What We All Need To Hear — A Fireside Chat


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Former President of the USA, Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously inaugurated a since forsaken ritual known as the “Fireside Chats” in which he would speak openly to the American people over the radio. Rather fittingly, some of the topics he discussed in the earlier chats included banking crises and a looming recession.

ICO 101 host, Aaron Paul, recently sat down for his own fireside chat of sorts, not because he had planned to, but because a prospective interview had completely abandoned the podcast recording with no warning, no apology. If you haven’t already listened to the podcast, I recommend you do now — it is only 10 minutes.

Aaron hits on some incredibly important points concerning the professionalism — or lack thereof — in the ICO space currently. Speaking from his business background, he rightly highlights that small habits and behavioural traits can go a long way in establishing your product, your brand, and ultimately your project, as a leader in the ICO space. No-showing an arranged interview, not being able to clearly explain your project’s tech, and failing to justify enormous hard caps are not good habits to develop. Unfortunately, they are patterns of behaviour we are seeing more and more frequently of late.

While the point of this fireside chat was to do what Crypto 101 and ICO 101 have made a habit of doing — demanding excellence from the space — there was one more thing I felt needed to be stressed. That is our role as investors, as students, as early adopters in the cryptocurrency + blockchain universe. The crypto + blockchain space includes tens of thousands of people like us — the university students, parents, retail workers, truck drivers, nurses. The lack of professionalism often displayed by these ICOs is a slap in the face to us all who are investing time and money into this promising new technology and trusting them to deliver their end of the deal in bringing about a less centralised future.

It often feels like the focus is all-too-often squarely placed on the next promising ICO, or the latest success, even the latest exposed scam. The ICOs currently on the market or asking for our support are both heroes and villains of the story.

But where does that leave us?

We have become standers-by. We are left to either fortuitously ride the success of the heroes, or go down hard with the villains. On both occasions, we are nothing more than hangers-on — extras on set. For some of these ICOs we are little more than piñatas full of cash, waiting to be cracked open to reach that absurd, astronomical hard cap. Then, if the ICO turns out to be a scam, or fails for any number of reasons, we are often treated as idiots for having invested in the first place.

This is not acceptable. As early adopters, as investors in these projects, these teams, we are the essential ingredient that makes the ideas come to life. Without us the ICOs are nothing, they have no capital, no tangible way of putting their ideas into practice. As such, we need to start seeing ourselves not as standers-by or hangers-on, passively waiting to go to the moon on the back of some pump and dump, but as protagonists too.

We are part of the main cast in this blockchain blockbuster.

We need to start seeing ourselves as major players in the space. When we do, we start to demand excellence from ICOs, not because we are waiting to go to the moon, but because we value the tech, we see the potential in revolutionary ideas, and we believed in a promise, in a team, who said sold us on the idea that they alone could bring about a small part of the decentralised future.

If Aaron Paul’s fireside chat serves as a reminder to the many complacent, unprofessional ICOs currently in the space. I hope this write-up can serve as a reminder to us, the investors, to not be complacent and to see ourselves as the protagonists driving the story forward.


Aaron Paul’s Fireside Chat — https://apple.co/2GGANEU

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How Can I Use Zeex to Buy My Starbucks?

One of the biggest problems with purchasing crytpocurrencies is that you cannot use it to buy stuff like Starbucks, Amazon items, gas for your car, or dinner for your girlfriend. The problem Zeex addresses is the same problem everyone in cryptocurrency is dealing with right now: actually spending crypto. Hardly any retailers accept cryptocurrency as a payment option, and, if they do, there are considerable fees associated with the transactions. According the Zeex website, they have current relationships with more than 350 retailers including popular names such as Nike, Adidas, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Foot Locker, Gap, Ticketmaster, Clarks, Xbox, Starbucks, and American Eagle Outfitters.

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So, the first question I have for Zeex is who are the other 350 or so retailers you have relationships with and what are the terms of those relationships? Second, when can I expect to be able to use Zeex to buy a Skinny Vanilla Latte in a Denver, Colorado Starbucks? Finally, does Zeex plan on adding other cryptos to its current list of acceptable currencies (Ethereum, Bitcoin, ZIX, and Bitcoin Cash)?

Guy Melamed, Co-Founder and CEO of Zeex, addresses the first question about the other 350 retailers in an interview with Aaron Paul on the ICO 101 Podcast. He basically says to stay tuned for Zeex to release the names of the other retailers during the very near future. This can possibly mean several things:

  • Zeex plans on releasing the retailer names over time to entice additional traffic, exposure, and investment dollars, which is a common growth model used in many public stock arenas.
  • Zeex is still in negotiations with the retailers and cannot disclose information until the agreements are finalized.
  • Or, Zeex simply has a list of the 350 top retailers and has not initiated substantial negotiations yet.

Of course, none, some, or pieces of the above could be true, and the purpose of this article is not to sling wild accusations at Guy Melamed, Ziv Isaiah, or any of the other talented members of Zeex’s team and advisory boad. Rather, the purpose is to try to bring light to the dark and vague areas of Zeex’s business plan so, the average reader and investor can have a better idea of what they are buying.

According to the white paper and the ICO 101 interview with Aaron Paul, Zeex has raised $50 million and plans to use $27.5 million to invest in discounted corporate currency, or gift cards. In the grand scheme of things, $27.5 million is only a drop in the bucket compared to Amazon’s net sales for the fourth quarter of 2017, which amounted to $60.5 billion. But, you have to start somewhere, and I’m guessing the Zeex business model has a profit margin directly related to how much of a discount they can negotiate from its pool of retailers.

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The second question about when I will be able to use Zeex to buy a Skinny Vanilla Latte from my local Denver Starbucks is addressed in the company’s roadmap where they peg May 2018 as the live date for the web-based app, which will feature access to 100 brands (I’m guessing Starbucks will be one of those 100). But, the actual date when I will be able to use my iPhone Zeex app to buy a Starbucks is sometime in the third quarter of 2018.

The third and final question about whether or not Zeex plans on adding other cryptos to its pool of accepted currencies was not addressed anywhere I saw, but I’m sure will be an easy fix if their business plan experiences mass adoption by consumers. Zeex definitely addresses a big problem with cryptos, so we will just have to wait and see if they can deliver what they say they can deliver because I really want to spend some Bitcoin to buy a Starbucks…

Honest Previewing of ICOs


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If you were to Google “upcoming ICOs” you would be met with an avalanche of information from various sources. According to Coinschedule.com 144 ICOs have already launched this year. It is hard to deny that the bulk of the ICO-related content out there is tailored toward people who are looking to time the market and make a quick buck. While there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this there is a distinct lack of a sense of real people talking about real ideas.

The same thing goes for the podcast space. Our Crypto 101 podcast has at times explored some aspects of certain ICOs but this is not its focus. The podcasts that do focus heavily on ICOs largely offer themselves as platforms for ICOs to advertise/market themselves. Most are transparent about the fact they do this for payment in a sponsorship model.

Aaron Paul, host of the ICO 101 podcast, has started to include an ICO preview at the beginning of each podcast episodes in which he discusses an ICO that has taken his interest. These previews are exactly what the cryptosphere needs more of — real people talking about real ideas.

The essential ingredient of these previews is that they are not sponsored. This allows Aaron to remain impartial and give his honest thoughts on the project. While we still stress that everyone is responsible for doing their own research on speculative investments, the purpose of these previews is to emulate a conversation between us and the listener. For example, the preview on the Venezuelan Petro was a quick introduction to the idea and some potential issues with its rollout. But Aaron invited listener contributions to help us better understand the project and promised to return to the Petro ICO in due course, to see how it has been unfolding.

Another benefit of investigating and discussing these ICOS from the perspective of an average person doing their own research is the opportunity it provides listeners to hear some of the potential concerns there might be with an upcoming ICO. For example, although Aaron was enamoured by many aspects of the collectables-focused ICO Kapow Coin, he plainly expressed his worry about several things including the project’s website presentation and how this would affect the average consumer’s first impression of their promising idea.

The ICO previews aren’t just limited to upcoming ICOs either. Occasionally we will explore relatively establish projects that have managed to stick around and draw some attention. For example, check out Aaron’s preview of ETHlend.

There is one fundamental driving question that serves as the backbone for all of ICO 101’s previews, and that is:

Does it make sense?

This is an incredibly important question that seems to be far too often overlooked in the cryptosphere. Just a basic “does this make sense?” can go a long way. For example, in the preview of Polyswarm, Aaron confesses upfront that, to him, the project does not make sense. Not least because they were asking for $50mil to fund a crowdsourced anti-virus platform — you can read more about that in our Polyswarm write up. It seems like a basic question but in this rapidly moving space, it is all too easy to get swept up in the hype or be affected by FOMO that we throw money at projects that if we were honest with ourselves, we don’t really understand.

With that in mind, ICO 101’s previews are a unique addition to the crypto-media space. They provide that average consumer with an impartial conversation partner who is enthusiastic about blockchain and cryptocurrency projects, has done a little digging and is prepared to ask “does this make sense?”

What do you think? Is there an ICO you would like previewed? Let us know in the comments.


 

 

Does it Really Cost $50M to Fund PolySwarm’s Anti-Virus Company?

PolySwarm is raising $50 million to fund its noble effort of becoming a decentralized threat intelligence market made possible by Ethereum smart contracts and blockchain technology. Polyswarm incentivizes rapid innovation in the $8.5 billion per year anti-virus and automated cyber threat intelligence space with precise economic incentives that reward timely and accurate threat intelligence concerning the malintent of files, network traffic and URLs. So far, PolySwarm has raised about half of the $50 million and will end its public sale of tokens on March 22, 2018. I watched a very informative ICO Review on PolySwarm from David Hay, watched PolySwarm’s 2-minute pitch video on its website, and read its white paper to come up the curve on their business plan, but I am still a little foggy on why they need $50 million to run, grow, and maintain their business.

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This is not a shot at Steve Bassi, Paul Makowski, Ben Schmidt, Nick Davis, or Max Koo (the founders of PolySwarm), but I would just like to know why it cost $50 million to fund essentially a community of virus special ops commandos who are rewarded like mercenaries via “bounties” of Nectar tokens when they take out a virus. After reading the white paper, I have a better understanding of the math associated with the distribution of funds. Just so everyone is on the same page, here is how the math breaks down:

  • 70 percent of the tokens are being sold in the public sale, so if 70 percent equals $50 million then the total value of PolySwarm is just over $71 million
  • There are 1 billion Nectar tokens but only 500 million currently in circulation, so that puts the price at $0.142 per token
  • 15 percent of the remaining 30 percent will be distributed to enterprises, vendors, and security experts joining the PolySwarm ecosystem
  • The final 15 percent will be used by Swarm Technologies, Inc. (the parent company and developer of PolySwarm) for marketing of PolySwarm.

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I’m sure you are probably bored with math, but my mama was a math teacher so it’s kinda my thing and there’s just one more math illustration I’d like to highlight for you. In the “Distribution” portion at the end of the white paper, the math is broken down as follows: 55 percent will be allocated to protocol and software development (that’s $27.5 million of the $50 million); 15 percent will be allocated to legal ($7.5 million); 14 percent to marketing ($7 million); 10 percent to tax ($5 million); 3 percent to office expenses ($1.5 million); and 4 percent to operational overhead ($2 million).

Finally, I’d like to touch on the “Roadmap” for PolySwarm: Alpha Version on April 30, 2018; Beta Version on May 31, 2018; Gamma Version on July 31, 2018; PolySwarm 1.0 in the fourth quarter of 2018; and PolySwarm 2.0 in the second quarter of 2019. Enough math and timeline talk out of me, and I just want to be clear about my intentions for this article… It is my aim to ask questions when I do not understand why something does not make sense. Does it really cost $50 million to fund PolySwarm’s anti-virus company? I have some experience with cybersecurity and software development but am a novice at best, which is why I would like to hear from the above-mentioned management team on the reasoning behind the need for $27.5 million to develop the software and protocols for PolySwarm – to be fair that number would only be about $13.75 million as of the funds raised right now but still that is a lot of cheddar. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to clarification and education by the powers that be at PolySwarm…

 

 

ICO101 — The Veris Foundation

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My wife has been studying to become a medical doctor for the last eight years. She is now at the stage where she works almost exclusively in hospitals getting hands-on experience with patients and healthcare providers. One of the most baffling things — both for her and for me — is how dated the healthcare system is when it comes to record keeping. The hospitals she has worked with — even some brand new establishments — still use pens and papers to record all medical notes. Everything is stored in binders and file cabinets. Important information is transmitted over the phone and stored in spreadsheets. At one hospital the most advanced piece of communications technology she came into contact with was a pager!

The cost of monitoring and facilitating health insurance payments in the US has risen to $59 billion, and it is climbing. Much of this cost is attributable to poor record keeping, communication errors and outdated technology being relied upon for what is called the ‘claims process’ — which is process healthcare providers like general practitioners, specialists or hospitals must go through to have a patient’s medical insurer pay for a prescribed treatment. Currently, this is a cumbersome process, laden with errors largely due to this problem of outdated record keeping.


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In the latest episode of ICO101, host Aaron Paul spoke with Chris Plance, CEO and founder of the Veris Foundation. Veris is a US-based non-profit initiative who are proposing a blockchain solution to this problem. According to their whitepaper: “The Veris Foundation solves the problem of bringing healthcare service providers, insurers, and banks together to authorize the provisioning and payment for healthcare services.”

They will attempt to do this by placing the current claims process onto the blockchain, executable by smart contracts. Chris offers the warning that the term “smart contracts” may be deceiving as they aren’t very smart, nor are they technically contracts. But they are incredibly useful. Decryptionary defines them as: “A smart contract is a promise made between two or more people and recorded in the permanent, transparent digital record known as the blockchain.”

First, the Veris Foundation will operate a governance layer via the Proof of Stake mechanism. Meaning, in order to participate in their solution, providers, payers (insurers), or financial institutions would hold “VeriStakes” and serve as disinterested third party governance over individual smart contracts as well as having the ability to create new contracts. Secondly, there are “VeriCoins” which are given as a reward for holding VeriStakes and can be used to execute smart contracts but not create new ones. This is a similar set up to the NEO blockchain whereby NEO coins are staked and their GAS tokens are rewarded.

The smart contracts involved would embody the current claims made by the healthcare providers to the payers. These typically involved many stages including eligibility, pre-authorization, claim submission, claim to process, claim payment and post-payment review. All of which takes time, money and are wide open to clerical error and miscommunication. The entire process can be shifted to the Veris network and have the process streamlined by executing the claims efficiently and economically via smart contracts.

These smart contracts would be a series of integrated contracts — responsible for different stages of the claims process — in communication with one another and would trigger each other once they have been executed. For example, in order for a payment to be finalised, the patient’s ID would need to be verified and the contract between the patient and the payer would also need to be verified etc.

Overall, the Veris Foundation is proposing a unique and sorely-needed use case of blockchain technology to an industry crying out for innovation. Some of the challenges will include familiar themes like convincing stakeholders to adopt the platform. We will have to see how a system who in 2018 relies on pens, paper, phone calls and Excel spreadsheets will react to a proposed blockchain solution to the expensive claims process. Veris might be the project to do it. The core team has over 30 years of experience in the sector and a solid proposition.

What do you think?

 


ICO101 Podcast on the Veris Foundation — https://apple.co/2pma0qQ

The Veris Foundation — http://www.verisfoundation.com

Information on the crowdsale — http://www.verisfoundation.com/presale

Is Data the new Oil?

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In the latest ICO101 podcast Aaron Paul interviewed Dan Gailey, founder of Synapse.ai to discuss one of the newest ICOs in the space.

Every time we scroll through Facebook, buy a book online or click a link in a tweet, we are offering up something of ourselves to giant data collectors. These entities have every ‘right’ to collect our data too, we gave it to them when we signed the 47 pages of terms and conditions when we signed up for their service. These companies have complete control over what has been called ‘the attention economy.’

We haven’t been conditioned to think of our purchasing habits, online behaviour or even our attention as an asset, as something with value. But the Facebooks and Amazons of the world know full well that your attention is money.

Synapse.ai wants to offer a way for everyday people to take ownership of their data and in the process offer up as much or as little as they want to aid in building machine learning and peer to peer sharing of information resources.

“Data is the new oil,” reads the tagline on their website.

The idea is that by becoming a user of Synapse.ai you are taking control of your data instead of just giving it away for free. The way this will work is via trade between users in the synapse marketplace (alpha open now) using the SYN tokens. Everyday users will then have the ability to offer what data they wish to other users requesting it of them for a payment of SYN tokens. This may be as simple as where one spends their online attention.

For those wanting to learn more about the details of how this will work, this is not the space, but I would recommend consulting their whitepaper.

However, we at ICO101 aren’t here to promote but to educate and investigate. As it stands, I do have a few questions regarding this project:

One of my questions was asked by Aaron. It seems the success of Synapse.ai is predicated on data collectors agreeing to now pay for data they are already getting for free — or, far less believable — users rejecting their iPhones and Facebook accounts by refusing to sign off on the terms and conditions of use. There has to be an agreement from both data sellers and buyers on a fair attribution of value, and that Synapse.ai is the marketplace for such a transaction.

Gailey’s response:

“I wholeheartedly believe that the models that they’ve [Facebook, Amazon etc.] built, are fundamentally flawed, on the condition that this network is rolled out and people are participating in it.”

This is an important belief to hold if you are establishing a marketplace for data, and he is right, their models are flawed, at least in the way that they essentially vacuum up data from millions of people every day for free and then spin that data into further profit.

Aaron was not convinced that these tech giants will change their ways so easily, however. Neither am I. Aaron asked a version of, “Why would someone like Apple agree to start buying data they are receiving for free?”

Gailey again:

“What will happen is, the data that Apple can get by building this pipeline [to] you to participate in their network will have to comingle with the network that we’re building. I think we will see more and more companies adopting — in phased aspects — the network that we are trying to get [into] the hands of everyone.”

From this, it appears that it will be a slow and steady method of Synapse.ai collecting user’s data, at the user’s discretion for some time and then in the future perhaps an Apple or Facebook, or some company not yet thought of will come along and place value on these stores of data. At that point, that company may wish to participate in the data marketplace run by Synapse.ai.

However, who sets the value of my data, my attention? If it is a user-decided, say I believe my online activities for a week are worth xSYN tokens, what is stopping other people from valuing their online activity for a week at half that? Will my data still be worth purchasing? However, if it is the buyers or the governance layer of Synapse.ai who sets the value of my data, have I really taken ownership of anything? Am I not just being incentivised to give up more of myself for a small fee? Sure, this is better than the system we currently live under, but by how much?

Another problem that Synapse.ai faces is the problem of fraudulent or spammy data entry. As it currently stands, users are incentivised to share data but it is unclear how the system will safeguard against users inventing and submitting false data. There is a monetary incentive for people to add as much info as possible, true or false. This can simply be a problem in terms of clutter and fake accounts — similar to other data collection platforms like twitter and facebook right now — but there is also an ethical consideration.

The data, Synapse.ai wants to collect and trade in will be used for machine learning, it is in everyone’s interest that this machine learning is predicated on reliable and helpful information. An AI algorithm designed to provide information to you based on thousands of other users data will be corrupted and probably unhelpful if the data set was populated largely by Russian bots.

Overall I think machine learning, the attention economy and taking ownership of our data is are important and exciting areas, especially when paired with blockchain technology. Synapse.ai is one of a few promising start-ups attempting to provide solutions.

If you have answers to the questions above, please let us know in the comments!

 


With a hard cap of $15mil, Synapse.ai’s token sale is in stage 2 and is still live. Synapse.ai is offering free tokens when you sign up through this ICO101 exclusive link. Gailey mentioned that the developer portal is in early alpha and wallets are in development with the intention of being released before the end of the token sale on March 12th.