Anyone interested in entrepreneurship and cryptocurrencies already knows the one country that is always named when talking about crypto-businesses: Estonia.
The North-European country, whose population and size are comparable to the State of Maine, has successfully made the crypto world pin it on their map.
The Estonia cryptocurrency license was early. It was the first one to be white-labelled. It was the first one to get enough feedback to evolve, after 3 years of running the framework. Estonia hosts hundreds of cryptocurrency companies and is considered the benchmark.
Back in 2017, your company could get an e-wallet license or a cryptocurrency trading license in Estonia, or both. In 2020, the innovating Estonian regulators blended the two into a single blockchain license. Estonia wanted a stronger framework after money laundering scandals in a domestic bank. Following up on the FATF recommendation, the updated framework put an emphasis on AML-KYC.
Is the Estonian cryptocurrency license still interesting in 2022?
With the emergence of new licenses and the openness to crypto-related businesses in many countries at once, is the Estonian license still a good opportunity?
We are observing a division on the “market” of regulations. As new ventures pop up from all over the world, with very different business models, increasingly touching on the matters of DeFi and NFTs, the regulatory side is not one-sided anymore as well.
The Estonian framework was designed to monitor and legitimize the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies, as well as thecustody. It is therefore best suited for centralized exchange, but can fit other kinds of services as well. The white-label nature of the framework brings a considerable benefit: as it is straightforward and replicable, the licensing fee and the operation-related costs are relatively low. Whatever your business model, Estonia most likely will show up as one of the best three options for registering your crypto company.
How does one get the cryptolicense in Estonia, without ever going to Estonia?
As long as you cooperate and agree to set a substance in Estonia, you will never be required to visit the country. Estonia, before even becoming renowned as a crypto-friendly place, has set most of its services online. For a business-owner, this means doing tax, editing the company and signing official documents from your computer, wherever in the world.
But you noted it: you have to set some substance in the country. This means, concretely speaking, that to get the cryptocurrency license for your Estonian company, you need to rent or own a physical space in the country. A local director should be appointed, which is the opportunity for the remote entrepreneur to have a brain and a pair of hands onsite. Finally, as per the FATF recommendations, any crypto company in Estonia has to appoint an AML officer, whose job is to ensure compliance of KYC processes and to report suspicious transactions.
This requirement for substance is a bit of additional work and comes with the cost of rent and employment. These added measures in 2020 have barred the road to the least wealthy crypto entrepreneurs, who are now looking into other places for establishment.
What is the process to get the Estonian cryptocurrency license?
The license is only granted to companies registered in Estonia, so this is square number one. With the IT infrastructure described above, it is possible to register a company in Estonia from anywhere in the world, given you can provide documents proving your identity.
Once the company is set, it’s about time to set the substance that we talked about in the previous part of this article: premises and local workers.
Substance is also about financial subsistence, and the Estonian law requires you to deposit EUR 12,000 in a bank account located in the European Union. The upside is that this money can be used for business once the license has been granted. It’s not locked in.
Afterwards, an application for license has to be completed and sent to the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit. Having a clear and striking business plan is often helpful in getting your project green-lighted effectively. Be prepared to demonstrate your AML-KYC procedures and policies as well, it can make or break the success of the licensing process.
Saving time, energy and possibly money on the licensing process — a few tips
The best thing you can do is to acknowledge the requirements and to be prepared. You will be interrogated about the people involved so prepare notarized passports and a resume of all your team. You will need to set the substance in Estonia and to demonstrate your ability in applying the AML and KYC rules.
Experience shows that the whole process is much simpler and free of mistakes when conducted with the assistance of a licensed corporate service provider, such as LegalBison and it’s 100% success rate in setting cryptocurrency licensedcompanies in Estonia.
‘Massive’ crypto use cases to surface by 2030 — Coinbase exec
Coinbase launched Base, its new blockchain, in late July, and it has already become a major player among Ethereum-based layer-2 chains.
On Sept. 21, for instance, the chain notched some 677,000 transactions, with 870,163 “new addresses seen,” according to Etherscan.
By comparison, Arbitrum, a prominent layer 2 that launched in June 2021, had 925,000 transactions and 54,233 new addresses on the same day.
Base is now hosting hundreds of decentralized projects, Jesse Pollak, head of protocols at Coinbase, told Cointelegraph at Messari’s Mainnet conference in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 20, including decentralized inflation oracles, restaurant rewards projects, an insurance aggregator and everything in between.
A major force behind the Base project, Pollak sat down with Cointelegraph at Mainnet for a Q&A encompassing Coinbase’s vision for its new platform, the rising promise of decentralized applications (DApps) and the evolution of blockchain technology.
Cointelegraph: You’ve said Base was created with a “clear vision: bring the next million builders and billion users on-chain.” Those are big numbers. How long will they take to achieve?
Jesse Pollak: It’s less about Base specifically and more about a billion users coming on-chain — embracing the power of this new platform [i.e., blockchain] that’s transparent, open, global — and developing apps that can improve people’s lives. Base is obviously going to play a big role in that, but it’s much bigger than just us. We really see our role as helping grow that pie.
CT: And the timeline?
JP: I see it happening this decade, i.e., one million developer jobs by 2030. There’s already been massive change in the 2020s — not just in the industry but the entire world. It’s going to happen faster than people might expect.
CT: What still needs to be done before we see mainstream adoption?
JP: Three high-level things need to happen. First, we need to make it cheaper for people to use these apps that are being built. We’ve done the first few orders of magnitude of cost reduction with Base. The same app might have cost $5 or $10 to use now costs 5 to 10 cents.
But we don’t think that’s enough. We really want to lower it so far that the cost is almost imperceptible to users.
Second, we want to make it easier for people to use these apps. A lot of that is building better wallet experiences.
Third, we need to have better identity infrastructure on-chain. Today, most consumer borrowing in the United States and other developed countries is under-collateralized borrowing in the form of credit cards or buy-now-pay-later arrangements. And almost none of this is possible on-chain now because we don’t have reliable identity systems.
So, to enable that next wave of big use cases, we’ll need lower costs, better wallets and better identity.
CT: You’ve said that what most people have done with crypto until now is speculate on the crypto markets, and it’s time to move on. Has it been a mistake to focus so much on the market price of Bitcoin, say?
Pollak: I don’t think it’s wrong if you look at the way that technology life cycles evolve. Carlota Perez, for instance, writes that financial bubbles are almost inevitable when you have meaningful technological innovation like the internet or electricity. You have this S-curve of adoption. [See chart below.] In the beginning, a lot of innovation is fueled by speculation as people see potential in the technology. This speculation draws in capital, which basically funds the innovation and eventually leads to impacts that change the world.
CT: Where are we now?
JP: We’ve reached the point where it’s time to move out of that [speculative] phase and into the phase of really bringing utility to everyday people. The infrastructure is ready.
Even two years ago, if you wanted to use an app on Ethereum, it was going to cost you $5 or $10 or $100. That’s just not something that is supportive of building everyday use cases.
CT: Speaking of Ethereum, why did Coinbase decide to build its layer 2 on the Ethereum blockchain? Did you ever consider using another mainnet?
JP: We actually looked three times at building a chain: In 2018 and 2020, and then most recently in 2023. And the first two times, we looked at building an alternative layer 1, one which would have been competitive with Ethereum. Our takeaway was we didn’t want to put ourselves on an island disconnected from the rest of the ecosystem.
The third time, we looked at all of the options: Ethereum, alternative layer 1s, layer 2s, etc. What felt natural to us about Ethereum was it is the largest crypto ecosystem by value, by activity, by developers — by order of magnitude or two — and so by building Base as an Ethereum layer 2, we could both contribute to scaling Ethereum and be a part of this ecosystem that’s larger than us.
CT: What about Ethereum’s oft-discussed scalability shortcomings, including network congestion and sometimes ballooning fees? Have those been largely solved through extensive use of layer-2 rollups like Optimism and Arbitrum (and now Base), where transactions are “batched” and added to the mainnet in a single lot?
JP: If you look at the history of Ethereum, the original vision was: We’re going to do all this at layer 1, and we’re going to scale up through sharding. But around 2020 and 2021, as layer 2s emerged, the Ethereum community and core development groups basically said: What if we changed our strategy where instead of trying to introduce all of this complexity at layer 1, we build the infrastructure to enable innovation at layer 2?
That was something that Vitalik [Buterin, Ethereum co-founder] wrote about a lot. And over the last two years, that’s what happened. Coinbase supported an initiative over the last year-and-a-half called EIP-4844, for instance, that introduced data availability for rollups, leading to reduced fees and more transaction throughput.
But do I think we’ve solved the problem? No. These things take years to solve, and I think we are now two to three years into making those investments, and we have another two to three years or more potentially to go. But I think we’ve made a lot of progress.
You can see this at L2Beat. [See chart below]. Two years ago [Sept. 21, 2021], there were eight transactions per second [on average] on layer-2 projects and 13 TPS on the Ethereum mainnet. Today, there’s 58 TPS on layer 2s and 11 TPS on the Ethereum mainnet. So we’ve gone from less than 1x to 5.7 times faster in two years.
CT: Are you surprised that a “buzzy” social media DAPP — Friend.tech — was initially Base’s biggest performer after its summer launch? Its fees surpassed $1 million in one 24-hour period. Still, maybe this wasn’t the serious use case that some critics were hoping for.
JP: Well, when the first social apps launched on the internet, some people looked at them and said, hey, these things are toys. When are we going to go do the serious stuff like bringing newspapers online? If you look at where we are today, social apps are used by billions of people every day. They will continue to be a way that people connect, and social apps will play a critical role on-chain.
What’s powerful about this next generation of on-chain social apps is that they will enable people to have sovereign ownership. They will continue to own their creativity, and they’ll continue to be in control — rather than the large corporations that are controlling them now.
CT: Can you tell us about a DApp launched on Base that excites you?
JP: Check out Blackbird, a customer engagement platform for restaurants. You walk into any participating restaurant, you tap your phone, and it instantly knows who you are. They customize the experience for you. Repeat visitors can earn rewards. It’s in 10 or 15 restaurants now in New York City but is soon expanding into California. A lot of people are talking about it on Twitter.
CT: Where will blockchain finally find its “killer app” — to do for the cryptoverse what email did for the internet? Or has it already emerged in your view?
JP: There won’t be one killer app. There will be many killer apps. We’re starting to see some of those emerge. The one with the most real-world adoption is stablecoins. If you look at the total volume of stablecoin transactions over the last year, it’s a massive number. It will be a big driver of economic freedom in the decade ahead. It gives people in places like Argentina or Turkey access to a stable currency like the U.S. dollar.
But stablecoins won’t be alone. We will see many on-chain applications that will change people’s lives for the better.
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US gov’t messed up my $250K Bitcoin price prediction: Tim Draper, Hall of Flame
Tim Draper is a prominent venture capitalist, the founder of Draper University and the creator of the Meet The Drapers television series. He invested early in Tesla, SpaceX and Coinbase and has 254,000 followers on X.
“Let me get my second prediction to actually happen, and then we’ll move on to other predictions,” Tim Draper tells Hall of Flame, refusing to be drawn on price predictions for XRP and Ethereum.
This makes sense, given it’s been six years since he forecast that Bitcoin would reach $250,000 by 2022.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
Which is not to say it won’t happen eventually, as Draper has been pretty far-sighted in the past.
Back in 2014, Draper scooped up around 30,000 Bitcoin for $19 million after the U.S. Marshals took down Silk Road. Fast forward to today, and those Bitcoin have increased 4,165% in value to be worth a whopping $810.5 million.
Around the same time, he made a prediction that Bitcoin would reach $10,000 in three years, and lo and behold, it hit that mark in 2017.
Draper explains that he only dropped the $250,000 prediction because people kept asking after he totally nailed his first Bitcoin price guess.
“The only reason I’ve given the second prediction was that the first one was so good. I had a lot of pressure to put another one out there,” Draper declares.
He has politely requested a deadline extension on Bitcoin reaching a quarter of a million, with a timeline that would give a university lecturer a heart attack.
“Give me until the end of June next year,” he says.
Draper accuses the U.S. government of messing up his price prediction. He had expected the growth of blockchain to be reminiscent of the internet era, similar to when he made his earlier investments in companies like Hotmail and Skype.
He emphasizes the significant benefit that the United States reaped by maintaining a hands-off approach to overregulating the internet.
“I expected a much more light touch, the way Bill Clinton was with the internet; they said, hey, we got the internet! We regulated the internet, and Bill Clinton smartly left it alone, and it was fantastic for the whole world.”
Despite the media coverage, Draper doesn’t spend his days making predictions; in fact, his schedule is quite packed.
At 65 years old, he remains highly active, renowned as a serial investor who chucked cash early in companies like Tesla, SpaceX, Coinbase, and, well … Theranos.
He enjoys playing basketball because it energizes him and puts him in an investment mindset.
“When I play basketball, I’m thinking about how I can get the defender to move one way, and then I’ll move another,” he explains.
Draper claims he possesses alpha instincts both on the basketball court and in the investment world.
“I’m very aggressive; if I see something I like, I go right after it,” he says.
“I guess as an investor, I invest like a chess move because I’m always evaluating not just the entrepreneur or the idea. But what happens if it’s successful? how great could it be? What does the world look like then?”
What led to Twitter Fame?
Draper started with a very modest Twitter following.
“I think I had one Twitter follower, and it was my mother,” he jokes.
While you might assume that one of Draper’s investments or media appearances helped his following to skyrocket, he describes his growth as very natural, attributing it to the content he has been consistently posting over the years, which has kept people coming back for more.
He is proud of how “truly organic” his following is.
“I think I have the most steady increase of Twitter followers of any influencer,” he declares.
What type of content can people expect?
Draper isn’t here to clutter up his followers’ feeds with nonsense.
He’s all about adding a little sprinkle of value to their lives, and he sticks to only posting about three times a week.
“I tend to post where it’s something I feel like people should see or where one of my startups has done something extraordinary, and I want to promote them,” he explains.
What content does Tim Draper like?
Within the 2,400 accounts he follows on Twitter, he relies on a select group of trusted people to keep him informed about the crypto industry.
Among his trusted crew are Gemini founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen and Silicon Valley investors Brad and Bart Stephens.
Tim Draper predictions
Draper is backing his 250,000 Bitcoin prediction so hard that if it doesn’t hit, he’ll bow out of predictions altogether.
“If it’s not $250,000 or higher, then don’t listen to me ever again on that kind of prediction,” he laughs.
When questioned about the chances of a Bitcoin ETF getting approved, he doesn’t sound hopeful.
“It might have to wait for [Republican candidate] Nikki Haley to be president,” he declares.
“Maybe it’s the cushy relationship they have with banks, maybe it’s the fact that they have uncertainty about it. Maybe a lot of our government is pretty old, maybe they’re just out of touch. But they’re missing something very, very important for the good of society, and I’m hoping they all come around.”
The most engaging reads in blockchain. Delivered once a
Binance exit aftershock: Can one resignation tip the crypto trust scales?
On Sept. 13, news broke of yet another high-level executive parting ways with Binance.US.
This time, it was none other than Brian Shroder, the CEO and president of the exchange, who, after two years in the hot seat, was heading for a “deserved break,” as Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao was quick to announce on X (formerly Twitter) that same day.
There has been some speculation regarding recent management changes at @BinanceUS. Brian Shroder is taking a deserved break after accomplishing what he set out to do when he joined two years ago. Under his leadership, https://t.co/hSHrrlF7o7 raised capital, improved its product…
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) September 15, 2023
The news coincided with the announcement that around 100 people had also lost their jobs that day — about a third of the workforce.
A massive outflow of funds followed, with the highest being just over $66 million in a single transaction. Zhao was keen to underline that Shroder’s departure was amicable and that he had achieved everything he had set out to do.
“Ignore the FUD,” was the call from the parapets, the common plea for calm when any kind of disruption occurs.
In an industry strained and battered by tales of fraud and wrongdoing, however, this call went unheeded once again. The days since the news broke have seen significant outflows from Binance to platforms such as Jump, AU21 Capital, QCP Capital and Wintermute.
Once again, it raises issues that have long dogged the cryptosphere, chiefly those of influence and trust. There are few other sectors where layoffs or a change at the top of a company can have such an impact.
Such things are generally accepted as the natural ebb and flow of the business world, and while there may be a momentary blip, more often than not, things are back on track fairly soon afterward.
Even in this instance, from the chart, it is apparent that there were still sizeable inflows to Binance during the period. The two incidents may be completely unrelated. With so many factors involved, no one can say for sure.
Jim Graham, a cryptocurrency analyst at think tank PsyBold, told Cointelegraph: “While we can’t attribute the shift in funds wholly to last week’s announcement, we most certainly can’t reject it, either. There have been several key managerial changes in the past few months, and virtually all of them have been accompanied by a dip in holdings on the platform. Trust remains a massive obstacle for crypto platforms, and it’s an obstacle they are failing to overcome.”
Money is a valuable commodity, and even the hint that it may be in jeopardy is reason enough to react quickly and decisively.
As the saying goes, trust is earned, not given away, and the recent negative events involving crypto platforms have done little to raise that level of trust. Graham added:
“Crypto platforms need to be on par with banks regarding trust. Investors need to know that entrusting their money to them is a good, safe idea, not a risky one. Unfortunately, they are nowhere near that, and until we reach that level, these spikes are inevitable.”
So, how do the platforms get to that level of trust? Most people would simply say, stop doing bad things. Once crypto platforms act more like banks, people may trust them more.
But this is much easier said than done. For one, most banks have been around for years, some even hundreds of years. Trust has an element of longevity to it, which people like. The general feeling is if something or someone has acted responsibly and transparently for a long time, there is more of a chance that they will continue to do so.
Crypto platforms don’t have that luxury, of course. Most can only look back on a few years of existence; the only pledge they can give is their word.
On top of that, there is the age-old discussion of regulation. Licensed banks are regulated. That means an authority monitors what they do and is there to step in if things go wrong.
The last thing such an authority or the bank wants is a bank run, as this represents a complete breakdown in trust for all concerned, with the consequences that go with that. Once that has happened, it is tough to win that trust back, as witnessed during the economic crisis of 2008.
In the unregulated world of crypto exchanges, there is currently a stalemate. Some investors are in the middle, clamoring for regulation, fearing for their investments. In contrast, others are vehemently opposed, stating regulation is the very thing cryptocurrency was created to avoid.
And on either side are the exchanges and the authorities, each accusing the other of this and that in what seems like an endless spiral, with neither ready to back down.Sandra McAllister, an attorney specializing in tech litigation with Clifford Chance, told Cointelegraph:
“The need to clarify the legalities around trading cryptocurrencies, particularly in the U.S., is vitally important for the future of the industry, but the protracted processes and tactics being employed are damaging, for both sides, and that, in turn, is turning investors away.”
“The power of social media is also a pressure on the market. The bounce in the Ripple price we saw in July following the court ruling on XRP underlines that perfectly. The decision was anything but conclusive and, in reality, nothing more than a step along the path, but it was blown up on social media as a huge victory that drove up prices. We only have to see where the Ripple price is today to see how much of a victory it actually was,” she said.
Moving assets around between different exchanges or different assets is nothing new or unusual, of course. In times of economic downturn, funds tend to flow toward the “safer” havens, such as bonds and gold, before reverting to more profitable areas when things pick up.
Graham commented, “While diversifying holdings and being ready to react to ensure you are not unduly affected by negative pressures is sound financial advice, the problem facing crypto holders right now is which platform is safer than another. The FTX demise showed us that ‘too big to fail’ does not apply, so what remains?”
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