What is NFT?

If you have been following the crypto trends in the past one or two years, you will know that Decentralized Finance has grown exponentially in 2020 where many DeFi platforms were deployed. However, enter the year 2021, the DeFi growth has somehow slowed and seems to have been overtaken by another emerging trend, the NFT industry.

The NFT craze started when Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, and CEO, auctioned his first-ever tweet(on March 21, 2006) as a nonfungible token (NFT) and was bought using ETH for $2.9 million. Since then many NFTs were successfully sold for astronomical dollar values, like the artwork named “Everydays: the First 5000 Days.” by the artist Beeper which was sold for $69 million!

So why do people are crazy about NFTs and willing to spend so much money on them? What is NFT after all? According to Wikipedia, a  non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a distributed digital ledger, aka blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. In contrast, a fungible token is a kind of digital asset that is not unique and therefore interchangeable. An NFT represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, videos, real estate, and more. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are usually encoded with blockchain technology.

The following table illustrates the differences between NFT and fungible tokens.

Fungible TokensNon-fungible Tokens
Interchangeable
A fungible token can be exchanged with any other fungible token of the same type. It is like exchanging a dollar bill with another dollar bill and the value is still the same.
Non-Interchangeable
A non-fungible token cannot be exchanged with another non-fungible token of the same type. It is like your passport or ID, they cannot be exchanged.
Uniform
Each fungible token is identical to all other fungible tokens of the same type. For example, your one-dollar bill is the same as John’s one dollar bill.
Unique
Each token is unique and different from all other tokens of the same type. For example, your bank account is not the same as John’s bank account
Divisible
A fungible token can be divided into smaller units and the total value is still the same. For example, you can divide a dollar bill into two 50 cents or five 20 cents and the total value is still the same.
Non-divisible
The non-fungible token cannot be divided into smaller units. The basic unit is one token and one token only. For example, your driving license.
ERC-20 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for issuance tokens to be used as cryptocurrencies.
ERC-721 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for the issuance of unique, non-fungible tokens. The most well-known case is CryptoKitties, which is a virtual collectibles marketplace where each kitty is unique.

NFT has several properties that help to improve processes and things. First, it can prove and authenticate the ownership of an asset or information, making it suitable for fraud and counterfeit prevention. Therefore, it can be used in the KYC procedure, issuing academic degrees and other educational certificates. Besides that, it can be used in areas that need authentication and proof of ownership and information, such as art, collectibles, badges, voting & elections, loyalty programs, in-game items, copyright, supply chain tracking, medical data, software licenses, warranties, real assets and more. Next, NFT is easily transferable and tradeable by capitalizing the blockchain network, without the need of intermediaries, all you need is a crypto wallet like MetaMask.

The history of NFTs began with the emergence of colored coins on the Bitcoin network(Opensea, n.d.). Rare Pepes, illustrations of the Pepe the Frog character built on the Bitcoin counterparty system, were among the first NFT projects. Some of them actually sold on eBay, and a set of Rare Pepes later sold in a live auction in New York. However the colored coins NFT projects did not gain traction in the mainstream.

Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT project which created 10,000 unique collectible punks with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The is the project inspired that the modern CryptoArt movement. It was an inspiration for the Ethereum ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. No two punks are alike, and each one of them can be officially owned by a single person on the Ethereum blockchain. Originally, they could be claimed for free by anybody with an Ethereum wallet, but all 10,000 were quickly claimed. Now they must be purchased from someone on the Ethereum marketplace contract where you can buy, bid on, and offer punks for sale. To learn more, check out the website: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks

Though Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT, the first NFT project that made an inroad into the mainstream was the Ethereum based CryptoKitties. Launched in 2017, CryptoKitties featured a primitive on-chain game that allowed users to breed digital cats together to produce new cats of varying rarity. The first-generation cats were auctioned off and new cats could also be sold on a secondary market. At the height of the craze, sales of CryptoKitties nearly touched 5,000 ETH in volume, with Founder Cat #18 selling for 253 ETH ($110,000 at the time of sale). These high prices drew more users into the NFT gold rush.

Today, a couple of NFT platforms have been developed to help users create and mint NFT digital assets, the biggest one being Opensea. It claimed that it is the world’s first and largest NFT marketplace that lets users discover, collect and sell extraordinary NFTs.

References

DeFi Products

In this article, I shall discuss the types of DeFi products and services available in the crypto markets. Popular DeFi products include decentralized exchanges, loan and savings markets, tokenized physical assets such as gold, derivatives, forecasting/betting markets, payment, insurance, asset management, and more.

The complete list of DeFi products are as shown in the following Figure.

DeFi loan and savings markets allow you to lend, borrow, or deposit money in a platform. Among the popular loan and savings platforms are Compound, Aave, MakerDAO, Fulcrum, dYdX, and more. If you lend out your digital assets by depositing them in a liquidity pool, you will earn interest over a period.  On the other hand, you can borrow a digital asset by giving another digital asset as a collateral. The collateral is usually ETH but can be other cryptoassets. The debt has an accruing interest which is to be paid off along with the principal.

Decentralized exchanges or DEXs are like stock exchanges but run by smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. While both allow you to trade assets, decentralized exchanges only trade cryptoassets and do not require centralized authorities to manage the trading. They run on autopilot 24/7. Therefore, it offers fantastic opportunity to anyone in the world to have access to invest in digital assets, particularly the unbanked and underserved.

In a nutshell, DeFi products allows you to use your digital assets to secure a loan and use that loan to invest in some other digital assets that you expect to gain higher returns. You may also leverage on your collateral to secure more loans to purchase more assets with the expectation that the value of the assets will appreciate, not unlike real estate investment. Besides, you can lend your assets in a lending and borrowing market to earn more attractive interest than banks.

In addition, you may contribute your assets to liquidity pools in the DeFi money market to earn rewards. If your risk appetite is high, you may trade with margin in many different types of Decentralized exchanges. You can even expose yourself to higher risk by leveraging. The list goes on, so do not miss the opportunities!

Security Token Offering

Recently, Security Token Offering (STO) has emerged as a new option in fundraising in the blockchain/crypto space after ICOs have been banned or heavily regulated in many countries. ICO projects were banned because many of the projects were scams. In China, they called such coins “Air Coins” and in the west, they called them “S**t coins”.

In contrast to ICO tokens which are mostly utility tokens, security tokens are backed by underlying tangible assets that have monetary value, such as stocks, bonds, funds, bank reserves, properties, minerals and more. In fact, Security Token Offering (STO) can be considered a  hybrid model between initial Public Offering (IPO) and ICOs. 

A security token represents the ownership of a tokenized underlying asset that is stored on the blockchain.  Security tokens holders are entitled to an array of rights including equity, dividends, profit sharing, voting rights and more. These rights are written into smart contracts and traded freely as digitized tokens.

Tokenization is a method that converts rights to an asset into a digital token. Thus, we can take an asset, tokenize it and create its digital representation that lives on Blockchain. Blockchain guarantees that the ownership information is immutable.  Tokens created in this way are also known as crypto tokens or security tokens.  The benefits of tokenization include the ability to fragmentize large assets and expensive assets, achieve greater liquidity, achieve lower insurance costs and higher market efficiency.

For example, you can tokenize an asset such as a book that you authored. The book is kept somewhere while the book token is uploaded to the blockchain network. The book crypto token is a representation of the book ownership. You can specify how many tokens need to be transferred to your crypto wallet before you can transfer the book ownership to a buyer by means of a smart contract.

Cryptokitties is a brilliant example of the crypto token that allows users to acquire an adorable collectible by transferring some cryptocurrencies to the owner. The owner will then transfer the digital collectible to the buyer. The transaction occurs automatically via the smart contract.

STOs are usually more acceptable to the regulatory bodies as they are asset-backed and comply with regulatory governance. They are seen as a more legitimate method of fundraising. Compared to ICO, It is much more difficult to launch an STO, as it is governed by strict securities law.

Therefore, STO projects will have to conduct due diligence work to make sure they comply with the relevant regulations that are usually imposed by the security commission of a country. They would typically only be able to raise funds from accredited investors who need to pass stringent whitelisting and KYC processes. In addition, the financial cost of launching an STO is higher compared to ICO, though it is cheaper than the traditional IPO.

The process of launching an STO is nearly the same as IEO and ICO but drafting legal documents with the help of a qualified legal adviser is more important than the latter two. They may need to furnish a prospectus just like the IPO, depending on the amount of money they wish to raise and the jurisdiction of different countries.

Despite the additional legal restrictions and financial cost, STO campaigns have been fairly successful. For example, the blockchain venture capital firm Blockchain Capital was able to raise USD$10 million via its STO initiative in 2017. Nexo, a company that operates crypto-backed loans worldwide, successfully raised USD$52,500,000 in 2018.  

The success of Polymath was even more phenomenal, its STO campaign managed to raise a total of USD $207,300,000 in 2018. Polymath is an interface between financial securities and the blockchain, helping issuers to overcome the complex technical and legal challenges related to issuing regulated securities on the blockchain.  This cutting-edge blockchain platform offers a comprehensive tokenization process with decentralized protocol. Polymath allows a company to quickly and conveniently raise capital and mint security tokens.

Steps in conducting an STO

Step 1 Assemble A Formidable Team

In this era where information is instantly available, potential investors and Exchanges will know instantly the background of the project team members. If the project team comprises mostly inexperienced people, it will seriously affect the confidence of the investors and the Exchanges. Therefore, the project owner must assemble a formidable team that comprises experts in business, legal, technology, marketing, and other related disciplines. As most STO projects are blockchain-based, it is a must to hire blockchain experts.

Step 2 To Decide Whether STO is Suitable for the Company

Though STO might be easier and less costly than traditional IPOs, it is not necessarily more beneficial. Therefore, the project needs to analyze and evaluate the options before deciding to go ahead with STO.

Step 3 Decide on the types of Security Token

The project team needs to decide on what type of security token they wish to issue. The most common type is the equity token. Equity token means token holders become a shareholder of the company which allows them to receive periodic dividends and have voting rights.

Another type of token is the debt token (or bond token) which means holders are entitled to receive periodic interests based on the underlying digital assets they lend to the company. The token holder is a lender(the creditor) rather than a shareholder of the company.

Step 4 Decide on the Soft Cap and Hard Cap

Next, the project team must decide on the amount to raise in the STO campaign. Specifically, it means they have to decide on the soft cap and hard Cap. A hard cap is the upper limit of the STO’s goal whereas a soft cap is the lower limit, more like the actual amount the team is aiming to raise. Besides that, they have to determine the initial token price at the private sale stage, how many tokens to be minted and how will tokens are distributed. 

Step 5 Writing the whitepaper

The whitepaper is a document that comprises a thorough description of the project, distribution of tokens, business model, tokenomics and more. It also includes information about the project team which usually comprises the board members, the marketing team, the technical team, the legal team, and the advisers.

Writing the whitepaper is a very important step in the IEO campaign. It is an important document that showcases the project. Whether the investors will be impressed and looking forward to investing in the project depends on how well the paper is written.

Step 6 Developing the Token

The token is an integral part of the STO project. Without a native token, what can you sell to the investors? Therefore, it is crucial to design the token from day 1, and start developing it as soon as possible.

Most tokens for STO projects are ERC20 tokens. The ERC20 standard is chosen because it can be easily designed and deployed to the Ethereum main net. However, if you want a customized token and your team has the expertise and programming skills, you can develop a different protocol from the Ethereum main net, or even develop your own blockchain system.

Step 7 Marketing

The project team must carry out an aggressive marketing campaign for its STO initiative in order to broadcast the news to as many investors as possible. However, they need to choose a jurisdiction that allows STO campaign, is crypto friendly and has less redtapes. I would recommend Malta as they are crypto friendly and intend to turn the country into an international STO hub.

The marketing campaign can be conducted through websites, blogs, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat and more. They can also organize events and conferences to promote their token but they need to check whether these activities can be conducted in certain countries. For example, you cannot do so in Malaysia and China.

Step 8 Listing Your Security Token

Finally, the project team also must choose a crypto Exchange to list its STO. They need to conduct due diligence in searching for a trusted Exchange before deciding to engage one. A good guide is to look for Exchanges that rank within the top 50 on Coinmarketcap. Besides, they need to analyze reviews of the Exchanges on various crypto platforms. STO fees may also be another concern, as a top rank Exchange may charge an extremely high fee. Therefore, there is always a trade-off between the fee and the reputation of the Exchange.

References

https://hackernoon.com/security-token-offerings-what-is-it-and-how-to-market-it-a067f46a6f2

https://diamco.io

https://blog.tokenomica.com/6-essential-steps-for-launching-and-preparing-your-sto

https://www.coinist.io/crypto-hard-caps-soft-caps/

Fighting COVID-19 with Blockchain

COVID-19 outbreak has become a global pandemic in recent months. The epicenter of the outbreak has moved from China to Europe and then the US. It has sickened hundreds of thousands of people and caused ten of thousands of deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many of the applications for blockchain technology. For example, Blockchain technology has been proposed as the most efficient means through which the United States’ stimulus package could be distributed.

On the other hand, the Chinese government has deployed blockchain in numerous applications to assist its efforts to fight COVID-19, using DLT to track the virus’ spread, medical records, and the distribution of medical supplies and charity donations.

To fight the outbreak, WHO has launched a DLT platform for sharing data pertaining to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In addition, some companies and non-profit organizations have also launched blockchain-based projects to counter the outbreak of COVID-19. Let’s examine a few of the aforementioned initiatives :

WHO

WHO has launched the blockchain-based platform know as MiPasa to fight COVID-19. The platform will enable “early detection of COVID-19 carriers and infection hotspots. It was built on top of the Hyperledger Fabric. Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source enterprise-grade permissioned distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform.

The MiPasa platform was co-developed by MiPasa, IBM, Oracle, Hacera and Microsoft. It aims to facilitate fully private information sharing between individuals, state authorities and health institutions.

MiPasa is a verifiable information highway that allows cross-references siloed location. Furthermore, health data is stored on the platform to obtain global insights while ensuring patient privacy. Besides that, MiPasa is will host an array of publicly accessible analytics tools too.

SNARK HEALTH

Snark Health is a platform that connects patients, doctors, insurers, and donors for health care services, private data sharing and payments via the blockchain technology.  

To combat COVID-19, SNARK is building a framework for data-driven discussions and shared learnings to help people have a greater impact at their respective local, state, national level in collaboration with their organizations and governmental agencies. It aims to enable more rapid dissemination of information to improve patient outcomes.

The goal of this project is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned to support the people and organizations that are tasked with problem-solving at the local level across the globe. According to SNARK, there remain many unanswered questions in regards to the clinical, operational and financial aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the process of answering these critical questions, the new framework could lay the foundation for global triage support, improved access to health care services and clinical research.

BINANCE

Binance’s Blockchain-powered donation platform Binance Charity has initiated a $5 million coronavirus relief campaign At the time of writing this article, its “Crypto Against COVID” campaign has received 24 donations, amounting to a total of 160.6306 BTC. A wallet has been set up for public donations, which can be made in BNB, BTC, BUSD, and XRP. Besides that, Binance will make an upfront donation of $1 million in BUSD, which will be converted to fiat and used to purchase supplies to send to hospitals in affected countries.

In addition, Binance will also match donations up to $1 million. Furthermore, the company will donate $1 for every retweet of its #CryptoAgainstCovid posting and will donate an additional $1 million if the number of retweets reaches 1 million within seven days.

As of March 20 this year, Binance Charity has delivered a number of coronavirus aid products to over 300 hospitals and medical teams in multiple provinces and cities, including Hubei, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Shanghai. The items delivered include 366,000 pairs of gloves, 56,800 masks, 9 sterilizers, 173 barrels of disinfectant, 5,280 bottles of hand sanitizers, 20,000 testing kits, 7,850 protective suits, 20,000 pairs of goggles, 388 oxygen concentrators, and 1000 germicidal lamps.

Hashcash Consultants

Hashcash Consultants has launched the Corona Fund Index Cryptocurrency (CFIX), a coronavirus relief initiative involving cryptocurrency.

This global software firm promised that 90% of trading fees derived from CFIX will be diverted to its Corona Relief Fund. The fund will be donated to various non-profits and organizations that are actively combating the global COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

References

Initial Exchange Offering(IEO) Explained

After the craze of ICOs subsided, two new crypto crowdfunding methods emerged, namely the Security Token Offering (STO) and the Initial Exchange Offering (IEO). Among the two, IEO is more popular as STO poses a higher barrier of entry, is more expensive, and is subjected to more stringent regulations by the securities commission.

In a recent article, Reuters reported that IEOs have raised $1.5 billion so far in 2019, compared with just $836 million raised from ICOs. A dozen of amazingly successful cases of IEOs have driven more project owners to embark on their own IEO journeys. Famous IEO cases include the sale of the BitT Torrent (BTT) token on the Binance Launchpad, raising $7 million in just the first 14 minutes of the sale opening. Veriblock did even better, raising $7 million in April through an IEO on the Bittrex exchange in just 10 seconds. A truly amazing feat! It is safe to say that IEO has taken over ICO as the preferred choice of fundraising in the cryptocurrency industry.

What is IEO?

According to Binance, an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) is a fundraising campaign that is administered by a Crypto Exchange Platform.  An IEO allows investors to purchase a new cryptocurrency (or token) while raising funds for its crypto project. 

Though ICOs and IEOs both raise funds through token sales, the way they sell tokens is different. For ICOs, the project team themselves conduct the fundraising campaign. Meanwhile, IEO fundraising is conducted on a crypto Exchange platform, where the users of the Exchange can buy tokens with funds directly from their own exchange wallet. 

Advantages and disadvantages of IEO

Advantages

INCREASED INVESTOR CONFIDENCE

Investors are more confident in investing in IEO tokens as the project has to undergo stringent KYC/AML checks by the Exchange platform that handles the IEO projects. The Exchange platform will also evaluate the business model of the project and also audit its technical infrastructure, including its blockchain system and smart contracts. Therefore, many scam projects will be filtered and eliminated. The Exchange platform acts as a trusted third party that can reduce considerable risk in crypto investment.

WIN-WIN FOR THE PROJECT OWNER AND THE EXCHANGE

For the project owner, it is a cheaper and easier way to raise the necessary funds for the project, while not embarking on long marketing campaigns and roadshows. The token is also listed on the Exchange immediately after the IEO campaign.

For the Exchange, conducting an IEO means more revenue for them. An Exchange that hosts an IEO will typically charge a fee for the campaign and get a cut from the token sales. They also get fees when the token starts trading on their exchange.

Disadvantages of IEO

AMBIGUOUS REGULATIONS AND RESTRICTIONS

Many countries still ban or restrict fundraising activity in the cryptocurrency industry while some countries impose stringent regulations on crypto activities. Therefore, it is still uncertain whether IEO will be fully accepted and recognised as the legal way of fundraising in the crypto industry.

ALL INVESTORS SUBJECTED TO STRINGENT AML/KYC

While a stringent KYC/AML check for the project can increase investor confidence, some individuals may be reluctant to expose their identities, so going through a stringent AML/KYC procedure may deter these people from investing in the IEO project.

LIMITED NUMBER OF TOKENS

There have been many complaints from investors that not everyone manages to purchase tokens during IEOs as the number of tokens available for sale is usually limited.

BOTTING CONCERNS

Using bots for trading and investing is ubiquitous nowadays. In the crypto space, there are concerns about bots that can be programmed to participate in IEOs and beat out human investors. In such a scenario, all parties lose out.

How to Conduct an IEO?

Although an IEO is a promising method for fundraising, especially for startups that don’t have the resources and expertise to do an IPO, it is by no means an easy feat. The project owner needs to plan and make the necessary preparations before embarking on the IEO initiative. The following are suggested steps that a project has to follow before going IEO.

DESIGN THE BUSINESS MODEL

Before embarking on an IEO campaign, the founding members of the project must have a clear vision of what their business wants to achieve. They also have to design a business model and draw up plans to attain the vision.

ASSEMBLE A FORMIDABLE TEAM

In this internet era where information is readily available, potential investors and Exchanges will know instantly the background of the project team members. If the project team comprises mostly inexperienced people, it will seriously affect the confidence of the investors and the Exchanges. Therefore, the project owner needs to assemble a formidable team that comprises experts in business, legal, technology, marketing, and other related disciplines. As most IEO projects are blockchain-based, it is a must to hire blockchain experts.

PREPARING THE WHITEPAPER AND OTHER DOCUMENTS

The whitepaper is a document that comprises a thorough description of the project, distribution of tokens, business model, tokenomics and more. It also includes information about the project team which usually comprises the board members, the marketing team, the technical team, the legal team, and the advisers.

Writing the whitepaper is a very important step in the IEO campaign. It is an important document that showcases the project. Whether the investors will be impressed and looking forward to investing in the project depends on how well the paper is written.

Besides the whitepaper, the project team should also prepare a one-pager, website, pitch decks, social media pages and more. These are the components that contain the primary source of knowledge about the project for potential investors and Exchanges to evaluate the IEO project.

DEVELOP THE TOKEN

The token is an integral part of the IEO project. Without a native token, what can you sell to the investors? Therefore, it is crucial to design the token from day 1, and start developing it as soon as possible.

Most tokens for IEO projects are ERC20 tokens. The ERC20 standard is chosen because it can be easily designed and deployed to the Ethereum main net. However, if you want a customized token and your team has the expertise and programming skill, you can develop a different protocol from the Ethereum main net, or even develop your own blockchain system.

To mint the ERC20 token, the blockchain developers need to write a robust smart contract and have it tested and also audited by a trusted third party contract auditor to ensure the contract is secure and free of bugs. The audited token can then be deployed to the Ethereum main net or a private network.

MARKETING

The project team needs to carry out an aggressive marketing campaign for its IEO initiative in order to broadcast the news to as many investors as possible. The marketing campaign can be conducted through websites, blogs, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat and more. They can also organise events and conferences to promote their token but they need to check whether these activities can be conducted in certain countries. For example, you cannot do so in Malaysia and China.

ENGAGE A CRYPTO EXCHANGE

The project team also needs to sign an agreement with a crypto Exchange to start their IEO campaign. They need to conduct due diligence in searching for a trusted Exchange before deciding to engage one. A good guide is to look for Exchanges that rank within the top 50 on Coinmarketcap. Besides, they need to analyze reviews of the Exchanges on various crypto platforms. IEO fees may also be another concern, as a top rank Exchange may charge an extremely high fee. Therefore, there is always a trade-off between the fee and the reputation of the Exchange.

Final Note

IEO has replaced ICO as the new trend in fundraising in the crypto industry. Investors who are still thinking of the good old days of ICO should start changing their mindset and focus on investing in IEO projects instead. On the other hand, startups or enterprises who wish to raise funds in the crypto industry must realize that ICO is already dead and IEO is the way to go. Lastly, more exchanges should create IEO launchpads to assist projects that wish to raise funds through IEO, as this is an untapped niche with immense potential. 

References