Block Explorer scours the globe for the best crypto conferences and events every month. In September, it’s all about London with at least five events taking place in the British capital. You’ll find a complete list of events at our Conference Schedule, but for now, let’s look at some of the best conferences this September.
Blockchain Live has the most star-studded lineup of the month. Speakers include Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin (now founder of ConsenSys), Nick Szabo (who created smart contracts), representatives from Ripple and EOS, and a member of the European Parliament.
There are nine different “stages” to explore, including blockchain, C-suite, fintech, government, development, product, crypto, energy and creative. Your experience at the conference is entirely tailored to your profession, whether you’re a developer, investor, industry expert or public sector work.
Key speakers: Joseph Lubin (ConsenSys), Nick Szabo (smart contracts inventor) Brendan Blumer (Block.one), Michael Alexander (EOS), Eva Kaili (European Parliament)
Token Fest is a huge networking event for anyone in the blockchain space. Entrepreneurs, developers, and CEOs are all welcome. Talking points include how to apply crypto economics to the world around us, how to crowdfund new tokens and the commercial use of blockchain.
Attendees include representatives from Ripple, Steemit, Ledger as well as Nike, Google and Facebook.
Key speakers: Jeremy Allaire (Circle), Jon Najarian (trader and member of NYSE, CBOE).
The Digital Identity Summit is all about privacy, fraud and security. It takes a broader view across the financial industry, but expect plenty of discussion on blockchain technology. Ideal for business leaders and managers.
Key speakers: Rees Atlas (Coinbase), Kara Swisher (Recode).
CryptoBlockCon is a one-day event aimed at bringing the best minds in blockchain together. The agenda focuses heavily on ICOs (from kickstarting a campaign to successful case studies). There are also some more technical demonstrations, such as building smarter smart contracts.
This conference is for developers only. So if you want to get your geek on, talk coding and smart contracts, this is where you need to be. The conference is built around active workshops and insightful talks. It’s a relatively small event compared to some of the others on this list, but this is where the future of blockchain development is happening.
We’ve heard it hundreds of times. Blockchain is Web 3.0 or Geekdom’s latest marvel. Entrepreneurs, or business owners, who capitalize on this technology when young make it rich. Innovators like Ripple turned a $10,000 investment into $1.5 million in five years. Binance, only a year old, has a market cap of $840.8 million, according to Coinmarketcap. So it’s understandable that you’d speculate about launching your own business blockchain. You may not want to innovate anything, but, hey, blockchain’s said to be the next Revolution. Blockchain fanatics say it’s a core differentiator and value driver, leading you, if you have a business, to quite likely think maybe you should jump on board.
Brian Winker’s take on blockchain for business
Sometime last year, I interviewed Brian Winkers, founder of blockchain money automation company bitlov.com that won first place in the 2015 StartUp Chile! Competition.
Winkers himself is an open-source developer and Bitcoin analyst who has been playing around with crypto projects since 2012 and has helped small and medium-sized businesses get on or, rather, more often, off the blockchain.
For Winkers, blockchain for small business is a bonkers idea, largely because of Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s platform has problems with scalability: The platform is slow – around ten transactions per second compared to Visa’s 5,000 to 8,000 transactions in the same time span. The ledger became congested. The company itself struggles with internal squabbling.
Truth is Bitcoin is competing with more scalable and less problematic platforms like Ethereum and IOTA, so businesses can profit from blockchain more than was possible, say, ten years ago.
The problem is the expense.
Blockchain technology is free if you want to do all the work. The problem is recruiting a blockchain developer, and that’s where the trouble starts. As of 2018, a decent blockchain developer costs anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 at the very least. Forget the fly-by-night freelancer from a platform like Elance, Guru or the like. Actually employing someone from such a platform would likely cost you more, since you may have to pay for errors. Any coding error or slight mishap means the ledger needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch, aside from which technological changes occur so rapidly that top blockchain developers regularly familiarize themselves with updates.
Want a top developer? Expect to pay $250,000-$450,000 for a whiz, or triple that for a world-class specialist, according to Pavel Supronov on Medium. You think blockchain saves you money? According to John Levine, crypto consultant, author, and speaker, blockchain is the most expensive database ever invented.
Is your blockchain for innovation?
To get some ROI from your blockchain investment, you need some really BIG idea that’s stupendously different than competitors and that delights hordes of people. (Think of a Ripple or Binance). Such a feat, according to Winkers, is performed by only two out of every hundred ICOs or startups.
“In all my years,” Winkers told me, “I’ve only found one ICO that makes sense, and that’s the one I’m with right now. A Russian company called Visor looking to create a payment coin. I’m providing some technical guidance, more on the architecture side. I think they have a good team that understands the need to meet the underlying business needs. It’s not about them having a big payday.”
I regularly tell businesses not to proceed with Bitcoin, but to focus on more conventional solutions. I try to help them customize their business, figure out what they can do. Unfortunately, most people who approach me are dazzled by Bitcoin and the ledger. They don’t understand it… but just about everyone’s doing it so they want on the bandwagon. Now if they’d have a wonderful remarkable useful idea that may be one thing, but they often emerge with impractical, unfeasible ‘solutions’, so it’s a waste of their time and money.
At the end of the day, if your mind is on blockchain for fame or money, Winkers doubts you’ll succeed. You’ll want to have a solid idea that makes sense and that lasts for decades.
Blockchain to save you money?
How about if you don’t want to innovate but are sold by the blockchain hype and want blockchain to expedite your business? Say, you’ve read reports like that by management consulting giant Accenture and McLagan who insisted that blockchain promises cost savings of 70 percent or more in finance areas? Or you read the 2014 EY report how blockchain-based businesses outpace competitors?
Well, blockchains have certain problems that you’d want to know about…
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce – recently released a report for beginners to blockchain and business owners often tempted by new technology.
The report pointed out that blockchain can’t control users’ conduct. The NIST also highlighted the misconception that blockchain is “trustless” – you need a great deal of trust in the technology, developers, and user cooperation for the blockchain to function. Further, users must manage their own private keys that, once lost, are harder to recover than usernames or passwords on centralized platforms.
Additionally, blockchains are massively inefficient. Set up a blockchain and you’ll need each and every user to archive, and constantly update, a complete history of all that’s happened on that blockchain.
Finally, but not conclusively, blockchains also require a computational challenge to restrict the creation of new blocks. If it’s too easy, hackers could temporarily mobilize enough computing power to rewrite history; if it’s too hard, each new block will consume megawatts of electricity. And electricity for blockchain costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
On the other hand…
As we speak, blockchain improves all the time. More modern technologies produce decentralized platforms that have more bandwidth, are faster, more convenient, easier to program. IOTA, for example, uses a “blockchain” that isn’t the traditional format but a new one called Tangle that knocks out the expense and time of mining. IOTA transactions are super-fast and process several transactions simultaneously. Its structure perfectly suits the Internet of Things (IoT), where products and appliances like cars, home appliances and machinery “tangle”. Businesses on “next generation” blockchains like IOTA report a smooth, fast and cheap experience that almost resembles that of the Web.
So to blockchain or not to blockchain?
A unanimous decision tree floating the Web may resolve your problem.
Ask yourself the following:
If you need a database, are all the writers or participants on your team known and trusted? Is there anything you need to hide? Do you need to hire, or involve, trusted third parties? Do you need to control functionality? Are your transactions private? If your answers are a flat “no” to each of these questions, either stick to a standard database or use a public blockchain.
Does more than one participant need to be able to update the data? Do you need to hire third-parties whom you’re unsure whether you can trust? Do you have any confidential data? Do you and all the updates on your team barely know one another or have some qualms of one or more users? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, use a permissioned or hybrid blockchain.
Does the data need to be kept private? Do you need to control who can make changes to the blockchain software? Do you have the money for blockchain programming and continuous maintenance and upgrades? Consider a private blockchain.
Even then Winkers would tell you to mull your decisions carefully.
“I’ve always worked to make sure that small businesses aren’t taken advantage of by others in the technical fields,” he told me, “And that includes blockchain. For some it’s the right path, for others, it’s a costly diversion.”
“ICO companies that invest in blockchain have a 98% failure rate. That’s not the route,” Brian insisted, ”that I’d want to take.”
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About three years ago, a so-called crypto-anarchist, deep into libertarianism, hired me to write a book that included content railing against government anti-money laundering regulations. As he saw it, there is essentially nothing wrong with financially supporting terrorist organizations, smuggling drugs or other contraband items. (Hell, there was nothing wrong with terrorism to him; one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter). People can do what they want as long as they don’t harm others. Drugs and prostitutes (for instance) delight individuals. And, therefore, the government, which, by the way, does a lousy job of literally minding its own business should focus on “minding its own business”.
Five years later and knowing more on money laundering, I think large-scale smuggling and certainly funding terrorists may have more negative social and economic ramifications than my well-meaning friend opined. This is partly because unrequited criminal laundering turns us into a criminal society – after all why work ethically when we can make far more money in illicit activities. Above all, successful money laundering means more drugs on the streets, more drug-related crime, more fraud, more corporate embezzling, and more terrorism, among a host of other social ills.
What is money laundering?
Money laundering, at its simplest, is the act of trying to make money that comes from nefarious Source A look like it comes from “clean” Source B. If caught, the perpetrator can’t use that money, since law enforcement would seize it. Source A involves funding ISIS, smuggling cocaine, engaging in corrupt political businesses, or benefiting from fraudulent business schemes, as examples.
If I were involved in any of these activities and would want to retain my stash, I’d be advised to go through the following three steps:
Placement – Find a place to stash my money. If I wire the trove to my banks Capital One or Charles Schwab, they’d have to tell the government I’m suddenly depositing millions in checks. So I need to find a resilient hiding place.
Layering – Money launderers can teach me all sort of schemes like wiring money between different accounts in different names in different countries, or purchasing high-value items (boats, houses, cars, diamonds) to change the form of my money. I can also change my money’s currency – and this is where cryptocurrency comes in. So, I can change my dirty dollars into Bitcoin and then again into Monero or Dash to better hide its source – now there’s a way to evade the cops!
Integration – At this point, my money re-enters mainstream society as though it comes from a legitimate source. I’ve strategized in such a way that my startling fortune is innocuous and can slip under the radar.
The government’s response to money-laundering
In the United States, the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency join forces in catching money-launderers like me. State and local police investigate cases under their jurisdiction. On the international stage (and when it comes to blockchain), organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) send in their troops. The last has 33 member states and organizations, as of 2018.
Cops combine legislation with law enforcement. In the United States, legislative acts include:
The Bank Secrecy Act (1970) – Financial institutions have to report all single transactions above $10,000 and multiple transactions totaling more than $10,000 to or from a single account in one day. When it comes to the blockchain industry, this includes money service businesses (MSB), too. Bankers who violate this rule can serve up to 10 years in prison.
The 1986 Money Laundering Control Act – Any aspect of money laundering is a crime punishable by fines or jail.
The 1994 Money Laundering Suppression Act – Banks have to establish their own money-laundering task forces to weed out suspicious activity in their institutions. When it comes to blockchain-based financial institutions, customer due diligence (CDD) rules are no different.
In truth, it’s a perpetual chase of cops vs. robbers, with the robbers mostly slipping through even as cops set the traps.
How do AML rules impact ICOs?
ICOs, also known as token sales, can fall foul of anti-money laundering regulations with their digital tokens. While “utility tokens” that only give investors access to the startup’s features are ok, it is the “security tokens” that may offer investors equity or some form of an investment return that are problematic.
This is where a growing number of ICOs interest themselves in Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations for reasons that include the following:
Establish credibility with banks – After all, banks don’t want to trip up with organizations like FinCen, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, that snoops into whether financial institutions are adhering to KYC.
Long-term legitimacy – It’s good for your bottom line. You don’t want the government to bust your booty as happened in 2014 with Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange, after the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized suspicious money from its U.S. subsidiary account.
Improved public perception – You appear more legitimate. You’re more likely to interest investors. The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), for one, warns consumers to avoid ICOs:
“Due to their unregulated status and the anonymous nature of the transactions involved, ICOs are attractive for the laundering of money obtained by criminal means. .. Because of these risks, there is a strong possibility that investors will lose their entire investment.”
With your compliance to KYC/ AML rules, you prove the AFM wrong.
4. Expanded reach – You’re more likely to attract investors in countries with rigid KYC/AML regulations like US, UK and Canada.
5. Avoid Regulatory Fines – There have been cases of regulatory bodies fining or suffocating ICOs that smell suspicious. With the Mt. Gox case, more than 3,000 customers lost some, or all, of their investments. You really don’t want that happening to you! AML in practice?
Our most recent guide to all there’s to “KYC: A Practical Guide for Blockchain Entrepreneur and Investor” gives you the overall picture.
Really, it reduces to three steps:
Identify and do background checks on depositors.
Report all suspicious activity. (For example, if a background check revealed that depositor A works in an oil rig, and he deposits $2,000 every two weeks, a series of ten $9,000 deposits over two weeks should worry you.)
Build an internal task-force to identify laundering clues.
Founded in 2013, Gatecoin is a Hong Kong based cryptocurrencyexchange that finds itself at #25 on BlockExplorer’s top 25 exchanges of 2017 list. Gatecoin offers a good number of trading pairs and an API for programmatic trading. Of the 90 trading pairs Gatecoin offers, there are both crypto/fiat and crypto/crypto offered, with the crypto/fiat pair’s fiat side being one of USD, EUR, or HKD.
Gatecoin has a respectable number of trading pairs and offers an API for programmatic trading. Which makes it a good choice for any traders located in Hong Kong, especially those looking to trade programmatically.
Fee wise, Gatecoin charges fees based on the trader’s volume over the last 31 days. Unlike some other exchanges, the 31 day period is a rolling one, meaning that you do not have to wait an entire period if you have significantly changed the volume of your trades. Fee levels are broken into the standard maker/taker distribution, where the taker pays a higher percentage than the maker. On the low end, 50BTC/31d, makers pay a fee of 0.25% and takers pay a fee of 0.35%. And on the high end, 20,000+BTC/31d, makers pay 0.02% and takers pay 0.1%. A complete breakdown of the trading fees charged can be found on Gatecoin’s fee page.
For deposit and withdrawal, Gatecoin only seems to charge fees for fiat. The fees paid depends on the transfer method, for example, there is a 1EUR deposit and 5EUR withdrawal fee for SEPA based deposits and withdrawals. The full list of fees can be found on Gatecoin’s transfer costs page.
Limit wise, accounts are limited based on their verification level. For crypto, you can transfer an unlimited amount as soon as you have completed tier 1 verification. And for fiat, tier 1 accounts are limited to $50,000USD or equivalent, which is upped to $100,000USD or equivalent for tier 2. There is no indicated timeframe for these limits.
Gatecoin’s registration method is a multi-step process that requires a decent amount of personal information. Registration cannot be completed without providing said information.
The first step is an email and password and is input from the normal registration form. Once you have completed the initial registration, you will be required to go through a further five steps on login. Each step requires some personal information from you. With the first step requiring your first and last name, your date of birth, and your current nationality. Following step 1, step 2 requires contact details, specifically, your address and phone number. Step three is simple and requires you to confirm an email address for your account. While step four is essentially verification for level 1, requiring a scanned copy of a photo ID and some proof of residence. And lastly, step five is a questionnaire asking for information regarding your source of funds.
Gatecoin has three verification tiers, where the first is no verification, the second is “verified”, and the third is “Certified”
Tier 2 verification requires a photo ID no older than ten years, and a proof of residence no older than three months, and a filled out ‘source of funds questionnaire’. Tier 2 is completed as a part of the initial account registration process.
“Certified” verification requires the same documents from Tier 2 to be mailed in as certified hard copies. Once the certified copies of the documents have been received, a video conference based verification takes place. During the Skype call, you will need to show your ID to prove that you are who you say you are. Alternatively, Hong Kong residents can have their documents certified at Gatecoin’s office.
Gatecoin’s interface is a bright white with two-toned blues for highlights, there is no dark mode offered. The bright background makes the interface difficult to use at night or in dark settings. The trading interface itself is well balanced, with a decent amount of information provided. As for the layout of the trading interface, it is split into four sections. The upper left section holds an order submission form. And on its right is the currently selected trading pair’s order book. On the lower half, there is a trade history on the left and a chart on the right. Along the top of the page is the pair selection dropdown, as well as a small overview of the current ask, bid, volume, high, low, and last trade for the currently selected pair.
Account security wise, Gatecoin offers 2FA by means of Google Authenticator. Gatecoin offers a very granular account security configuration tool that allows you to specify what account actions will be logged via email, require confirmation via email, and require confirmation via 2FA. Granular controls are a welcome sight and make securing your account very easy. Gatecoin also states that all user funds are stored in per-user accounts on their side.