Kraken Announces $10 Million Aid Package for Ukraine, Promises $1,000 in Bitcoin Each for Its Ukrainian Users

Kraken, the popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange, has announced an aid package of over $10 million (roughly Rs. 76 crore) for Ukrainian citizens. The exchange will donate an amount equivalent to the total trading fees it has generated from Russia-based clients during the first half of 2022 to Ukraine. In order to make sure this aid is useful to citizens right away, the exchange is giving $1,000 (roughly Rs. 76,300) in Bitcoin to Ukrainian users who opened an account on the crypto exchange before March 9. The exchange will also distribute $1,000 in Kraken Fee Credits to ensure those in immediate need can make conversions at no cost.

The aid package is essentially a Bitcoin airdrop organised by Kraken and is being funded via its Ukrainian revenues as well as the mentioned trade fees generated from Russia-based accounts. Kraken has stated though that in order to qualify for the airdrop, accounts must be at an “intermediate” or “pro” level of verification.

The airdrop will take place on March 10 and users will be able to immediately withdraw the amount through the exchange itself. Users can choose to log in anytime by May 1 to claim the drop. Kraken has also chosen to disburse the aid in three lots, with users who already meet the March 10 airdrop requirements being automatically part of the first lot.

Any users that don’t have an intermediate verification can apply for it to become eligible for the second drop, which will take place on April 1. The amount to be distributed under the second drop is yet to be decided and will be based on fees generated from Russian users during the first quarter of 2022.

Cryptocurrency donations in wallet addresses of the Ukrainian government have continued to flow in from various sources including charities and other relief efforts with the amount reaching $108 million (roughly Rs. 824 crore) as per a Cointelegraph report.

The past day has also seen the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection or BAYC. After collecting nearly $1 million (roughly Rs. 7.5 crore) in ETH from wallets containing a BAYC non-fungible token, the developers behind BAYC said it would match the contribution with an ETH $1 million donation of their own.


Slim Jim Plans to Launch ‘Meataverse’, Files for Trademarks for Virtual Universe Entry

Slim Jim, the US-based snack brand, is working on debuting into the metaverse in the near future. The meat-snack maker has filed for licences under the names ‘Slim Jim’, ‘Meataverse’, and ‘Long Boi Gang’. The company, that was introduced in 1928, is now looking to bring ‘services featuring virtual goods, food products, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)’ for the metaverse. People will be allowed to buy, sell, trade, and collect Slim Jim food products in the virtual universe.

The Slim Jim products are manufactured by Conagra Brands, which has filed for metaverse-related trademarks.

American trademark attorney Josh Gerben has tweeted screenshots of these filings that were originally initiated on March 1.

“Downloadable virtual goods namely, digital collectibles using blockchain-based software technology and smart contracts,” the filing from Conagra Brands read, explaining its service idea.

The company aims to create an “online community for digital assets, NFTs, metaverse, and online worlds”.

This is not the first time however, that the Slim Jim brand has linked itself to the crypto sector.

Last April, its Twitter account posted Dogecoin memes during Adweek’s March Madness-themed brand competition.

Later in October, Slim Jim reintroduced itself on Twitter with a new name ‘Meata’ playing off Facebook’s rebranding to Meta.

In recent days, several food brands have filed for metaverse-related trademarks.

Last month, McDonald’s filed for trademark applications while planning to launch “a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods” that will also home-deliver food items.

Bakery and cafe chain Panera Bread has submitted a similar trademark for its entry into the metaverse.

The average time for the US Patent and Trademark Office to review an application for a trademark is about nine-and-a-half months, a report by CoinTelegraph said.


Instagram to Follow Twitter into Adding NFT Features, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Announces

Instagram could soon get features around non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Mark Zuckerberg revealed during a recent conference. Zuckerberg-headed Meta (formerly Facebook), is the parent company of the popular photo-messaging app that roughly has around a billion users from around the world, as per research firm Statista. Instagram will essentially be following Twitter, which has already begun adding NFT-related features on the micro-blogging platform, allowing holders of these digital collectibles to showcase their priced virtual possessions. Supported on the blockchain, NFTs are digital assets inspired by a wide array of things including people, pictures, food items, cartoons, and even game characters.

Zuckerberg, 37, spoke about Instagram’s NFT plans while speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

Without getting into elaborate details, the tech mogul said that Instagram users will get to mint their own NFTs on the app “hopefully” in the months to come, CoinTelegraph reported.

Digital artists, who have been appreciating the NFT sector for putting their work on the map, will witness a boom in terms of reaching out to a wider section of global audience with Instagram’s upcoming features.

For now, the date of the launch of these NFT features on the photo-messaging app remains unclear.

On November 1, social networking mammoth Facebook announced a fresh rebranding under a new name, Meta. The company officials claim to be getting ready for the metaverse, which, powered by augmented reality (AR), will make for a fully functional virtual universe.

According to Zuckerberg, in the metaverse future, a person “will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up. This will open up more opportunity no matter where you live.”

A Bloomberg Intelligence report says the market opportunity for the metaverse to reach $800 billion (roughly Rs. 59,58,719 crore) by 2024.

NFTs will make for intrinsic elements of the metaverse, allowing people to engage and interact with them as virtual avatars. At this point it is not totally unforeseen that NFT-related features are expected to debut on other Meta platforms like WhatsApp and the Facebook app.

In January this year, Twitter allowed its NFT holding users to display their digital collectible as a hexagonal profile pictures. Tapping on the pictures prompts details about the art and its ownership to appear.

Other social networking apps such as Reddit, OnlyFans, and YouTube are also testing NFT-centric features for their respective platforms.

The volume of NFT sales crossed, the mark of $25 billion (roughly Rs. 1,84,700 crore) in 2021.

But this month, the volumes of NFT-related search volumes have dipped massively on Google Trends.

The average selling price of a non-fungible token has also declined to under $2,000 (roughly Rs. 1.5 lakh), compared with an all-time high of almost $6,900 (roughly Rs. 5.3 lakh) at the beginning of 2022, according to NFT resource NonFungible data.


Former Diem Employees Raise $200 Million Funding for New Layer 1 Blockchain Aptos

Aptos Labs, a startup built by employees who developed the blockchain behind Meta’s now-defunct payment system Diem, claim to have a sum of $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,525 crore) in strategic funding led by Andreessen Horowitz aka a16z. Coinbase Ventures, FTX Ventures, Tiger Global, Multicoin Capital, 3 Arrows Capital, ParaFi Capital, Irongrey, 3 Arrows Capital, Paxos and others also participated in the funding round. The layer-1 blockchain protocol was announced back in late February and looks to continue the work that was being done as part of the Diem project.

As per a Medium post announcing the fund raise, Aptos states that the money will be used to hire additional employees and support “companies, brands, and builders” that want to build projects on the Aptos blockchain, with the company hinting that multiple decentralised finance (DeFi), non-fungible token (NFT), Web3, social media, and payments initiatives are already in the works.

Meta’s crypto unit, Novi’s former strategic partnership lead Mo Shaikh and tech lead Avery Ching have together founded Aptos, who are also serving as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technical Officer of the new company, respectively. The duo left the company in December 2021, before Silvergate Capital acquired Diem in February 2022.

Move, the coding language that was developed for Diem has been used by the Aptos team to build a decentralised Layer 1 blockchain. The team is now aiming to expand its developer ecosystem and attract projects to the blockchain, which it claims to be a cheap, scalable, secure network.

“We are the original creators, researchers, designers, and builders of Diem, the blockchain that was first built to serve this purpose. While the world never got to see what we built, our work is far from over,” Aptos’ CEO Mo Shaikh wrote in a blog post last month.

The funding news was accompanied by the launch of the blockchain’s Devnet, which will allow developers to test out the capabilities of the new protocol. While its work has not yet gone mainstream, the Aptos core developers said companies like “Anchorage, Binance, Coinbase, Livepeer, Moonclave, Paxos, Paymagic, Rarible, and Streaming Fast, are already engaging with the startup, providing feedback and contributing codes on devnet,” according to a TechCrunch report.

Although Aptos is yet to reveal the valuation of the firm after the funding round, it is important to note that the firm revealed that its valuation is somewhere around $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,625 crore) and “well off in the unicorn territory” as highlighted in a statement provided to TechCrunch by the representatives of the firm.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.


ConsenSys Blockchain Firm Says Valuation Doubled to Over $7 Billion After New Funding From Microsoft, SoftBank

Blockchain technology firm ConsenSys said on Tuesday its valuation had more than doubled to over $7 billion (roughly Rs. 53,421 crore) after its latest funding round that included investments from SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Microsoft.

ConsenSys, founded by Joseph Lubin, is an Ethereum blockchain firm whose products help developers, enterprises, and users build applications geared towards the so-called “Web3” space. Ethereum price in India as of 3:13pm on March 16 stood at Rs. 2.11 lakh.

“Web3” is used to describe a potential next phase of the internet: a decentralised web run on the record-keeping technology blockchain.

The company, which raised $450 million (roughly Rs. 3,434 crore) in the latest round, said it would use the funds to expand its MetaMask offering with a redesign, expected to release later this year. MetaMask is a crypto wallet used to buy, sell, and swap tokens.

Investors in the new round led by ParaFi Capital also included Singapore’s Temasek, Anthos Capital, Sound Ventures, and C Ventures.

ConsenSys said it intends to convert all funds from the round to Ether (ETH), the second largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin, to rebalance the ratio of ETH to US dollar-equivalents in line with the company’s treasury strategy. Lubin has contributed heavily to the development of the cryptocurrency.

ConsenSys, which was valued at $3.2 billion (roughly Rs. 24,421 crore) in its last funding round in November, joins a growing list of crypto companies whose valuations have jumped in recent months driven by the explosion of interest in “Web3” and with the launch of marketplaces for non-fungible tokens (NFT).

Earlier this year, “Web3” developer platform Alchemy nearly tripled its valuation to $10.2 billion (roughly Rs. 77,837 crore) after a funding round led by Lightspeed and Silver Lake.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


Bitcoin Can Assist Governments in Creating Low-Cost CBDCs, Says Deloitte Study

Financial services giant Deloitte has conducted a new study that shows how powerful a tool Bitcoin can be to create a cheaper, more secure, and faster ecosystem for digital fiat currency or more specifically, Central Bank Digital Currency or CBDC. Deloitte’s report emphasises the need for a total revamp of the existing fiat ecosystem to address upcoming issues such as being slow, error-prone, and expensive in comparison to efficiency in other high-tech industries. Governments across nations have been exploring the possibility of issuing their CBDCs to deal with these issues, to improve efficiency and reduce costs but Bitcoin is already well-positioned to assist governments in this effort, according to Deloitte.

The report, titled “State-Sponsored Cryptocurrency”, points out several differences between Bitcoin and government-issued CBDCs and reiterates a major inflationary trait of fiat as a CBDC, which is that CBDCs have no limit on the amount of currency a government is allowed to issue as well as defining the value of CBDCs.

Meanwhile, Deloitte also highlights some of the shortcomings of Bitcoin. “Wide-spread adoption will require Bitcoin to address governmental requirements around anti-money laundering and illicit trade, as well as other key concerns such as volatility of value, ease of use challenges, and a general lack of endorsement by “trusted” bodies,” notes the study.

The study also states that the authorities that roll out their CBDCs first would have an early-bird advantage, which could potentially influence the use of their local currency in the international market.

While many governments have joined the race to implement in-house CBDCs, widespread adoption is one of the most important conditions for their success.

The report also goes on to state that while CBDCs will not be a one-to-one substitute for Bitcoin and other cryptos, the growing acceptance of CBDCs will provide users with other options for identifying the most suitable mode of payment, according to the report, which concludes by saying, “Bitcoin could ultimately spawn a series of new opportunities that would transform the current payments system into one that is faster, more secure, and less expensive to run.”

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.


Debt-Ridden Argentina Signs IMF Deal that ‘Discourages’ Use of Cryptocurrency

Argentina has signed a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to restructure its debt repayment plan for the $45 million (roughly Rs. 342 crore) it owes the financial body. The IMF has been voicing its resentment towards the crypto sector for a while now. The Washington, DC-based organisation is concerned that the decentralised and unregualated nature of cryptocurrencies can lead to its use for unlawful activities. The volatility of the crypto sector has also remained a matter of concern for the IMF.

“The National Government, for a better safeguard of financial stability, will discourage the use of cryptocurrencies in prevention of money laundering and informality, likewise the digitisation of payments will have official incentives and additional protection will be given to the financial consumer,” quoted IMF’s clause as saying.

Blockchain analytics firm Triple-A estimates that over 1.3 million people, 2.94 percent of Argentina’s total population, currently own cryptocurrency.

Argentina agreeing to IMF’s rather anti-crypto condition has not gone down well with a section of its citizens.

Bitcoin Argentina, a nonprofit organisation reached out to the government last week, when the country was still in the final stages of finalising its agreement with the IMF.

“We are concerned that the authorities are agreeing to discourage a technology that has already been massively adopted by the population itself rather than unleashing its potential to address historic problems,” Bitcoin Argentina reportedly said in its letter.

Bitcoin Argentina has requested access to public information before the national government to understand the next course of action that must be given heed to before suffering any dire consequences of the IMF deal.

Response from the Argentinian government remains awaited.

IMF has constantly been skeptical of supporting the virtual assets sector.

In November last year, the IMF expressed its concerns on El Salvador’s economic stability after it adopted cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a legal tender in September 2021.

Nayib Bukele, the President of El Salvador, however, has been an avid crypto supporter, even against IMF’s criticism.

In February this year, Salvadorian authorities claimed that the tourism business in the central American nation had grown by over 30 percent since the enactment of the Bitcoin legislation. Meanwhile, the country’s GDP rose by 10.3 percent in 2021, the officials claimed.


American Express Plans Footprint in Metaverse and NFT Sectors, Files for Trademarks

American Express is ramping up the documentation that would soon bring it onto the metaverse map. Among world’s top payments processor, American Express has reportedly filed for seven trademark applications surrounding its foray into the virtual universe and non-fungible tokens (NFT) sectors. Its famous Centurion logo has also been specified in the filings, indicating that it could also get a virtual ‘avatar’. This is American Express’ step towards exploring Web 3 opportunities — the so called next phase of the Internet.

The trademark application from the New York City-headquartered company is dated March 9.

While the payment cards provider is yet to announce its metaverse and NFT plans, screenshots of its trademark filings have emerged on Twitter.

“Downloadable computer e-commerce software to allow users to perform electronic business transactions in the metaverse and other virtual worlds; digital media, namely, NFTs, featuring textual and graphic content,” the screenshots shared by Mike Kondoudis, an American trademark attorney disclosed.

The 1850-founded fintech company is also planning to provide an online marketplace “for buyers and sellers of digital media, namely, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) featuring textual and graphic content”.

Software for credit cards, travel, concierge services, as well as a virtual environment for recreation and entertainment are also on the list of American Express’ metaverse plans, a Decrypt report said.

In the past few days, several notable names from the international finance industry, have begun making their marks on the Web 3 space.

Visa, JP Morgan, and Mastercard have, for instance, marked their presence in the crypto and metaverse zones.

Research reports expect the market opportunity for the metaverse to reach $800 billion (roughly Rs. 59,58,719 crore) by 2024.

The NFT belt is not behind. Last year, NFT sales reached some $25 billion (roughly Rs. 1,84,700 crore) in 2021 as the speculative crypto asset exploded in popularity, data from market tracker DappRadar showed.

It could be a while before American Express gets the required approvals to step into Web 3. The average time for the US Patent and Trademark Office to review an application is about nine-and-a-half months, a report by CoinTelegraph said.


More Than 100 Illegal Crypto Mining Farms Shut in Kazakhstan Amid Power Woes

The authorities of Kazakhstan are identifying and busting illegal crypto mining facilities, which are contributing to a power crisis in the country and also posing a threat to its economic security. The Financial Monitoring Agency of Kazakhstan conducted raids on over 100 such unregistered crypto mining hubs, halting or permanently terminating their operations. As per government directions, all crypto mining firms that wish to continue working in the central Asian country are required to disclose themselves with relevant paperwork by March 19.

“In total, the Financial Monitoring Agency registered 25 criminal cases, more than 67,000 pieces of equipment worth about KZT 100 billion (roughly Rs. 1,478 crore) were confiscated,” the government said in a statement.

The law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan have seized mining equipment from the raided facilities in order to prevent their re-circulation.

Affiliates of well-known entrepreneurs in Pavlodar region, Bolat Nazarbayev and Alexander Klebanov had been reportedly operating illicit mining centres.

Kairat Sharipbayev, the former chairman of the KazTransGas in the Aktobe region along with renowned businessman Erlan Nigmatullin from the Karaganda region have also been named by the Kazakhstan government for unlawfully operating crypto mining centres.

The country’s daily electricity consumption has decreased by 600 megawatts per hour since authorities began, the government has claimed.

Another reason why Kazakhstan has been focusing on busting illegal crypto mining is to ensure that secretly mined crypto assets are not exploited by nefarious entities that threatens the economic stability of the nation.

“It should be noted that the lack of adequate regulation of mining and the circulation of digital assets poses a significant threat to the financial system and the well-being of citizens. Cryptocurrency can be a tool for financing terrorism, buying weapons and drugs,” the authorities noted in its statement.

Relevant governmental bodies in Kazakhstan are currently working on developing systematic solutions to regulate the crypto sector.

Last year, Kazakhstan became the world’s second-largest centre for Bitcoin mining after the United States, according to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. The development was observed after major hub China clamped down on cryptocurrency mining activity last September.

Earlier last month, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had instructed authorities to increase the tax on electricity for crypto-mining outfits.


Bitcoin, Ether Values Rise a Day Before US Federal Reserve Plans to Announce a Rate Hike

Bitcoin bulls tried to make a push and move beyond the $40,000 (roughly Rs. 30.5 lakh) mark and they were successful but not for long as the value of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency fell back sharply to drop to around the $39,000 (roughly Rs. 30 lakh) mark. After reaching a 24-hour high of $41,551 (roughly Rs. 32 lakh), the value of Bitcoin is currently in the green by 0.56 percent. Bitcoin’s value currently stands at $40,518 (roughly Rs. 31 lakh) on Indian exchange CoinSwitch Kuber.

On global exchanges, the price of the most popular cryptocurrency is currently hovering around the $39,000 (roughly Rs. 30 lakh) mark at $39,178 (roughly Rs. 30 lakh), up by 1.07 percent over the past 24 hours. As per CoinGecko data, Bitcoin has moved very little over the past week, up by 1 percent week-on-week.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, has also had a similar showing over the past day, shooting up to $2,742 on global exchanges on Wednesday morning but wiping the gains off soon after. At the time of publishing, Ether is valued at $2,712 (roughly Rs. 2 lakh) on CoinSwitch Kuber while values on global exchanges see the crypto’s value at $2,620 (roughly Rs. 2 lakh), where the coin has seen a fairly positive 24-hour run to gain 2.93 percent over the past 24 hours. CoinGecko data reveals that the cryptocurrency’s value has moved up by close to 2 percent over the past week, although the original altcoin has dropped by roughly 9 percent in value over the past month.

Gadgets 360’s cryptocurrency price tracker paints a fairly positive picture elsewhere — the global crypto market cap increased by 1.13 percent over the past 24 hours. Terra appears to be among the few cryptocurrencies to be marked in red, a surprise for some since the crypto asset has had a fairly strong run over the past couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Cardano, Avalanche, Polygon, Polkadot, Chainlink, Cosmos, Uniswap, and Binance Coin have all moved up in value.

Meme coins Shiba Inu and Dogecoin haven’t performed up to scratch despite the wider crypto market performing fairly well over the past 24 hours. Dogecoin is currently valued at $0.12 (roughly Rs. 9) after dipping by 0.41 percent over the last 24 hours, while, Shiba Inu is valued at $0.000023 (roughly Rs. 0.0017), up by 0.06 percent over the past day.

The global crypto market has seen a rally over the last 24 hours as new gains have strengthened the market. The repercussions of Elon Musk’s statement about not selling Bitcoin have continued. The result is an increased rally of investments towards Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The dominant trend of selling crypto has changed to purchase, fostering new gains.

The current global macroeconomic situation looks to be quite fragile with the US inflation numbers touching a four-decade high. On the other hand, the geopolitical uncertainty with the Russia-Ukraine war has only compounded the situation.

Meanwhile, at home, the government has said it has no plans to introduce a cryptocurrency and that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is working towards a phased implementation strategy for the introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary informed, “RBI does not issue a cryptocurrency. Traditional paper currency is a legal tender and is issued by RBI in terms of provisions of the RBI Act, 1994. A digital version of traditional paper currency is called Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC),”

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.