Microsoft Announces Token Collectibles on Ethereum Blockchain

Microsoft’s blockchain-enabled cloud platform Microsoft Azure announced the “Azure Heroes” blockchain non-fungible tokens (NFT) aimed at rewarding its developer community.

The tokens represent cartoonish badgers (a play on the word “badge”) and aim to compensate positive behavior in Azure’s community. Each badger has a limited supply ranging from just 100 units to 10,000, Microsoft announced on Dec. 4. The firm said:

“Azure Heroes aims to reward individuals for verifiable acts of impact such as coaching, creating demos, building sample code, blogging about Azure or completing certain challenges. Community members that have demonstrated their contributions will be recognised with badges across a number of categories.”

Microsoft’s assets on Ethereum

Microsoft created the non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain in collaboration with blockchain gaming startup Enjin. The tokens will be minted each season and the limited quantities will be publicly verifiable and distributed via a QR code that prompts the receiver to install a wallet.

For someone to obtain the token he has to be nominated, which he can do himself. Nominated individuals will be judged and those that had a verifiable impact on the community will be chosen to receive a badger.

Blockchain non-fungible tokens gain traction

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are a blockchain-based token that cannot be replaced for something else and are unique. Such tokens are often used for digital collectible items, with one early example being Crytpokitties. 

Earlier this month, gamebook firm Fabled Lands announced that it is collaborating with Microsoft and major game developer Eidos to develop a blockchain card game based on a 1980s best-selling gamebook called “The Way of the Tiger.” Fabled Lands will use NFTs on the VeChain blockchain to secure in-game assets and collectibles.

Canada-Based Crypto Mining Firm Great North Data Files for Bankruptcy

Canada-based cryptocurrency mining company Great North Data has submitted a bankruptcy filing, purportedly due to insolvency.

As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Dec. 4, Great North Data — which operated crypto mining facilities in Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay —  filed bankruptcy documents in late November, listing CA$13.2 million ($10 million) in liabilities, while having only CA$4.6 ($3.5 million) million in assets.

Liabilities to the state

With that, Great North Data reportedly owes CA$313,718 ($238,080) to the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s Business Investment Corporation, which the company secured for building, land, machinery and equipment.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is reportedly an unsecured creditor for CA$281,675 ($213,868) and funded the company for CA$500,000 ($379,637) in 2015 in the form of an unconditionally repayable contribution.

At press time, the firm’s website is not functional and Cointelegraph has been unable to reach Great North Data on LinkedIn. The firm also has no phone number listed.

Challenging conditions

The industry has become increasingly challenging for miners, with other firms like the former Washington-based top-five crypto mining firm Giga Watt closing down in January, claiming that it was “insolvent and unable to pay its debts when due.” 

In October, BCause Mining, a Bitcoin (BTC) mining operation in Virginia Beach in the United States, was ordered to liquidate its assets, shut down its operations and lay off its 27 full-time and four part-time workers, following bankruptcy documents filed earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, mining firm Bitfarms is still expanding its operations despite complaints of the residents of the city of Sherbrooke, Quebec. Bitfarms reportedly manages five mining operations spread across the province to take advantage of cheap local hydropower, while residents living near the site are complaining about the allegedly intolerable sound and vibrations originating from the facility.

Fintech Arm of Chinese Insurance Giant Shoots for $500M IPO in US

OneConnect, the financial technology subsidiary of Chinese insurance giant Ping An, has updated its filing for an initial public offering (IPO) with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to an F-1 filing dated Dec. 2, the firm is looking to sell $500 million worth of shares in its IPO. The recent filing states:

“We expect that we will receive net proceeds of approximately US$438.2 million from this offering, or approximately US$504.6 million if the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option in full.”

Reports circulating in November claimed that OneConnect initially sought approval for a $100 million IPO.

In the filing, the company explains that its platform provides “cloud-native technology solutions” and its “solutions provide technology applications and technology-enabled business services to financial institutions.” 

Overall, OneConnect claims that its services allow customers to increase revenue, manage risks, improve efficiency, enhance service quality and reduce costs.

The firm also claims that at the end of September it had over 3,700 customers, including “all of China’s major banks, 99% of its city commercial banks, and 46% of its insurance companies, collectively reaching hundreds of millions of end-customers.” Technologies employed by the company include artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain.

The current target is much lower than the $1 billion OneConnect sought in a Hong Kong IPO filing earlier this year. 

Bold claims about blockchain performance

The company claims that its blockchain technology can manage up to 50,000 transactions per second with a latency under 0.5 seconds, while also implementing privacy through zero-knowledge proofs. OneConnect’s technology has been used to develop the major blockchain-based trade finance platform eTradeConnect in partnership with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. 

The documents also claim that OneConnect’s parent firm, Ping An Group, is China’s second-largest financial institution and the sixth-largest in the world by market capitalization. According to company data website Crunchbase, OneConnect has received $650 million in funding so far in a single round led by Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank.

As the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries are becoming more mature, IPO announcements have become ever more frequent. Last month, Bitcoin mining giant Canaan Creative also held an IPO, which raised $90 million — over 75% less than expected.

What Attracts Investors to Blockchain Gaming?

Blockchain is transforming the financial industry right before our eyes, with many market onlookers anticipating a complete replacement of existing payment, trading and banking infrastructures. Blockchain and finance seem like the perfect match, but there are other sectors, for which the technology may play a game-changing role. For one particular industry, the latter adjective isn’t figurative at all, because blockchain can do just that – change the gaming market. This is a unique chance for investors, and it seems like they don’t want to miss it.    

During the last few years, the gaming industry has been pampered with several innovations at once – virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and artificial intelligence. But it is blockchain that can have the greatest contribution, bringing more transparency and trust to the gaming space.

Investors don’t want to be simple observers and are jumping on the blockchain gaming bandwagon. For them, the technology has a disruptive potential that can be converted into profitable deals. Thus, they consider this emerging technology to be a breakthrough in the gaming industry. 

Transforming gaming at all levels

But how can distributed ledger technology (DLT) help both developers and gamers? Blockchain’s capabilities are limitless in terms of use cases, so there are many ways it can transform the gaming industry:

  • Blockchain can help developers remove grey market trading of in-game assets — game developers have designed their games to be closed ecosystems, which ensures that any value inputted into the game cannot be extracted. For instance, players were not able to sell their assets for money, use them in other games or trade them for another game’s assets. This led to the creation of grey markets where players could come together to facilitate these types of activities. Blockchain technology enables publishers to embed rules into their tokenized assets that enforce a transaction fee upon each transfer of the asset, regardless of where that asset is being sold. As a result, users are free to trade their assets as they see fit, and publishers can continue to generate revenue beyond the primary market. 

  • Blockchain enables projection of value to intangible assets — everyone realized the close interaction between DLT and gaming when CryptoKitties came out on Ethereum. The game allows players to purchase, breed and trade unique virtual kittens with cryptocurrencies. This collectible game uses so-called non-fungible tokens (NFT) since each digital kitty is unique. So far, players have spent millions of United States dollars for the kitties, with the most expensive one being sold for 600 Ether (ETH) — over $173,000 at the time. Games like CryptoKitties demonstrate the power of DLT through the tokenization of assets. This ensures that each asset can be proved to be unique or rare; it ensures that users have ownership over their digital assets; and it allows these assets to interoperate with other applications outside of their original ecosystem. These features all contribute to a greater perceived value by the user, which increases the propensity to spend real dollars within the app. While CryptoKitties showcased the attributes that DLT could bring to gaming, it failed to create an engaging experience that would entice a wider audience. Next generation blockchain-enabled games, like Epics Digital Collectibles, seamlessly integrate DLT with a consumer-centric, captivating and gamified experience.

  • Blockchain can help with buying, selling and storing in-gaming assets — with DLT, the issuing and trading of in-game assets reach the next level.
    Developers can create games that allow players to buy in-game assets with cryptocurrencies, which makes the process easier, more rapid and secure. Also, cryptocurrencies can address the challenge of microtransactions. However, publishers understand that the average consumer is not ready to make a transaction in cryptocurrencies, and thus, they obfuscate these crypto mechanics behind a familiar fiat payment gateway.
    Moreover, developers can create specialized frameworks for digital assets used in games. As mentioned, CryptoKitties was built on Ethereum, but there are already blockchain-based standards focused exclusively on gaming. One such example is dGoods, which is a token framework developed initially for the EOSIO protocol.
    Mythical Games is one of the creators and developers that has used dGoods for its in-game assets. The company is set to launch its first game, called Blankos, in 2020. Blankos is projected to be the biggest launch of a blockchain-enabled game to date, accessing the wider gaming communities on PC, console and mobile.
    Soon, more developers will begin leveraging digital asset frameworks and will collectively improve the operation of in-game assets.

  • Blockchain can help developers reach higher engagement rates and improve the Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU) — NFT’s can be used to increase player engagement and improve the ARPPU. Game publishers have been noticing that blockchain-enabled games produce much higher ARPPU metrics due to the greater perceived value by the user. NFT’s are changing the way brands interact with their consumers. This new form of marketing is non-intrusive and offers the end consumer value, which ultimately drives up engagement rates. For instance, Azarus runs a challenge network on the Twitch streaming platform that rewards players for watching their favorite esports streams with AZA tokens that can be redeemed for in-game goods and items. Rewarding users with in-game items related to the game they are watching incentivizes them to continue viewing, which increases the likelihood of them spending more time playing the game. Given the engagement results that these new forms of marketing are producing, it is no surprise that game publishers are starting to invest marketing dollars in this industry. 

Contributing to market growth

The gaming market is huge, and blockchain has attracted many investors who are now driving the industry’s expansion to new levels.

Today, there are over 2 billion gamers who either play on computer devices or smartphones. Games and esports analytics firm Newzoo estimates that the total number of gamers is 2.5 billion, suggesting that 1 in 3 people play video games. By the end of this year, they will have spent a combined $152.1 billion on games, which is a 9.6% increase compared to 2018.

Gaming is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world right now, and blockchain plays an essential role in polishing its image by bringing a new set of possibilities through a more open and trusting environment. This, in turn, attracts investors, many of whom are looking specifically for gaming firms that adopt DLT.

Some prominent blockchain-oriented investors have been including gaming firms in their portfolios. For instance, venture capital firm SVK Crypto has invested in Mythical Games, Azarus and High Fidelity. The latter is a VR platform co-founded by Philip Rosedale, the founder of the popular game Second Life, that uses blockchain technology to manage the ownership of in-game assets and currency.

SVK Crypto is part of Block.one’s EOS VC syndicate alongside Galaxy Digital and FinLab AG. Interestingly, FinLab AG has also shown interest in gaming firms, as it invested in Upland. Elsewhere, Galaxy Digital recently took part in a funding round held by Immutable, a Sydney-based blockchain gaming startup.

All in all, blockchain-oriented institutional investors don’t want to stay aloof from the rapid growth of the gaming space. Therefore, they might play an essential role in driving the industry’s expansion. 

Stablecoin Adoption Can Impact Economy, Warn Senior US Regulators

A panel of senior financial regulators in the United States has warned the public about the purported risks of stablecoins and cryptocurrencies

A report issued on Dec. 4 by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) highlighted potential problems resulting from stablecoins gaining wider recognition.

The FSOC was set up in 2008 to combat risks to the financial sector after the financial crisis. The panel is headed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Its voting members include Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as Heath Tarbert, who recently took over as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

FSOC: stablecoins “could affect wider economy”

In its annual report for 2019, the regulators stated, “If a stablecoin became widely adopted as a means of payment or store of value, disruptions to the stablecoin system could affect the wider economy. Financial regulators should review existing and planned digital asset arrangements and their risks, as appropriate.” 

The FSOC additionally mentioned Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies as part of its coverage. It appeared unable to draw concrete conclusions about the phenomenon, acknowledging that trading data was “sparse and may be unreliable.”

The panel also expressed doubts over so-called distributed ledger technology (DLT) — a byword for digital currency projects notionally related to blockchain

“The ultimate success of the technology, including applications in the financial sector, is not yet certain,” the report stated. The FSOC continued: 

“Some early efforts have not resulted in the anticipated efficiency gains and other promised benefits, and as a result, have been scaled back, refocused, or abandoned.”

Cryptocurrency suspicions continue

As Cointelegraph reported, Mnuchin has been vocal as a critic of Bitcoin, alluding that the seminal cryptocurrency is likely a passing fad. In a July interview he said:

“I won’t be talking about Bitcoin in 10 years, I can assure you that […] I would bet even in 5 or 6 years I’m no longer talking about Bitcoin as Treasury Secretary. I’ll have other priorities […] I can assure you I will personally not be loaded up on Bitcoin.”

U.S. lawmakers continue to focus on the perceived risks stemming from the cryptocurrency sector, including associated schemes such as Facebook’s unlaunched Libra digital currency.

China’s Hainan Free Trade Zone Pledges $140M in New Blockchain Support

Blockchain will continue to see major investment from China’s Hainan Free Trade Zone (FTZ) with new funds fostering local businesses.

As local English-language news outlet Xinhua Net reported on Dec. 5, Hainan’s dedicated economic pilot zone has pledged to boost the role blockchain tech plays in the local economy. 

Free Trade Zone’s “support” for blockchain

The new measures, which the pilot zone announced at a press conference this week, include a fund worth 1 billion yuan ($142 million). 

According to Xinhua, the FTZ is aiming to “support the blockchain industry through talent cultivation, technological application, social investment and other aspects.”

The announcement sees Hainan fall in line with various other Chinese provinces which have confirmed financial support for blockchain in recent weeks and months. 

The Hainan blockchain pilot zone was China’s first when it launched in October last year. 

In general, the Hainan Free Trade Zone is a pilot economic area established by President Xi Jinping in 2018. The plan set out to make the island a free trade zone by 2020 and eventually turn into a free port by 2025. Since then, over 100 blockchain businesses have joined the Hainan Resort Software Community located there. 

Chinese investment pours in

As Cointelegraph reported, blockchain continues to be a buzzword in China after official endorsement of the technology from the government.

At the same time, figures of the country’s financial commitment appear to vary; new cash injections appear regularly, but overall long-term investment forecasts remain comparatively conservative. The latest estimates put blockchain investment at $2 billion by 2023. 

Among the latest funds to come from the local industry was another $140 million from OK Group, the parent company of cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin, cryptocurrency news outlet The Block reported on Dec. 2. Prior to that, the government of Guangzhou also said it would inject 1 billion yuan into the industry.

South Korea Telecoms Giant Ramps Up Blockchain Roaming Deal With China

South Korea’s largest telecoms provider, KT Corporation, is boosting a partnership with China Mobile targeting blockchain technology and 5G roaming.

As local English-language news outlet The Korea Herald reported on Dec. 5, KT is preparing to debut 5G roaming capabilities in China later this month. 

KT Corp. eyes B.Link blockchain rollout

At the same time, the companies are working on a blockchain system which will allow them to save time and costs when computing roaming charges for mobile users. 

According to The Korea Herald, the B.Link system is able to “self-analyze roaming data from the two carriers and can process roaming charges on a real-time basis.”

The news comes around six months after KT revealed it had built a blockchain network of its own. KT Network Blockchain similarly targets roaming, along with other use cases such as user identification.

That announcement in turn followed KT’s Blockchain-as-a-Service, or BaaS, which aims to ease access to the technology for South Korean firms. 

Telecoms embraces blockchain potential

As Cointelegraph reported, both South Korea and China have thrown their weight behind blockchain technology, the latter making it part of formal state policy in a widely-reported publicity campaign last month. 

Enthusiasm is also palpable in South Korea, with technology giant Kakao Corporation describing its Klaytn blockchain offering as being more advanced than Facebook’s Libra project in recent comments.

For the telecoms industry specifically, blockchain meanwhile should bring $1 billion of added value by 2023, according to a study published last year.

Circle Co-Founder Sean Neville Quits as CEO After Reshuffle: Report

Payments company Circle will install a new CEO at the start of 2020 after one of its original co-founders steps down from the position. 

According to cryptocurrency media outlet CoinDesk on Dec. 5, co-founder and co-CEO Sean Neville will transition to a post on the company’s board of directors in January.

Sean Neville becomes board member

Neville launched Circle with Jeremy Allaire in 2013, and has presided over its metamorphosis in the ensuing years, including a pivot away from Bitcoin (BTC) and the acquisition of cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex last year. 

As Cointelegraph reported, Circle is now selling Poloniex, Neville describing the current events as forming an appropriate time to switch roles.

He will additionally continue his activities with Centre, the project between Circle and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase which produced the company’s native stablecoin, USD Coin (USDC). CoinDesk quoted him as stating in an email:

“I also expect to propel the mission forward through CENTRE and other new complementary paths that traverse worthwhile challenges in infrastructure, regulatory policy, economics, and product design.” 

Neville has yet to confirm the move, and at press time had not updated his personal information on resources such as LinkedIn to reflect any changes.

All change at Circle

Circle’s sale of Poloniex, which it originally acquired for $400 million, has not gone without controversy. As part of the spin-out, United States traders will no longer be able to use the platform at all.

This week, executives announced that those who do not withdraw their funds from Poloniex before a Dec. 16 deadline would face various recriminations, including potential confiscation of their entire balance. 

Last month, several former executives at Circle launched their own cryptocurrency trading firm. CMS Holdings is headed by Daniel Matuszewski, the former head of Circle’s over-the-counter, or OTC, trading arm.

Cointelegraph has reached out to Circle and Neville for comment, but had not received a response at press time.

Crypto Exchange UpBit’s Operator Launches Custody Service with Ledger

DXM, a financial services subsidiary of South Korean fintech firm Dunamu, has worked with crypto cybersecurity firm Ledger to launch an institutional crypto asset custody service.

The partnership and the new custodian

Industry news outlet TheBlock reported on Dec. 4 that DXM plans to launch the custodian under the name Upbit Safe and that Ledger Vault, Ledger’s custody arm, will support the initiative with its technology. Upbit safe will reportedly use Ledger’s hardware security technology to make trading more efficient and safer for its institutional clients.

Ledger’s Head of Asia-Pacific region Glenn Woo explained that Ledger Vault offers solutions that allow institutions to customize their custody rules to better fit their needs. DXM Chief Strategy Officer Eric Yoo told the outlet that the firm plans to target UpBit’s customers first. Yoo explained the new enterprise’s outlook:

“We are a subsidiary of the largest exchange in Korea and have an advantage over our peers given that we already have a lot of assets we can bring into our custody. […] The combination of the Upbit brand, Ledger Vault’s security technology, and DXM’s own technology will give DXM an edge in the Korean market.”

Lack of regulation hinders crypto growth

Still, Yoo admitted that institutional participation in the crypto space in South Korea is largely hampered by unclear regulation. Still, he believes that clarity should improve as soon as next year, bringing new money to the local crypto industry:

“The biggest regulatory risk in Korea is uncertainty and lack of regulations. […] It’s quite a wild wild west out there. […] Once regulations become clearer, it’d be easier for us to engage with institutional money and not take the risks from uncertainties.”

Woo also explained that Ledger Vault is still a new service in the space and is still trying to penetrate the market. He hopes that with his company’s help, DXM will be able to help his firm scale its operations:

“DMX has a reputation of being very secure… With the track record that they have in Korea, they can definitely help us scale.”

The number of custody services aiming to secure the crypto assets of institutions is steadily increasing as regulation is making the space more suitable for institutional investors. One of the last examples is the custody feature launched by institutional Bitcoin (BTC) trading platform Bakkt for its entire client base after obtaining regulatory approval in the first half of November.

Crypto Loans See Solid Growth, Platforms Attract Community Interest

It may seem surprising, but platforms designed for loans and lending through the use of cryptocurrencies are a relatively new development for the crypto industry. Each platform adheres to its own strategy, but the idea shared by all is that users put their cryptocurrency into an automated smart contract as collateral for a loan. 

The contract tracks accrued interest and credit payments and also prevents anyone from interfering in this process. Unlike traditional lending, there is no need for credit checks and scoring, as well as for the lender to seriously consider the option of physical pressure on the borrower.

A young industry

Cryptocurrency loans platforms began to develop during the bear market of 2018, as crypto prices became critically low at the peak of the downturn. At the time, owners of digital currencies who didn’t want to sell their crypto at low prices lent out their holdings and made money on interest.

The popularity of lending in digital currencies has grown for several reasons:

  • Low interest rates
  • Increase in the number of traders and investors for whom receiving funds immediately in cryptocurrencies is convenient
  • A simplified system of requirements for borrowers; those who hadn’t been approved for bank loans could easily receive digital money

Today, the entire crypto loaning industry is estimated at $4.7 billion and the number of crypto loan platforms is growing rapidly, according to a report made by blockchain company Graychain Ltd. While lenders have only earned a combined $86 million in interest since 2018, the demand for cryptocurrency loans is growing. In the first quarter of 2019, over 5,400 new loans were issued, and in the second, at least 18,500. The volume of lending also increased, with lenders issuing $64.8 million in loans in the first quarter and $159.3 million in the second.

Thus, it is clear that, despite its newness, high risks, and very low profitability, this new crypto industry is gaining momentum. There are also critics of crypto loans who claim that crypto credit is expanding too quickly and will explode, as the signs of a bubble in this area are too similar to the traditional problems of financial markets: low lending standards and an excessive supply of funds with little demand and increased risk.

Which loan to choose and where

Crypto lending can be divided into two main areas: depository and undetectable.

Depositary lending is more centralized. It involves securing a loan through a trusted third party, who is given a significant level of authority through complete control over user assets, setting interest rates, and acting as a counterparty in each transaction.

Depositary lending is the most popular form of crypto loan and is used by several large credit companies, such as Genesis Capital, Celcius Network, Salt Lending and others.

The second crypto lending path is non-custodial in nature and more decentralized, which better serves traders and retail investors. This type of lending is mainly supported by the developing class of decentralized applications created on Ethereum. 

Using smart contracts, these platforms can create a system in which users don’t need to trust centralized authorities, as smart contracts show all the processes throughout the entire life cycle of the loan and are automatically repaid. Paul Murphy, co-founder and CEO of Graychain, a crypto credit rating platform, believes that finding a convenient service is not a problem:

“In places with thriving, well-developed financial systems crypto is being absorbed as new asset class. This will continue to happen under the watchful eyes of regulators. Despite the constraints we can expect to see innovation because of crypto’s unique properties. We can expect to see crypto lending continue to develop in places like the US, EU, Japan, HK, and Singapore.”

Murphy believes that in less developed countries, where traditional finance has a weak foothold, regulatory structures are weak, and many citizens are unbanked, cryptocurrencies allow a new financial system to emerge: 

“We are currently seeing the most activity in South East Asia but also lots of interest throughout Africa. There is some interesting work being done in Latin America, but most interesting projects are moving out of the region. This isn’t surprising as many people in Latin America have relatively close ancestral ties to Europe.”

Crypto loans platform comparison

Spread out all over the world, below are the most distinctive crypto lending platforms.

BlockFi

Founded in June 2017, BlockFi is a New Jersey-based crypto asset management company that allows users to earn interest and borrow money through offering crypto as collateral. BlockFi works with Gemini Trust Company, which is fully licensed by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The company specializes in two types of services: interest-bearing accounts that earn money, and quick loans with Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.

Each loan is issued on the basis of a loan-to-value ratio. Since the loans offered by BlockFi are secured by assets, the company does not require credit score checks of its users. BlockFi customers receive money against their Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin collateral with a loan-to-cost ratio of up to 50%. 

The loan-to-value ratio determines how much collateral is required to get a certain amount in dollars. Collateral guarantees that the borrower will be interested in repaying the loan, and is used to repay the lender in the case of nonpayment.

Each loan issued by BlockFi is for a duration of 12 months, with the ability to make early payments at any time without commissions and penalties. BlockFi interest rates begin at 4.5%, depending on the loan-to-value ratio. BlockFi also enables its users to earn interest on deposits through the BlockFi Interest Account, which provides up to 8.6% per annum.

BlockFi generates interest by accepting deposited assets and providing them on credit to trusted third-party institutional and corporate borrowers. Such loans also have collateral and have the same structure as BlockFi crypto loans.

SALT Lending

One of the first platforms in the market was SALT, short for Secure Automated Lending Technology. The project was founded in the United States in 2016. It is a blockchain-based lending platform that allows users to receive funds directly to their bank accounts. Currently, SALT Lending has expanded to 33 U.S. states and also operates in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The most important participants of the platform are lenders, as SALT provides them with the infrastructure, flexibility and security necessary to accept coins without adding additional costs to the process. In exchange for these services, lenders pay for membership on the platform. The service never asks for a credit rating — instead, it uses only the value of collateral to determine the terms of the loan.

Lenders begin the process by publishing the terms on which they are ready to provide a loan. Borrowers can browse through various options and choose the one that best suits them. As soon as borrowers choose a loan, lenders hold the corresponding funds until the borrower provides a security using a smart contract. Funds are then sent directly to the bank account.

The borrowers then pay monthly installments toward their loan according to its terms, and when the loan is repaid, SALT releases the security deposit from the smart contract and returns it.

SALT Oracle creates a smart contract for each loan and credit event. To reduce the risk of nonpayment, the Oracle records all payments made on loans and monitors changes in the value of provided cryptocurrency collateral. Each loan starts with a credit-to-value ratio that is calculated based on current market prices. 

SALT tokens, also known as membership tokens, are based on the ERC20 standard and are required to purchase membership on the platform. Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are both accepted on the platform, and as of April 2019, the company announced that it will also work with Dash as collateral for loans.

Nexo

Established in 2017, Nexo is an instant lending platform that claims to have a military level of security (256-bit encryption). To start the loan process, users transfer assets to their secure Nexo wallets, where these assets come under the protection of the BitGo repository. Then, users may obtain instant credit. The platform accepts submissions of BTC, ETH, XPR, LTC, XLM, BCH, stablecoins, NEXO tokens and BNB as collateral.

After confirming the collateral, the Nexo Oracle evaluates the collateral and then calculates a suitable loan-to-value ratio. After the LTV is calculated, users receive money directly in the form of fiat or a stablecoin. 

Repaying a loan to Nexo is quite flexible, as users are not required to repay monthly until their balance is less than the loan limit. Like SALT, Nexo tokens can be used to lower interest rates and repayments. 

Borrowers can take advantage of a 50% discount on the loan’s interest rate if the security deposit or loan repayment is paid in Nexo tokens. Users of the platform can repay all or part of their loans at any time via bank transfer, cryptocurrencies or assets deposited in their Nexo wallet.

Once borrowers have repaid the entire loan amount along with interest, they can easily withdraw their crypto assets from their wallet. George Manolov, business development executive at Nexo, pointed out that users pay interest only on what they actually spend:

“Our customers only pay interest on the amount they borrow. In contrast, other lenders require you to withdraw the entire amount of a loan at the time of origination, meaning customers pay interest on their full loan.”

Celsius Network

The Celsius Network was created in 2017 and is a crypto credit platform providing a new model of financial services that act in the best interest of the community. It has a mobile app that allows users to earn interest on stablecoins and a number of cryptocurrencies.

The Celsius platform allows borrowing money against crypto collateral at interest rates as low as 4.95% per annum. This interest rate works mainly for dollars as well as stablecoins such as USDT and USDC, and the minimum loan limit is $1,500, which needs to be backed by an equivalent amount in crypto. 

Celsius has a full-fledged transaction instrument called CelPay, which works as a wallet that allows free cryptocurrency transfers from one wallet to another. Furthermore, Celsius Network charges no fees for withdrawals, deposits, transactions or early terminations. The platform has its own token, CEL, which is purely a service token that is used to provide users with discounts on borrowing and deposit services. 

Additionally, any user can become a lender by putting their crypto into cold storage and earning interest from it. Regardless of the amount that users are ready to put in, they earn weekly interest in either the same token deposited or the native CEL token.

At the moment, Celsius Network is one of the biggest crypto loan platforms in the world, reaching $4.25 billion in total crypto loans in November.

YouHodler

YouHodler is a Swiss company that specializes in providing a cryptocurrency line of credit and a cryptocurrency exchange platform. Founded in 2018, the company’s mission is to minimize passive ownership, allowing investors to earn interest on their assets or borrow money.

One of the most core products offered by YouHodler are cryptocurrency loans, available in tokens such as BTC, ETH, XRP, Dash, LTC and so on. Depending on the token, users can choose one of the available plans, which differ by loan period. For example, users can choose plans that range from 55% to 95% in cost ratio, from 5% to 40% in price reduction, and a loan period from 30 days to 180 days.

The company does not perform any credit checks, as user credit scores are meaningless to the loan application process. Borrowed money is fully secured by cryptocurrency and is based on the loan-to-value ratio. Because of this, even if users cannot repay their loan, their credit score will not be affected.

Additionally, YouHodler has a Turbocharge service, which allows users to get a chain of loans. The platform uses borrowed fiat to purchase additional cryptocurrency without commission and then uses it as collateral for other loans in the chain. Ilya Volkov, CEO of YouHodler, says the option is popular among traders:

“Clients were using loans to buy more crypto to use as collateral for yet another loan and then using that again to buy more crypto for collateral. They would do this process manually multiple times. So, we invented an automated tool that completed this chain for them in one click.”

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