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Top 6 Biggest Crypto M&A Deals By Purchase Value

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crypto mergers and acquisitions

The blockchain and crypto space has undergone considerable changes in the ten years since its inception. From being a novel idea in the financial sector to making waves in scores of industries on a global platform, crypto and its underlying blockchain technology grew at an unprecedented pace for many. 

Despite these radical developments, the blockchain and crypto space is still in its nascent stages and as with any nascent industry that shows promise, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the space, may herald the market is maturing and consolidating. 

Top Six M&A Deals by Purchase Value

InWaraDespite the blockchain and crypto market being in the doldrums, last year witnessed an impressive 111 M&A deals valued at $900 million in total, according to data compiled by InWara. These are the top six deals in the marketplace in terms of funds raised.

Shandong Luyitong Intelligent Electric and Canaan Creative

In June 2016, Shandong Luyitong Intelligent Electric’s acquisition of Caanan creative for a hefty $466 million, takes the cake for the largest M&A deal in the crypto space. Canaan Creative is a cryptocurrency hardware company that focuses on mining rigs and blockchain servers, while Shandong focuses on electronic equipment manufacturing. Ironically, the largest M&A deal in the crypto space concluded between two Chinese companies, where regulatory authorities have outlawed cryptocurrencies.

Circle and Poloniex Exchange

In February 2018, Internet finance company Circle had acquired cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex, for a whopping $400 million. Circle is essentially a payments platform that leverages blockchain technology. The company later expanded into crypto investments and trading with Circle invest and CIrcle trade respectfully.

Tron and BitTorrent

In June 2018, Blockchain enterprise Tron had acquired P2P file sharing platform BitTorrent for a cool $140 million. Tron is a blockchain company that aims to create a conducive environment for a truly decentralized internet. The strategic rationale behind Tron’s acquisition becomes clear when crunching numbers. BitTorrent has over 150 million monthly active users, and the company claims it moves as much as 40% of the world’s internet traffic. BitTorrent recently conducted an ICO, which concluded in under 15 mins and raised over $7 million.

Coinbase and Earn.com

In April 2018, digital currency exchange Coinbase has acquired networking platform Earn.com for $100 million. In retrospect, Coinbase has been aggressively acquiring blockchain and crypto enterprises, making eleven acquisitions till date. The latest is that of data handling startup Blockspring for an undisclosed amount.

Nexon and Korbit

In September 2017, gaming behemoth Nexon had acquired South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Korbit for $80 million. This deal was noteworthy as it marked an established Korean enterprise stepping into the crypto space. Korbit claims to be the world’s first Korean Won cryptocurrency exchange, and it managed to raise as much as $6.5 million in capital from veteran blockchain and crypto investors including Digital Currency Group, Pantera Capital and Softbank Ventures Korea among others.

Huobi and Pantronics Holdings

In August 2018, blockchain financial services company Huobi had acquired investment holding company Pantronics Holdings for $70 million. This deal allows Huobi, a privately held company to go public without conducting an IPO, through what is known as a reverse IPO.

# of M&A deals, year wise

InWara

Source: InWara

Unsurprisingly in the crypto market, as with any nascent industry, the number of M&A deals has consistently surged higher than the previous year. This increased rate of consolidation could indicate that the market is maturing and stabilizing as the market recuperates from the lingering ‘crypto winter’.

# of M&A deals, sector wise till date

InWara

Source: InWara

The top industry sectors has 183 M&A deals between them, which is akin to over 66% of the total M&A activity in the entire space.  Financial services sector leads the pack with 37 M&A deals, akin to ~13.5%. This trend is not surprising as financial services is the leading sector in the ICO space, in terms of sheer number as much as 579 ICOs and in terms of funds raised, over $3.6 billion till date.

A brief view of 2019

So far in 2019, there were some interesting developments heralding further consolidation in the crypto space. The following are the major M&A deals.

  • Social media giant Facebook acqui-hired Chainspace, a Blockchain startup founded by researchers at University College of London. Earlier Facebook also revealed plans of introducing a stablecoin on Whatsapp messenger platform to target Indian remittances market.
  • Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has acquired, UK based Crypto Facilities for an amount north of a $100 million, as Kraken revealed in a blog post.
  • Mastercard and Visa in the midst of bidding war for cross-border payments platform Earthport according to Reuters.
  • Coinbase had acquired, blockchain API platform Blockspring for an undisclosed amount.
  • Bakkt acquired certain assets owned by Rosenthal Collins Group.
  • EZAdvance acquires Indian digital payments Startup Alconomy, to expand into digital banking.

The number of M&A deals in 2019 is likely to follow the same trend as previous years, expecting further consolidation in the space. This year might also witness tech giants such as Google and Amazon among others to enter the blockchain and crypto space, as the enterprises aim to leverage blockchain technology to increase trust, transparency, and security.

This guest contribution was provided by Sushrut Gaikwad, Director, Operations and Research at InWara. 

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Top 20 African Blockchain Influencers to Follow on Crypto Twitter in 2019

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African Blockchain Influencers

Blockchain technology has evolved beyond being a solely decentralised database for digital currencies. Now, the blockchain is being used to transform and disrupt traditional infrastructures in Africa from banking and healthcare to real estate and even ride shares.

BitcoinAfrica.io has compiled a list of 20 leading African blockchain influencers that are helping to make these changes happen.

Michael Kimani

Mic Kimani is the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya and co-founder at Chamapesa, a company using blockchain technology to digitise social savings groups in Africa. An expert with over five years of experience in the industry, Michael is considered one of Africa’s foremost cryptocurrency and blockchain thought leaders.

John Karanja

John Karanja is the founder of BitHub Africa, a blockchain accelerator located in Nairobi, Kenya. He also founded the blockchain startup Whive, a peer-to-peer protocol that extends Bitcoin incentivising sustainable energy solutions through trustless rewards.

Sonya Kuhnel

Sonya Kuhnel is a pioneer in the South African blockchain technology industry. She serves as Managing Director of the Blockchain Academy, co-founded the Blockchain Africa Conference, and BitSure that uses blockchain technology for retail payments.

Tricia Martinez

Tricia Martinez is the CEO and founder at Wala, a zero-fee financial services app for emerging markets. She is a behavioural economist who has made her career in driving innovative technology solutions to underserved people in Africa.

Vinny Lingham

Vinny Lingham is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of CivicKey, a company that builds blockchain ID platforms. He was the ICT Personality of the Year in South Africa in 2008 and Shark Tank’s first bitcoin investor.

Alakanani Itireleng

Alakanani Itireleng is on a mission to educate Botswana’s citizens about bitcoin and blockchain technology. Itireleng founded the Gaborone-based Satoshicentre, a platform aimed at teaching blockchain technology in Botswana and Africa, and the farming blockchain platform Plaas.

Gareth Grobler

Gareth Grobler is a co-founder of the cryptocurrency exchange ICE³X and speaker on the topics of digital assets and blockchain technology. He has over 14 years of experience in IT infrastructure development.

Faith Obafemi

Faith Obafemi is a digital lawyer advising on legal tech, digital assets, smart contracts, and everything else blockchain-related. She is passionate about the blockchain industry and regularly contributes as a writer in this field.

Frank Deya

Frank Deya is the COO of æternity Hub Africa and co-founded Nairobi-based blockchain startup BitSoko. He is also a regular speaker at blockchain events in Kenya.

Tawanda Kembo

Tawanda Kembo is a co-founder of Zimbabwean bitcoin exchange Golix. He has been involved with the blockchain technology since 2013 and has acted as a consultant to several blockchain companies in Africa.

Verengai Mabika

Verengai Mabika is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Global Public Policy team and a blockchain enthusiast. In his own words, he is a social innovation freak who helped to build Zimbabwean cryptocurrency exchange Golix.

Dickson Nsofor

Dickson Nsofor is the CEO and co-founder of Korapay, a cross-border payment and remittance platform, that aims to connect Africa to the rest of the world.

Professor Nii Quaynor

Professor Nii Quaynor is a Ghanaian Internet pioneer. He is well known for pioneering Internet development and expansion throughout Africa for almost two decades, establishing some of the continent’s first Internet connections. He is also the Chairman of Ghana Dot Com and a proponent of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for Africa.

Kwame Rugunda

Kwame Rugunda is the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda. He is also the CEO of CryptoSavannah, which offers solutions, advice and training in blockchain technology, and organised the Africa Blockchain Conference.

Riccardo Spagni

Riccardo Spagni is the founder of the privacy-centric digital currency Monero. He acts as the lead of the Monero Dev team and is also involved in several projects and startups including South Africa-based Tari.

Farzam Ehsani

Farzam Ehsani is a Co-Founder and CEO at VALR, a new South African digital asset exchange. He also helped to establish the Foundery, RMB’s fintech unit, where he is currently leading Rand Merchant Bank’s blockchain initiative.

G-J van Rooyen

G-J van Rooyen is the CEO of Custos Tech, a company using blockchain technology with forensic watermarking to impact copyright protection.

Devon Krantz

Devon Krantz is a co-founder and managing director of Linum Labs. Linum Labs provides blockchain training, consulting, smart contract auditing and software development solutions globally.

Lorien Gamaroff

Lorien Gamaroff is the CEO of South African cryptocurrency wallet startup Centbee. He is a regular speaker at blockchain conferences and a proponent of the recently forked Bitcoin Cash offshoot Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV).

Elisha Owusu Akyaw

Elisha Owusu Akyaw is Africa’s youngest blockchain influencer, marketer and journalist. The 17-year-old Ghanaian founded BlockXAfrica, a blockchain marketing company, and the cryptocurrency news site CoinNewsLive.com.

 

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Is KeniCoin Kenya’s First Homegrown Cryptocurrency Scam?

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KeniCoin is a Kenyan cryptocurrency that has been in the spotlight recently over allegations of potentially being a scam. BitcoinAfrica.io investigated KeniCoin to determine whether it is a legitimate cryptocurrency or a fraudulent operation. In this article, you will discover our findings.

What is KeniCoin?

KeniCoin claims to be a multi-utility cryptocurrency platform that is fueled by KeniCoin (KNC) tokens. According to the KeniCoin website, the cryptocurrency is backed by real businesses, which is supposed to make it a reliable and predictable payment option for vendors.

The platform claims to offer free and fast peer-to-peer online transactions. Moreover, KeniCoin investors will allegedly receive a high return on investment (ROI) on KNC tokens due to their limited supply and presence of a strong merchant network. Consumers, on the other hand, will be able to enjoy a 40 percent discount whenever they transact using KeniCoin.

Furthermore, KeniCoin claims to provide an alternative saving option to banks, which allows for micro-savings and provides interest. The website describes KeniCoin as the “Next Generation Banking Platform for the people in Kenya and Africa.”

How Does KeniCoin Work?

KeniCoin is marketed as an ERC-20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain. To purchase the cryptocurrency you have to register on the KeniCoin site and provide your name, a username, email address, and password. Once your account has been verified you can proceed to log in.

To get started, you have to fund your account using bitcoin (BTC) or fiat currency via mobile money.

Once you deposit money in your KeniCoin account, you will receive the equivalent amount of KNC in your in-platform wallet. However, during our analysis, we noticed the BTC wallet option appeared to be no longer working. It is unclear whether this is a technical problem or a shift to a fiat-only operation.

If you are looking to convert your KeniCoins to another cryptoasset, there are instructions on the site directing you to the KeniCoin Exchange. Information on the platform states users can trade KeniCoins (KNC) for bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH).

The exchange asserts that you can trade your KNC for fiat and withdraw your earnings via a direct bank transfer. Moreover, should you decide to lock away 50 or more KeniCoins in the platform, you are entitled to ten percent interest every month.

The KeniCoin ICO

KeniCoin launched an ICO in July 2018. The token sale was marketed aggressively on local radio and through KeniCoin agents. According to the site, ten million KNC tokens were provided for the ICO and retailed at KES 100 (worth around $1.00).

The site alleges $250,000 was raised from the token sale with 500,000 tokens being sold. Moreover, according to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the newly issued tokens will gain in value. Specifically, the company stated in the whitepaper:

“We are very sure that, within the first 12 month after ICO, the value of KeniCoin will have increased at least 30 folds, which is around 3000%.”

The project road map outlines that 20 percent of the funds raised will go to the founders with the bulk of the remainder being used to develop various platforms accepting KNC payments. The KeniCoin tokens were to be traded on the KeniCoin Exchange, which was launched soon thereafter.

Regulator Warns Against KeniCoin

In January 2019, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Kenya’s market regulator issued a press release warning the public against participating in the KeniCoin token sale or trading KNC. The CMA CEO, Paul Muthaura stated,

“It is important for the general public to note that the nature and features of the Capital Raising and Coins Trading promoted by Wiseman Talent Ventures is taking the form of Regulated activities which have not yet been approved by the Authority.”

The regulator expressed its concerns about KeniCoin promising investors a ten percent monthly return on their initial investment on KNC tokens. In addition, the CMA pointed out that KeniCoin was being marketed as rising exponentially in value since its ICO which posed “substantive information asymmetry, liquidity and fraud risks.”

“The Authority is currently investigating the operations of Wiseman Talent Ventures. We have noted discrepancies in the information provided on the firm’s website www.kenicoin.com and the information given to the Authority during interviews of Wiseman Talent Ventures leadership in relation to the total number of Kenicoin sold and the total funds raised,” Muthaura added.

Obscure Founders

AnonymousOur efforts to establish the team behind KeniCoin also proved unsuccessful. According to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the founder of the cryptocurrency is Haron Muthomi Kiriba who is sometimes referred to as Haron Wiseman. We did a little digging to find out more about Wiseman.

What we managed to uncover was a Twitter account under the name Haron Wiseman, which described him as a transformational speaker and founder of Wiseman Talent Ventures. Wiseman Talent Ventures is mentioned in the CMA cautionary statement as the company behind KeniCoin. An online search for Wiseman Talent Ventures was only able to produce an office address.

Also, Haron Kiriba’s Twitter account appears to have been inactive for a while. His LinkedIn profile portrays him as the CEO of a property company. Nothing we uncovered pointed to any prior involvement in the cryptocurrency space or any other venture for that matter.

The KeniCoin whitepaper states that the cryptocurrency is supposedly developed by a number of international blockchain and AI experts. However, their names are not mentioned and their identities – if they ever actually existed – remain unknown which is standard practice in fraudulent cryptocurrency-based ventures.

Providing little to no public information about the company’s ownership structure does not help the company in its attempts to be perceived as a legitimate venture.

More Red Flags

KeniCoin

A critical examination of the information provided on the KeniCoin site and whitepaper reveals a number of inconsistencies and falsehoods. For instance, the KeniCoin whitepaper claims the project is backed by a number of companies yet we can only prove one, Wiseman Talent Ventures, and even its existence is in doubt.

Also, the amount of funds raised during the concluded KeniCoin ICO seems unclear. The site claims $250,000 worth of KNC tokens were sold during its token sale. However, when it comes to distribution of ICO funds, the amount displayed is $5.3 million.

In addition, the company claims KNC is the first local digital currency to be released in the market with a network of up to 10,000 merchants. This is an outright falsehood with research failing to turn up a single business associated with KeniCoin. You will notice most of the statements concerning stability and increasing value of KNC tokens, are tied to the assurance of many businesses in the ecosystem.

Perhaps, the obvious flaw with KNC is the de facto promise of returns for early adopters. The whitepaper states KNC holders can expect the value of the token to increase by 3,000 percent in twelve months after the ICO. At the time of writing this article, the price of KeniCoin published on the company’s website was $3.45.

Currently, there is an update on KeniCoin Exchange teasing users about the launch of a new utility, that will result in the price of KNC rising to Ksh. 10,000 (worth around $100). Strangely, KeniCoin appears immune to market volatility and according to numbers presented on the platform, has so far managed to retain an upward trajectory.

Yet, this does not resonate with what we know of the crypto markets which are highly volatile. In fact, since early 2018, the value of most digital currencies have slumped as the markets have been experiencing a “crypto winter.”

It stands to reason any investment exhibiting a continued uptrend in price over a long period could indicate price manipulation or fraud.

A summary of KeniCoin’s potential red flags include:

  • The mystery surrounding the persona of Haron Wiseman, the alleged founder of KeniCoin
  • The company gives no insight into the ownership structure
  • The alleged rise in KeniCoin price without any real use case outside of trading
  • Lack of a merchant network driving adoption as is claimed in the whitepaper
  • A claim of profits for investors, which no real investment can ever guarantee
  • The Kenyan Capital Markets Authority has issued a warning against KeniCoin
  • Very little technical details on how the cryptocurrency actually works
  • KeniCoin can only be bought and sold on the company’s own exchange

Unavailability for Comment

BitcoinAfrica.io tried to contact KeniCoin to hear the company views on the issues raised by the Kenyan financial regulator. However, this proved difficult as our attempts to engage the KeniCoin team proved unsuccessful.

Initially, we tried to contact them using the phone numbers provided on its website. We managed to get through but were twice rebuffed with the response being “ongoing consultations with management.” At the time of writing this article, no feedback has been forthcoming from KeniCoin.

Interestingly, the KeniCoin staff member who we were able to reach on the phone expressed distrust for news agencies saying, “you social media guys are tarnishing our name.” The company does not seem to want to talk to the media.

KeniCoin ScamBitcoinAfrica.io also attempted to reach out to the Nairobi-based company via social media but our attempts to get in contact with the company over Twitter, LinkedIn and Email were futile. The company’s email address does not work and the company’s Twitter account has been suspended.

Kenyan Crypto Twitter Responds to KeniCoin

Leading figures of the Kenyan cryptocurrency community responded on social media to KeniCoin advertisement on Kameme FM.

Micheal Kimani, Chairman of the Kenya Blockchain Association, tweeted:.

Ken Kimathi, Kenya’s Remitano representative, also shared his opinion about the alleged digital currency scam. He tweeted:

And they were not the only Kenyans to voice their concerns on social media. An ample amount of Twitter users highlighted the project’s unrealistic earnings potential, which makes the company look like a fraudulent operation.

Is KeniCoin a Scam?

Bitcoin ScamWhile there may be people who believe that KeniCoin is a real investment opportunity, it would be hard to ignore the evidence that suggests the opposite.

KeniCoin has several of the same characteristics as crypto scams that have previously penetrated the African market.

KeniCoin may not be different from a typical MLM operation used by pyramid schemes like OneCoin and MMM, which succeeded in defrauding hundreds of thousands of Africans.

Conversely, one may argue that KeniCoin closely resembles a pump and dump scheme where the owners are making money by pumping up the value of KNC and then selling it for a profit on the open market. Once they have made enough profits, they exit, and users are left holding worthless coins.

Moreover, since price discovery for KNC tokens only occurs on the company’s own platform, it is impossible to say how much one KeniCoin is really worth.

Given that KeniCoin makes claims such as: “KeniCoin platform allows you to grow your wealth up to x12 every year,” it is difficult to see how this could possibly be a legitimate cryptocurrency investment.

Conclusion

Investors are always advised to conduct thorough research, consult experts, and use common sense before investing in any digital asset venture.

“Investments” like KeniCoin provide a good example of the type of cryptocurrency investment “opportunity” to avoid. While no one can claim that KeniCoin is a scam until it has been declared a fraudulent operation by a court of law, the mountain of evidence against the company would suggest that it probably is.

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Crypto Union And Zaddex Aim to Empower SMEs in West Africa Using STOs

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SMEs in West Africa

Crypto banking startup, Ø Crypto Union, and newly launched digital asset exchange, Zaddex, have entered into a joint venture that aims to boost the SME market in West Africa through the launch of a security token platform.

STOs for SMEs in Cote d’Ivoire

Crypto UnionAccording to a statement by Ø Crypto Union, the joint venture with Zaddex seeks to further the blockchain banking startup’s agenda of empowering small and medium-sized businesses in Africa.

The partnership will enable West African SMEs – initially to based in Côte d’Ivoire – to receive access to funding through a new security token platform. The plan is to expand across the whole West African Monetary and Economic Union (UEMOA) by offering equity and debt financing via asset-backed loans and e-money.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Trade Ministry, the regional stock exchange BVRM, and other government agencies have documented the agreement. Moreover, Zaddex is fully licensed to operate in West Africa.

Ø Crypto Union has committed to invest in 150 small businesses in the Côte d’Ivoire to accelerate economic development in local economies and the nation’s SME market.

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