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.

Should you?

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 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.”

Winkers added:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Do you even need 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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Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are proving to be the investment of the day, with over $9 billion so far raised in the first six months of 2018.

Despite a drop in cryptocurrency prices, interest in ICOs doesn’t appear to be waning. Figures from CoinSchedule indicates that within the first half of the year, more than $9.6 billion has been invested into this form of fundraising. March saw the highest amount raised, coming in at $3.8 billion from 59 ICOs.

When it comes to the top-ranked ICOs, in terms of return on investment (ROI) against the U.S. dollar, which ones make it in the top 10.

The following is in no way an endorsement of ICOs, and potential investors should always conduct their own research before investing their money.

This handy infographic by ico_analysis details what those top 10 ICOs of 2018 are.

Credits

Back in February Credits launched its public crowdsale, hitting its hard cap of $22 million within 17 hours. As an open blockchain platform with smart contracts and an internal cryptocurrency, Credits is reported to have fast transactions up to one million per second and unlimited scalability of the network.

Matrix Chain

The Matrix Chain is also a blockchain platform that supports smart contracts as well as machine learning services. Its public sale launched in mid-January, with a fundraising goal of $12 million. Rated as the next generation blockchain that leverages AI with the blockchain, Owen Tao, CEO of MATRIX, claims it’s a ‘game changer in blockchain technology.’

Switcheo

Built on the NEO blockchain, Switcheo is a decentralized exchange (DEX) that allows for trustless exchange of NEP-5 tokens. It launched its public crowdsale in March with a hard cap of $8 million. It aims to be the first multi-chain DEX for cross-chain token exchange.

Nucleus Vision

Nucleus is an end-to-end technology solution that captures and provides previously inaccessible data to retailers and other ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses. It achieves this through its proprietary blockchain and real-time sensor technology. In January it reached its hard cap target of $40 million from the backing of prominent blockchain-focused investment companies. It also canceled its public ICO due to rising ethereum prices, deciding instead to list its token directly on exchanges.

Bluzelle

This data service brings together a sharing and token economy. The platform enables people to rent out their unused computer storage space while developers pay to use it with a token. Bluzelle’s token sale ended in January with a target of $19 million.

Zebi

Zebi is a blockchain service that is aiming to become the blockchain network of India. In February, it reached its ICO goal for 30 percent of the token total. It aims to provide individuals, businesses, data requestors, and data providers with a platform to exchange information.

Tomocoin

This is a blockchain infrastructure for the Internet of Value, where people can trade assets, such as stocks, votes, and securities, securely. It will connect to Tomocoin and Ethereum to support cross-chain protocols. Its ICO ended in March with a target of $8 million for 40 percent of token total reached.

Holochain

Holochain is a cloud storage solution provider that is aiming to deliver a decentralized hosting ecosystem. Its token sale ended in April where it had a target of $20 million.

Zilliqa

This is a new blockchain platform that is designed to scale in an open, permissionless distributed network securely. A core feature of it is sharding, which enables it to scale and is a problem it is attempting to solve in the industry. Its public sale was at the beginning of the year with a hard cap of $22 million to raise.

Ontology

Built on the NEO blockchain, Ontology is a network that connects ‘distributed identity verification, data exchange, data collaboration, procedure protocols, communities, attestation, and various industry-specific modules.’ Unlike conventional ICO sales, Ontology didn’t have one, but instead only airdropped to subscribers in March. Distributed by the NEO Council, 20 million ONT tokens were sent to the community.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Use our news to inform cryptocurrency trading decisions, stay up-to-date on happenings in the industry, and more!

Wells Fargo Is The Latest Bank To Block Cryptocurrency Purchases On Credit
You can’t buy bitcoin with Wells Fargo credit cards anymore. Engadget reports, “Wells Fargo is pumping the brakes on customers using their credit cards to buy bitcoin — the bank has banned credit card cryptocurrency purchases. However, this isn’t a permanent measure, as Wells Fargo will monitor the crypto market and reassess the issue as needed”.

SEC Launches ICO Portal: Highlights Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities
According to Tony Spilotro of BlockExplorer, “The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is vehemently opposed to a common crowdfunding practice in the cryptocurrency industry called the initial coin offering (ICO). An ICO is similar to an initial public offering where a company or corporation raises investment capital by offering its stock to the public for the first time. Only in an ICO, a digital currency or token is distributed instead of a stock, and the token can have a variety of uses that blur the line of what defines a traditional security.”

Hackers Steal $20 Million Of Ethereum From Ethereum-based Apps and Mining Rigs
The Chinese cyber-security firm Qihoo 360 Netlab reported hackers stole over $20 million of Ethereum. BleepingComputer tells us, “The cause of these thefts is Ethereum software applications that have been configured to expose an RPC [Remote Procedure Call] interface on port 8545. The purpose of this interface is to provide access to a programmatic API that an approved third-party service or app can query and interact or retrieve data from the original Ethereum-based service —such as a mineror wallet application that users or companies have set up for mining or managing funds.”

Argo Blockchain to List on London Stock Exchange, Launches Subscription Crypto-mining
Argo Blockchain, a business that seeks to offer cryptocurrency-mining to the masses, announced its plans to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange. BlockExplorer’s Julia Travers shares with us that “the announcement coincided with the launch of Argo’s Mining as a Service, or MaaS, program, which will allow users to participate in mining through the Argo site with their home computers or smartphones.”

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is vehemently opposed to a common crowdfunding practice in the cryptocurrency industry called the initial coin offering (ICO). An ICO is similar to an initial public offering where a company or corporation raises investment capital by offering its stock to the public for the first time. Only in an ICO, a digital currency or token is distributed instead of a stock, and the token can have a variety of uses that blur the line of what defines a traditional security.

Still, the SEC believes that the way ICOs are funded has them falling under security laws, and the companies interested in launching an initial coin offering need to comply with SEC private placement rules and investor protection guidelines. Those that fail to comply, may be subject to cease and desist letters in the future, as has happened with a number of US-based ICOs.

To further warn potential investors of the dangers initial coin offerings, the SEC has published a website on the increasingly popular capital raising method, providing what the SEC calls the “three ‘Rs’ of ICOs: Risks Rewards and Responsibilities.”

The website reads:

“Companies and individuals are increasingly considering initial coin offerings (ICOs) as a way to raise capital or participate in investment opportunities. While these digital assets and the technology behind them may present a new and efficient means for carrying out financial transactions, they also bring increased risk of fraud and manipulation because the markets for these assets are less regulated than traditional capital markets.’

The list of potential risks, rewards, and responsibilities is directed both at investors and potential ICO issuers and cover off on how initial coin offerings could be securities, may need to be registered with the SEC, or may pose “substantial risks.” To avoid those risks, the SEC warns investors to do their own research, ask questions, to understand the product, and to take extreme caution if and when an investment sounds “too good to be true.”

The SEC also takes the opportunity to warn would-be ICO issuers, asking them to “use caution before promoting offers and selling coins.”

A month ago, the SEC launched a fake ICO website called HoweyCoins.com to provide a working example of what a fraudulent ICO may look like. Investors who clicked on any of the fake site’s ‘buy now’ buttons, were redirected to educational materials on what red flags to look out for when considering investing in an ICO.

[Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons]