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2018-08-15 10:58:16

Venezuela to Peg Pension, Salary Systems to Petro Cryptocurrency

Venezuela is set to begin using its "petro" cryptocurrency as an official accounting unit, according to the country's president.

ABC International reported the development on Tuesday, citing a televised announcement by President Nicolas Maduro, who first unveiled the petro back in December. As part of the change, the state oil and gas company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) will reportedly begin using thepetro as a mandatory accounting unit.

The moves come as Venezuela's government seeks to combat growing economic turmoil by relaxing its currency controls, according to an August 7 report from CNBC. On August 20, for example, the government will seek to revalue its currency, the bolivar, and create a "sovereign bolivar."

In turn, the central bank will begin publishing the price of the sovereign bolivar as it relates to the petro "and the price of the petro according to international currencies," ABC reports. Similar moves will see the country's salary and pension systems tied to the petro's value.


Since its debut, the petro has proven to be highly controversial, drawing attacks from opposition politicians within Venezuela as well as those in the U.S and abroad.

In March, the Trump administration barred U.S. citizens from transacting in the petro as part of a series of new sanctions against the South American country.

2018-08-15 10:58:58

Blockchain Provider Axoni Raises US$32M From Goldman Sachs, Nacy Partners

Axoni, a provider of enterprise blockchain technology, has raised US$32 million in a Series B funding round led by Goldman Sachs and Nyca Partners. The round included participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Citi, Coatue Management, Digital Currency Group, F-Prime Capital, Franklin Templeton Investments, J.P. Morgan, NEX Group, Wells Fargo, and Y Combinator. It brings Axoni’s total funding raised to data to more than US$55 million, the startup said on Tuesday.

“Axoni has established itself as a market leader in enterprise blockchain, delivering solutions that can be used at scale across financial markets,” said Ashwin Gupta, managing director of Goldman Sachs.

C. Thomas Richardson, head of market structure and electronic trading services at Wells Fargo Securities, said that adoption of distributed ledger protocols in capital markets resembled the early days of adopting TCP/IP for distributed enterprise applications.


“We continue to be impressed with Axoni’s ability to facilitate such adoption by identifying use cases that could benefit from blockchain technology,” Richardson said.

Wells Fargo co-led Axoni’s Series A funding round back in December 2016.

Axonis, which offers blockchain infrastructure, distributed application development, and workflow automation tools, said it will use the investment to complete work on projects such as the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation’s effort to move its US$11 trillion Trade Information Warehouse to a blockchain-based infrastructure, and help existing clients integrate their own users into three platforms nearing completion.

The funds will also be used to make new hires, especially in its engineering team, enhance its data synchronization technology, expand its suite of infrastructure products to support deployments of AxCore, and advance development of AxLang.

AxCore is the base layer of Axoni’s distributed ledger infrastructure that serves as the underlying framework to share and synchronize data between systems and institutions while maintaining the privacy, scalability, and auditability required for capital markets. Meanwhile, AxLang is a new smart contract programming language based on Scala that supports functional programming and enables formal verification of smart contracts for Ethereum-compatible networks.

Axoni has partnered with and served several top investment banks, asset managers, and market infrastructure companies with its AxCore technology having been deployed across a variety of markets ranging from complex derivatives to high-volume foreign exchange.

Founded in 2013 and based in New York, Schvey, Inc. is the company behind Axoni and TradeBlock, a provider of institutional trading tools for cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets.

2018-08-15 11:00:27

Y Combinator's New China Chief Is Bullish on Blockchain

Y Combinator (YC) has just announced a new China division and its chief believes blockchain will bring long-term advantages to startups, according to a report

The Silicon Valley-based seed investment firm, which has incubated notable startups including Reddit, Dropbox and crypto exchange Coinbase, officially announced its entry into the Chinese market in a blog post on Wednesday alongside news that Lu Qi – a former chief operating officer of Baidu – will be in charge of the new arm.

In an interview with local media outlet 36Kr, Lu commented today that YC China's main goal will be to focus on startup incubation, talent training and research and development, as well the creation of a non-profit research lab.

Lu also discussed blockchain, saying he believes its core features of data encryption and digitization of trust mean it has long-term potential in business.


He added that the technology is especially interesting for its provision of different types of incentives.

"At present, the incentives already in the market are usually financial, such as equity and bonds, but blockchain technology may bring innovation in the long-term incentive mechanism," he said, adding:

"Blockchain technology will lower the threshold for entrepreneurship in [the above] areas."

Although it's not yet clear how much of a focus YC China will take on blockchain technology and related startups, the accelerator has already been active in the space. In addition to incubating Coinbase, YC also backed a crypto investment management startup called CoinTracker that raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round in April, as reported by CoinDesk.

In a startup event last September, YC president Sam Altman called out the initial coin offering market as being in a "bubble," but doubled down on the firm's commitment to integrating blockchain as a way to "democratize access" to investing.

2018-08-15 11:06:24

Prime Trust Enters Crypto Custody Race, Will Hold 'Any' Ethereum Token

Prime Trust, a small U.S. financial institution that's played a behind-the-scenes role in several dollar-backed cryptocurrencies, is entering the hotly competitive crypto custody business.

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, the Nevada trust company quietly began offering cold storage for bitcoin in mid-July, and will announce next week that it can also handle custody for ether and any token issued on the ethereum blockchain under the ERC-20 standard. 

Such services are in demand among institutional investors, who despite the bear market find crypto's returns alluring, but don't want the bother of protecting the private keys to a digital wallet and/or are required by law to use a qualified custodian. In cold storage, these cryptographic keys, which are like a long password and can be used to drain the money from a wallet, are kept offline, on a hardware device or a piece of paper that's typically locked away in a safe. 

However, several big names in financial services are entering this niche as well, with Northern TrustGoldman Sachs and Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent of the New York Stock Exchange, all looking to offer institutional-friendly solutions. Crypto startups like CoinbaseBitGoand Ledger have also been courting this market.


But Prime Trust says that as a startup launched two years ago with all-new technology, it can outmaneuver the big boys. Referring to Northern Trust's testing period and the uncertainty over when Goldman will come out of the bushes with a custody product, Scott Purcell, Prime Trust's CEO, told CoinDesk,

"They are trillion-dollar Fortune 100 entities, and they are just not going to move that fast."

Back-office breakthrough

Previously, Prime Trust was known in the crypto space for its back-office role in the so-called stablecoin announced last month by IBM and startup Stronghold. The token, issued on the Stellar blockchain, is backed one-for-one with U.S. dollars that Prime Trust deposits at federally insured banks where it has relationships. Purcell said it's also providing this service to 10 similar projects.

He claimed his company will be the first to offer custody for any ERC-20 tokens, which he described as no small feat.

Purcell said his team solved a "massive technical problem" after partner company Polymath hosted a conference in Barbados. There, his engineers were able to spend quality time with some of the authors of the ERC-20 standard, which allows the creation of different tokens representing various kinds of assets on the same blockchain.

"We had had an engineering breakthrough which now enables us to easily cold-storage any ERC-20 token (along with BTC and ETH, of course)," said Purcell.

Doing so is "great in theory, impossible in practice due to various tweaks/nuances in each different token. That's why nobody does this – nobody until now."

2018-08-15 11:04:41

Messaging Giant LINE Launches $10 Million Token Venture Fund

Japanese messaging giant LINE has launched a token venture fund with a capital commitment of $10 million via its recently established subsidiary called Unblock Ventures.

The publicly traded firm announced the fund in a release on Wednesday and said it aims to invest in blockchain startups in an effort to boost technological development.

While Unblock Ventures, incorporated in Hong Kong in July, will be the fund's manager, the $10 million capital is solely provided by LVC Corporation, another subsidiary of the LINE group. The company said it expects to increase the total amount of the fund in the future based on the development of the blockchain industry.

Today's launch is part of LINE's wider push into the cryptocurrency space and comes just a month after it officially started the operation of its cryptocurrency trading platform called Bitbox.

It was also announced today that Bitbox has listed TRX – the native token of the June launchedTRON blockchain – as the first crypto project listed on the exchange for trading following a review process conducted by a dedicated Bitbox committee. Following the news, the 24-hour trading price of TRX jumped by 12 percent, based on data from CoinMarketCap.

In April, CoinDesk reported that LINE was also planning to launch a subsidiary based in South Korea that will focus on researching blockchain technology and developing potential applications.