Welcome to Currently Relevant, THE RELEVANCE HOUSE’s regular roundup curating the best of news, views, and stories from the blockchain, crypto, and Web3 space.
This month: Visa and Transak are making crypto-fiat conversions quicker for millions of clients, while Swiss startup Taurus gains regulatory approval to sell tokenized shares in private companies to retail clients. We also take a look at spot Bitcoin ETF inflows, amid indications that an Ether ETF is likely to be next, and take stock of the Web3 funding rounds that have closed recently.
New Visa deal allows users to convert and spend their crypto at millions of retailers globally
Visa customers can now quickly convert their crypto balances to fiat and move it to their debit or credit card in 145 countries. The payments giant has partnered with Web3 infrastructure provider Transak, which will take care of KYC, risk monitoring and compliance for the conversions. Noteworthy supported wallets include MetaMask, TrustWallet, Coinbase Wallet, and Ledger. In total, more than 350 wallets and games and 40 cryptocurrencies are covered.
The integration of Transak with Visa Direct will make it far easier for crypto holders to use their tokens to make daily purchases at any retail outlet that accepts Visa, a vast network of over 130 million merchant locations globally. Whereas a reported 46% of retailers already accept some form of crypto payments, the required wallets and supported currencies vary according to the retailer and provider. Furthermore, the majority of transactions so far have taken place through digital wallets like PayPal or Venmo as opposed to crypto-native wallets like MetaMask.
This latest Visa partnership will create a uniform way for Visa customers to convert and spend their crypto with global reach. One catch is that conversions are not instant, with users needing to wait up to 30 minutes between converting their crypto and spending it at a retail outlet. However, this is still a big upgrade on withdrawals from centralized crypto exchanges to conventional bank accounts, which typically take hours or even days to process.
Crypto Valley celebrates 10 years
Last Monday, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Crypto Valley, Switzerland’s hub for blockchain and crypto innovation. The event, hosted by Inacta Ventures, featured keynotes and panel discussions that included key Swiss industry voices, such as Ethereum co-founder Mihai Alisie, Bitcoin Suisse co-founder Fabian Hediger, Powerledger co-founder Dr. Jemma Green, and many more.
Our co-founder German Ramirez, who himself was a board member of the original Swiss Bitcoin Association, was among the attendees. As Switzerland’s leading agency for blockchain and Web3 projects, we are proud to be part of this vibrant ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting more clients in building relevant and impactful brands. Thanks to Inacta Ventures and to all the speakers and contributors for a memorable night.
FINMA decision a “token of respect” for Taurus
Any Swiss resident can now purchase tokenized shares in a selection of Swiss companies thanks to a recent FINMA decision. In late January, the Swiss financial regulator granted permission to the crypto custody specialist Taurus to offer a selection of tokenized shares to retail clients for the first time. Tokenization enables investors to gain exposure to private companies not listed on traditional stock exchanges.
The firms to have issued tokens on Taurus’s TDX marketplace include household names in the Swiss market such as insurance and financial services provider Die Mobiliar and the residential real estate company Investis. Taurus received a boost in September 2023 with the news that it was partnering with Germany’s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, to deliver digital asset services. The bank was also a Series B backer of the Swiss startup. The TDX marketplace has already offered tokenized shares to qualified investors since May 10, 2021. The latest FINMA decision now opens up access to the platform to all Swiss residents.
Ethereum ETFs on the horizon: Will they follow Bitcoin’s lead?
The Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) approval of Bitcoin spot ETFs dominated the crypto headlines in recent months, sparking hopes of an extended bull run. Figures from ETF.com now show that since the new products became available, BlackRock (IBIT) and Fidelity (FBTC) have seen the largest net inflows. After a promising start on January 12, investment in Bitwise (BITB), which launched with the lowest management fee of the pack of .2%, has been more modest recently.
The big outlier is Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), which has seen sizable outflows since its conversion from an investment trust into an ETF. Analysts ascribe the GBTC selloff to profit taking by participants that had been invested in the trust for some time, while also referencing the comparatively high 1.5% management fee, which is above all of its key competitors.
Not wanting BTC to steal all the limelight, Ethereum backers have been hopeful that an Ether ETF might also soon be in the offing. However, as before, the SEC was in no hurry to take action, pushing back its decision on BlackRock’s proposal. With other Ether ETFs from VanEck, Ark 21Shares, and Grayscale also awaiting an SEC ruling, many analysts are now predicting that they will be approved together on May 23, mirroring the timeline of the spot Bitcoin ETF approvals. The news was less positive for proponents of a spot Ripple ETF, however, as industry experts expressed the opinion that such funds will not be approved any time soon under the current SEC leadership.
Funding: backers betting that the future is multi-chain
With so many protocols, the Web3 space can be difficult to navigate and develop apps for.
Venture capitalists seem to be betting on projects that are seeking to join the dots. A number of startups focussed on cross-chain interoperability and services closed funding rounds recently including a multi-wallet manager called “Clusters” by Delegate Labs ($9 million), and the asset bridge Squid ($4 million).
Chess meets the magic of Web3 as Magnus Carlen collaborates with Anichess
What happens when the world’s best chess player teams up with a Web3 firm to make a decentralized game that fuses chess puzzles with fantasy elements? We are about to find out. Animoca Brands has announced that it is partnering with the world’s foremost chess site Chess.com and the Norwegian five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen to develop Anichess, a Web3 chess game. The hybrid game allows players to complete daily challenges to win in-game assets and will feature spellcasting and a fantasy storyline. The move comes after Anichess raised $1.5 million in seed capital in June.
Bitpanda scores new sponsorship deal with Bayern Munich
Bitpanda and Bayern Munich have agreed a new multi-year platinum sponsorship deal. The Austrian crypto exchange has become the first ever crypto trading partner of the Bundesliga champions. Although the value of the deal has not been disclosed, platinum sponsorship represents the highest tier of sponsorship the club offers. Benefits include the display of the logo on Bayern Munich’s official website, social media, and at their home ground, the Allianz Arena. Such deals tend to also involve co-marketing activities such as joint campaigns, promotions, and products. The deal comes after Bitpanda cut about 35% of its workforce last year as part of a restructuring plan to focus on its core mission.
Inacta Global Protocol Report: how to build a memorable layer-1 brand
Whether sponsoring a football team or putting advertisements on the sides of trams, the Web3 space is not short of splashy campaigns. But in a crowded sector, how can layer-1s differentiate themselves to generate long-term brand value rather than brief name recognition?
Our founder, German Ramirez, was pleased to be asked to contribute to the Inacta Global Protocols Report, where he shared some surprising insights from our analysis of the messaging of the 10 top layer-1s. To read the full Global Protocols Report 2024 including German’s contribution, click here.
A SIM-ple way to lose your crypto
If you use SMS codes as a method of two-factor authentication (2FA) for your crypto account, this case may make you reconsider. Last Thursday, three people were charged with identity theft conspiracy in a court in the US state of Washington in relation to a $400 million hack of FTX in late 2022.
The trial has revealed how the hackers used SIM-swap attacks to allegedly steal over $400 million from customers of the embattled crypto exchange. The accused allegedly impersonated FTX employees and customers to gain access to their phone numbers, receive 2FA security codes, and take control of their accounts. They then transferred the funds to external wallets that they controlled.
The case highlights the drawbacks of SMS-based 2FA for centralized exchanges (CEXs), as hackers can bypass this security measure by exploiting the vulnerability of telecom providers to social engineering attacks. Some crypto security experts recommend alternative methods of 2FA, such as hardware or software tokens. Alternatively, you could simply switch to a decentralized exchange (DEX) that does not rely on third-party custodians.