All posts in “blockchains”

Grainchain, a blockchain-based platform for commodity sales, launches in Mexico

In the two years since GrainChain launched its distributed ledger-based transaction platform for bulk dry goods the company has brokered thousands of contracts on everything from corn, sorghum, wheat, and soybeans to even sand from its headquarters in McAllen, Tex.

Now the company is expanding its services to Mexico, partnering with the government of Tamaulipas, to help farmers and grain elevators with commodity management and settlement.

Integrating with existing grain elevator equipment, GrainChain will deploy its sensors and software to automate the certification of inventory, invoice settlement and reporting to buyers and sellers, according to a statement from the company.

Although the company’s blockchain adoption is new, GrainChain began developing its technology six years ago as an inventory supply chain management toolkit for farmers.

The company’s founder and chief executive Luis Macias had sold his previous software business Verge Data to an insurance company in 2005 and took some time off before wading back into the software development business in McAllen.

In 2012, Macias says he was approached by Hi Star Grain about developing software to manage the sales process for bulk dry goods.

The company spend the next five years working on the technology.

Before a commodity is ever shipped GrainChain sets up a contract between a buyer and a farmer for their supply negotiated through GrainChain’s digital portal. That contract is submitted to the chain along with an agreed upon payment that’s held in escrow until delivery.

In the field and at the silo GrainChain’s system consists of a logistics toolkit to monitor and track harvests coming out fo the fields and through individual silos. The goods are certified for quality assurance using the company’s sensor technology and that certification is recorded onto a HyperLedger-based blockchain.

Once the shipment is verified then payment is released to the farmer in the form of a dollar-backed GrainPay stablecoin that allows instant settlement of the transaction. The asset-backed token is burned once the contract is filled and the tokens are converted into whatever fiat currency was agreed upon in the initial contract.

GrainChain makes its money by charging a commission on every transaction that moves through its platform.

The company raised $2.5 million from Medici Ventures — the investment arm of Overstock — back in October and is now expanding into international markets.

“We’re giving the farmer the ability to work with a higher risk customer because they’re getting guaranteed payment,” says Macias. “Sometimes, they can’t go past the normal broker they go through.”

Currently the company has 14 different commodities including: corn, soybeans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sorghum, coffee, cocoa, and sand.

“We have the ability to do any dry commodity that has the ability to be graded,” says Macias. “What we really found is that when there’s a contract that’s built and it’s slow-pay or no-pay or arbitration that comes through on the contract, it’s devastating to the farmer. This gives them the security to take on what would otherwise be riskier customers.”

Social investment platform eToro acquires smart contract startup Firmo

Social investing and trading platform eToro announced that it has acquired Danish smart contract infrastructure provider Firmo for an undisclosed purchase price.

Firmo’s platform enables exchanges to execute smart financial contracts across various assets, including crypto derivatives, and across all major blockchains. Firmo founder and CEO Dr. Omri Ross described the company’s mission as “…enabl[ing] our users to trade any asset globally with instant settlement by tokenizing assets and executing all essential trade processes on the blockchain.” Firmo’s only disclosed investment, according to data from Pitchbook, came in the form of a modest pre-seed round from the Copenhagen Fintech Lab accelerator.

Firmo’s mission aligns well with that of eToro — which is equal parts trading platform, social network and educational resource for beginner investors — with the company having long communicated hopes of making the capital markets more open, transparent and accessible to all users and across all assets. By gobbling up Firmo, eToro will be able to accelerate its development of offerings for tokenized assets.

The acquisition represents the latest step in eToro’s broader growth plan, which has ramped up as of late. Earlier in March, the company launched a crypto-only version of its platform in the US, as well as a multi-signature digital wallet where users can store, send and receive cryptocurrencies.

The Firmo deal and eToro’s other expansion activities fit squarely into the company’s belief in the tokenization of assets and the immense, sector-defining opportunity that it creates. Etoro believes that asset tokenization and the movement of financial services onto the blockchain are all but inevitable and the company has employed the long-tailed strategy of investing heavily in related blockchain and crypto technologies despite the ongoing crypto winter.

“Blockchain and the tokenization of assets will play a major role in the future of finance,” said eToro co-founder and CEO Yoni Assia. “We believe that in time all investible assets will be tokenized and that we will see the greatest transfer of wealth ever onto the blockchain.” Assia expressed a similar sentiment in a recent conversation with TechCrunch, stating “We think [the tokenization of assets] is a bigger opportunity than the internet…”

After the acquisition, Firmo will operate as an internal R&D arm within eToro focused on developing blockchain-oriented trade execution and the infrastructure behind the digital representation of tokenized assets.

“The Firmo team has done ground-breaking work in developing practical applications for blockchain technology which will facilitate friction-less global trading,” said Assia.

“The adoption of smart contracts on the blockchain increases trust and transparency in financial services. We are incredibly proud and excited that [Firmo] will be joining the eToro family. We believe that together we have a very bright future and look forward to pursuing our shared goal to become the first truly global service provider allowing people to trade, invest and save.”

Pure Bit, a South Korean exchange, pulls a $2.8 million exit scam

Another day, another exit scam. This time it comes to us from South Korea where an exchange, Pure Bit, has completely shut down after raising $2.8 million in Ethereum from investors.

The exchange, which promised to deliver something call Pure Coin, was live yesterday and today is completely shut down after posting “Sorry” and “Thanks” to their communications channels.

According to a Reddit thread, the team was anonymous and that the process of building and pumping exchange tokens is a “popular trend in Korea.”

“They have gotten rid of every evidence,” wrote one reader. “Website hosted by fake name / out of Korea host / messenger / contacts were all fake too. Now their only hope is to keep on track with that ether and hope for the best.”

There is no proof yet that the team has pulled a full exit scam – there are examples of founders pretending to scam their investors to “teach them a lesson” – but given the abrupt movement of 13,000 ETH out of the collection wallet we can assume that the story ends here.

Even their chat room, hosted on their own site, is shut down.

It should be noted that South Korea has banned ICOs, giving scammers the perfect cover for absolute anonymity.

Guardian Circle upgrades with a decentralized alert network

Chris Hays and Mark Jeffrey wanted to create a way for everyone to be able to tell their loved ones if they were in trouble. Their first product, GuardianCircle did just that, netting a mention in a few years ago. Now the same team is truly decentralizing alerts with a new token called, obviously, Guardium.

The plan is to create an ad hoc network of helpers and first responders. “Guardium and Guardian Circle togther open the emergency response grid to vetted citizens, private response and compatible devices for the very first time,” write the founders. “Providing an economic framework on our global distributed emergency response network; Guardium brings first responders to the 4 billion people on the planet without government sponsored emergency response.”

Since the product already works, the team is taking on the token sale as a new challenge.

“We’re serial entrepreneurs — both of us have been venture-backed in the past by names like Softbank and Intel, and we’ve been senior execs in companies backed by Sequoia and Elon Musk. Transitioning to the token-sale backed universe has been an interesting study in contrasts,” said Hays. “There are a number of ‘panic button apps’ — but without exception, all of them have forgotten ‘the second half of the problem’ — organizing the response. Getting people who do not know one another into instant communication and location sharing during an emergency — the importance of that cannot be overstated.”

The founders found that their idea wasn’t fundable in the valley. After all, what VC wants to help people when they can invest in Snapchat? Instead, Hays and Jeffrey are aiming bigger.

“We’re rebooting the world’s safety grid,” said Hays. “We’re creating a new global public utility. And we want it to service everyone, everywhere on earth. Although it is a very big vision, and it is a capitalist, multibillion dollar ecosystem that we’re chasing — it’s still a very different vision, and not the one venture capitalists are looking for.”

The token works to create a flash mob of help. Guard tokens pay first responders and dispatchers and “cities, campuses, and resorts stake $GUARD to access Alerts created within their geofenced borders,” allowing local folks to help immediately. They’ve sold half of their hard cap of $10 million thus far.

While tokens are always an iffy investment, this team has produced product and, more important, it’s clear they’ll never raise venture. A token, no matter how it’s used in the future, seems like a solid solution.

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Minds, the blockchain-based social network, grabs a $6M Series A

Minds, a decentralized social network, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Medici Ventures, Overstock.com’s venture arm. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne will join the Minds Board of Directors.

What is a decentralized social network? The creators, who originally crowdfunded their product, see it as an anti-surveillance, anti-censorship, and anti-“big tech” platform that ensures that no one party controls your online presence. And Minds is already seeing solid movement.

“In June 2018, Minds saw an enormous uptick in new Vietnamese of hundreds of thousands users as a direct response to new laws in the country implementing an invasive ‘cybersecurity’ law which included uninhibited access to user data on social networks like Facebook and Google (who are complying so far) and the ability to censor user content,” said Minds founder Bill Ottman.

“There has been increasing excitement in recent years over the power of blockchain technology to liberate individuals and organizations,” said Byrne. “Minds’ work employing blockchain technology as a social media application is the next great innovation toward the mainstream use of this world-changing technology.”

Interestingly, Minds is a model for the future of hybrid investing, a process of raising some cash via token and raising further cash via VC. This model ensures a level of independence from investors but also allows expertise and experience to presumably flow into the company.

Ottman, for his part, just wants to build something revolutionary.

“The rise of an open source, encrypted and decentralized social network is crucial to combat the big-tech monopolies that have abused and ignored users for years. With systemic data breaches, shadow-banning and censorship, people over the world are demanding a digital revolution. User-safety, fair economies, and global freedom of expression depend on it – we are all in this battle together,” said Ottman.