company permission to utilize the funds for that specific purpose.

This difference may appear subtle, but could have significant implications on a market that has attracted its fair share of scammers, con artists and opportunists. For starters, investors will be able to hold startups accountable after the crowdsale is over. Under the DAICO model, startups can’t get away with merely promising to spend money a certain way because they ultimately need their investors’ permission to access the funds. Buterin’s proposal also has the potential to weed out dishonest projects looking to raise a quick buck before vanishing.

On paper, DAICOs support the development of what Buterin has called “Tokens 2.0,” an era of high-quality tokens  that goes above and beyond what the existing market offers. In Buterin’s view, the era of higher quality tokens is a lot closer than most people think.

ICOs generated billions of dollars in revenue for startups last year, with December marking the most active month on record. If time is of the essence, the DAICO model could have a profound impact on the fundraising model in the not-too-distant future.

There’s still no timetable for when this model could be launched. In the meantime, Ethereum remains the undisputed king of crowdraises even as platforms like Stellar begin attracting higher quality projects.

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 418 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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Analysis

Music: One Overlooked Use Case

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So far in this year, Ethereum has been the crypto star appreciating over 80% to a recent record of $1402. All this suggests that more and more applications are being created. We know this by the demand for Ether, the gas that drives the Ethereum network.

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The reason behind the explosion of Ether demand was confirmed by Ethereum co founder Steven Nerayoff in a CNBC interview where he claimed the number of Ethereum projects today is more than 10 times year ago levels.

One of those areas is the music business and there are several names appearing on the ICO list to add to your research agenda.

Why The Music Business Needs Help

Music may live forever but the business side has been in trouble for a long while. Over the last decade there have been only three years when the global value of music sales increased. The combination of digital music and outright pirating through peer-to-peer sharing has much to do with the long-term trend.

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Throughout the world there are 69 copyright and royalty societies given the responsibility of documenting, collecting and distributing music royalties. That means collecting a few pennies whenever a song is played on the radio, Internet or anywhere else. Four of the largest of these is in the US, followed by Japan, Germany and Britain. Their operations are truly byzantine.

Experts in the music-publishing field confirm the time between music usage and royalty payment can run close to 24 months. Even then not all royalties are distributed. According to my sources, there are often millions of dollars collected by royalty authorities everywhere that never make it to the entitled recipients. That sort of practice borders on criminal behavior but copyright and royalty societies operate in a sub-rosa manner making it difficult to understand their policies.

In the past just 4 major record labels controlled over 80% of the industry. These giants could afford a full time legal department to pursue royalty issues dominated the music industry. Today, however, independent labels represent almost one-third of the market. This means less democracy in the business with the young independent artist at a particular disadvantage.

Of course, musicians aren’t the only group of artists loosing out on their pay. There are writers, poets and painters that go largely unprotected.

The music business is just easier to track because it has more data. Yet in spite of all the information, the music industry is widely recognized for its lack of transparency. Blockchain technology has the ability to disrupt long-standing industry practices.

ICOs To The Rescue

The number of Ethereum based white knights is starting to appear on the horizon promising to rattle the industry and hopefully restore some democracy on behalf of the independent artist.

One simple business model comes from a startup SingularDTV who is attempting to build their ecosystem on top of Ethereum. Here is the basic value added proposal.

SingularDTV tokenizes the artist work. In doing so the artist is turning their music into a financial asset. Anyone who buys into an artist’s token owns a share of the creation and its income stream. The more people consume an artist creation, the higher goes the token price.

Only time will show if SingularDTV succeeds with this model. The consequence of this model is how it eliminates many of the middlemen and nefarious influences in the industry. Instead of singing on a street corner for bread, an artist could raise money upfront without relying on an advance from a record label.

According to SingularDTV, distributing content via blockchain would allow artists to skirt streaming platforms like Spotify to earn royalties on their own terms. Now that is true democracy.

SingularDTV may stand out a bit in the news due its recent ICO success in raising $8 million but they aren’t the only player in the music game. Names like Voise recently raised $1 million as well as Soundchain, Blokur and Opus to name a few.

I am no longer a registered investment advisor, which means I don’t go around making investment recommendations. So I will only suggest this group to put on your list of late night reading. Next time, I will take a closer look at more of these names.

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 76 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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Blockchain

Token Analysis: Is NEO (Formerly Antshares) ‘China’s Ethereum’?

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NEO has been called “China’s Ethereum”. The Western market first collectively learned about Antshares, a smart contract and decentralized application (dApp) platform, just ahead of the company’s rebrand to ‘NEO’ – which is Greek for “newness”, novelty and youth. That merely one exchange offers bitcoin-NEO trades has led to a bottleneck in supply. Prices skyrocketed in the weeks ahead of the rebrand. Antshares’ ICO was in the fall of 2016.

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NEO development began in 2014 and the blockchain-startup ONCHAIN is overseeing its enterprise version. Already the platform offers more languages than Ethereum supports. NEO’s partners include crowdfunding platform WINGS and multinational technology corporation Microsoft. Reports last year of a partnership between Alibaba and the former AntShares were false, though the companies have worked together.

NEO’s collaboration with Wings is for research and development purposes. With Ali Cloud and ONCHAIN, NEO is working on a proof of existence e-mail repository.

That NEO representatives seemingly have the okay from the government – having attended a government-sponsored industry conference – could bode well for the blockchain project. As ONCHAIN’s CEO, and Antshares founder, Da Hogfei, tweeted:

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NEO Price History as Antcoin

The token price, still trading under its former ticker ‘ANC’ or ‘ANS’ across the web on this article’s publish date, and until the rebrand is complete in the third quarter of 2017, skyrocketed particularly from June 19-20. The platform increased from $1.65 on June 15 to $10 at the time of writing on June 20. It then corrected and currently sits at just shy of $7, according to CoinMarketCap. Antshares’ all-time high sits at $11.79.

The decentralized smart contract platform’s first price history, according to CoinMarket Cap, started this past fall. The project’s native token started trading at a price of 55 cents before settling between approximately 10 cents and 30 cents. ANC trended south until the end of October 2016, when it reached a nadir of 8 cents. The price then skyrocketed to 31 cents. After a quick price increase, the price drifted downwards until March 2017 when it, along with much of the crypto-asset complex, increased in value.

Per the rebrand, not only does Antshares become NEO, but Antcoin (ANC) becomes ‘GAS’. “So, it is no longer a ‘dividend interest’ sort of asset, but a utility sub-token for network functionalities,” a NEO community member told Hacked.com.

Under the Hood

NEO smart contracts are based on NEO’s Virtual Machine, which is similar to Ethereum’s Virtual Machine. NEO plans to soon release its “Smart Economy” platform, which has also been termed “Smart Contracts 2.0”.

NEO is designed to solve the same problems as Ethereum. NEO’s incorporation of sharding and concurrency in its computer science model solves scalability problems. Ethereum has yet to make such changes to better scale that smart contract and dApp platform.

NEO

Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance

By using Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) for its blockchain operations – a consensus method proponents claim offers better security for blockchains – NEO places itself in the company of the well-known blockchain project Hyperledger, and the lesser-known Stellar. “Specialized bookkeeping nodes” reach consensus via “delegated voting” per NEO’s dBFT model. It takes a two-thirds vote for approval of a current copy of a blockchain.

“After investigating and studying the crypto-industry and blockchain technologies for several years, we came to the conclusion that the delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance alternative (or dBFT) is best suited for such a system,” Erik Iz, co-founder and core developer at Antshares, stated on BitcoinTalk. “It provides swift transaction verification times, de-incentivises most attack vectors and upholds a single blockchain version with no risk of forks or alternative blockchain records emerging – regardless of how much computing power, or coins an attacker possesses.”

Nest Smart Fund

With the rebrand in NEO’s past, the team is looking forward to expanding its western-focused marketing efforts, a NEO community member told Hacked.com. Moreover, it’s partnered on a “do over” for the cryptocurrency community.

“Nest is a whole new form of smart fund written in Antshares smart contracts,” writes NEO about its new ‘DAO’ style fund called Nest Fund, which uses NEO smart contract technology.

The DAO, or ‘decentralized autonomous organization’, had set out to become a decentralized venture capital fund based on Ethereum’s smart contract code. It failed.

NEO adds about its attempt at a similar fund: “Nest aims to, with the power of blockchain, eliminate and neutralize problems like high threshold, high risk, low efficiency and moral risks. Participants invest, manage and exit with smart contracts instead of application to certain organizations. Antshares’ Blockchain enables everyone to join the Nest, with a 0 threshold and 100% transparency, with a safe and free exit option at any given time.”

For a cryptocurrency community that likes to be right – they told you so about Bitcoin, after all – Nest could garner serious interest for users looking to make a point, and prove the ideas behind crypto right.

Numerous Blockchain Products

Nest Fund isn’t the only blockchain-based service or product offered by NEO. Other than its parent, ONCHAIN, NEO leads projects including blockchain-based browsers,  a web-based crypto-asset wallet, as well as an online crowdfunding fund that is not the aforementioned Nest. The team also partnered with Microsoft Azure to bring blockchain technology to the server experience. This project is similar to partnerships pioneered by Azure in the west.

NEO, Microsoft Azure servers

The Verdict

Antshares is available on just five exchanges currently, and that limits the amount of buying demand for ANC. Just a single exchange buys and sells ANC for Bitcoin. Now, as many westerners learn of NEO for the first time, the demand will only increase.

But a lack of information available in English about NEO could slow demand. When NEO’s implementation of blockchain technology receives increasing press in the English-speaking world – and it likely will considering its corporate partners – there could be further price implications. The crypto-asset is currently the 23rd largest, according to Coin Market Cap. On CoinCap.io, it is the 21st largest.

Only time will tell with NEO, but there are lots of intriguing projects in the works at the blockchain company, including authentication work with Chinese authorities to map real-world assets with smart contracts. The company also has numerous patents, including ones for cross-chain interoperability. It’s partnered with numerous blockchain projects, like Bancor, Agrello, Coindash and Binance.

Due to NEO’s corporate partners –  among whom are included Microsoft, etc. –  and its under the radar Ethereum-esque functionality, we give the project a 7.75 out of 10. 

Token Details

In order to use the new version of the platform, NEO, Antshares users do not need to do anything other than download the new client/app when it is ready later this year. ‘ANC’ becomes ‘NEO’, and ‘ANC’ becomes ‘GAS’.

ANC – as it is still currently referred to throughout much of the digital asset realm until the rebrand to ‘GAS’ is completed – can be purchased on the western-facing digital asset exchange Bittrex. In the east, the asset can be found at exchanges Yunbi, Yuanbao, Jubi, and 19800.

Featured image from NEO company presentation

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 1 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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