Thoughts on “Stellar and the State of Cryptocurrency”

In January Christian from Stellar published “Stellar and the State of Cryptocurrency“ (check out here what Stellar is). The report came out in January, at a time where the general market was going downward after doing quite the opposite in the months before or. The team shared the following updates: Transactions per second high but still below industry standard Stellar showed that they are aware of a need for marketing 2017 marked two years of Stellar being battle-tested In 2017 smart-contract functionality was added Bifrost was released Stellar merged several Go repositories into monorepo and there were 128 merged pull requests in 2017 XLM support added to Ledger Nano S See below for details. Relatively high transactions per second, low transaction fees, and marketing-consciousness They reported on their transactions per second (TPS) and transaction fees (tf). TPS, although relatively high, are still below current industry standard (e.g. Visa with around 2k). Also, according to them, they have the lowest average transaction fees compared to selected other cryptos. Crypto Platform Performance and Stellar specs (Source: Stellar) As I believe that the whole industry will convergence towards the same fees over time (the same applies to other technical specifications as well) I believe

Thoughts on Stellar’s “2018 Stellar Roadmap”

 In January Christian from Stellar published “2018 Stellar Roadmap“ (check out here what Stellar is). In the roadmap they focused on two things: their growth in randos per week (r.p.w or rpw) their strategic goals for 2018 Growth in randos per week Jokingly (at least I hope so) Christian shared a 12kk increase in “the critical indicator for a decentralized protocol” (original emphasis), namely randos per week (r.p.w or rpw; number of random people talking about crypto) and promised equally moonish growth. Stellar’s Randos per week (Source: Stellar) I have shared my thoughts on Stellar’s randos per week in “Thoughts on Stellar’s Randos Per Week in the context of increased crypto awareness”. The main points are: Although rpw was meant as a joke, crypto has become more talked about More attention around crypto is important because crypto diffusion — a two-step process (see Two mental steps towards cryptoasset diffusion) takes time. The more people know about it, the faster it will diffuse. Nevertheless, crypto attention has its downsides: a) misconceptions are prevalent, b) several (not only financial) bubbles will burst, c) “overpresence” of pro-crypto people doesn’t represent overall adoption and leads to dangerous conclusions Besides that, they shared their goals for 2018, namely SDEX (Stellar

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptoassets: discussing bubbles vs. discussing socio-technical systems

Disclaimer: I own several cryptoassets. My views might be biased. TL;DR Because Bitcoin and Blockchain are inseparably linked arguing that Bitcoin is a bubble that will burst but its underlying technology – Blockchain – will prevail is difficult without context (i. e. which Blockchain and – see second – what constitutes a Bitcoin bubble) Basing Bitcoin’s value on USA’s money supply and global gold supply a value for Bitcoin can be estimated that refutes any bubble-related claims Altcoins are better defined as cryptoassets. Cryptoassets can be divided into cryptocurrencies and cryptotokens. Cryptotokens enable a semi-publicization of centralized customer data and through that shift data governance to the data’s rightful creators Cryptotokens can be used to incentivize early adopters and kickstart networks Cryptotokens could create more financially conscious people and lead to positive social impacts by allowing more people to invest in companies Blockchain and Co. can be seen as an all-encompassing socio-technical system that could lead to unexpected second-order consequences in industry and society as it was the case with touchscreens, the Internet, and smartphones (I should make a TL;DR for the TL;DR) In the last couple of days, there has been quite some medial attention regarding Bitcoin. Some part of that activity centered around Bitcoin

Banks, digital wallets, and the future of mobile payments

Today, mobile payments. Actually, digital wallets. This annotation is important because the analysis’ centers around VR Bank HessenLand und Volksbank Mittelhessen introducing their pilot for smartphone-based mobile payment. Due to a payment-commoditization (payment goes from product to feature, see also PayPal and Raisin: payment-commoditization and FinTech-platforms), there is general agreement that mobile payment is to be integrated into another product. Candidates are banking apps, shopping apps, payment apps, and digital wallet. I am pro-digital wallets as they are inherently useful (they are better than analog wallets which are already – very effectively – used for mobile payment), combine the other products’ features and can create better solutions than those (e. g. contain new “things” such as virtual keys or to purchase new things such as parking tickets). Also, I argued that banks’ mobile payment solutions (exclusive for their payment methods) might make sense to them (by shutting out other payment providers they are prioritizing theirs) but not to the customer. As they give customers only a narrow choice of payment methods they turn customers’ payment behavior from paying with a wallet (with multiple payment methods) into paying with payment cards from one specific bank. Additionally, what speaks against such closed

PayPal and Raisin: payment-commoditization and FinTech-platforms

Recently PayPal announced a „strategic investment“ into Germany-based Raisin. Raisin is a savings deposit marketplace for savings interest rates. Whereas PayPal is known to be „the button“ for online payments, it has gone beyond being just a payment provider. In fact, when looking at their goals one could even go so far and question whether they are still a payment provider or rather a FinTech platform focusing on personal finance management. For instance, PayPal’s vision is: to democratize financial services, as we believe that managing and moving money is a right for all people, not just the affluent. Our goal is to increase our relevance for consumers and merchants to manage and move their money anywhere in the world, anytime, on any platform and using any device. [3] In regards to Acorns, the micro-investing service they have integrated into their app, they communicate their goal as: help consumers take better control of their financial lives. Part of this mission is to ensure we’re also helping people build financial wellness. And whereas one could shrug that off as marketing talk their product line-up suggests otherwise, namely that PayPal is indeed becoming a FinTech platform for personal finance management applications beyond payments: Online

NAGA, savedroid, and useful ICOs

byte heroes, HydroMiner, Wysker, and cointed (see here for the first three ) were one of the first DACH-based Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Now, with the recent ICOs (or announcements) of The NAGA Group and savedroid, we have a few more. Whereas there is no official definition of an ICO, most would agree that it is a way to raise money. However, it is important that a company should only ICO if there is clear demand for the token. Lack thereof will add unnecessary complexity to the business (with little to no upside benefit), threaten the token’s value and consequently lead to angry users and possible legal issues. Unnecessary complexity due to technical issues, lack of historical data, incompatibility and macroeconomic considerations Cryptotokens are still very early in several regards. Besides technical issues (e. g. scalability) lack of historical data (e. g. risk concerns, best practices, existences of bubbles) they are incompatible with users’ “past experiences” and there are macroeconomic considerations. Cryptotokens’ incompatible with past experiences Compatibility is defined as “the degree to which an innovation is perceived as consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters“ [3]. Studies have shown that cultures who considered hot

Verivox, Outbank, and Clark: some disruption, FinTech-stack, and fighting incumbents

In November, the comparison portal Verivox acquired Outbank, a personal finance manager (PFM) who temporarily filed for bankruptcy and aboalarm, a contract cancellation tool (Link to Outbank’s German press release, Link to Verivox’s German press release). A lot can be written about that. For starters, why they made that acquisition. Verivox’s reasons for acquisitions: response to CHECK24, additional marketing channel, and response to FinTechs/InsurTechs Looking at CHECK24’s — their primary competitor — recent moves, probably the most obvious reason is that Verivox made the acquisitions as a response to CHECK24. Furthermore, when considering that Outbank is layered atop Verivox, I am arguing that Outbank might be an additional marketing channel (to TV and search) and thus more important to Verivox than Verivox to Outbank. Finally, through that acquisition, they might, in fact, be responding to FinTechs instead of attacking them. Verivox’s reasons for acquisitions: response to CHECK24 In May, Capital (news in German) reported that CHECK24, one of Verivox’s biggest competitors, will be offering several „FinTech products“. Among them a contract management tool, a multi-banking feature and an expansion of their comparisons into fixed-term deposits. Whereas this was often quoted as an attack on FinTechs (amongst others Clark, WeltSparen, and Outbank),

kwitt, Lendstar, and Cringle: timing, feature vs. product, and activities-based banking

Venmo, MobilePay, Cookies, kwitt, N26’s MoneyBeam, PayPal, Wavy, Lendstar…and now Cringle. All of these services, apps, and companies have in common that they are used for P2P payments. Some of them failed, some of them are very successful, some will be and some won’t. Cringle, the Berlin-based startup, believes that it can be successful and has thus started their second crowdfunding campaign on Companisto (link to campaign). Besides P2P payments, Cringle also wants to offer a B2B payment solution allowing retailers and online shops to accept payments through Cringle. I won’t go into their B2B offering, but it merits to say that the German online payment market is dominated by PayPal, bills, debit and credit cards, and that the mobile payment space is yet to be dominated. Here I will look on their P2P payment solution. P2P payments not compatible with how money is handled in Germany and niche approach to circumvent incompatibility From a fundamental point of view Cringle’s success depends on process innovation. Process innovation can be defined along the following lines: „Process innovation means the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method (including significant changes in techniques, equipment and/or software)“ [8]. And Cringle is

ING-DiBa, N26, revolut: fairly good incumbents and FinTech re-unbundling

According to Gründerszene, the Berlin-based solarisBank might raise a Series B. Whether this will indeed happen does not matter (the news is actually from October). What matters, however, is solarisBank’s position in the FinTech value chain. solarisBank is a banking platform which owns a banking license and offers financial services such as bank account management, credit card issuing or KYC (know your customer) services. In short, the bottom of the stack, the infrastructure of FinTech companies — as some would say — the boring stuff. In contrast, N26 and revolut are doing the exciting, customer-facing stuff; offering an easy to use, nice looking banking app. From a strategic perspective, however, the „boring“ stuff, is actually the sexy stuff (if banking can be sexy at all). This is not only because solarisBank per se is attractive (in many cases they are the backbone of FinTechs), but also because N26 and revolut are playing in an extremely difficult market. Slow customer acquisition and market saturation Whereas there are several difficult things about banking, the one I am referring to is customer acquisition. For instance, Scalable Capital, a robo advisor partnering with ING-DiBa, shows how difficult customer acquisition can be and, in turn,

GETAWAY a German P2P carsharing start-up that got rejected on Die Höhle der Löwen (DHDL)

In the course of the German start-up show Die Höhle der Löwen (DHDL) GETAWAY, a P2P car sharing startup, pitched but got rejected. GETAWAY wants to enable spontaneous car renting. The investors rejected the start-up because they do not own the appropriate expertise, considered the valuation too high or because they thought that the capital required to get the company started was too high. Most of the money GETAWAY wanted to rise would flow into equipping each registered car with a hardware module that coordinates the sharing (tracking time and fuel, and allowing access to the car through the app). GETAWAY installs this hardware module and if you an early adopter in a certain area you will get it for free. Getting one car ready costs the company between 400€ and 450€. This is a lot of money especially if the startup does not charge for it. Hopefully (for GETAWAY, not users) it is a proprietor system so that no other competitor could build upon their infrastructure. The car’s owner determines the price you pay for a drive and insurance is included in it. The company wants to finance all that by a 33% commission. Edgar Scholler, the CEO of