Bakkt concludes nine-digit capital raise. Intercontinental Exchange, Its blockchain network concluded its first round of funding, shaking $182.5 million out of a dozen backers including Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft and Pantera Capital. The startup is now poised to launch the first bitcoin futures contract available in the United States. It’s telling that ICE, which owns the New York Stock Exchange as well as an array of futures exchanges and clearinghouses, is concentrating so many resources in such a venture as Bakkt, and that the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission seems to be on board. “Clearing firms and customers have continued to join us as we work toward CFTC approval,” blogged Bakkt CEO Kelly Loefler. We made great progress in December, and we’ll continue to onboard customers as we await the ‘green light.’
U.K. cracks down on crypto. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority has launched 67 inquiries against cryptocurrency firms, Bicoin.com reports, of which 39 triggered consumer alerts and 18 are still under investigation. Kevin Helms’s article suggests that the U.K.’s regulatory vacuum. “The UK Government and financial services regulators appear to be deciding whether they will allow the current ‘wild west’ situation to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation,” a House of Commons report reads. “The current ambiguity surrounding the Government’s and the regulators’ positions is clearly not sustainable.” Coin issuance is still completely unregulated, but there is currently debate about what FCA’s role should be in the regulation of exchanges.
‘Crypto-rupee’ on hold. The Reserve Bank of India has shelved plans to launch a central bank digital currency. That shouldn’t surprise anyone – RBI is a fairly conservative monetary authority, and this is a space where seemingly nobody wants to be the first mover. “It is premature for RBI to launch crypto-rupee, as more understanding of the crypto economy need to be achieved,” Praveen Kumar, founder of cryptocurrency exchange and blockchain start-up Belfrics, told The Hindu Business Line. “It is a right decision to delay the process and see how the publicly traded peer-to-peer economy is shaping up.” According to Priyanka Pani’s article, Singapore or the United Arab Emirates would be more likely to be the first through the CBDC gate.
Crypto exchange license candidates abound in Japan. Unnamed sources say that Japan’s Financial Services Agency has received 190 applications to establish cryptocurrency trading platforms, Cointelegraph reports. The FSA is regulatory agency governing traditional securities exchanges and was tasked with oversight of trading digital assets. To that end, it farmed most of the work out to an industry group, the Japanese Virtual Currency Exchange Association. Still, the FSA has been known to step in when an exchange, such as Coincheck, runs afoul of the standards set by industry.
South Korea ends year with a flurry of proposed crypto bills. South Korea’s Financial Service’s Commission floated half a dozen new cryptocurrency-related bills to select members the National Assembly just before the end of the year, Bitcoin.com reports. “While each bill contains unique proposals for crypto regulation, all of them include clauses for user protection such as damage compensation, prohibition of money laundering and market manipulation, use of nonpublic information, and disclosure requirements,” reporter Kevin Helms wrote. Individual bills would regulate multi-level marketing of digital assets, require exchanges and service providers to register with the FSC, set reporting standards and promote South Korea as a blockchain-friendly nation.
Australia calls out Power Ledger for soliciting fake reviews. Blockchain-enabled energy trader Power Ledger has been shamed by Australian regulators for paying rogue “bounty hunters” for claiming that Elon Musk was interested in the venture, as well as other false or misleading statements. Executives state that the embellishments occurred outside their span of control, The Financial Review reports.
LOOKING FORWARD: Venture capitalist Fred Wilson blogged yesterday that 2019 will be a difficult year for start-ups. “I think we will see major dislocations in the leadership of the United States, a bear market in stocks, a weakening economy, a number of issues with the global economy including a messy Brexit and a sluggish China,” according to the Union Square Ventures co-founder, whose seed-stage investments included Twitter and Kickstarter. “All of this will lead to a more cautious stance by investors in the startup economy. And crypto will not be a safe haven for any of this although there will be signs of life in crypto land in 2019.” … Professional crypto enthusiast Jameson Lopp made some bold predictions on Stephan Livera’s Austrian economics-focused podcast. Lopp, a software engineer by training and experience, suggested that bitcoin could enable not only peer-to-peer value tansfers without reference to the state, but also the passing of the state entirely. He calls for a “more self-sovereign, anarcho-capitalist society” as cryptocurrency adoption swells.