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Citigroup launches a digital asset unit within its wealth management division

Wall Street giant Citigroup has officially launched a new business unit dedicated to the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, according to a memo obtained by The Block. 

The firm announced Thursday morning the new group, dubbed Digital Assets Group, which will sit within its wealth management division, Citi Global Wealth Investments, according to the meme. 

“Given the exciting new developments we are seeing around cryptocurrencies, tokenization, and other advances powered by blockchain technology, we are pleased to announce the formation of the Digital Assets Group,” the memo said. 

According to the memo, the unit will be led by Alex Kriete and Greg Girasole. The move by Citi makes it the latest bank to break into crypto wealth management.

Notably, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have launched their own internal initiatives to help their rich wealth management clients access the crypto market. 

According to the memo, Kriete and Girsole will work on developing products and “work in tandem with our functional partners and the broader Capital Markets and Citi Investment Management teams to develop a robust and scalable value proposition.”

In May, Itay Tuchman, an executive at the bank, told the Financial Times it was exploring entering the market, but at the time had “not yet decided whether it would offer its clients cryptocurrency-related services.”

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Frank Chaparro

Chainalysis’ valuation hits $4.2 billion after $100 million Series E fundraise

Chainalysis, the leading blockchain analytics firm, has announced the closure of $100 million Series E financing.

The latest funding round brings the firm’s total valuation to $4.2 billion. Major tech investment manager Coatue led this most recent round, which also saw participation from Chainalysis’ longstanding investors. 

Chainalysis provides software that traces and clusters cryptocurrency transactions on the blockchain, identifying possible risks and threat actors. It also produces research on growing trends. One of the oldest firms in crypto analytics, Chainalysis is also the biggest government contractor in the field. 

The new valuation represents a $2 billion boost since the firm’s last fundraise, which was only in March. That coincides with new interest in cryptocurrency tracking following high-profile ransomware events like Colonial Pipeline and JBS. 

This same flood of interest has the Department of Justice stepping up its asset recovery capabilities. On Wednesday, leaders of the Department of Defense’s cyber command appeared before the Senate Armed Forces committee’s cyber subcommittee to testify as to growing ransomware use. 

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Kollen Post

Supporters of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily are storing its archives on a blockchain after the government shut it down

Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid in Hong Kong, has been forced to shut down by the government amid a national security probe. And now it is being backed up on a censorship-resistant blockchain.

Previously a top publication with millions of readers in the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, Apple Daily printed its last edition on June 23. Its official website also ceased operations on Thursday and posts on its social media channels have been removed.

Apple Daily has been at the center of a national security crackdown by the Hong Kong government due to the outlet’s long-standing editorial stance against the local government as well as the central government in China. It was also a vocal force for the pro-democracy movements in the city during the protests against the introduction of the National Security Law in 2019.

According to a Reuters report, under the National Security Law, the Hong Kong government can move to block or delete content that it regards as “subversive or secessionist” and which could pose a potential threat to the sovereignty of China, which governs Hong Kong based on the so-called one-country-two-system model.

The publication had managed to continue operating since its billionaire founder Jimmy Lai and several senior executives were arrested under national security probe last August when. But last week the Hong Kong government froze Apple Daily’s bank accounts, forcing it to cease operations.

Given its considerable influence in Hong Kong, Apple Daily’s shutdown has led hundreds of local citizens to call for support. Many lined up on the evening of June 23 to purchase the last edition of the paper.

Store it forever

But now an anonymous individual or a group has been uploading archived Apple Daily articles onto the Arweave blockchain, which is a decentralized file storage network with the mission to store internet archives forever and make them censorship-proof. 

According to a status update page called Decentralize Apple Daily, about 5,000 pieces of content have been encoded to the Arweave network, each with a unique hash for users to view on Arweave’s blockchain explorer. 

One of the earliest blockchain transactions dates back to June 18 with a headline “National security police arrested five Apple Daily staffers; took away 44 hard drives with news material.”

The backup on ARWeave is the latest instance where blockchain technology is being used to store content that has been taken down from the internet due to government censorship.

In 2020, Chinese internet users coded a virtual monument onto the Ethereum network to memorialize Doctor Li Wenliang, who was considered one of the early whistleblowers of the coronavirus outbreak. The news of Li’s death after he contracted the virus sparked widespread anger among Chinese citizens, but the government censored much of the information surrounding the event.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Wolfie Zhao

Digital Assets launches Solana-based tokenized stocks on FTX

Digital Assets AG, a Switzerland-based firm that tokenizes financial instruments, has launched its tokenized stocks on the Solana blockchain. The firm, which powers tokenized stock trading for crypto exchanges Binance, FTX, and Bittrex Global, previously used a private blockchain.

The Solana-based offering, however, will be exclusively available for FTX users for now. FTX and Solana are closely linked; FTX’s sister company Alameda Research is an investor in Solana, and FTX also operates its own decentralized exchange called Serum on the Solana blockchain.

“The move from operating on a private blockchain to operating on Solana will offer a much more efficient, and cost-effective environment for the trading and utilization of tokenized stocks,” said Brandon Williams, corporate development lead at Digital Assets. “We envision the entirety of traditional finance and capital markets being able to operate on the blockchain.” Solana, seen as a competitor to Ethereum, is faster and cheaper than Ethereum for executing transactions.

To start with, FTX will offer 24/7 trading in 55 Solana-based tokenized stocks, including Facebook, Google, and Tesla. Tokenized stocks are blockchain-based assets that represent the shares of publicly traded companies.

Centralized and decentralized exchanges built on Solana will also be now able to add tokenized stock trading to their platforms via Digital Assets.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Yogita Khatri

[SPONSORED] Nexo’s New Feature Gives Borrowing Clients Full Control Over Their Collateral

Nexo has unveiled a new feature, unrivaled in the crypto space, which allows customers of crypto-backed credit lines to preserve the value of their collateralized assets in a dipping market, while improving the overall health of their loans.

Collateral Exchange to Help Clients Navigate Turbulent Conditions

The unprecedented pandemic and the ups and downs of the crypto ecosystem have illuminated the interconnection of our actions and their impacts on the market trends. Owing to the recent meltdown of some of the biggest digital assets, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, companies are focusing on developing efficient solutions to help customers mitigate the downside.

To safeguard its customer assets, Nexo – the world’s leading regulated institution for digital assets – has introduced the concept of collateral exchange for its customers. This new versatile feature allows Nexo customers to preserve the value of their collateralized digital assets during a market meltdown while improving the health of their credit line within seconds.

Your Collateral, Your Choice

Using Nexo Collateral Exchange, customers can quickly swap assets in their Credit Line Wallet. Not only does this future help customers maintain a healthy LTV (loan to value) ratio during downtrends by selecting a more stable or better-performing asset, but it also allows users to re-enter the market only when they see fit and in a way that matches their investment goals.

For those unfamiliar, a Nexo Credit Line Wallet contains both the assets already used as collateral for an ongoing credit line and the excess collateral available to back additional borrowing. With the new Collateral Exchange feature, Nexo customers can reap dual benefits – they can exchange their collateralized balance for stablecoins to exit market volatility and/ or swap the cryptocurrencies that have not yet been used as collateral for other cryptocurrencies, depending on their preferred portfolio strategy.

With the release of the Collateral Exchange feature, Nexo cements itself as the only CeFi company to offer the option to convert collateral to any other supported crypto asset as long as the latter has a higher LTV than the collateralized asset, thus realizing the full potential of their collateral.

In addition to safeguarding assets and ensuring easy access to liquidity, Nexo’s Collateral Exchange feature is highly customer-centric. This novel concept prevents automatic credit line repayments and serves as a portfolio adjustment tool in accordance with market conditions, adding a new level of utility to Nexo’s existing Instant Crypto Credit Line.

Nexo is one of the most popular CeFi platforms, allowing its customers to earn compound interest on their cryptocurrencies. Besides generating high-yield returns on their digital and fiat assets, users can borrow fiat and stablecoins using their existing holdings as collateral, as well as buy crypto and swap between 100+ market pairs on the instant Nexo Exchange.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Andreas Nicolos

‘Largest crypto fund ever:’ a16z officially launches new $2.2 billion crypto venture fund

It’s official. Andreessen Horowitz — the prominent venture capital fund led by Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen — announced Thursday the close of its third crypto venture fund, a $2.2 billion fund that the firm says is the largest of its kind.

The new “Crypto Fund III” will be co-led by Chris Dixon and Katie Haun. 

“The largest crypto fund ever raised to date, Crypto Fund III is a validating moment for the ecosystem and another sign that crypto becoming an ever more mainstream part of our financial infrastructure,” the firm said in a press release. 

Rumors of Andreessen Horowitz (also known as a16z) raising a mega-fund have appeared in various reports in recent months. The Financial Times reported in April that the California-based investment firm would be raising $1 billion for a crypto fund. In late May, tech blogger Eric Newcomer wrote that the firm was raising $2 billion. 

A source familiar with the raise now told The Block that interest came mostly from limited partners in the firm’s previous crypto funds, which have seen large returns. a16z netted more than $440 million from selling Coinbase stock soon after the exchange made its public markets debut on Nasdaq, according to CoinDesk.  

a16z’s mandate in crypto has been broad, ranging from decentralized finance (DeFi) to bitcoin applications to so-called Web 3, or a decentralized version of the internet. The firm’s portfolio includes Dapper Labs, Celo, Uniswap, and Near. 

a16z’s portfolio as of February 2021*

“This fund allows us to find the next generation of visionary crypto founders, and invest in the most exciting areas of crypto,” Dixon and Haun wrote in a blog post. “We invest in all stages, from early seed-stage projects to fully developed later-stage networks.”

In addition to securing more than $2 billion to invest in crypto, a16z’s crypto business has been hiring aggressively. It has made a number of key hires including Anthony Albanese, who joined the firm last year from the New York Stock Exchange. Albanese is now being promoted to chief operating officer of a16z crypto.

The firm also hired Bill Hinman, a former director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Rachael Horowitz, a veteran Silicon Vally communications strategist who previously was the top communicator at Coinbase, also recently joined. Horowitz has also held positions at Twitter, Google, and Facebook. 

Additional new hires include policymaker Tomicah Tilleman, who is joining the firm as global head of policy after serving as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden. 

“As with any new computing movement, crypto has endured a variety of challenges and misconceptions,” Dixon and Haun said. “That’s why we are also bringing together heavy-hitters across several functions to help translate “crypto” to the mainstream.”

Crypto venture investing heating up

The announcement of Crypto Fund III follows a flurry of recent activity in crypto venture investing. Despite the slump in coin prices, investors have been raising large sums of cash to pour into new crypto startups. 

Framework Ventures recently announced a $100 million new fund to invest in DeFi. Blockchain Capital, meanwhile, recently announced a new $300 million fund with backing from tech giants PayPal and Visa. 

Data from The Block shows investors poured more than $8.8 billion into startups during 2021, compared with 3.07 billion in all of 2020. 

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Frank Chaparro

UK regulator approves fifth crypto company for crypto-asset register

Mode Global Holdings, a London-listed fintech app, has become the fifth company to be added to the Financial Conduct Authority’s crypto-assets register.

Mode joins the register alongside two Gemini entities, Archax, Ziglu and Digivault, the custody business of Diginex, which was approved on May 14.

The register was first announced by the FCA, the U.K.’s finance regulator, in January 2020 as a means to assess the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing processes employed by crypto startups. Firms were initially told to get registered or cease trading by January of this year, but the deadline has twice been revised and is now set at March 31, 2022.

On June 18, City minister John Glen stated that the FCA has committed more resources to assessing applications to the register, after revealing that one applicant had been made to wait 527 days with its application under review.

A la Mode

Mode is a card and wallet business that lets consumers and businesses buy, sell and store bitcoin. Traded on the London Stock Exchange, the startup currently boasts a market capitalization of around £44 million ($61 million).

In addition to being added to the register, Mode has announced that it has secured an Electronic Money Institution licence through a subsidiary named Greyfoxx Limited. Another subsidiary, Fibermode Limited, is the entity that has been added to the FCA’s crypto register.

In a statement published this morning, Mode said the permissions have brought “renewed focus” and that it will, therefore, decommission an investment product named “Bitcoin Jar” from August 31. Mode will now focus all its efforts on building a payment app with a bitcoin cashback product tacked on.

“We’ve spent the last year building our business around security and compliance, and today we can say our ecosystem is powered by a portfolio of FCA licences, hard-earned by building trust with the regulator,” said Jonathan Rowland, Mode’s chairman.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Ryan Weeks

New York City will become a bitcoin center, says city’s mayoral lead Eric Adams

Eric Adams, the current front-runner in the 2021 New York City mayoral election in the Democratic primary, appears to be pro-crypto.

“I’m going to promise you in one year … you’re going to see a different city,” Adams said during his election night party speech on Monday. “We’re going to bring businesses. We’re going to become the center of life science, the center of cybersecurity, the center of self-driving cars, drones, the center of bitcoins.”

Adams aims to turn New York City into a technology center if he wins the mayoral race, which he is currently leading with nearly 32% votes, according to data from the New York Times. The final results are likely to be announced during the week of July 12.

Adams is currently over 75,000 votes ahead of his closest rival, Maya Wiley, according to the New York Times data. While Adams, a retired police officer, didn’t elaborate how he plans to turn New York City into the center of bitcoin, he will be competing against Miami, which is becoming a crypto center, thanks to his bitcoin-friendly Mayor Francis Suarez and low taxes. “Miami, you had your run. We’re bringing our businesses back,” said Adams.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a longtime bitcoin proponent, dropped out of the New York City mayoral race earlier this week as preliminary data showed poor results.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Yogita Khatri

Canaan begins its own bitcoin mining operations in Kazakhstan

Bitcoin mining machines manufacturer Canaan has started mining bitcoin in Kazakhstan, following the crackdown on bitcoin mining in China.

Canaan said its AvalonMiner units are already in operation in Kazakhstan. When asked how many units and of which model have been deployed, a Canaan spokesperson declined to comment on specifics but said “a first batch of small-scale mining machines” have been deployed to start with.

Canaan foresees “a gradual ramp-up to full operational functionality over time,” the spokesperson added. The company has partnered with local mining companies in Kazakhstan for the initiative, they said.

China-based Canaan has been preparing to launch a crypto mining business in Kazakhstan for some time now. Earlier this month, the Nasdaq-listed company opened its first overseas after-sales service center in Kazakhstan as its global sales continue to increase.

Kazakhstan appears to be growing in popularity for bitcoin mining after China moved to shut down local bitcoin mining farms last month. Kazakhstan is close to China and has one of the cheapest electricity rates in the world.

Earlier this week, China-based BIT Mining, formerly known as 500.com, also shipped some of its bitcoin mining equipment to Kazakhstan. The company is set to send more machines to the country next month.

© 2021 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Author: Yogita Khatri

32 DeFi Charts: DEX downturn, stablecoin yields, structured products, ETH2 staking, Web3, etc.

Quick Take

  • This research piece contains 32 charts relating to the latest developments in DeFi — this includes an overview of Ethereum and Polygon, DEX trading volumes, structured products, etc.
  • Trading-related protocols (namely decentralized exchanges and derivatives platforms) have seen the highest drop in interest.
  • Still, opportunities for high yields remain available (particularly for stablecoins) and have contributed to the continued growth of lending protocols and structured products.

This research piece is available to
members of The Block Genesis.
You can continue reading
this Genesis research on The Block.

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Author: Mika Honkasalo