Origin launches protocol for building cheaper decentralized Ubers & Airbnbs

The sharing economy ends up sharing a ton of labor’s earnings with middlemen like Uber and Airbnb . $38 million-funded Origin wants the next great two-sided marketplace to be decentralized on the blockchain so drivers and riders or hosts and guests can connect directly and avoid paying steep fees that can range up to 20 percent or higher. So today Origin launches its decentralized marketplace protocol on the Ethererum mainnet that replaces a central business that connects users and vendors with a smart contract.

“Marketplaces don’t redistribute the profits they make to members. They accrue to founders and venture capitalists” Origin co-founder Matt Lie, who was the third product manager at YouTube. “Building these decentralized marketplaces, we want to make them peer-to-peer, not peer-to-corporate-monopoly-to-peer.” When people transact through Origin, it plans to issue them tokens that will let them participate in the governance of the protocol, and could incentivize them to get on these marketplaces early as well as convince others to use them.

Origin’s in-house marketplace DApp

Today’s mainnet beta sees Origin offering its own basic decentralized app that operates like a Craigslist on the blockchain. Users can create profile, connect their ethereum wallet through services like MetaMask, browse product and service listings, message each other to arrange transactions through smart contracts with no extra fees, leave reviews, and appeal disputes to Origin’s in-house arbitrators.

Eventually with the Origin protocol, developers will be able to quickly build their own sub-marketplaces for specific services like dog walking, house cleaning, ride sharing, and more. These developers can opt to charge fees, though Origin hopes the cost-savings from its blockchain platform will let them undercut non-blockchain services. And vendors can offer a commission to any marketplace that gets their listing matched/sold.

It might be years before the necessary infrastructure like login systems and simple wallets make it easy for developers and mainstream users to build and adopt DApps built on Origin. But it has plenty of runway thanks to $3 million in seed token sale funding from Pantera Capital, $6.6 million raised through a Coinlist token sale, plus $26.4 million in traditional venture funding from Pantera Capital, Foundation Capital, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, Gil Penchina, Kamal Ravikant, Steve Jang, and Randall Kaplan.

“Marketplaces are at the core of what makes the internet so valuable and useful and the Origin team has one of the most promising blockchain platforms for the new sharing economy — with currency baked in — this could be really disruptive (and one of the best utilizations of the ethereum blockchain)” says Ohanian, the Reddit and Initialized Capital co-founder.

Liu and co-founder Josh Fraser came up with the idea after trying to imagine the downstream effects of Ethereum. Liu recalls thinking, “What if we could replace dozens of multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies with open source protocols that aren’t owned or controlled by anyone?”

Origin co-founders (from left): Matthew Liu and Josh Fraser

So why would marketplaces want to build on Origin instead of creating their own blockchain or traditional proprietary system? Fraser tells me smart contracts can save money, but that “these individual pieces are incredibly difficult to build” so he sees Origin as “analogous to Stripe — able to abstract away all the friction of building on the blockchain.” 40 marketplaces have already signed letters of intent to build on the protocol.

If Origin reaches critical mass, it could also benefit from the concept of shared network effect. Users only have to sign up once, and can then interact with any marketplace built on Origin. That means new marketplaces the builds on the protocol instantly has a registered user base.

Origin will face some stiff challenges, though. There’ll be a chicken-and-egg problem of getting the first marketplaces signed up before there are users on its self-sovereign identity platform, or geting those users aboard when there’s little for them to do. Liu admits that timing is the startup’s biggest threat. “We believe that decentralized marketplaces are inevitable, but a lot of smart people seem to think we’re too early and that we should be focused on building lower-level infrastructure instead” the co-founder says. For us, we’d rather be too early than too late.”

There’s also the trouble of leaving actors in a capitalist system to treat each other properly without a centralized authority. If an Uber driver treats you terribly, you can complain and get them kicked off the platform. Even with Origin’s review system, abusers of the system may be able to continue operating. It’s easy to imagine its arbitration service becoming completely overwhelmed with disputes. Luckily, Origin has made some strong hires to tackle these challenges, including Yu Pan who it says was a PayPal co-founder, former head of Dropbox’s NYC engineering tream Cuong Du, and Franck Chastagnol who previously led engineering teams at Paypal, YouTube, Google, and Dropbox.

Origin’s success will all come down to usability. Your average Uber driver or Airbnb host is no blockchain expert. They vend through those apps because it’s easy. Those centralized organizations are also highly incentivized to fulfill transactions quickly and smoothly in ways prohibited by eliminating fees. Origin will have to effectively make the blockchain aspects of its service disappear so all users and vendors know is that they’re paying less or earning more.

Lolli launches to give you free Bitcoin while you shop

Bitcoin has had tremendous success as a cryptocurrency, with millions of people around the world having traded the currency through command lines and wallets like Coinbase. Yet, for all of the excitement in the space, BTC remains largely the province of technically-sophisticated finance and software junkies and their Uber drivers. How can everyone in the world use crypto?

For Alex Adelman, that challenge proved an enigma. Partnering with Matt Senter, he had previously founded Cosmic Cart, a “universal shopping cart” that would allow companies to sell their goods anywhere online. The company was eventually acquired by POPSUGAR, and acquired a second time by Ebates, a Rakuten-owned affiliate marketing platform. Adelman wanted to get into the blockchain world, but didn’t want to leave behind his network in the retail world.

After reconnecting and exploring, Adelman and Senter realized that scaling consumer demand for Bitcoin is the critical challenge for widespread adoption of the technology, and that retail rewards and loyalty could represent a port of entry for consumers new to cryptocurrencies.

Out of that thinking was born Lolli. Lolli is a rewards platform that offers users BTC when they shop at participating online retailers. Consumers install a browser extension or start from Lolli’s website to discover retailers offering crypto rewards (smartphone and tablet apps are “coming soon”). Each retailer sets their own “cashback” (cryptoback?) rate, and that BTC reward is then moved into a Lolli wallet.

Lolli allows users to receive Bitcoin for their online purchases

The company’s name is inspired by the lollipops that Adelman received as a kid when visiting his bank. The dream is to massively expand the number of consumers who have Bitcoin wallets, while also educating them on what cryptocurrency is and how to use it.

What makes Lolli compelling though isn’t the concept — loyalty in the crypto space isn’t particularly unknown nor are airdrops — but rather the deep bench of online retailers that are included right from the startup’s launch. Adelman told me that users can already shop at more than 500 retailers, including Jet, Forever21, Bloomingdales, and ClassPass, avoiding the chicken and egg problem endemic to many rewards startups.

As with all rewards and loyalty programs, there is a two-sided marketplace component that can make these challenging to scale. One interesting dynamic though is that retailers are increasingly looking for ways to engage with cryptocurrencies. Adelman explained to me that the retailers he has been talking to have been surprised at the wide excitement among consumers around crypto and what it means, and they want to use that excitement to engage with potential new customers.

Lolli’s browser extension allows users to find retailers who offer free Bitcoin for purchases

While many retailers have flitted back and forth about whether to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a valid payment method, there is less concern on the rewards side about the volatility of cryptocurrencies. Plus, connecting with consumers around the technology can give retailers an early look into how consumers think about their wallets, and how they might change their online shopping behaviors in the future.

In many ways, Lolli is symmetrical to another recently launched loyalty app called Bumped. Bumped partners with retailers to drive loyalty, but instead of handing out BTC, it hands out free shares (or microshares) of the stock of the company a consumer just shopped at. The idea there, as with Lolli, is that few consumers own stock these days, and rewards and loyalty can be a mechanism to drive shopping behavior while also providing an initial financial portfolio for consumers.

While gross transaction volume and user engagement are valuable themselves, what really drives the valuations of these companies is the wallet or brokerage accounts behind them. Investors highly value these sorts of gateway financial products, which is one reason why Robinhood is valued at $5.6 billion with just more than 4 million accounts. Lolli’s bet is that it can become the de facto wallet for millions of consumers.

Lolli only supports Bitcoin at launch, and Adelman is certainly a strong proponent of the view that Bitcoin is likely the one cryptocurrency to rule them all. With many more consumers potentially getting their first satoshis though, Lollis’ dream, and the dream of many crypto investors, may well have a chance to come to pass.

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce Transactions

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce Transactions

The Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade has prohibited organizations and individuals involved in e-commerce business in the city from using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This follows a directive signed by the country’s prime minister intended to strengthen the legal framework of cryptocurrencies.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Banning Crypto Use in E-commerce

The Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade announced on Saturday that it has sent document No. 1638 / SCT-QLTM to “organizations and individuals directly or indirectly related to e-commerce business in Hanoi [to] not use bitcoin and other virtual currencies (cryptocurrencies) to settle e-commerce transactions online.” Citing that if violations are detected, “they shall be strictly dealt with according to the provisions of the law,” the regulator wrote:

The Department of Industry and Trade requires organizations and individuals who are directly or indirectly involved in e-commerce business in Hanoi to strictly abide by the above-mentioned regulations and do not use bitcoin and other virtual currencies….in payment of e-commerce transactions, online purchases and sales, [and] payment [of] online services in contravention of Vietnamese law.

Vietnamese Law on Crypto

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce TransactionsCiting provisions of the government’s Decree No. 101/2012 / ND-CP on non-cash payment instruments, the document reiterates, “bitcoin and other similar virtual currencies are not legal means of payment in Vietnam; The issuance, supply, use of bitcoin and similar virtual currency is prohibited in Vietnam.”

Violations are subject to a “fine of between VND 150,000,000 [~US$6,608] and 200,000,000 [~$8,810] for individuals and for organizations with two times the fine level for personal,” the document emphasizes. Furthermore, as of January this year, issuing and using cryptocurrencies “may be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce TransactionsLast week, the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc signed a directive to strengthen the management of activities related to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This follows reports of the country’s “biggest digital money fraud in history,” which duped approximately 32,000 Vietnamese out of VNĐ15 trillion (~$658 million). The police are currently investigating the case.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), and related agencies are working on the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. According to the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, the number of bitcoin mining rigs legally imported into the country has skyrocketed since last year, prompting the department to propose a ban on their imports. Earlier this year, the department revealed that, in the first three weeks of January, almost 8,000 mining rigs were legally imported into the city.

What do you think of Hanoi prohibiting the use of crypto for e-commerce transactions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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The post Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce Transactions appeared first on Bitcoin News.

PR: First Cryptomarketplace Storiqa Has Raised $25 Million

Cryptomarketplace Storiqa

This is a paid press release, which contains forward looking statements, and should be treated as advertising or promotional material. Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support this product/service. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the press release.

First cryptomarketplace, aiming to help small business in global trading, has raised $25 million.

Storiqa is developing marketplace with different outstanding features in compare with such companies like Amazon and eBay. With support of more than 55 000 people from 170 countries The company is launching its platform in a few months.

CEO Ruslan Tugushev stated earlier: “I spent more than 10 years for business development of SME. Their core competences were different but the problems are quite similar. Since I have gained enough experience and put together professionals from different fields I realized that it is time to establish global company which helps any SME to expand business internationally and start trading worldwide in 1 hour.”

Storiqa will accept the most common cryptocurrencies along with fiat money. The outstanding feature of marketplace is transparent affiliate marketing which enables users to monetize reviews through popular social networks. STQ holders will enjoy special benefits within the platform: buyers receive higher cashback; sellers use special platform features to increase sales.

By and large, Storiqa will give any SME access to the global market and many family-business companies will be able to boost sales at least in two times more. In the end of Q1 the platform will be launched and it means that change in eCommerce has come. There is no longer opportunity to purchase STQ tokens as the company finished token sale 2 weeks earlier. However, it is possible to get STQ in the end of March since listing.

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The post PR: First Cryptomarketplace Storiqa Has Raised $25 Million appeared first on Bitcoin News.

Amazon blows past Wall Street expectations for holiday quarter

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Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

BarkBox is a startup focused on creating and selling dog products, toys, and treats. They design and test all their toys in-house using a 3D printer and a squeaker library that they try out on the dogs that roam the office. Serving a market that has long been stale and stagnant, BarkBox is bringing dog toys into the 21st century.  Read more…

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Amazon has made it more expensive to subscribe to Prime month-to-month

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. (credit: Steve Jurvetson)

Amazon on Friday announced that it has raised the price of its Prime membership program for those who subscribe on a month-to-month basis.

The plan previously cost $10.99 a month, but it will now cost $12.99 a month. That means the price of subscribing to the monthly Prime plan for a full year has jumped 18 percent, from $131.88 to $155.88. Those who currently subscribe to the monthly plan will see the price hike take effect on their first payment after February 18.

The e-commerce giant said it has also raised the rate of its cheaper Prime plan for students from $5.49 a month to $6.49 a month. The Prime Student plan launched this past October.

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