Category Archives: Business

Baby Steps Forward For Bitcoin In Australia

Baby Steps Forward For Bitcoin In Australia

This week the Australian Senate Economics References Committee released its report in to digital currency‘Digital currency—game changer or bit player’ (yes, I kid you not, that’s the name of the report).

Most media commentary regarding the report has centred around the committee’s recommendation to modify the Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act to recognise digital currency as ‘money’. In effect, this would mean that bitcoin transactions would not attract GST in Australia – removing the current ‘double GST’ on a variety of bitcoin transactions.

Obviously, this recommendation has been welcomed by the Australian bitcoin community. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that to action these changes for Australian law purposes is not a trivial task. Practically, it requires agreement from every state and a Federal government to actually drive the amendment – given the current size of the industry this seems unlikely. So although this is a great basis for further conversations with government, there is no practical impact for bitcoin startups in Australia – just yet.

As with reports similar to this one (see for example the Canadian inquiry report), it shows that many within the highest ranks of government see the importance of innovation in the financial services sector. With ‘software eating the world’ banks are looking less and less likely to drive this change. This means that startups need to lead the way.

To allow this to happen in the digital currency space, a legal framework that provides a welcoming environment for innovation to thrive in is required. This report hopefully provides a step in this direction for the Australian Bitcoin industry.

 


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Banks Get Behind Blockchain Technology

Banks Get Behind Blockchain Technology

It’s looking like 2015 will be a break out year for the application of blockchain technology in the banking and finance sector. Banks are starting to really embrace the technology with many trialing blockchain based applications and some are even investing directly in startups in the space.

Banks are getting behind blockchain technology in a big way. Many are starting to see the possibilities of running clearing, settlement and internal fund transactions through a blockchain.

Below is a list of financial institutions that are currently experimenting with blockchain technology. Some are further down the track than others – but all are keenly investigating the technology’s potential.

About The Table

In the table below I’ve included a list of financial institutions who’ve been mentioned in the media as experimenting with Blockchain technology. The list is a work in progress. As information changes and further banks begin experimenting with Bitcoin/blockchain technology I’ll add or amend entries in the table.

If there are any errors or omissions please feel free to flick me an email at me@alantsen.com

Bank Country Technology Stack / Activities
ANZ Australia Ripple
Commonwealth Bank Australia Ripple
Westpac Australia Ripple
Barclays Bank  UK Bitcoin (Safello)
Santander Bank UK Internal proof of concept
UBS UK Research lab
DBS Bank UK Hackathon
USAA US Internal research
Bank Of New York Mellon US Bitcoin (BK Coin)
LHV Bank Estonia Bitcoin (Coloured Coins)
BBVA Bank Spain Internal experiments
ABN Amro Netherlands Internal experiments
ING Bank Netherlands Internal experiments
Rabobank Netherlands Internal experiments
BNP Paribas France Internal Research
Société Générale France Internal research and experiments
Fidor Germany Ripple
CBW Bank US Ripple
Cross River Bank US Ripple
 Citibank  US Own Tech (Citicoin)
 NASDAQ  US Bitcoin (Chain)

 


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Is Bitcoin Still A Non-Obvious VC Investment?

Is Bitcoin Still A Non-Obvious VC Investment?

This week Redpoint Ventures partner, Tom Tunguz penned a pieced titled “The Fastest Growing Areas Of Startup Investment In 2015”. The post examined trends in the major categories of startup investment from 2012 through to mid-2015.

Bitcoin Issue 27 copy

The piece generated a fair amount of interest in the Bitcoin community (for example seeHERE, HERE and HERE) as Bitcoin was the fastest growing sector (151% CAGR) according to the data. However, as a percentage of dollars invested, Bitcoin still only accounted for a minuscule piece of the overall pie (0.18% of total VC dollars invested).

A common thought in the world of venture capital is that non-obvious investments are the ones that yield the biggest returns and to generate 10x+ returns that’s where you should go. The data suggests that Bitcoin is becoming a more obvious vertical for VCs. If you’ve been keeping an eye on investment news this probably isn’t a big surprise – with many well known VCs (e.g. A16Z, USV) and corporate investors (e.g Goldman Sachs and NASDAQ) piling into the sector.

With most bets in the space still heavily weighted towards ‘on-ramp’ companies, the growth in infrastructure and ‘blockchain’ based startups is still to come. Further, the overall share of investment dollars still has a lot of growth left in it – which is probably unsurprising given that most companies are still raising seed rounds.

Regardless of how you see it, Bitcoin (and blockchain tech more generally) is still a hot category and it’s only going to get hotter. So if you’re an investor, it’s time to grab your chips and make some bets.


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The State Of Bitcoin: A Summary

The State Of Bitcoin: A Summary

This week Coinbase released a great little summary of Bitcoin metrics as at July 2015. Overall, it’s an interesting overview of some of the more important Bitcoin metrics. Here’s a quick TL;DR of the piece.

  • Understanding bitcoin price movement is a function of the period taken. The year to date, bitcoin is down 9% – but is up 213% over a 2 year timeframe (as most bitcoiners will be only too happy to tell you).
  • Coinbase currently has 2.4M users and 3.1M wallets on their platform. This would definitely make them one of the biggest wallet providers in the world.
  • Over the last year there has been a 94% increase in monthly transactions on the Bitcoin network (worth noting that this stat controls for the recent spikes due to load testing and spam on the network).
  • Overall, 47% of Coinbase wallet holders are now from countries outside the US. With Hong Kong leading the adoption charge with 283% user growth.
  • Aligned with other reports, a large portion of users are actually over 30. More specifically, 34% of Coinbase users are over 35.
  • In what I think is one of the more interesting stats to come out of the report, Coinbase now has more than 7,000 applications built by developers on top of the Coinbase platform. This likely makes Coinbase one of the biggest Bitcoin application platforms out there.
  • What I personally think is the most important measure to keep an eye on with respect to Bitcoin growth; the Github repo reference count, is currently at 6,109. Interestingly, the article notes that by comparison, there were only 2,318 repositories referencing Paypal. Although, I don’t think this necessarily means too much, it is an interesting comparison.

Overall (unsurprisingly), the piece paints a positive picture of where Bitcoin is at. It’ll be interesting to see where the price (and general sentiment) heads in the next few months with Greece, China, BIP-66 and the ever looming hard fork… but these are all probably topics for another Friday 😉


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Bitlicense Provides A Reality Check For Start-ups

Bitlicense Provides A Reality Check For Start-ups

If you’ve been paying attention to bitcoin news over the last few weeks, you would have heard about the release of the draft New York ‘bitLicense’ regulations. These proposed regulations have been met with a great deal of animosity from some portions of the bitcoin community, with many feeling that they are too onerous for nascent bitcoin start-ups.

Before going any further, it’s important to note that these are only in draft form. Specifically, they have been released for comment and feedback. In this regard, the final form of these regulations may be radically different to the ones currently presented in the “regulatory framework” – one way or the other. Having said this, the smart money is on these provisions being very similar to the final ones issued by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

What’s The Big Deal?

By way of background, for those unfamiliar with the proposed ‘bitlicense’ regime, back in November last year the NYDFS signalled that they’d consider issuing ‘bitlicenses’ to those looking to operate certain types of virtual currency businesses in New York (See HERE for the press release). In January of this year, they held hearings on virtual currencies with many well known names from the industry asked to provide their views. During the hearings a number of heavy weights in the tech industry called for clarity on bitcoin regulation. After the hearings, the NYDFS noted that they’d take these comments onboard in coming up with any further guidelines around the licensing of virtual currency businesses. Then on 17 July 2014 they issued the proposed bitlicense framework for comment (See HERE for the press release and HERE for the framework).

Be A Better Growth Hacker By Learning To Stalk Your Most Engaged Users

Be A Better Growth Hacker By Learning To Stalk Your Most Engaged Users

Ok, let me start with a quick clarification (/disclaimer). In this article I won’t be advocating peering into your customers’ homes and seeing what they do at night. That would just be creepy. Instead, I’ll be looking at ways you can better adjust your product through observing what your most engaged customers are doing.

Which Customers Should I Stalk?

This is the question that many find hard to answer. The reality is that not all customers are created equally and looking at them all as a lump of data can lead to product changes that can push you down the wrong side of the hockey stick. This is generally amplified when you have a small data set to work from.

Let me propose an alternative approach. Why not try stalking your most fervent user? After all, they’re the ones who have found the value in your product. They’re the ones who (for one reason or another) have found the ‘magic’ in it. Besides, focusing in on the positives will give you an idea of what is actually working – which is generally the stuff you want to double down on anyway.

3 Simple Customer Service Hacks

3 Simple Customer Service Hacks

Many see customer service as a shield – a way to defend their business from the dreaded leaky bucket syndrome. However, modern customer service has become about getting out in front of your customers (or potential customers) and letting them know that you’ve got them covered.

The bar has been raised in terms of what customers expect from your business. In fact, one might argue that it’s almost impossible to build a successful new brand without drop dead amazing customer service. The simple reason for this is that too many brands have made it the norm, the accepted state of play. Table stakes.

The best example of this is Zappos. Everyone has heard about their maniacal focus on customer service. In fact, they’ve built a whole company around ’wow’ customer service. Think free upgrades and a call centre that isn’t focused on getting its ‘complaining’ customers off the phone, but actually wants to help. If you ask me, this is some of the best marketing you can do. Some ‘I give a crap about my customers’ marketing is priceless. Which is great for Zappos, but not so great for the average 3 man start-up.

To help inject a little Zappos customer care magic into your business here are 3 really simple hacks to improve your customer service today.

A New Look And A Fresh Focus

A New Look And A Fresh Focus

Wow, it’s been a while since I put ‘pen to paper’ and wrote a post.

For anyone that’s visited alantsen.com before you’ll notice that I’ve completely revamped the site. It’s a new site with a new focus.

Why the change?

I enjoy writing and I think sharing knowledge is something we should all strive to do more often. It’s always surprising how useful little insights can be to others – I know I’ve learnt a ton from other blogs.

I decided that a focus on writing is what I needed for my site. No clutter, no distractions, no needless links to my Twitter or linkdin profile – just words used to form ideas that you may find interesting.

Double Down On The 6% Who Care

Double Down On The 6% Who Care

Figuring out where to spend your time when growing a start-up is a hard thing (if not the most important thing). At the beginning everything seems like it’s a great idea – each tactic seems like it’s going to be the thing that results in another quarter of double digit growth. However, we all know very few ideas actually end up moving the proverbial needle.

To this extent, I was reading a really interesting post on the Yammer blog that is definitely worth sharing. In an interview with the founders of OneTrueFan a fascinating stat came up regarding web traffic. According to the founders of OneTrueFan:

“… 84 percent of your site visitors only come once a month and if you talk to those people an hour later they don’t even know what site they actually visited. When you dig deeper to finding out who your true passionate fans are, it only amounts to six percent of visitors that read more on your site….”

Why Ideas Don’t Happen

Why Ideas Don’t Happen

I was reading this interesting piece the other day on what stops people from reaching out and making their ambitions reality and it made me think about things that hold me back.

I think it’s always interesting to reflect on what holds you back, what stops you from taking that step into the unknown. Especially, those of us who run our own business’, something is always slowing us down or hampering our ‘next big ideas’ – or so we tell ourselves.

The key, I think, is simple to start. It’s always amazing how easy something becomes when there is something to build on. So start that project today – it only gets easier!