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What is UTRUST?

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There are now so many alt-coins out there that it’s almost impossible to keep track of which projects are legitimate and which are garbage.

This article is the third entry in a series I will write for Hacked which will give summaries and context around a specific crypto project.

The topic of today’s summary is Utrust.

So what is Utrust?

Utrust is basically trying to be the Paypal of the post-blockchain world.

They see two problems with the status quo of escrow solutions.

We can break these into two separate categories.

1. Centralized escrow solutions (Paypal, Venmo etc.)
2. Decentralized escrow solutions (Smart contracts, etc.)

The decentralized and somewhat nature of cryptocurrencies makes them a prime target for scammers who often can simply take funds and then disappear without delivering the promised good or service. More elaborate schemes like the so-called “Man-in-the-Middle” attack one are also a concern.

Another major security risk can also occur when a supposedly trustworthy third-party arbiter simply steals the funds they are ostensibly safeguarding and disappears. Many fake ICO’s did this exact thing. This fraudulent behavior is commonly referred to as an “exit scam.”

While there are escrow services one can use, these are often unreliable and expensive, complicating what should otherwise be a simple transaction process.

The lack of reliable and streamlined solutions to this problem has become a huge issue for the overall mass adoption of cryptocurrency to overcome. If this is then combined with the fact that cryptocurrencies already have a low entry barrier (where anyone can buy small or large amounts), then the overall crypto market transforms into a highly speculative space, with more investors than actual users of the platforms that tokens are supposed to be used on.

Utrust attempts to solve this by leveraging key points from traditional payment processors as well as the advances of blockchain technology.

Utrust works by allowing the user to purchase goods or services with their cryptocurrency or token of choice. The merchant on the other hand automatically receives their payment in fiat currency.

This, in theory, creates an ecosystem where users are not forced to exchange their coins and sellers are not forced to deal with the inherent volatility of cryptocurrency.

Essentially, Utrust is trying to force adoption of cryptocurrency as quickly as possible. Besides the simple interoperability of cryptocurrencies and their consumer-protection system, Utrust also differentiates itself by offering a competitive fee model.

In this model, a 1% fee is charged on purchases, which outcompetes PayPal’s 2.9% + $0.30 USD flat fee. This also has the benefit of allowing smaller transactions to take place in the platform.

One particular focus of Utrust that distinguishes them from their competitors is its consumer protection program.

Utrust employs a (controversially) centralized escrow system to ensure that the funds are kept safe until the buyer receives his/her product or service. Once the transaction is complete, the funds will be sent.

In the event of a dispute, the Utrust dispute resolution team mediates between the two parties to solve the dispute. This automated system allows users to enjoy the benefits of crypto without worrying about additional escrows or multi-sigs.

While this is arguably far more convenient for both buyers and sellers then escrow solutions with more steps to traverse, it should be noted that the very parts of security that are “annoying” are what make it secure in the first place.

The Utrust platform also features its own ERC20 token. It is reasonable to question why this platform needs a token at all, given that the model above even seems complete without it. This is a good question to ask, but Utrust thankfully provides a reasonable answer.

According to the official whitepaper:

“We decided to go a step beyond, and wanted to offer the chance for anyone in the world to become a backer, leveraging the power of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)….In essence, the UTRUST token will act as an investment stake from our backers, as a transactional token, that buyers can use in the UTRUST Platform itself alongside other major coins, and as a financial mechanism linking the Utrust token value to the Utrust Platform value – our strategic value-coupling mechanism.”

According to the project, the advantages of holding the UTK token are simple:

1. No fees charged when using the UTK token.
2. Part of the profits generated by the 1% fee will be used to buy-back and burn the UTK token, reducing its total supply over time. With a finite and ever-shrinking supply, the token should appreciate in value if the platform is successful.
3. The token can be bought/sold from many exchanges at its market price.

To summarize, In the view of this analyst, Utrust solves the issue of convenience when it comes to the everyday use of cryptocurrency. That is a major accomplishment and should be lauded. But this convenience comes at a price.

I have yet to see a method of security that is both the safest and the most convenient. Until one arrives, Utrust seems to offer a viable solution for the present and the future.

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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Overstock.com Shares Spike 17% After Chinese Private Equity Firm Pledges $270 Million for tZERO

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Shares of Overstock.com (OSTK) surged in after-hour trading Thursday after a major Chinese equity firm agreed to invest in tZERO, the blockchain subsidiary vying to reshape the investment world through a SEC-regulated alternative trading system (ATS).

GSR Capital to Invest Heavily in tZERO

CNBC confirmed on Thursday that Hong Kong-based GSR Capital will invest up to $270 million in tZero. The investment is based on a valuation of $1.5 billion, giving GSR an 18% stake in the new blockchain startup. GSR will also buy $30 million worth of tZERO security tokens.

“We are honored to have GSR Capital as a strategic investor,” said tZERO CEO Saum Noursalehi in a statement, as quoted by CNBC. “The tokenization of securities has the potential to disrupt global capital markets responsible for moving hundreds of trillions of dollars. Together with our partners, we will globalize our blockchain-based platform, bringing more efficiency, liquidity, and trust to capital markets.”

The announcement came less than six weeks after GSR Capital signed a letter of intent with Overstock to purchase $160 million worth of security tokens.

Launched in December, tZERO’s initial coin offering (ICO) has raised $134 million to finance its ATS infrastructure, which will provide a regulated venue for securities trading. The company plans to build similar systems around the world.

Despite a highly successful crowdraise, documents submitted to the SEC earlier this year revealed a target of $250 million. Independent valuations had placed tZERO’s ICO anywhere between $200 million and $500 million.

Overstock.com Spikes

Overstock.com’s share price was up by as much as 21% after-hours. It would eventually settle at $45.40 for a gain of 17.6%.

As the following chart illustrates, the OSTK price rose 4.5% in regular trading on Thursday to settle at $38.60.

Despite the gain, OSTK has been a dismal performer this year. Share prices are down 40% year-to-date, vastly under-performing the Nasdaq Composite Index, which has returned more than 14%.  What’s more, the stock is trading at less than half of its 52-week high.

Overstock’s share price has been rocked by disappointing quarterly results and the cancellation of a proposed public stock offering. Last March, the company offered four million shares of common stocks before abruptly cancelling those plans. Noursalehi said the decision to pull the offering was due to “market volatility and price.” To be sure, OSTK had declined 20% following the initial announcement to issue common stock.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 547 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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A Closer Look at Boerse Stuttgart’s New Cryptocurrency Platform

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The Boerse Stuttgart group has is expanding upon past product launches to create a complete holistic ecosystem for digital assets, including cryptocurrencies. This comes on the heel of them launching the “Bison” app, which allowed users to trade cryptocurrencies with zero fees, similar in functionality to that offered by Robinhood.

The difference between Bison and Robinhood, however, is that the Boerse Stuttgart group is the second largest derivatives exchange in Germany. Another unique feature of the Bison app was its “crypto radar” feature.

This functions as a social media tool that aggregates more than 250k tweets and analyzes them to determine the “mood” of cryptocurrency investors.

Having an existing (and profitable) large financial firm expanding their brand to cryptocurrencies in any capacity reflects a market that is increasingly accepting the reality of institutional capital flowing into crypto markets.

The new ecosystem is composed of three distinct pillars. Bison represents the first of these pillars. The second is a branded platform for initial coin offerings to sell tokens. The third is a safe custody solution for digital assets.

This ecosystem, in turn, falls within Boerse Stuttgart’s so called “digitization” strategy and should serve as a bellwether of changes to come in financial markets. After all, as an established market player, Boerse Stuttgart Group has extensive knowledge in the fields of technology, regulation, and trading models respectively.

According to their own CEO Alexander Höptner, “On this basis, we can offer central services along the value chain for digital assets, all under one roof. Investors and market participants know that Boerse Stuttgart Group stands for quality, transparency, and reliability. As a Germany-based provider, we want to transpose this standard into the digital world. We will help to promote acceptance of digital assets.”

The key to their ambitions focuses on solving two major problems. The first is that KYC procedures tend to be overly complex for average investors, as well as time-consuming. The Boerse Stuttgart group’s own KYC solution allows traders to pass KYC and start trading within minutes, as opposed to more typical solutions that take a few days.

The second issue they are tackling the liquidity and accessibility of ICO tokens post-sale. They solve this by allowing tokens launched through their platform to be traded within their broader ecosystem using Bison.

According again to the CEO, “At the trading venue tokens issued via our ICO platform can be traded on the secondary market. This is an important success factor for ICOs. At the same time, we are responding to demand from both retail and institutional investors for a regulated and reliable environment for trading with cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum will also be traded.”

This approach will likely serve to establish the Boerse Stuttgart group a prime recipient of crypto-intrigued institutional capital. After all, the early bird gets the worm. A key component of this future success also rests on how well they partner with authorities.

This exact point was also emphasized recently by the CEO, who said, “In designing the strategic projects we closely cooperate with all competent boards and committees, and especially with the supervisory authorities.”

While it remains to be seen whether retail investors make use of this ecosystem, it seems reasonable to assume that larger investors will flock to a simple crypto-specific ecosystem backed by an old guard stalwart of finance.

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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MasterCard Could Be Your Best Friend

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Since just after the financial crisis, I have been searching for a way to beat MasterCard and Visa at their own game. These two brands dominate the business of processing debit and credit card transactions.  I have always considered this duopoly as the enemy of mankind, but could turn out to be a hasty judgement.

MasterCard and Visa don’t actually process transactions as much as they offer an electronic network and charge fees for the use of their name.  They collect about 0.11% per card swipe which ain’t much until you consider they are running more than 150,000 transactions per minute through their network.  Pretty nice business to be in. All together, the two will generate about $30 billion this year.

The problem with both of these guys is that it is impossible to get around them.  If you buy something anywhere in the world with a debit or credit card, it is almost guaranteed to run on either the Visa or MasterCard network.  In which case, in addition to the 0.11% taken out for the network, the store that accepts your purchase pays anywhere from 3% to often as much as 5% in total for processing fees.  And if you travel abroad and charge something, well forget about it. Everywhere along the network are intermediaries taking their nick of your wallet.

When foreign currency transaction fees are taken into account, that is where more intermediaries are included.  That is where the costs add much higher and that is often where the consumer is hurt most.

Fighting Back

The whole idea behind blockchain technology is to make transactions of all types fast with little or no dependency on intermediaries.  All this makes MasterCard and Visa the enemy of cryptocurrency developers. But neither of these brands are sitting still applying for patents on blockchain based payments methods.

The natural reaction is to sell to sell your crypto and find some easier way to earn a decent return.  We disagree: we think there is crypto to be made from MasterCards strategy. Here is why you should be encouraged.

ome time back, MasterCard applied for a patent on blockchain technology that created a link between crypto and fiat currencies. MasterCard is not alone, as there are any number of crypto projects with the same idea.  Recently we looked at TenX and there are others.

Using TenX for comparison, MasterCard’s recently awarded patent offers to convert crypto to fiat using the existing MasterCard network.  TenX and many others plan either create their own high speed mainnet or use the Ethereum platform.

In head to head competition, this gives MasterCard a sizable advantage since MC is pretty much accepted by merchants everywhere.  As much as I hate the duopoly represented my MC and Visa, right now they could turn out to be the best thing to happen for one simple reason.  They will unquestionable accelerate mass acceptance of crypto.

Their existing network and transaction speed, immediately solves the lingering Bitcoin/Ethereum issue of scalability.  In addition as observers have pointed out, both MC and Visa have had systems in place to identify fraudulent transactions.

Having said all of this, is MasterCard going to kill all other crypto payment wanabys like TenX and others? Before concluding the answer is yes, consider this.  In their recently released quarterly review to shareholders, MasterCard reported net income of $2.33 billion on revenue of $5.24 billion. That is a whopping profit margin of 44.5%!  This towers over extraordinarily profitable companies like Apple at 20.3% or the average US corporation at less than 10%.

When MasterCard’s blockchain system goes into use, it will plump up those already MC margins. So, as a crypto investor, you have to ask yourself, do you actually think that MC will pass on those savings or wallow in the cost savings?  The answer is pretty obvious.

MasterCard Could Be The Best News

Crypto naysayers are the first to deny that Bitcoin and others are a legitimate medium of exchange.  This is based largely on the limited number of mainstream merchants that are in the crypto loop. MasterCard could help take crypto mainstream and that would be a good thing for major names like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ether.  And with the payments processing business dealing in over $50 trillion in transactions annually, there will be room for startups offering high speed scalability at lower cost. It will not happen this year but it will happen.

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 96 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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