Should you hire an in-house designer or a contractor?

Editor’s note: This post is a part of our latest initiative to demystify design and find the best brand designers and agencies in the world who work with early-stage companies — nominate a talented brand designer you’ve worked with.

During a decade as the manager of the in-house design team at open-source technology company Red Hat, Chris Grams learned that brand design is best when informed by a company’s culture and community.

He felt a natural push toward an open, collaborative attitude, distinct from how many companies approached design at that time. It was the early 2000s, and most companies saw their interactions with customers as a one-way street. In open source, it was an intersection.

“You almost break down the company and the community of people who surround the brand,” says Grams, currently head of marketing at Tidelift, an open-source software management firm, and author of The Ad-Free Brand. “Now it feels like pretty standard operating procedure for the best brands that have the best relationship with their communities.”

This shift has a large influence on the question of when you should hire an in-house designer versus a contractor to do your branding design.

Three reasons to go in-house

After leaving Red Hat in 2009, Grams helped start New Kind, a branding agency that provides contract design services mostly to tech companies. This new vantage point allowed him to see drawbacks and advantages for companies in outsourcing design versus bringing it in-house.

One of the key benefits of in-housing is the designer’s intimacy with the deeply held values and culture of the company, which makes their branding work feel more authentic.

“The internal agency’s power really reveals itself when people are deeply part of the mission of the company,” says Grams. “It comes through in the work. You get an amazing work product.”

The second benefit, especially for tech companies, is the depth of understanding in-house designers can develop about the company’s products and services. And the third is that a dedicated in-house designer can be directed as needed to respond to pressing priorities.

“You can have them stop on a dime,” says Grams. “Say a competitor comes out with a big launch and you need to have something out within 24 hours. You can work on it right away.”

These are real benefits, but they may not outweigh the advantages of contracting out your design to a high-quality agency.

The benefits of using an agency

A major benefit of an agency is that you can hire people with a level of expertise and variety of skills that would be out of reach for an in-house team. When Grams was at New Kind, for example, “we had a combined 30 years of experience with open-source branding work,” he says.

An agency can also provide the bandwidth to take on non-priority tasks such as a rebrand or a special series that in-house teams are often too work-strapped to take on.

Hiring an agency also has advantages in terms of flexibility and cost. The ability to customize the timing and amount of design work to your needs can be less expensive over time, even if each working hour is more expensive.

“You can ramp down and ramp up with an agency,” says Grams. “It’s impossible to do that with people… You’re paying that extra margin to have that flexibility.”

There’s a lot to think about, but Grams advises prioritizing the need for your design to be authentic to your culture… or not.

“I think the biggest thing is the power of your culture, frankly,” says Grams. “If you have a company where culture is not an asset, I would not build an in-house design team… But if you’re building a mission-driven organization or an organization where culture is super important, that’s where I would take an extra-long look at building an internal agency.”

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Singapore’s proposed ‘fake news’ law could stifle free speech

For many, Singapore is an idyllic and livable city in Asia. But there’s serious concern for the country and its five million population around a proposed law to curb ‘fake news’ on the internet that could have ramifications for free speech.

The ‘Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill’ had its first reading on Monday and one of the key takeaways is that it will allow the government to force “corrections” to be added to online content that is deemed to be “false.” Infringing articles won’t be edited, instead “the facts” will be added so that “the facts can travel together with the falsehood.”

The scope of the proposed bill goes beyond media to cover social media platforms, too. Those found to be “malicious actors” face a fine of up to SG$50,000 ($37,000) or five years in prison for their content. If posted using “an inauthentic online account or a bot,” the fine jumps to a maximum of SG$100,000 ($74,000) or a potential 10-year jail term. Platforms such as Facebook or Twitter face fines of up to SG$1 million ($740,000) in such situations.

What’s particularly alarming about the proposal is that it can be activated by any government minister if they believe that “a false statement of fact… has been or is being communicated in Singapore” or if they feel that issuing a correction is “in the public interest.”

The proposed act is focused on Singapore, but it will cover any piece of content worldwide. While, beyond merely covering content pertinent to the security of Singapore, the harmony of its people, its national politics and services, the process can be triggered “in the interest of friendly relations of Singapore with other countries.”

There’s also a clause that covers “a diminution of public confidence in the performance of any duty or function of government” and its associated organizations.

While it is fairly well established that social media and new media content can be a threat to multicultural societies and the democratic process, critics have pointed out that the proposed law has seriously scope to be misused, potentially against valid criticism. While Singapore’s Ministry of Law said it will not cover “opinions, criticisms, satire or parody,” simply defining what is an opinion or opinionated is not easy.

Indeed, an example last year involving Reuters shows the type of pushback that the government could exert if the bill becomes law as is expected — Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) party dominates parliament having won 83 of the 89 seats it contested in the most recent general election in 2015.

Reuters rewrote a contentious headline around a politician’s potential to become Prime Minister following condemnation from Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), which rebuked Reuters running with a “fabricated headline.” The publication later changed the headline and parts of its story, as Cherian George — the author of a 2012 book on Singapore’s political system — explained in a recent blog post.

In this case, however, the law covers content produced outside Singapore, which could make its application messy, particularly if media companies covering international topics are caught in the crosshairs and they have employees located in Singapore.

Despite footnotes that try to untangle the policing of accurate content with censoring free speech — “the bill targets falsehoods, not free speech,” a press release issued by the ministry claims — free speech groups are concerned at the potentially immense power that would be wielded.

“Singapore’s ministers should not have the power to singlehandedly decree what is true and what is false,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “Given Singapore’s long history of prohibiting speech critical of the government, its policies or its officials, its professed concerns about ‘online falsehoods’ and alleged election manipulation are farcical.”

Blogger Roy Ngerngwas sued by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the blogger accused him of misusing public funds, a sensitive issue for officials in the city-state known to have the least corrupt governments in Asia (Photo credit: MOHD FYROL/AFP/Getty Images)

That was echoed by the Asia Internet Coalition, a group that represents Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Line and others.

“We are concerned that the proposed legislation gives the Singapore government full discretion over what is considered true or false. As the most far-reaching legislation of its kind to date, this level of overreach poses significant risks to freedom of expression and speech, and could have severe ramifications both in Singapore and around the world,” read a statement from AIC managing director Jeff Paine.

“Prescriptive legislation should not be the first solution in addressing what is a highly nuanced and complex issue,” Paine added.

Media freedom concern is not new to Singapore, where lawsuits and legal cases involving the government and citizens for content posted online are not uncommon.

Human Rights Watch’s 2017 report concluded that Singapore’s press is “not free.” Reporters Without Borders, another organization that tracks media freedom worldwide, ranked Singapore 151th out of 180 countries. The organization cited an “intolerant government” and media “self-censorship” among its top line conclusions. The proposed law could take things a step further.

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How students are founding, funding and joining startups

There has never been a better time to start, join, or fund a startup as a student. 

Young founders who want to start companies while still in school have an increasing number of resources to tap into that exist just for them. Students that want to learn how to build companies can apply to an increasing number of fast-track programs that allow them to gain valuable early stage operating experience. The energy around student entrepreneurship today is incredible. I’ve been immersed in this community as an investor and adviser for some time now, and to say the least, I’m continually blown away by what the next generation of innovators are dreaming up (from Analytical Space’s global data relay service for satellites to Brooklinen’s reinvention of the luxury bed).

Bill Gates in 1973

First, let’s look at student founders and why they’re important. Student entrepreneurs have long been an important foundation of the startup ecosystem. Many students wrestle with how best to learn while in school —some students learn best through lectures, while more entrepreneurial students like author Julian Docks find it best to leave the classroom altogether and build a business instead.

Indeed, some of our most iconic founders are Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, both student entrepreneurs who launched their startups at Harvard and then dropped out to build their companies into major tech giants. A sample of the current generation of marquee companies founded on college campuses include Snap at Stanford ($29B valuation at IPO), Warby Parker at Wharton (~$2B valuation), Rent The Runway at HBS (~$1B valuation), and Brex at Stanford (~$1B valuation).

Some of today’s most celebrated tech leaders built their first ventures while in school — even if some student startups fail, the critical first-time founder experience is an invaluable education in how to build great companies. Perhaps the best example of this that I could find is Drew Houston at Dropbox (~$9B valuation at IPO), who previously founded an edtech startup at MIT that, in his words, provided a: “great introduction to the wild world of starting companies.”

Student founders are everywhere, but the highest concentration of venture-backed student founders can be found at just 5 universities. Based on venture fund portfolio data from the last six years, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UPenn, and UC Berkeley have produced the highest number of student-founded companies that went on to raise $1 million or more in seed capital. Some prospective students will even enroll in a university specifically for its reputation of churning out great entrepreneurs. This is not to say that great companies are not being built out of other universities, nor does it mean students can’t find resources outside a select number of schools. As you can see later in this essay, there are number of new ways students all around the country can tap into the startup ecosystem. For further reading, Pitchbook produces an excellent report each year that tracks where all entrepreneurs earned their undergraduate degrees.

Student founders have a number of new media resources to turn to. New email newsletters focused on student entrepreneurship like Justine and Olivia Moore’s Accelerated and Kyle Robertson’s StartU offer new channels for young founders to reach large audiences. Justine and Olivia, the minds behind Accelerated, have a lot of street cred— they launched Stanford’s on-campus incubator Cardinal Ventures before landing as investors at CRV.

StartU goes above and beyond to be a resource to founders they profile by helping to connect them with investors (they’re active at 12 universities), and run a podcast hosted by their Editor-in-Chief Johnny Hammond that is top notch. My bet is that traditional media will point a larger spotlight at student entrepreneurship going forward.

New pools of capital are also available that are specifically for student founders. There are four categories that I call special attention to:

  • University-affiliated accelerator programs
  • University-affiliated angel networks
  • Professional venture funds investing at specific universities
  • Professional venture funds investing through student scouts

While it is difficult to estimate exactly how much capital has been deployed by each, there is no denying that there has been an explosion in the number of programs that address the pre-seed phase. A sample of the programs available at the Top 5 universities listed above are in the graphic below — listing every resource at every university would be difficult as there are so many.

One alumni-centric fund to highlight is the Alumni Ventures Group, which pools LP capital from alumni at specific universities, then launches individual venture funds that invest in founders connected to those universities (e.g. students, alumni, professors, etc.). Through this model, they’ve deployed more than $200M per year! Another highlight has been student scout programs — which vary in the degree of autonomy and capital invested — but essentially empower students to identify and fund high-potential student-founded companies for their parent venture funds. On campuses with a large concentration of student founders, it is not uncommon to find student scouts from as many as 12 different venture funds actively sourcing deals (as is made clear from David Tao’s analysis at UC Berkeley).

Investment Team at Rough Draft Ventures

In my opinion, the two institutions that have the most expansive line of sight into the student entrepreneurship landscape are First Round’s Dorm Room Fund and General Catalyst’s Rough Draft VenturesSince 2012, these two funds have operated a nationwide network of student scouts that have invested $20K — $25K checks into companies founded by student entrepreneurs at 40+ universities. “Scout” is a loose term and doesn’t do it justice — the student investors at these two funds are almost entirely autonomous, have built their own platform services to support portfolio companies, and have launched programs to incubate companies built by female founders and founders of color. Another student-run fund worth noting that has reach beyond a single region is Contrary Capital, which raised $2.2M last year. They do a particularly great job of reaching founders at a diverse set of schools — their network of student scouts are active at 45 universities and have spoken with 3,000 founders per year since getting started. Contrary is also testing out what they describe as a “YC for university-based founders”. In their first cohort, 100% of their companies raised a pre-seed round after Contrary’s demo day. Another even more recently launched organization is The MBA Fund, which caters to founders from the business schools at Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford. While super exciting, these two funds only launched very recently and manage portfolios that are not large enough for analysis just yet.

Over the last few months, I’ve collected and cross-referenced publicly available data from both Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures to assess the state of student entrepreneurship in the United States. Companies were pulled from each fund’s portfolio page, then checked against Crunchbase for amount raised, accelerator participation, and other metrics. If you’d like to sift through the data yourself, feel free to ping me — my email can be found at the end of this article. To be clear, this does not represent the full scope of investment activity at either fund — many companies in the portfolios of both funds remain confidential and unlisted for good reasons (e.g. startups working in stealth). In fact, the In addition, data for early stage companies is notoriously variable in quality, even with Crunchbase. You should read these insights as directional only, given the debatable confidence interval. Still, the data is still interesting and give good indicators for the health of student entrepreneurship today.

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures have invested in 230+ student-founded companies that have gone on to raise nearly $1 billion in follow on capital. These funds have invested in a diverse range of companies, from govtech (e.g. mark43, raised $77M+ and FiscalNote, raised $50M+) to space tech (e.g. Capella Space, raised ~$34M). Several portfolio companies have had successful exits, such as crypto startup Distributed Systems (acquired by Coinbase) and social networking startup tbh (acquired by Facebook). While it is too early to evaluate the success of these funds on a returns basis (both were launched just 6 years ago), we can get a sense of success by evaluating the rates by which portfolio companies raise additional capital. Taken together, 34% of DRF and RDV companies in our data set have raised $1 million or more in seed capital. For a rough comparison, CB Insights cites that 40% of YC companies and 48% of Techstars companies successfully raise follow on capital (defined as anything above $750K). Certainly within the ballpark!

Source: Crunchbase

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures companies in our data set have an 11–12% rate of survivorship to Series A. As a benchmark, a previous partner at Y Combinator shared that 20% of their accelerator companies raise Series A capital (YC declined to share the official figure, but it’s likely a stat that is increasing given their new Series A support programs. For further reading, check out YC’s reflection on what they’ve learned about helping their companies raise Series A funding). In any case, DRF and RDV’s numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as the average age of their portfolio companies is very low and raising Series A rounds generally takes time. Ultimately, it is clear that DRF and RDV are active in the earlier (and riskier) phases of the startup journey.

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures send 18–25% of their portfolio companies to YCombinator or Techstars. Given YC’s 1.5% acceptance rate as reported in Fortune, this is quite significant! Internally, these two funds offer founders an opportunity to participate in mock interviews with YC and Techstars alumni, as well as tap into their communities for peer support (e.g. advice on pitch decks and application content). As a result, Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures regularly send cohorts of founders to these prestigious accelerator programs. Based on our data set, 17–20% of DRF and RDV companies that attend one of these accelerators end up raising Series A venture financing.

Source: Crunchbase

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures don’t invest in the same companies. When we take a deeper look at one specific ecosystem where these two funds have been equally active over the last several years — Boston — we actually see that the degree of investment overlap for companies that have raised $1M+ seed rounds sits at 26%. This suggests that these funds are either a) seeing different dealflow or b) have widely different investment decision-making.

Source: Crunchbase

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures should not just be measured by a returns-basis today, as it’s too early. I hypothesize that DRF and RDV are actually encouraging more entrepreneurial activity in the ecosystem (more students decide to start companies while in school) as well as improving long-term founder outcomes amongst students they touch (portfolio founders build bigger and more successful companies later in their careers). As more students start companies, there’s likely a positive feedback loop where there’s increasing peer pressure to start a company or lean on friends for founder support (e.g. feedback, advice, etc).Both of these subjects warrant additional study, but it’s likely too early to conduct these analyses today.

Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures have impressive alumni that you will want to track. 1 in 4 alumni partners are founders, and 29% of these founder alumni have raised $1M+ seed rounds for their companies. These include Anjney Midha’s augmented reality startup Ubiquity6 (raised $37M+), Shubham Goel’s investor-focused CRM startup Affinity (raised $13M+), Bruno Faviero’s AI security software startup Synapse (raised $6M+), Amanda Bradford’s dating app The League (raised $2M+), and Dillon Chen’s blockchain startup Commonwealth Labs (raised $1.7M). It makes sense to me that alumni from these communities that decide to start companies have an advantage over their peers — they know what good companies look like and they can tap into powerful networks of young talent / experienced investors.

Beyond Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures, some venture capital firms focus on incubation for student-founded startups. Credit should first be given to Lightspeed for producing the amazing Summer Fellows bootcamp experience for promising student founders — after all, Pinterest was built there! Jeremy Liew gives a good overview of the program through his sit-down interview with Afterbox’s Zack Banack. Based on a study they conducted last year, 40% of Lightspeed Summer Fellows alumni are currently active founders. Pear Ventures also has an impressive summer incubator program where 85% of its companies successfully complete a fundraise. Index Ventures is the latest to build an incubator program for student founders, and even accepts founders who want to work on an idea part-time while completing a summer internship.

Let’s now look at students who want to join a startup before founding one. Venture funds have historically looked to tap students for talent, and are expanding the engagement lifecycle. The longest running programs include Kleiner Perkins’ class=”m_1196721721246259147gmail-markup–strong m_1196721721246259147gmail-markup–p-strong”> KP Fellows and True Ventures’ TEC Fellows, which focus on placing the next generation’s most promising product managers, engineers, and designers into the portfolio companies of their parent venture funds.

There’s also the secretive Greylock X, a referral-based hand-picked group of the best student engineers in Silicon Valley (among their impressive alumni are founders like Yasyf Mohamedali and Joe Kahn, the folks behind First Round-backed Karuna Health). As these programs have matured, these firms have recognized the long-run value of engaging the alumni of their programs.

More and more alumni are “coming back” to the parent funds as entrepreneurs, like KP Fellow Dylan Field of Figma (and is also hosting a KP Fellow, closing a full circle loop!). Based on their latest data, 10% of KP Fellows alumni are founders — that’s a lot given the fact that their community has grown to 500! This helps explain why Kleiner Perkins has created a structured path to receive $100K in seed funding to companies founded by KP Fellow alumni. It looks like venture funds are beginning to invest in student programs as part of their larger platform strategy, which can have a real impact over the long term (for further reading, see this analysis of platform strategy outcomes by USV’s Bethany Crystal).

KP Fellows in San Francisco

Venture funds are doubling down on student talent engagement — in just the last 18 months, 4 funds have launched student programs. It’s encouraging to see new funds follow in the footsteps of First Round, General Catalyst, Kleiner Perkins, Greylock, and Lightspeed. In 2017, Accel launched their Accel Scholars program to engage top talent at UC Berkeley and Stanford. In 2018, we saw 8VC Fellows, NEA Next, and Floodgate Insiders all launch, targeting elite universities outside of Silicon Valley. Y Combinator implemented Early Decision, which allows student founders to apply one batch early to help with academic scheduling. Most recently, at the start of 2019, First Round launched the Graduate Fund (staffed by Dorm Room Fund alumni) to invest in founders who are recent graduates or young alumni.

Given more time, I’d love to study the rates by which student founders start another company following investments from student scout funds, as well as whether or not they’re more successful in those ventures. In any case, this is an escalation in the number of venture funds that have started to get serious about engaging students — both for talent and dealflow.

Student entrepreneurship 2.0 is here. There are more structured paths to success for students interested in starting or joining a startup. Founders have more opportunities to garner press, seek advice, raise capital, and more. Venture funds are increasingly leveraging students to help improve the three F’s — finding, funding, and fixing. In my personal view, I believe it is becoming more and more important for venture funds to gain mindshare amongst the next generation of founders and operators early, while still in school.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for student entrepreneurship in 2019. If you’re interested in digging in deeper (I’m human — I’m sure I haven’t covered everything related to student entrepreneurship here) or learning more about how you can start or join a startup while still in school, shoot me a note at sxu@dormroomfund.comA massive thanks to Phin Barnes, Rei Wang, Chauncey Hamilton, Peter Boyce, Natalie Bartlett, Denali Tietjen, Eric Tarczynski, Will Robbins, Jasmine Kriston, Alicia Lau, Johnny Hammond, Bruno Faviero, Athena Kan, Shohini Gupta, Alex Immerman, Albert Dong, Phillip Hua-Bon-Hoa, and Trevor Sookraj for your incredible encouragement, support, and insight during the writing of this essay.

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Binance now lets users buy crypto with a credit card

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange based on trading volume, will now let you spend money you don’t have after it added support for credit cards from Visa and Mastercard.

Credit card usage in crypto is controversial. Aside from the risk — ask anyone who bought crypto last year… — top exchanges have gone back and forth on support. Coinbase, for example, stopped allowing credit card purchases a year ago but, when it still allowed them, customers were found to have incurred additional charges.

With many crypto owners getting “rekt” by a slump that has seen the market crash by around 90 percent, with some tokens now effectively worthless, the winds of change in the bear market are interesting to observe.

Coinbase is abandoning its conservative approach to the coins that it lists, while Binance — which operates on the opposite scale with support for a glut of tokens — has moved from being crypto-only to offer fiat currency options to customers. Support for credit cards is a major part of that and it brings Coinbase and Binance into direct competition for the first time.

The company, which is officially based in Malta, has opened fiat currency trading outposts in Uganda and Jersey, and it has plans to add similar ramps in Liechtenstein, Singapore and other places.

CEO Changpeng Zhao told TechCrunch last year that Binance plans to grow to 10 fiat exchanges in 2019, with “ideally two per continent.” Part of the strategy is to help larger, institutional investors bring money into the crypto ecosystem, a move that he believes will boost Binance and the crypto industry generally.

The credit card support has come via a partnership with crypto-focused payment company Simplex, but there are caveats.

Credit cards can only be used to purchase a limited set of tokens, those are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple’s XRP.

There are also geographical limitations. The Simplex service isn’t supported in some countries, while, in the U.S., it doesn’t cover the following states: New York, Georgia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington.

Finally, support for banks is not universal, too, which means that some users will not be able to buy on Binance using their credit card.

Those that can are charged a 3.5 percent fee and must wait 10-30 minutes for their tokens, a Binance spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. Once purchased, those tokens can be freely traded on Binance, which claims to list over 150 cryptocurrencies.

Still, the move may bolster the exchange’s trading volume which, while still the highest in the industry, has dropped below $1 billion per day in recent times.

At the time of writing, the exchange had traded some $666 million worth of crypto in the last 24 hours, according to data from CoinMarketCap. A lot of that depression is down to the market plummet, which has seen the overall value of that trading volumes fall and reduced consumer interest in trading, but giving more people the tools to buy might offset that somewhat.

“The crypto industry is still in its early stages and most of the world’s money is still in fiat. Building fiat gateways is what we need now to grow the ecosystem, increase adoption and introduce crypto to more users,” Zhao said in a canned statement.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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Digital Garage teams up with Blockstream to develop blockchain financial services in Japan

The global crypto market may have tanked last year, but notable names have joined forces to develop Bitcoin and blockchain financial services in Japan, which has emerged as one of the world’s most crypto-friendly markets.

Blockstream, a blockchain startup founded by Bitcoin contributors, announced this week that it has launched a joint venture in Japan alongside Digital Garage, an early-stage investor/incubator that’s backed local launches from Twitter, Square and others, and financial services firm Tokyo Tanshi.

Crypto Garage — as the new venture is called — is “is dedicated to building Bitcoin and blockchain solutions for the Japanese institutional market.” The venture was first unveiled last year, and it looks like Blockstream recently came onboard through an undisclosed investment. The startup said it is providing “technical expertise” for the effort.

That’s about all the color on the venture for now, although it has released its first product, “SETTLENET.” That is described as a platform that uses Liquid Network, Blockstream’s blockchain that is designed for exchanges and brokers with a focus on speed and security.

Settlenet — because nobody likes all-caps product names — is said to have already gotten clearance from the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA), which regulates exchanges and crypto projects, and its first launch will be a stablecoin for the Japanese Yen. The goal is very much to arm exchanges with liquidity and, as such, the stablecoin will be tradable for Bitcoin pegged to the Liquid sidechain using atomic swaps.

The companies have collaborated for some time already. An existing investor in Blockstream, Digital Garage has plowed a further $10 million into the business in what is its third investment since 2016. That deal takes Blockstream to around $90 million raised to date.

Tokyo Tanshi, meanwhile, is a brokerage firm that was founded over 100 years ago. It has worked with Digital Garage on crypto projects since last year, when the two companies first announced Crypto Garage and a broader goal to operate blockchain financial services in Japan.

Update: The original version of this story was correct to reflect that Blockstream has raised $90 million to date not $110 million.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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