Bits and stuff: June 3rd, 2018 – funding, frocks and frills

Given the rush of conferences, airports and hotels over the past few weeks, I didn’t have the time and mental space to update here. I even considered taking a longer break, to catch up with research and longer-form writing. But then I discovered that I missed it, so I’m back, after a useful gap of distance and perspective. No commitments, obviously, because work is getting intense (more on that some other day) and I keep promising myself to find time to read more fiction and watch more old black-and-white movies. But meanwhile, hello, it’s good to be here…

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Whoever said ICOs were going to replace venture capital? This week we saw that venture capital was very much alive and kicking…

Several major venture capital investments were announced, a surprising number for just one week:

CLS, a major forex settlement provider, invested $5 million in R3.

Paxos raised $65 million (wow) in a Series B round.

And supply chain management firm Tradeshift (not technically a blockchain company, but heading there) received $250 million in Series E funding (led by Goldman Sachs and others).

It will be interesting to see what their next steps are. Last week it launched a trade finance platform with blockchain capability (as well as traditional payments, an intriguing hybrid). $250 million is a LOT of money – and one rarely hears of Series F funding, so… are they done fundraising? Will the funded developments go live and generate cash flow any time soon?

And we were told of a handful of new investment funds focusing on blockchain startups:

Huobi announced a partnership with Chinese investment firm NewMargin Capital and South Korean securities firm Kiwoom Securities on the creation of a new investment fund dedicated to blockchain startups in China and South Korea.

On the same day, Binance revealed plans for a $1 billion fund to invest in blockchain projects and in other funds.

And Japanese mobile game maker Gumi launched a $30 million fund to invest in blockchain startups, via both equity and tokens.

This is just based on perception, but it feels like there’s more money than ever pouring into the sector. New vehicles are needed.

Speaking of that, Huobi (who has been particularly busy of late) launched a cryptocurrency ETF (exchange-traded fund) for retail investors – but you can only buy the fund with cryptocurrencies, so I don’t see how it will help encourage retail investors to venture into a market they are already into.

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While I was in New York in May for Consensus 2018 (I’ll post links to my panel videos as soon as they’re up), I spent part of a rainy Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my favourite places in the world.

Generally I’m predictable and head straight for the Temple of Dendur, the Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tiffany glass collection in the American Wing. This time I took a detour through the medieval galleries and my mind was blown.

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As well as the usual strangely hilarious sculptures and breathtaking windows and grilles, they were hosting an exhibition of Fashion and Catholic Inspiration. Gorgeous dresses and headpieces, with religious iconography, in the middle of the medieval galleries?? A perfect setting. Gautlier, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Givenchy… modern and traditional, sober and glitzy, all melded with an evocative music piece that made you feel part of something big. It moved me to tears.

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Why? Because it opened a window of understanding of why iconography matters, and why fashion matters. They are both shared languages.

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But what most got me was the exhilarating sense of continuity through the ages. Symbols endure, form matters, and art has always taken many shapes. I’ve never been “into” fashion, but seeing art and fantasy come alive on a female form (or male, sure) broadens the scope of the enjoyable. I am a convert, and I am in awe.

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Vermont added its clamour to the states positioning themselves as blockchain friendly, as its governor signed a bill allowing for the creation of so-called “blockchain-based limited liability companies”. (Does this mean that they can now get bank accounts?)

Wyoming still seems to hold the lead, though, with the first “utility token bill” – which expressly acknowledges the designation as utility token (ie. exempt from SEC regulation) some digital assets that meet certain conditions.

Writing more about this (which I’d love to) would require a full essay rather than a humble blurb, so I’ll leave it at that for now… except to say that we are likely to see much more of this as states realise that getting businesses to domicile in their jurisdiction is profitable, and safe if regulation is passed and followed.

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Bailey Reutzel turned her playful eye to Twitter crypto scams – apparently anyone who’s anyone has had a scam account created in their likeness. They say it’s an even better mark of legitimacy than the elusive blue check mark.

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Ha.

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