Currently Relevant
March 14, 2024

Currently Relevant: Edition 19

This month: Bitcoin reaches historic high amid ETF inflows, as Swiss banks dive deeper into crypto trading. Meanwhile, three Web3 companies have launched a new platform for tokenized shares on Polygon, some former FTX employees have made a venture capital comeback, and Telefónica and Coachella announce new, very different Web3 initiatives. Finally, in the seemingly never-ending election season of 2024, we take a look at how crypto advocacy is gaining momentum.

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:
Bitcoin reaches historic high amid ETF inflows, as Swiss banks dive deeper into crypto trading. Meanwhile, three Web3 companies have launched a new platform for tokenized shares on Polygon, some former FTX employees have made a venture capital comeback, and Telefónica and Coachella announce new, very different Web3 initiatives. Finally, in the seemingly never-ending election season of 2024, we take a look at how crypto advocacy is gaining momentum.

Bitcoin soars to new heights amid ETF frenzy and Grayscale’s rocky transition

It is probably not news to anyone reading this blog, but Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $72,968 on Tuesday March 12, driven by investments in Bitcoin spot ETFs and the forthcoming halving event. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved 10 different ETFs in January, with fees currently ranging from .19% for the Franklin Bitcoin ETF (EZBC) to 1.5% for Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC). Grayscale had a headstart over the competition as an existing fund with around $28 billion in assets under management when it converted to become a spot ETF. This year, however, it has suffered almost $9.6 billion in outflows, which analysts ascribe mainly to profit-taking and as a result of some investors moving to lower fee alternatives. Despite the significant Grayscale outflows, however, there have still been net inflows of $8.5 billion into Bitcoin spot ETFs overall since launch, with funds like Blackrock (IBIT) and Fidelity (FBTC) leading the charge.

Bit of a rollercoaster: Coinbase’s code glitch shocks customers as Bitcoin rallies

For Coinbase customers in recent days there was some good news and some shocking news. The good news was that Bitcoin had risen to a record high. But as some customers logged into their accounts with glee to count their profits, they were subjected to a gut-wrenching shock: a zero balance account. Luckily, this was not the result of a hack or theft, but a bug in the code of the cryptocurrency exchange which has since been patched. This is the second time that Coinbase users have experienced this unwelcome surprise in recent days, after a similar occurrence five days earlier on February 28. Although there has been no detailed explanation provided by Coinbase, an X post by its CEO Brian Armstrong suggested that it was connected to a surge in traffic caused by Bitcoin’s rally. 

More Swiss banks embrace crypto trading

Crypto traders wishing to trade crypto through a regulated operator have a relatively broad selection of providers to choose from. Alongside the dedicated crypto banks, Sygnum and AMINA (formerly SEBA), there are private banks like Maerki Baumann, not to mention FINMA-authorised online trading platforms like Swissquote and its youth-oriented spin off, Yuh. 

Now crypto trading is spreading to cantonal banks too, which have a long and distinguished tradition in Switzerland. Typically independently managed but part owned by the cantonal government and regulated by its laws, they primarily provide retail banking services and play an important role in financing local businesses and public projects. On March 5, Luzerner Kantonalbank announced that it would be providing crypto trading services to its clients, offering an initial selection of three currencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum and USD Coin. The bank becomes the third cantonal bank to offer such services alongside the banks of Zug and St. Gallen. 

The news comes after PostFinance, a major Swiss retail bank with over 2.5 million customers nationally, launched a new service in late February that provides a selection of 11 cryptocurrencies and “crypto savings plans” to its clients.   

The token trio: Sygnum, Hamilton Lane, and Apex introduce new DLT shares on Polygon

Swiss digital asset bank Sygnum has teamed up with US investment manager Hamilton Lane, and international financial services provider Apex Group to “expand access” to global private markets using DLT-registered shares. Leveraging the Polygon blockchain, the initiative aims to increase the efficiency of fund management by automating and integrating investment functions that were previously separate. The first fund to feature this new type of share class will be Hamilton Lane’s $3.8 billion Global Private Assets (GPA) Fund, which has performed strongly since its inception in 2019. By lowering the fund entry point, these DLT-registered shares enable a wider pool of qualified investors to participate.

From fallout to funding: Former FTX employees forging new paths

It is safe to say that anyone who worked for FTX has had a rough couple of years. Sam Bankman-Fried reportedly threatened or even fired employees who voiced concerns about the business practices of the ill-fated cryptocurrency exchange when it was still in operation. Subsequently, many employees of its subsidiaries found out about the bankruptcy filing on Twitter (now X) before they were informed by their superiors, while others needed to await the results of liquidation proceedings to see if they would receive any outstanding salary or benefits payments.  

Thus, the news that two projects co-founded by former FTX employees have received funding in recent weeks will be welcomed by those trying to rebuild their careers in the wake of its collapse. Backpack, an exchange, wallet and base for the Solana NFT project MadLads, raised $17 million in a series-A funding round that valued the project at $120 million. Backpack uses a system similar to a permissioned blockchain to record transfers and trades in an effort to improve transparency and guard against fraudulent activities. Earlier in February, Architect, a derivatives brokerage founded by former FTX executive Brett Harrison, raised $12 million in seed funding. While both projects will ultimately be judged on their record by investors and users, the funding rounds show that there can be life after FTX for some of its former staff. 

Elsewhere in funding news, restaking is continuing to attract investment. Restaking protocol secured $23 million in a series-A round led by Bullish Capital and CoinFund. The news came after EigenLayer also raised $100 million from Andreessen Horowitz, underling the strong interest in restaking among Web3 investors.

Adoption: New Web3-to-GSM gateway and Coachella NFT initiative

Telefónica, one of the largest telecommunication companies globally whose sub-brands include Movistar, O2, and Vivo, is partnering with Web3 services platform Chainlink. The alliance will link the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association) Open Gateway API to Polygon’s PoS network. The Open Gateway API is designed to be a standard way to access the mobile services of GSMA members, an industry association that represents over 1000 mobile operators and businesses globally. In effect, this will serve as an external information oracle that will add an additional layer of security to blockchain transactions by ensuring that a SIM card has not been compromised and by providing support for 2FA and fraud detection services in Web3 and DeFi apps. Given recent reports of organised criminal gangs targeting SIM cards to defraud crypto holders, this development would seem timely. Telefónica’s Brazilian subsidiary Vivo will be the first operator to take advantage of the partnership.

In other adoption news, the US music festival Coachella has signed a new NFT partnership with OpenSea to launch collectible tokens hosted on the Avalanche blockchain. The Californian festival, scheduled to take place in mid April, has become one of the mainstays of the US live music circuit thanks to its diverse lineup of emerging artists and established performers and its emphasis on creativity, expression and art. In addition to Coachella inspired digital artwork, each NFT comes with unique perks, such as access to the VIP area or limited edition merchandise.

RFK’s Web3 manifesto: The crypto enthusiast shaking up the 2024 race   

There may not be very much suspense about the outcome, but it’s primary season in the US, the time when Republicans and Democrats go to polls and caucuses to choose each party’s presidential nominee. And a presidential candidate was one of the star attractions at ETH Denver last week. No, not Donald Trump, Nikki Haley or Joe Biden, but independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK). The environmental lawyer, vaccine critic, and son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced he was running for president on April 19, 2023, initially as a Democrat. Later, he indicated that he was changing his political affiliation to independent. 

During an interview conducted by Custodia Bank CEO Caitlin Long, RFK Jr. showcased a comparatively good understanding of crypto policy, competently dealing with questions concerning topics such as the environmental footprint of Bitcoin. In a radical policy proposal that is likely to delight goldbugs and crypto enthusiasts and shock mainstream economists, he has floated the idea of gradually backing the dollar with real finite assets, including gold, silver, platinum, and Bitcoin. 

Earlier this week, RFK Jr. criticised President Biden’s proposal for a US crypto mining tax, arguing that it would hinder the domestic crypto industry and drive activity elsewhere. Adopting a staunchly libertarian outlook on Web3 policy issues, he opposes the development of a US central bank digital currency (CBDC), claiming that government backed tokens ultimately serve as a mechanism for “surveillance and control”. The candidate has also been a strong critic of US financial regulators, contending that they are waging an “extra-legal war on crypto”. 

Unlike Trump, Biden, or Haley (who suspended her campaign after the Super Tuesday results), RFK Jr. stands apart in polling as the only candidate with a net positive favorability rating. A Quinnipiac University poll last November placed him at 22% nationally in a hypothetical three-way race with Biden (39%) and Trump (36%). If that result were borne out in reality, it would eclipse the 18.9% received by Ross Perot in 1992, the best result for an independent candidate in modern US presidential history. It remains to be seen whether RFK Jr.’s appeal to crypto voters can move the needle even further for the long-shot candidate, but his appearance at ETH Denver is a further indication of the growing political presence of Web3. 

Organised crypto advocacy on the rise

As we venture further into what has been dubbed “the year of elections”, a wider trend of organised political advocacy is emerging. In August 2023, Coinbase launched the “Stand with Crypto Alliance”, a campaign and website that ranks US politicians on their perceived degree of support for cryptocurrency and encourages crypto holders to register to vote, contact lawmakers and support pro-crypto legislation. The rankings are based on information from “Do They Support It”, a website that documents and categorises the stances that prominent politicians have taken on cryptocurrency

Somewhat surprisingly, of the 177 members of congress ranked so far, 56% are classified as either “strongly supportive” or “supportive” of crypto. However there is quite a noticeable split along partisan lines, with 80% of Republican members ranked as either “supportive” or “strongly supportive”, as opposed to only 33% of Democrats. Bear in mind that there are 535 members of congress in total (100 senators and 435 representatives), so most of them are yet to be ranked. 


The strategy of ranking politicians echoes the approach of many other influential US advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Rifle Association (NRA). Cryptocurrency industry figures have been getting directly involved in electoral races through political action committees (PACs) too. Last Wednesday, Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter, who had sided with Elizabeth Warren in taking a critical stance towards the cryptocurrency sector, was defeated in her California primary. The result came after $10 million of attack ads were aired in the state by Fairshake, a Super PAC which has received financing from Coinbase, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Winklevoss twins, among others.


While groups like Blockchain for Europe have been engaged in advocacy work on the other side of the Atlantic, they have taken a much less visible approach to outreach, so it will be interesting to see whether the more direct, aggressive, and grassroots approach of groups like Stand with Crypto and Fairshake catches on in other countries.

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