AMA With Origin Team Reveals Plans for Decentralized Sharing Economy

sharing

Matt Liu, Josh Fraser and former PayPal head Yu Pan want to bring the blockchain to the sharing economy. The trio is devising a platform with an emphasis on inclusive, peer-to-peer service hubs designed to decentralize the same consumer cost-friendly business models that have made companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft so popular in recent years.

On August 9, 2018, the three hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit to discuss the project known as Origin.

According to Fraser, Origin has sought to build something that would classify as a “community effort” from the very beginning. Inspired by systems like the Ethereum Project, Protocol Labs and Ox, executives aim to give individuals new ways of trading code, information and cryptocurrency.

What Does Origin Do?

Origin targets the global sharing economy by seeking to create decentralized, peer-to-peer marketplaces. Buyers and sellers can engage in transactions through a distributed open web using the Ethereum blockchain and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS). The platform is fully decentralized and claims to decrease censorship.

One of the initial questions was why Pan — who was previously involved in both Google and PayPal, some of the internet’s biggest companies — decided to work with Origin and enter the crypto field in the first place. Pan replied that it was at PayPal where he met both Fraser and Liu, who increased his interest in the ideals and strengths of digital currencies.

“It was just really exciting seeing what the field has become,” he explained. “Before this, I was working on VR, mobile streaming, kids’ activities, electronic lending and some robot stuff.”

Bigger, Better and Broader

The question served as a minor introduction. From there, the inquiries became more complicated and diverse, and centered on Origin’s later plans. One Reddit user asked about the company’s finances and potential insurance offerings. Insurance has become a top issue in the crypto space — particularly how exchanges and crypto-based ventures plan to insure and protect workers and clients alike.

According to Liu, new forms of decentralized insurance options are likely to emerge in the future, as there probably won’t be a parent company providing initial protection for such platforms. While nothing presently exists, he says that Origin is working on arbitration that utilizes crypto-economic incentives and on-demand insurance services.

One Thing Leads to Another

The discussion on insurance led to one regarding customer safety, as well as company compliance. With regulation still up in the air, many members of the public say they don’t trust cryptocurrency and call it “risky.”

One user stated that centralized platforms have “vetting systems or programs for new drivers or hosts to be initiated” and asked if these elements would still be present with a decentralized platform.”

Fraser responded that Origin will instill strong identity layers through what’s known as the ERC 725, an open identity standard built through the Ethereum network. “We’ve seen the dangers of companies having too much power from controlling user data,” he explains. “From a practical standpoint, a lot of the other features we’re wanting to build into our platform require a trustworthy identity system in place for them to work. We’re proud to be able to contribute on this important standard for the benefit of the whole community.

“Users on the Origin platform will be able to build their reputations across multiple marketplaces, and people will be able to decide for themselves who they want to trust and transact with. Trusted third parties will be able to verify parts of your identity, and then publish attestations on the blockchain on your behalf.”


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Crypto Startup Taps Larry King in Shared Effort to Combat Climate Change

Crypto Startup Taps Larry King in Shared Effort to Combat Climate Change

In a message on GEAR Token’s website, iconic political talk show host Larry King says that global climate change is threatening humanity’s existence and is “a potentially catastrophic issue from the combustion of fossil fuels ... putting immense pressure on the environment and on our health.”

King says that “this is simply not sustainable” and “the pace of innovations and investment in green energy and renewables is not enough to help counteract the use of dirty fuels.”

King is focusing his energies as a member of GEAR’s Advisory Board, helping the small startup, still in incubation, to raise funds for the development of green mining technology to reduce energy consumption in bitcoin mining that has given bitcoin a bad rap with environmentalists.

Aware that the U.S. government is also getting a bad rap from environmentalists, GEAR is hoping to counter any doubts that global climate change is a serious issue.

The GEAR team told Bitcoin Magazine:

“We want to highlight the increasing importance of investing in green projects and startups, given the changing political landscape against efforts to prevent further global warming, such as the U.S. pulling out of the Paris climate accords.”

Indi Pathak, president of GEAR, explained:

“Our mission is to use blockchain and crypto to help and give back to the Earth through things such as building more and more tangible, real-world assets, such as hydroelectric farms, solar farms, etc. every year with GEAR GROW, while also using GEAR CAPITAL to fund and support startups working on the next big technological innovations in green energy and renewables.”

Larry King calls GEAR “the world’s first closed-loop green energy and renewables-focused token investment network helping to promote environmental sustainability.”

Linking Traditional Investment Strategies With ICOs and Tokens

GEAR hopes to be a bridge for traditional investors between traditional investment tools and the new world of ICOs and tokens.

Pathak explains:

“We want GEAR to be a way to connect and introduce standard fiat investors to crypto in a way they already understand and trust.”

“Using the team's background in traditional finance, we're aiming to bridge the gap between standard capital markets and current crypto investors to create an investment opportunity that is attractive to both.”

“This involves being compliant with markets through things like SEC filings, and making crypto more digestible and accessible to traditional investors through things they're more comfortable with, like traditional PPMs and memorandums.”

Crypto Energy Use Is Growing

As discussed at a recent mining conference, the pressure on cryptocurrencies is growing as the sheer volume of energy that must be used to solve increasingly difficult equations increases.

GEAR says that the total energy consumed by the BTC network in one year could power 6,585,585 homes for that same year. One bitcoin transaction uses enough energy to power 34 homes per day.

Bitcoin mining uses the same amount of electricity as the countries of Chile and Austria and more than Switzerland, Columbia and Iceland according to a graph on GEAR’s website.

Changing ICO Regulatory Landscape

Despite current regulatory uncertainty, GEAR Token is working closely with U.S. and Canadian regulators to “be as compliant as possible, while also trying to strengthen more regulation in the space by sharing our own insights with regulators,” said Pathak.

GEAR Blockchain Inc. has filed a Notice of Exempt Offering of Securities with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the sale of GEAR tokens both inside and outside the U.S. under the Securities Act of 1933, and within Canada as a supplementary offering with the Ontario Securities Commission.

GEAR wants a more certain regulatory environment to give stability to ICOs, said Pathak.

Our view is that more regulation is needed in the space to nurture an environment for legitimate offerings and bring more trust into the space.

GEAR’s Roadshow Heads to Toronto

The GEAR team recently returned from a roadshow across Asia, after meeting with some of the largest suppliers of mining equipment.

Their next stop includes a token sale launch at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto, Canada, where King will be moderating a panel on Wednesday, August 15 entitled "Mass Influence and Adoption of Blockchain Technology," featuring Charles Hoskinson (CEO, IOHK), Justin Wu (advisor, GEAR Blockchain), Al Burgio (Founder, DigitalBits.io), and Michael Moyal (Co-founder, Slate).

Pathak told Bitcoin Magazine:

“With Larry's global recognizability spanning generations, he's really helping us to make blockchain and crypto more accessible and approachable to those who are still unsure of and new to the space. Larry has also interviewed everyone from presidents to business leaders to key influencers, so has the ability to open up a lot of doors to spread the message of GEAR and our positive social impact.”

GEAR is being incubated by Canadian merchant banking group Forbes & Manhattan, founded by Stan Bharti who also serves as one of GEAR's advisors and is also a speaker at the upcoming Futurist conference.

“Our launch and goal at Futurist is to raise awareness for both the need for a change in current mining methods,” said Pathak, “and the importance of creating an environment that helps to incubate greener blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

ShapeShift to Add Multi-Crypto Swapping Tool to Its Exchange Platform

ShapeShift to Add Multi-Crypto Swapping Tool to Its Exchange Platform

On August 8, 2018, ShapeShiftAG, the parent company of ShapeShift.io, one of the world's largest decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges, announced its acquisition of Bitfract, a blockchain software startup based in Austin, Texas.

Bitfract’s crypto trading tool allows users to swap bitcoin for a basket of cryptocurrencies within a single transaction.

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, ShapeShift founder and CEO Erik Voorhees revealed that this sort of multi-crypto trading solution has been a long-term target of ShapeShift's internal engineering team. One thing that stood out about Bitfract for Voorhees was the “creativity and drive of the team.”

“They used our API brilliantly, and taking steps toward acquiring the company seemed like the natural course for us to take,” Voorhees added.

For his part, Bitfract CEO and co-founder Willy Ogorzaly stated:

“ShapeShift has always aligned most closely with our mission and values. When Erik asked if we wanted to join ShapeShift, the answer was immediately yes.”

Ogorzaly said they welcomed the idea of being acquired as his team had become “incredibly familiar with ShapeShift’s API” and how to leverage it as a “tool for innovation.”

Using Bitfract's tool, users will able to diversify their crypto asset portfolios without exposing themselves to the risk factors of multiple transactions including security risks, time losses and extra transaction fees. The tool also makes it extremely easy to adopt investment positions in a wide variety of crypto assets.

It allows users the ability to choose the specific assets they want and the relevant percentage for each asset. Users send bitcoin to the destination wallet address, and their requested crypto assets are then delivered to them in a simple, seamless process.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Andreessen-funded dYdX plans ‘short Ethereum’ token for haters

Crypto skeptics rejoice! A new way to short the cryptocurrency market is coming from dYdX, a decentralized financial derivatives startup. In two months it will launch its protocol for creating short and leverage positions for Ethereum and other ERC20 tokens that allow investors to amp up their bets for or against these currencies.

To get the startup there, dYdX recently closed a $2 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain, and joined by Kindred and Abstract plus angels, including Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and co-founder Fred Ehrsam, and serial investor Elad Gil.

“The main use for cryptocurrency so far has been trading and speculation — buying and holding. That’s not how sophisticated financial institutions trade,” says dYdX founder Antonio Juliano. “The derivatives market is usually an order of magnitude bigger than the spot trading or buy/sell market. The cryptocurrency market is probably on the order of $5 billion to $10 billion in volume, so you’d expect the derivatives market would be 10X bigger. I think there’s a really big opportunity there.”

How dYdX works

The idea is that you buy the short Ethereum token with ETH or a stable coin from an exchange or dYdX. The short Ethereum’s token price is inversely pegged to ETH, so it goes up in value when ETH goes down and vice versa. You can then sell the short Ethereum token for a profit if you correctly predicted an ETH price drop.

On the backend, lenders earn an interest rate by providing ETH as collateral locked into smart contracts that back up the short Ethereum tokens. Only a small number of actors have to work with the smart contract to mint or close the short Tokens. Meanwhile, dYdX also offers leveraged Ethereum tokens that let investors borrow to boost their profits if ETH’s price goes up.

The plan is to offer short and leveraged tokens for any ERC20 currency in the future. dYdX is building its own user-facing application for buying the tokens, but is also partnering with exchanges to offer the margin tokens “where people are already trading,” says Juliano.

“We think of it as more than just shorting your favorite shitcoin. We think of them as mature financial products.”

Infrastructure to lure big funds into crypto

Coinbase has proven to be an incredible incubator for blockchain startup founders. Juliano was employed there as a software engineer after briefly working at Uber and graduating in computer science from Princeton in 2015. “The first thing I started was a search engine for decentralized apps. I worked for months on it full-time, but nobody was building decentralized apps so no one was searching for them. It was too early,” Juliano explains.

But along the way he noticed the lack of financial instruments for decentralized derivatives despite exploding consumer interest in buying and selling cryptocurrencies. He figured the big hedge funds would eventually come knocking if someone built them a bridge into the blockchain world.

Juliano built dYdX to create a protocol to first begin offering margin tokens. It’s open source, so technically anyone can fork it to issue tokens themselves. But dYdX plans to be the standard-bearer, with its version offering the maximum liquidity to investors trying to buy or sell the margin tokens. His five-person team in San Francisco with experience from Google, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, NerdWallet and ConsenSys is working to find as many investors as possible to collateralize the tokens and exchanges to trade them. “It’s a race to build liquidity faster than anyone else,” says Juliano.

So how will dYdX make money? As is common in crypto, Juliano isn’t exactly sure, and just wants to build up usage first. “We plan to capture value at the protocol level in the future likely through a value adding token,” the founder says. “It would’ve been easy for us to rush into adding a questionable token as we’ve seen many other protocols do; however, we believe it’s worth thinking deeply about the best way to integrate a token in our ecosystem in a way that creates rather than destroys value for end users.”

“Antonio and his team are among the top engineers in the crypto ecosystem building a novel software system for peer-to-peer financial contracts. We believe this will be immensely valuable and used by millions of people,” says Polychain partner Olaf Carlson-Wee. “I am not concerned with short-term revenue models but rather the opportunity to permanently improve global financial markets.”

Timing the decentralized revolution

With the launch less than two months away, Juliano is also racing to safeguard the protocol from attacks. “You have to take smart contract security extremely seriously. We’re almost done with the second independent security audit,” he tells me.

The security provided by decentralization is one of dYdX’s selling points versus centralized competitors like Poloniex that offer margin trading opportunities. There, investors have to lock up ETH as collateral for extended periods of time, putting it at risk if the exchange gets hacked, and they don’t benefit from shared liquidity like dYdX will.

It also could compete for crypto haters with the CBOE that now offers Bitcoin futures and margin trading, though it doesn’t handle Ethereum yet. Juliano hopes that since dYdX’s protocol can mint short tokens for other ERC20 tokens, you could bet for or against a certain cryptocurrency relative to the whole crypto market by mixing and matching. dYdX will have to nail the user experience and proper partnerships if it’s going to beat the convenience of centralized exchanges and the institutional futures market.

If all goes well, dYdX wants to move into offering options or swaps. “Those derivatives are more often traded by sophisticated traders. We don’t think there are too many traders like that in the market right now,” Juliano explains. “The other types of derivatives that we’ll move to in the future will be really big once the market matures.” That “once the market matures” refrain is one sung by plenty of blockchain projects. The question is who’ll survive long enough to see that future, if it ever arrives.

[Featured Image via Nuzu and Bryce Durbin]

Bodhi Bets on the Decentralized Prediction Marketplace

Bodhi Bets on the Decentralized Prediction Marketplace

As with brick-and-mortar industries that are slowly fading away to the globalism of the online world, so too will the traditional prediction market industry have to innovate to keep up with the sheer efficiency, reliability and security that the decentralized prediction markets promise to bring.

Augur (REP) has grabbed headlines lately with the launch of its highly anticipated prediction market earlier this month. Ethereum-based futures market DApp Gnosis (GNO) is also under development and running on the Ethereum testnet. Meanwhile, Bodhi (BOT/BOE), another decentralized application, has been operating on the Qtum mainnet since April 23, 2018.

These decentralized prediction platforms aim to disrupt the institutional futures markets by lowering the barrier to entry, allowing more people to cast predictions on a global scale and increase the mindshare of information; creating transparency in the prediction process via the blockchain ledger and smart contracts; increasing the integrity and accountability of payments; and lowering the costs to transact in the prediction markets.

Predictions can be made on just about anything: 1) the financial markets, 2) information in general, 3) insurance claims, 4) sports lotteries, or 5) anything that isn’t immoral. For instance, the financial markets would gladly welcome Michael-Burry-number-crunching predictions on what to invest in and the general information markets would benefit from open-sourced information, in which participants use their closed-source information and other resources they may have to support their prediction analysis.

How Does Bodhi Work?

Bodhi is a DApp that currently runs on the Qtum (QTUM) network, using the QRC20 token BOT and QTUM to run on the Qtum network. The team plans to include the Ethereum (ETH) user base by allowing Bodhi to run on the Ethereum network through its cross-chain implementation initiative; they have already created the ERC20 token Bodhi On Ethereum (BOE). The Bodhi Ethereum DApp is expected be released on the Ethereum network in Q4 2018, according to Bodhi Founder Xiahong Lin in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine.

On the Qtum platform, QTUM is used to pay for the transaction fees to operate on the Qtum network and to wager bets and the BOT is used “primarily to arbitrate against bad actors,” Lin said. In this way, both QTUM and BOT are needed to power the Bodhi DApp on the Qtum network. Similarly, when Bodhi is released on the Ethereum network, ether will be used to pay for the Ethereum network transaction fees and to wager bets and BOE will be used “mainly to arbitrate against bad actors,” according to Lin.

Although the current version only supports wagering with QTUM, the Bodhi DApp is designed to scale and allow it to use any cryptocurrency that is not a security, meaning it can eventually run on stablecoins and others. This larger scope means more people will be able to contribute their research and place a bet on that research to predict the outcome of a prediction — which should lead to better prediction results.

Bodhi uses third-party oracles to verify predictions; to further increase autonomy, when the BOT/BOE holders involved in a prediction contest the result, BOT/BOE holders can each participate in voting directly for the answer themselves. If a previous round’s result is not contested within 48 hours, it is then locked in and becomes the final result of the prediction.

However, if the prediction result is contested within the time limit, then the new round requires 10 percent more BOT/BOE than in the previous round to place a vote on the new result in the current round. The result from the previous round(s) is no longer able to be voted on in the current round. For example, consider there are four prediction results to vote on: A, B, C and D. If the previous round’s BOT/BOE holders majority vote resulted in answer A in the last round, then in the current round, any result other than A can be voted on, and it’s only in a round after the current one that prediction result A can be voted on again.

This voting process continues until the BOT/BOE holders no longer contest the result. This helps dial in the result to the correct result by requiring 10 percent more BOT/BOE than in the previous round to cast a vote. The voting process is meant to make it harder for bad actors to overpower the system and it uses “game theory as a theory of conflict resolution,” according to Lin.

The question of immoral predictions is a real concern. However, Bodhi seeks to address this by allowing BOT/BOE stakeholders to moderate the community by voting on which predictions the community deems illegal or malevolent which, in turn, should allow the stakeholders to preserve their shared interest in the platform.

The Road Map

Lin said Bodhi is developing a social media plugin to put the power of the decentralized prediction market at the fingertips of social media users, starting with the social media platform WeChat, creating a seamless integration between the centralized and the decentralized. Lin described it this way:

“User experience and user growth are the two key metrics for building a widely adopted prediction market. The Bodhi social network plugin will allow users to create a prediction market directly within a social network and easily share it with their friends to participate. Imagine that you are in a WeChat group, while you are talking about some topic, you create a prediction event with respect to that topic right away, and your friends can make predictions immediately. We are going to build a social network gadget that can associate your social network account with your Qtum/Ethereum wallet, so that it will automatically take your input within a social network and synchronize it with Bodhi’s prediction market.”

They also have “Bodhi Light” in the works: the development of a lightweight Bodhi application client version “which is meant to remove the need for the Qtum desktop wallet in [the] DApp,” Lin said.

Disclosure: The writer holds both QTUM and BOT.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Malta paves the way for a decentralized stock exchange

Malta AKA “Blockchain Island” has been making waves lately in the world of cryptocurrency and governance. Their latest move involves the crypto exchange Binance and the ICO builders at Neufund.

The plan is simple: Neufund will help MSX, the Malta Stock Exchange’s skunkworks, create tokenized securities. Binance has agreed to carry these securities on its own exchange, essentially creating a straight path to regulated tokens via the already regulated Malta Stock Exchange. In short, this enables Malta to become the first country to be able to offer tokens alongside traditional equities as well as an easy way to go public in multiple ways including via ICO.

The plan is still in the pilot stage. This year they will begin “the public offering of tokenized equity on Neufund’s primary market which may later be tradable on Binance and other crypto exchanges pending regulatory and listing approvals” said Neufund CEO Zoe Adamovicz.

“We are thrilled to announce the partnerships with Malta Stock Exchange and Binance, that will ensure high liquidity to equity tokens issued on Neufund. It is the first time in history, that security tokens can be offered and traded in a legally binding way. The upcoming pilot project will allow us to test the market’s reaction and realize the overall project idea in an environment with minimized risk.” said Adamovicz.

“We are delighted to welcome Neufund as our key partner in building a Blockchain-based exchange that is fully integrated with established financial markets. With the upcoming pilot project we become a worldwide pioneer in digital finance,” said Joseph Portelli, chairman of the Malta Stock Exchange.

This move is interesting in that it offers a parallel track to companies wishing to go public via token sales. While even the terminology isn’t completely hashed out in regards to the future of these systems, having a spot like Malta lead in the matter of token sales selling alongside equities is a solid decision. Malta is increasingly becoming the testbed for these sorts of experiments and, even if this is not yet a real project, it could create a turnkey solution for ICO launches on the island.

Knotel acquires 42Floors in order to build the blockchain of property

Another day, another blockchain. This time Knotel – a coworking space rental service in Manhattan – has acquired 42Floors, a commercial real estate search engine in order to, according to founder Amol Sarva, get “access to data and technology on over 10 billion square feet of office space, driving further liquidity to Knotel’s marketplace while also accelerating its plans for a blockchain platform.”

Knotel is building the Agile HQ platform, a way to rent office space for a few hours or a few months without getting stuck in a least. The company has 1 million square feet of space in New York, San Francisco, London, and Berlin and it raised $100 million in funding. The company has more has more buildings in NY than WeWork.

“42Floors built a powerful tool to organize a dark market that hasn’t changed in a hundred years,” said Amol Sarva, CEO of Knotel. “It’s still backroom and bilateral while the rest of the world is becoming digital and standardized. This is what leads to transactions that take months to close with a dozen middlemen – no reliable information. You can buy a house faster than you can rent a floor. Partnering together will help give owners and customers what they both want: truth.”

Knotel recently launched an ICO in April. Their Knotel Koin aims to speed up real estate transactions by allowing instant settlement and allow for charge-backs and shorter rental periods. The 42Floors purchase enables the company to bring new properties onto its platform and could let non-blockchain-based contracts move to the blockchain.

Kik launches beta product after $100 million ICO

Kik made waves last year after a successful $100 million ICO. Now the company has released its first beta product related to its Kin token. Called Kinit, it’s a simple wallet that enables users to earn, store, and spend its tokens.

“Kinit is a fun, easy way to earn Kin, a new cryptocurrency made for your digital life. Earning Kin is just like playing a game, only better, because you get rewarded for completing fun daily activities like surveys, quizzes, interactive videos and more,” reads the Google Play Store description. You can download the app for Android here.

The Kin token is unique for a few reasons. First it is not a traditional ERC-20 token and is instead uses Ethereum for liquidity and the on the Stellar network to improve transaction speed. Further, the company is spending a great deal – about $3 million – to get developers to develop on the token through its KinEcosystem site. The Kinit app is the first effort to get normal users to adopt the tool.

The app makes it possible for users to generate a few dollars in value per day and then exchange those dollars for gift cards and perks. According to CCN, Kik has created a product without a business model and instead it wants to drive the adoption of the token through giveaways.

“Kinit is the first publicly available app dedicated to Kin. Our goal with Kinit is to get Kin into more consumers’ hands. It’s a major step towards making crypto truly consumer-friendly through fun and engaging experiences, and we plan to learn and iterate based on real-world user behavior. We’re excited to get even more people earning and spending Kin — all on the Kin Blockchain,” wrote Rod McLeod, Kik’s VP of communications. The app currently asks you to complete surveys in order to get discounts and gift card codes for products.

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With the rise of the product-less ICO it’s clear that Kik has the right idea. By encouraging usage they drive up the token price and token velocity and by launching a general beta full of cutesy imagery and text they are able to avoid the hard questions about developer adoption until far into the future. While the KinIt app is probably not what most Kin holders wanted to see, it’s at least an interim solution while the team builds out sturdier systems.

0x lets any app be the Craigslist of cryptocurrency

Centralized crypto exchanges like Coinbase are easy but expensive because they introduce a middleman. Not-for-profit project 0x allows any developer to quickly build their own decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and decide their own fees. It acts like Craigslist, connecting traders without ever holding the tokens itself. And instead of having to bootstrap their way to enough users trading tokens on their app alone so that there’s liquidity, 0x offers cross-platform liquidity between users on the different projects it powers.

The problem is the user experience of decentralized apps is often crappy compared to the consumer apps we’re used to across the rest of tech. From sign-in to recovering accounts to conducting transactions, it’s a lot more complicated than Facebook Login, PayPal, or Shopify. Bitcoin and Ethereum prices remain well below half their peaks because it’s difficult to do much with cryptocurrency right now. Until the decentralized infrastructure improves, the dreams of how blockchains can improve the world remain distant.

0x is trying to fix that by ensuring developers all don’t have to reinvent the exchange wheel.

It began as a for-profit exchange before the team recognized the massive usability gap. So instead it became a decentralized exchange protocol, and raised $24 million in an ICO for its ZRX token. That’s how relayers — the apps who use it to build exchanges for ERC20 tokens atop the Ethereum blockchain — can charge fees. It also gives those who collect the most a say in the governance of the protocol.

Some of the top projects on 0x like Augur and Dydx are going strong. Last week Coinbase announced it was exploring whether it might list ZRX and several other currencies for trade on its exchange, helping perk up the price after declines since the new year.

 

0x’s ZRX token price, via CoinMarketCap

Now 0x is putting some of its $24 million to work. It just hired former Facebook designer Chris Kalani to help it improve the usability of its APIs and the products built on top of them. His skills helped Facebook embrace mobile around its 2012 IPO. He then built Wake, raising $3.8 million for the design prototype sharing tool that let teams get instant feedback on their works-in-progress. Kalani sold Wake to design platform InVision in April, and after a few months assisting the transition, he’s joined 0x.

“There are very few designers involved in the [blockchain] space” Kalani tells me. “There’s not a lot of people who had worked on anything at a large-scale or from the consumer perspective. We’re focused on making crypto more approachable.”

Sustaining a crypto not-for-profit

After talking to four leaders in different parts of the blockchain industry, the consensus was that 0x was an elegant protocol for spawning decentralized exchanges. But the question kept coming up about whether the project will be sustainable. The company doesn’t have to earn enormous amounts of revenue, but concerns about its longevity could scare away developers. One, who asked to remain anonymous, described 0x saying, “the best analogy is trying to monetize Linux.”

0x is open source, so it could be forked so developers can sidestep ZRX. 0x hopes that the shared liquidity feature will keep developers in line. It only works with the unforked version, and is now being used by 0x-powered projects, including Radar Relay, ERC dEX, Shark Relay, Bamboo Relay and LedgerDex.

While some centralized exchanges have suffered security troubles and hacks, those with stronger records like Coinbase continue to thrive while banking off high fees. That in turn lets them offer better liquidity and invest more in the user experience, widening the gap versus decentralized apps. “People trust Coinbase with large amounts of capital but they wouldn’t trust themselves,” Kalani admits. But he thinks it’s early in the game, and as users become more knowledgeable and comfortable with holding their own tokens for use on decentralized exchanges, 0x and ZRX will thrive.

There’s also competition within the decentralized exchange space from Kyber’s liquidity network, and AirSwap’s peer-to-peer exchange marketplace. But for any of these to thrive, the mainstream crypto owner will have to get better educated. That could fall to 0x.

One alternative path for the not-for-profit would be selling developer services and consulting to those building on top of it. Or it could always do another ICO. But for now, there are a lot of projects out there that don’t want to foot the upfront cost to build their own secure and compliant exchange from scratch. Kalani concludes, “The way Stripe allowed developers and businesses to build on top of it, and not have to worry about regulatory issues and all the infrastructure necessary to take payments, I think 0x is going to do something similar with exchanges for crypto.”