Square will offer its new crypto employees payment in Bitcoin


MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images

Payments startup Square is turning its attention to cryptocurrency. According to tweets from CEO Jack Dorsey, the company is hiring engineers and a designer to “work full-time on open source contributions to the bitcoin/crypto ecosystem.”

There has been no further information beyond Dorsey’s tweets, although it’s notable that the new hires will have the option of being paid in bitcoin, something Dorsey has long championed as the world’s single native currency of the future. Square’s cash app already supports bitcoin purchases and sales, so it will be interesting to see what the team will be working on.

Dorsey added that building upon the current crypto ecosystem is “the most impactful thing” Square can do for the community right now, adding that “Square has taken a lot from the open source community to get us here. We haven’t given enough back. This is a small way to give back, and one that’s aligned with our broader interests: a more accessible global financial system for the internet.”

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Vectordash’s cloud gaming service brings crypto-miners a new revenue stream

PC gaming has grown to be a pretty wide niche of people with some far-flung similarities and differences, one thing they all share are souped-up rigs that rely on beefy GPUs. This is fine for those with dedicated machines but PC gaming isn’t too friendly to those trying to pull double-duty on their everyday machine.

Vectordash, launching out of the latest Y Combinator batch, wants to turn your Macbook Air or other underpowered rig into a formidable machine through their cloud gaming service.

The service is charging customers $28 per month to render their games on a cloud machine so that they can be run on non-gaming laptops. The idea of running Fortnite on any machine seems to be a somewhat central idea for the service, though you’ll just as easily be able to log-in to Steam and play through titles that you own.

Launching a cloud-gaming service seems like an expensive proposition, you need a bunch of server centers to host streamers and that’s a lot of upfront cost for an upstart, so Vectordash is cheating a bit and paying users with heavy GPU power to contribute to the gaming hive-mind over the cloud. The service says they’ll pay these GPU renters between $60 and $105 per month for the graphics processing real estate. The trick is, Vectordash is entering a bear cryptocurrency environment where there are tons of GPUs ready to be put to work, so the company will have a market as long as it can stay competitive with crypto mining returns.

Relying on third-party GPU power will leave some difficulty in scaling with such high upfront costs alright taking a steep bite out of margins, but the startup seems to be fine with the tradeoffs and believes that plenty of gamers will see the use of the $28/month service if it means being able to run GPU-hungry games on their Mac or otherwise lightweight laptops.

This does leave the startup in a tricky position where they can likely be undercut on price by a tech giant that is willing to shift some data center power towards the product. At the same time, Vectordash’s distributed model of turning GPUs into sharing economy workers is probably more scalable when it comes to reaching the far-flung corners of the globe.

That’s because a major limiting factor for the technology is that it’s highly dependent on geographic proximity between game streamers and host hardware. As opposed to other streaming services, latency demands are pretty brutal due to the real-time input being sent to the host machines via keystrokes and mouse movements. If users aren’t getting feedback within 20-30ms, the lag grows noticeable and quickly feels unplayable if you’re firing away in something like a first-person shooter, co-founder Sharif Shameem tells TechCrunch.

This means that Vectordash is going to have to be very targeted with the markets they expand to as a game streamer needs to be within about 300 miles from the host machine. They’re kicking things off in the Bay Area and will be focusing efforts on the East and West coasts of the U.S. early-on. Gameplay can max out at 4K 60FPS if your internet connection is solid and can scale things down to 1080p if you’re missing some megabits.

Users can sign up on Vectordash’s site to get early access to the service.

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The trailer for 'CRYPTO' just dropped, and cryptocurrency is good now

KICKBACKS.
KICKBACKS.
Image: screenshot / “crypto”

With all the exit scams, weird meat obsessions, and cantankerous fan-boy culture, the world of cryptocurrency is kind of a drag. And that’s without even touching on the current and persistent bear market. 

But all that has changed, denizens of the internet. Cryptocurrency is good now, and we owe it all to the trailer for the upcoming crypto-themed action flick starring none other than Snake Plissken himself. Say hello to CRYPTO, the film that, like its eponymous subject matter, features a bunch of idiots fighting over bullshit and terrible security practices. 

The trailer for the film, featuring an appropriately bedraggled Kurt Russell, hit the internet on March 11 and oh boy did it get our blood flowing. Go ahead and take a peek. We’ll wait. 

Breathtaking, right? Did you take a moment to bathe in the reflected glory of Luke Hemsworth and Alexis Bledel. Yes? Good, let’s move on.

The story, as much as there appears to be one, follows an anti-money laundering expert’s trip to small town America and a subsequent run in with the Russian mob. But put that aside for a moment, and let’s focus on the verisimilitude of the thing. 

It can only go up.

It can only go up.

Image: screenshot / “crypto”

From the amazing file labeling system (hello “KICKBACKS”), to the apparent Coinbase knockoff DELTA COIN listing bitcoin cash at $983.74 (which, LOL), CRYPTO proves that the true cryptocurrency magic happens on the big screen. 

I'll take

I’ll take “Separate blockchain,” please.

Image: screenshot / “crypto”

Of course, no crypto thriller would be complete without a bunch of ones and zeros flashing across a character’s computer to signify a hack. But you needn’t worry, because CRYPTO has that, too. 

Oh no! A HACKER ATTACK!

Oh no! A HACKER ATTACK!

Image: screenshot / “crypto”

If there’s one thing the trailer makes crystal clear it’s that CRYPTO the movie, unlike actual cryptocurrency, will never let you down. So go ahead and take out that third mortgage on your house, and stock up on tickets now. It will be totally worth it, and that’s a guarantee. And, well, if we’re wrong, then John McAfee will eat his own dick on TV.

The movie is hitting select theaters on April 12, and will also be available on demand. We can’t wait. 

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Bitcoin gets slower, smaller and more like Ethereum

Editor’s Note: Our writer Galen Moore (who previously wrote an analysis of STOs) attended the MIT Bitcoin Expo this weekend. These are his field notes on his interviews with a bunch of the leading thinkers in the Bitcoin community, along with links to the full audio if you want to go deeper. ~ Danny Crichton

The MIT Bitcoin Expo is not really about Bitcoin, per se. Many other cryptocurrencies are discussed. Sometimes, warring factions find themselves in the same room.

On the Friday night before the main event, a Boston Ethereum developers group hosted a Bitcoin maximalist VC and the CEO of a private-key custody company for “a conversation on Lightning and the future of Bitcoin.”

It was a frank conversation in front of a room full of people who may have been skeptical about the future of Bitcoin. Castle Island Ventures general partner Nic Carter allowed that Bitcoin’s fixed money supply might become a liability. Jeremy Welch, CEO of Casa, acknowledged that Lightning is not going to solve all of Bitcoin’s problems.

For example, Lightning makes sending and receiving bitcoin faster, cheaper and a little more private, but questions remain as to how such Bitcoin payments will be useful.

Developing (and not developing) the future of Bitcoin

James Prestwich of Summa. Photo by Galen Moore

Carter and Welch’s conversation turned to ossification, a proposed drawdown of developer activity on Bitcoin to guard against future attacks. One Ethereum developer leaned back to ask me what ossification means. “Turning into bone,” I said. He looked a little mystified. Misunderstandings remain between followers of the two largest cryptocurrencies. Ethereum developers remain in a kind of “move fast and break things” mindset, while Bitcoin developers treat their codebase like it was software for air traffic control.

There are some who are trying to bridge the gap. James Prestwich’s consulting firm, Summa, helps Ethereum developers that want to use Bitcoin. Beyond reaching a bigger market, this has technical advantages, Prestwich said. We were drinking pineapple-strawberry Lacroix before his presentation about a better way to handle cross-chain transactions.

“Most Ethereum developers work on contracts and not consensus layer,” he said. “Contracts are not as abstracted from consensus as we like to think they are. It’s a very messy, leaky layer. The advantages here are more on the consensus layer, but that’s going to affect how your smart contract works.” The full audio of my interview with Prestwich is here and a recording of all the presentations at MIT Bitcoin Expo 2019 can be found here.

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Amun raises $4M to give stock-like buying options for crypto investors

Crypto represent a ‘border-less’ that anyone can own, but actually getting hold it isn’t easy for everyone. Amun, a company that wants to make buying crypto as easy as stock, has pulled in $4 million in funding to offer more established channels for crypto ownership.

The startup currently offers punters an ETP (exchange-traded product) on the Swiss Stock Exchange that pulls together five of the most popular crypto assets: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, XRP and Litecoin. ‘HODL’ — as it is called after ‘holding’ crypto rather than selling it (‘LOL’) — can be purchased just like any stock.

That five-crypto basket is just the start for Amun, which is developing ETPs for other crypto assets individually. The first one is for Bitcoin — ABTC — with others planned to come soon, you’d imagine the usual suspect such as Ethereum and co will follow. Indeed, Amun has licenses to the five crypto assets in HODL as well as EOS.

While the products are ETP and not covered by Collective Investment Schemes Act (CISA), they are protected in custody and by insurance. They are collateralized and backed by an identical amount of crypto assets.

Personally, I’ve been able to buy crypto — just base tokens like Bitcoin and Ethereum rather than company-specific ICO tokens — but it certainly true that it takes some learning. While, speaking for me and likely many others, exchange-based products aren’t easier to me, it does appeal to more institutionally-minded individuals or companies for whom holding an account with an exchange or a crypto wallet isn’t feasible. That’s the target that Amun has in mind, as well as outlier cases, too.

Amun CEO and co-founder Hany Rashwan told TechCrunch that growing up in Egypt, he saw the government ban Bitcoin despite the fact that it offered an alternative to the Egyptian pound, which saw its valuation tank massively in 2016. He believes that products like Amun allow anyone to take part in crypto even when they face local restrictions, as was the case in Egypt and other countries.

“We want to make investing in crypto as easy as buying a stock. Institutional investors around the world are looking for a secure, easy, and regulated way of accessing the crypto asset class. Amun’s products do that at a low price in one of the most reputable financial hubs in the world,” Rashwan told TechCrunch.

Investors share his optimism and those who took part in this round include Boost VC founder Adam Draper — son of outspoken pro-Bitcoin VC Tim Draper — Graham Tuckwell, founder of ETFS Capital who built ETF products for gold, and Greg Kidd, co-founder of investment firm Hard Yaka. Four undisclosed family offices also took part.

One reason for their optimism is the fact that Amun is developing technology that could, in theory, be licensed out to allow others to develop their own ETFs

“We invest a ton of resources in both our product development and underlying tech infrastructure. This allows us to come up with innovative but professional and safe ways of accessing the crypto asset class, as well as do all this on a tech platform that can be used by not just us, but any issuer that wishes to do the same as well,” Rashwan said.

“The world needs a company like Amun to make crypto as easy as buying a stock. Now that they were the first to do that, they can now provide the toolset and be the de-facto platform for anyone else looking to take their crypto assets/securities to the public markets,” Draper added.

Still, just giving people access doesn’t guarantee returns, that’s on the crypto market itself.

Last year was a dud across the board in terms of pricing as Bitcoin, for example, plummeted from a record high of nearly $20,000 at the end of 2017 to $3,930ish at the time of writing. Plenty in the industry are optimistic that will change as genuine value comes out of blockchain technology.

HODL itself debuted at $15.64 last November, today it is at $12.83

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

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