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Jay-Z Invests in Crypto-Friendly Zero-Fee Trading App Robinhood

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Image by Flickr | Joella Marano

According to a press release by Jay-Z’s venture capital company Arrive, the renowned rapper has made an investment in California-based fintech startup Robinhood.

Robinhood was launched in 2015 by Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt who made headlines for providing the first zero-fee stock trading app in the U.S. that allows its users to invest in stocks, options, and ETFs without being charged a brokerage fee. Moreover, Robinhood recently announced that it will start to support cryptocurrency trading in the near future, which led to a surge of user sign-ups for the trading app.

Arrive President Neil Sirni stated in the press release:

“We believe in Baiju and Vlad’s mission to make the financial markets more accessible and cost efficient for customers of all size. Robinhood will have our support as they execute the long-term vision of their company.”

Robinhood currently has over three million users and is valued at $1.3 billion. Last year, the fintech startup released Robinhood for Web, complete with research and discovery tools, as well as commission-free options trading.

Next, the company plans to introduce zero-fee bitcoin and ether trading to enable its users to benefit from the price volatility in the cryptocurrency markets.

Interestingly, Jay-Z is not the only well-known rapper who has invested in the company. His peers Snoop Dogg and Nas, as well as actor and musician Jared Leto, have also poured funds into the company.

Robinhood is Arrive’s third investment. Jay-Z’s venture capital firm has also invested in Devialet, a French audio technology company, and, InSite Applications, a location sharing platform that is scheduled to launch this year.

While Jay-Z’s investment in a cryptocurrency-related company is being seen as a positive by the cryptocurrency community, the rapper and music mogul has made no statements as to whether Robinhood’s expansion into cryptocurrencies played any role in his investment decision.

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Blockchain Technology

Nigerian Blockchain Startup SureRemit Raises $7 Million in Biggest African ICO To Date

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Sureremit ICO

SureRemit, a Nigerian blockchain startup, has raised $7 million during its token sale held from December 8th to February 8, 2018, to develop its non-cash remittance platform.

A Succesful African ICO

SureRemit, which is majority owned by GreenHouse Capital, a Nigeria-based fintech holding company, utilises blockchain technology to allow diaspora Africans to make non-cash remittances to their families back home.

This is facilitated by the Remit token (RMT), a utility token designed on the Stellar Network. RMT tokens are used within the SureRemit platform and can be transferred between users. The tokens can be supported by wallets and traded on exchanges that already host Stellar lumens.

The Remit tokens were floated to early investors during the Pre-ICO at the start of the year. Pre-sale investors benefited from a 40 percent discount on RMT tokens which are presently retailing at 50 RMT for $1.  According to SureRemit Director, Samuel Biyi, participants in the ICO can expect the platform to use the funds raised to ramp up its operations by adding more merchants to its network. The company also plans to grow its team and bring in experienced professionals who can build and manage merchant relationships.

In an interview with E-Labz, Samuel Biyi acknowledged they have been attempts in the past to create non-cash services for different use cases but SureRemit has now applied the concept to the remittance sector. He states:

“We are looking to be the first coordinated effort into creating the product that is specific to that use case (non-cash remittance) not just you know becoming a hybrid of something else so we are aggregating local, physical merchants as well as utilities and channels [….] so I think we are the first major effort at running a global non-cash remittance platform.”

RMT tokens will be used within the SureRemit ecosystem to access vouchers and pay bills. Users will be able to create an order for a voucher to be delivered to the recipient via SMS or email, by selecting a country and the right merchant category and paying for the process using their Remit tokens. Upon receipt of the order, the token will be frozen until the voucher is sent from the SureRemit system. Once that occurs, the token is transferred to SureRemit.

Diaspora users can purchase instant shopping vouchers and pay utility bills for friends and relatives across Africa. For seamless remittances, the company relies on its merchant network in Nigeria, Rwanda, and Kenya, together with international partners to send e-vouchers that can be redeemed for goods and services at any of the affiliate merchants.

Attracting Top Investors

A number of prominent cryptocurrency investors participated in the funding round including Hashed, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency fund. Hashed’s decision to back SureRemit’s pre-ICO token sale signals a growing interest for corporate investors in the potential of blockchain technology to solve remittance challenges in emerging markets where the large swathes of the populace remain disconnected from financial services. The fund has previously supported blockchain-based projects like Ethereum, Simple Token, and Airswap.

Kelechi Nwokocha, a member of the GreenHouse investment team, mentioned in a New Telegraph Online article,

“The implications of growth capital outside of equity financing is huge. It means SureRemit can scale its operations without additional capital from existing shareholders. SureRemit is just one of our 10 fintech enabled portfolio companies that can potentially leverage blockchain to address a specific market gap, particularly in Africa. We’re happy to take the lead on blockchain and cryptocurrency implementations on the continent.”

SureRemit aims to in the future integrate RMT tokens acceptance directly to the network’s partners, which in turn they can convert to fiat money and thus enabling token transfers to happen directly to the merchant’s balance.

The SureRemit ICO has been the most successful token sale in Africa to date and will likely encourage more offerings of this kind on the continent this year.

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Bitcoin

Bitcoin Wallet Luno Adds SegWit Support to Lower Transaction Fees

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Luno Adds SegWit Support

Luno, one of the most popular bitcoin wallets in Africa, has announced full SegWit integration for bitcoin send and receive transactions. Previously, Luno customers could only receive BTC through a legacy wallet address, which was not integrated with the recent Bitcoin blockchain upgrade SegWit. Only send transactions were SegWit compatible.

With the full integration of SegWit, Luno users can now enjoy cheaper and faster bitcoin transactions.

“By implementing SegWit internally, Luno has managed to reduce the send fees paid by customers by over 25% already. As customers start switching over to new SegWit addresses, this will translate into a further reduction in sending fees in the coming weeks and months,” Werner van Rooyen, head of marketing and communications at Luno stated.

Luno currently operates in South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, UK, and in 35 other European countries.

What is SegWit?

Segregated Witness (SegWit) was an upgrade to the Bitcoin blockchain that is intended to address Bitcoin’s scalability challenges as well as fix the issue of transaction malleability. With SegWit, signature data is separated from transaction data in order to enable more transactions to fit into each block. The signature data is kept in an extended block called the witness. As a result, bitcoin transactions become faster and transaction fees become lower.

In theory, the Bitcoin network can handle seven transactions per second. However, in reality, it is around four transactions per second. With the number of bitcoin transactions increasing as bitcoin’s popularity grows, transactions take longer as the unconfirmed transactions pool increases. Therefore, bitcoin users who can afford it have been paying higher transaction fees to incentivise miners to prioritise their transactions and, thereby, increase the speed of their transactions. At the end of 2017, this has led to the average bitcoin transaction fee spiking to over 35 dollars.

However, when SegWit addresses are used, bitcoin transactions become faster and the required resources decrease as well. Consequently, the transaction fees reduce.

How Can You Add a SegWit Wallet Address on Luno?

To add a SegWit address on the Luno wallet you have to follow these steps:

  • Open your Luno account either on the mobile app or the web app
  • Choose “wallets” from the menu
  • Click on your “BTC wallet”
  • Choose “receive bitcoin”
  • Click “add address” and follow the prompt

To receive bitcoin, use your SegWit bitcoin receive address. Legacy bitcoin addresses begin with 1 while SegWit bitcoin addresses begin with 3. Even after adding a SegWit wallet address, bitcoins sent to your previous legacy bitcoin address will still work. In addition, you can still send bitcoin from a SegWit wallet to a legacy wallet and vice versa since the transactions are still taking place on the same blockchain. But if you are sending bitcoins to and from a SegWit wallet, you can benefit from reduced fees.

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Blockchain Technology

The South African Reserve Bank Launches Blockchain PoC for Interbank Settlements

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South African Reserve Bank Launches Blockchain PoC

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) announced that it is launching a proof of concept for blockchain-based interbank clearing and settlement in partnership with New York-based blockchain startup ConsenSys.

This proof of concept is part of the central bank’s broader fintech initiative, which includes setting up a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, which is expected to be finalised this year, as well as a to investigate the applicability of ‘innovation facilitators’. ‘Innovation facilitators’ is being used as a term for startup accelerators, innovation hubs, and regulatory sandboxes.

Interbank Clearing and Settlements on the Blockchain

“The aim of this project is to gain a practical understanding of DLTs through the development of a proof of concept (POC) in collaboration with the banking industry. The objective of the POC is to replicate interbank clearing and settlement on a DLT which will allow the SARB and industry to jointly assess the potential benefits and risks of DLTs. The POC involves the processing of wholesale payments using Quorum, an Ethereum enterprise DLT,” the SARB’s statement reads.

ConsenSys will assist the central bank as its technology partner with the setup and design of the blockchain infrastructure for the proof of concept.

However, the SARB highlights in its statement that this blockchain project does not mean that South Africa’s payment systems will be moved onto a distributed ledger anytime soon.

“This does not imply a radical move to DLT for the country’s national payments infrastructure, but rather a structured approach to understand the implication of using a tokenised asset on DLT technology to transfer value,” the statement adds.

In other words, these fintech initiatives are being undertaken to aid the central bank in the formulation of appropriate regulatory frameworks for new financial innovations in South Africa.

A full report about the blockchain proof of concept will be released to the public in Q2/2018.

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