Coinbase Passes 650,000 Users In Less Than A Year, Bitcoin: The Ultimate Reserve Currency, Bitcoin Crowdfunding Comes To South America (And More)
It seems the young company is on a roll, as it recently managed to secure $25m in a round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Coinbase has grown more than 20-fold over the past nine months. The service started back in 2013 with just 30,000 accounts but by August it had gained over 200,000.
The number of Coinbase transactions is growing even faster – up more than twenty-fold since January.
The company also shared some interesting data on its demographics. The vast majority of Coinbase users are aged 25 to 34.
They account for 49.7% of all Coinbase users, while the 35- to 44-year-olds rank second with a 16.9% share. Meanwhile, the 18 to 24 age range is going strong with a 15.8% share.
Older age groups are in single-digit territory, with 17.6% of all Coinbase users being over the age of 45.
The vast majority of Coinbase users are male. As of November, only 12.5% are women, while 87.5% are men. Still, the situation is improving, as women accounted for only 5.8% back in October.
Following Andreessen Horowitz’s announcement last week, Coinbase said it would use the funding to solidify its position as the fastest-growing bitcoin service in the US.
It will also expand its referral program and continue to promote the mainstream adoption of bitcoin.
Coinbase is averaging about 10,000 new user sign-ups per day, so at this rate it could hit the one million user mark by February. However, with the holiday season setting in, the company’s next milestone might roll over into March.
Want to find out more about Coinbase? Watch a recent interview with Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s cofounder, by Kevin Rose below:
The year 2013 saw at least three bitcoin analyst reports from financial investment firms, an astonishing achievement for a young five-year-old digital currency. In some economic circles, bitcoin has slowly entered the ‘reserve currency’ lexicon.
Are we entering a post-legal tender era, where the provision of money is determined by the market and not by central bankers? Why do we see mainstream analysts reporting on price and economic impact for bitcoin when we never really saw that with other digital currencies?
The reason is simple – previous digital currencies were not decentralized with an independent floating exchange rate and they did not operate beyond confiscation.
Examples such as Digicash and e-Gold were brilliant proofs of concept, but their centralized nature also offered a single point of failure. Governments are not going to accept a challenge to their monetary authority if they don’t have to.
In a paper entitled “Regulating Digital Currencies: Bringing Bitcoin Within the Reach of the IMF,” Nicholas A. Plassaras suggests that the International Monetary Fund is ill-equipped to handle the widespread use of bitcoins into the foreign exchange market, highlighting the inability of the Fund to intervene in the event of a speculative attack on a country’s currency by bitcoin users.
He also hints at some of the tools that the IMF may consider deploying in the face of the global bitcoin challenge.
That academic study was followed by three analyst reports from the institutional investment industry. Together, all four studies solidify bitcoin’s maturity into a new and unique asset class with broad implications for both fiscal and monetary policy.
In July, BBVA Research released “Bitcoin: A Chapter in Digital Currency Evolution” which concludes that bitcoin is here to stay and that the regulators and financial institutions embracing bitcoin early will likely become the leaders of the future digital monetary system.
On 1st December, Wedbush Securities released “Bitcoin: Intrinsic Value as Conduit for Disruptive Payment Network Technology” by Gil Luria and Aaron Turner.
The Report Observes Three Key Sources Of Demand For Bitcoin:
(A) As A Disruptive Payment Network Technology,
(B) An Alternative Uncorrelated Asset Class, And
(C) A Safe Haven Currency.
Additionally, the report states that bitcoin represents another potential low-cost funding method for PayPal, leading Wedbush to predict “that with more regulatory clarity PayPal would likely embrace bitcoin.”
On 5th December 2013, BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research published “Bitcoin: A First Assessment” by David Woo, head of global FX and rates strategy. Since Woo is considered to be one of the leading currency minds on Wall Street, his 14-page report represents a massive endorsement for bitcoin.
“We believe bitcoin can become a major means of payment for e-commerce and may emerge as a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers. As a medium of exchange, bitcoin has clear potential for growth, in our view.”
Placing a $1,300 price target on bitcoin, he also identifies the three things that need to happen in order to justify the current bitcoin valuation – it will need to account for at least 10% of all global e-commerce B2C transactions, become one of the top three players in the money transfer industry, and acquire a store of value reputation close to silver.
As a contra indicator, the Bank of America Woo report can probably claim responsibility for diffusing the most recent bitcoin rally that took the cryptocurrency to an intraday high of $1,156.00 on the CoinDesk BPI.
As we gradually enter a post-legal tender era, it behooves us to examine the possible implications for fiscal and monetary policy within a bitcoin economic environment. This article focuses on fiscal policy while a future piece will focus on monetary policy.
Aside from the beneficial wave of new job creation and economic opportunity, bitcoin as a competitive and successful monetary unit influences some pretty substantial adjustments forthcoming to fiscal policy.
High on the list, of course, is the effect on true income determination and the resulting taxation policy. A growing army of bitcoin independent contractors and informal merchants selling labor and goods will operate off-the-grid, adhering to the same honor system that exists for paper cash today.
To fill State coffers, it is likely that the bulk of tax revenue from individuals will shift from taxing income to taxing consumption (or spending).
Good riddance. A progressive income tax is one of the fundamental tenets of Marxism and it holds back incentives for innovation and achievement.
Far more likely in a bitcoin environment would be heavy taxes on consumption, which are regressive in nature but also more equitable than progressive taxes. The ease of bitcoin merchant identification and point-of-sale audits makes consumption taxes nearly inevitable for a worried nation-state with diminishing revenue.
Other fiscal policy impacts revolve around how the spending beast will be starved by a lack of sufficient revenue to pursue global military adventurism and other unpopular spending programs made possible only by the ability to print prosperity.
The arrogance of control maintained through the unlimited issuance model of the world’s reserve currency will be dealt a mighty blow.
For the first time in modern history, a government will actually be forced to justify why they want to increase direct taxation and to demonstrate why that particular activity should be funded. Consequently, everyday people will become more empowered in the government actions executed under their name.
However, many in society will be left behind by this monumental shift of real wealth leaking out of national fiat currencies, because people have largely underestimated the widespread, latent demand for a non-political currency.
Joerg Platzer, founder of Crypto Economics Consulting Group, encourages individuals to start preparing for this day in advance to ensure economic survival. He also emphasizes the need for governments to be honest and to anticipate the vast swath of society that will simply be left behind after the great wealth transfer to a cryptocurrency society.
Further economic thoughts on the cryptocurrency and free banking space will undoubtedly be filled out by other bitcoin economic thinkers, such as Peter Šurda, Konrad Graf, JP Koning, and George Selgin.
Last Minute Tax Planning Strategies For Bitcoiners
Bitcoin has had a good year of publicity and a solid last quarter of growth. Whether you are a hard core Bitcoin miner or just a casual trader, it is likely that you’ve racked up substantial gains in 2013. There are just a few weeks left in the tax year, but it is not too late for you to take action to trim your tax bill.
Most tax planning strategies involve timing actions that you would have taken anyway in order to exploit temporary advantages in your situation. For volatile assets such as Bitcoin, the easiest thing that you can do is to harvest losses by selling when the market is down. For this year, that may not be very realistic unless the price takes a nosedive in the next several weeks. However, if you believe that your gains may be taxed at a higher rate in the future, then now may be a good time to take them. For example, if you have treated your Bitcoins as a capital asset in prior years and took the long term capital rate on any gains, but believe that Bitcoin may be taxed at ordinary income rates in the future, then now might be a good time to book your gains at the lower rate. Final rules clarifying Bitcoin’s place in the tax code may not be written for some time yet, but your tax position for earlier years is more likely to be sustained by the IRS in the absence of clear guidance if it is consistent over time.
Equipment purchased in connection with a trade or business usually must be capitalized and depreciated over a five year period. For companies engaged in Bitcoin related operations, this includes computers used as controllers, ASIC chips, USB hubs, USB erupters, cooling fans and other gear used in support of a Bitcoin mining operation. This equipment tends to wear out or become obsolete long before the end of the recovery period, a major disadvantage from a tax standpoint. However, businesses can elect under Section 179 to expense up to $500k of the value of equipment purchased and put into service during 2013. If you a have large amount of other expenses, you may alternatively elect to claim 50% bonus depreciation on your capital equipment in the first year of operation under Section 168(k). These enhanced provisions (also known as “tax extenders”) are scheduled to expire at the end of 2013, so you have only a short time left to put additional assets into use in order to take advantage. Note that in order to qualify, equipment must actually be put into operation, not just on order or under contract. Another tax extender that expires at the end of 2013 is the deduction for state and local sales tax. Most purchases of equipment are subject to sales tax, so this is yet another way to save money by accelerating a large purchase that you may have already intended to make.
Philanthropy is an integral part of the long term tax and estate plans for many taxpayers. You may consider donating some of your hoard of Bitcoins before the end of the year in order to take the charitable contributions deduction. You can convert Bitcoins to dollars and deduct the cash, but many charities now accept donations directly in Bitcoin. In this case, your deduction will be based on the dollar price of Bitcoin on the day you make the donation. Be sure to obtain a receipt.
If you qualify to contribute to an IRA this year and you haven’t fully funded one yet, you might want to cash out some of your Bitcoins to save for retirement. You can deduct up to $5,500 from your taxable income ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older) by contributing to an IRA. There are plans in the works for one or more Bitcoin backed mutual funds, so if you want to keep your cash invested in Bitcoin then be sure to check whether your broker is likely to offer them. Alternatively, if you participate in an employer run 401(k) or 403(b) plan and haven’t contributed the maximum for 2013, you could ramp up your contributions for your last one or two paychecks of the year, replacing the “lost” income with liquidated Bitcoins. This would have the effect of “deferring” some of your Bitcoin gains into your retirement account. If you are really ambitious, then you may qualify to establish a SIMPLE IRA or SEP for your Bitcoin business so that you can put even more away.
Finally, the dreaded Net Investment Income Tax deserves a mention in this article. This isn’t a tax planning strategy, but may be a good reason to do what you can to reduce your taxable income. This 3.8% tax became law in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, went into effect on January 1, 2013 and applies to all of your net investment and passive activity income if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly). Though Bitcoin isn’t referred to by name in the statute, it is almost certain that arbitrage gains and mining gains will be subject to the tax.
These are just a few of the possible strategies that may help to reduce your 2013 tax bill, but you will need to move fast. If you have suggestions for others, please share them in the comments. Always consult a qualified tax accountant before executing any tax avoidance strategy. If you find yourself with a larger tax bill than you’d like on April 15th, just remember that owing more taxes usually means that you made more money. Pat yourself on the back, crack open a cold one, and tell yourself you’ll do a better job planning next time!
Idea.me, a regional crowdfunding platform in South America, has embraced bitcoin payments.
Although the platform uses a Montenegrin domain, it’s an Argentinean outfit currently available in seven South American countries.
In fact, Idea.me is the only regional crowdfunding platform in South America, according to TechCrunch.
So far, the company has managed to raise $750,000 and it hopes to raise a further $2.4m in Series A funding next March. To date, the platform has funded over 450 projects using an estimated $2m.
Idea.me recently added bitcoin as an alternative to more traditional payment methods like credit cards and PayPal. Chief Operating Office Pia Giudice claimed Idea.me is currently the only crowdfunding platform in the Americas to include bitcoin support. She said:
“Our business unit is unique in the world: Idea.me is the only platform that executes campaigns with multinational companies to fund specific projects.”
To make it all happen Idea.ma uses BitPay, which allows it to convert bitcoins to dollars automatically. In other words, although the pledger pays in bitcoin, the project receiving the funding gets the contribution in dollars.
This helps protect all parties involved in the process from bitcoin volatility and wild price swings. In essence, bitcoin is used as a money transfer vehicle in this process.
According to the Idea.me blog, the company’s decision to embrace the virtual currency was a direct result of bitcoin’s recent surge in popularity.
Idea.me hopes its bitcoin support will allow more backers to join the platform as bitcoin payments are available for all projects listed on the platform.
It is worth pointing out that major crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter do not support bitcoin donations at this time.
However, they do support various bitcoin-related projects, such as Nio Card, a bitcoin payment card, open-source ASIC mining rigs and various bitcoin related start-ups.
Bitcoin presents an entirely new kind of economy to the world: decentralized, borderless and mostly unregulated. It’s also enabling a new generation of entrepreneurs from outside the world’s traditional, or ‘developed’ business breeding grounds. Helping them find their place is the world’s first seed-stage startup fund exclusively for bitcoin businesses, Seedcoin.
Heading Seedcoin is co-founder Eddy Travia, a Hong Kong-based French expat who also organized Asia’s first bitcoin conference in Singapore in mid-November. Despite having its offices in Hong Kong, Seedcoin’s focus is international and (at this stage) not only on Asia, providing initial startup support to those with great ideas but in need of capital, guidance and connections.
The company launched its Seedcoin Fund I (SFI) on bitcoin securities platform Havelock Investments this week, with seven new businesses from several different countries and economies. SFI includes Singapore-based derivatives exchange BTC.sx, payment processors GoCoin, Cryptopay.me and Monero.co, Mexican remittance-focused exchange MEXBT, easy-to-use wallet client Hive, and a new kind of SIM card-based wallet called zSIM.
Funds raised through Havelock will be distributed among the startups, with Seedcoin keeping a portion as a management fee. Investors in SFI will receive dividends in bitcoin indirectly from the startups.
Searching The world
Seedcoin’s first active business was DealCoin, a face-to-face bitcoin exchange and escrow platform who ‘went public’ on Havelock Investments in September, raising over 500 BTC in the first 10 minutes. Dealcoin’s founder, Hakim Mamoni, first introduced Travia to bitcoin and is also Seedcoin’s CTO and co-founder.
Travia said Seedcoin had received “60 applications through various channels,” and had plans to help around 15 startups including bitcoin wallets, exchanges, and a few payment processors.
“With bitcoin, we’re still in the ‘infrastructure phase’. After that will come the merchants, and everything else that helps people pay in, and use, bitcoin.”
Seedcoin’s goal is to help entrepreneurs all over the world, both in ‘developed’ economies and some with less experience in international business.
“There are things we take for granted in the Western world,” said Travia, like a developed banking system. “We have a certain know-how about business processes, banking, etc. But take regions like Eastern Europe for example. There are young, brilliant guys, extremely talented and at ease with programming, but don’t know anything about raising funds.”
Travia said youth and inexperience meant a lot of bitcoin entrepreneurs were pretty casual in their approach, but were capable of learning fast and developing the professionalism they needed to grow.
“One guy asked me if he even needed to bother incorporating a business! He works entirely with bitcoin and didn't even have a bank account.”
“One guy asked me if he even needed to bother incorporating a business! He works entirely with bitcoin and didn’t even have a bank account.”
Travia said his company is building a network of mentors all around the world in places like Kenya, Philippines, Argentina, Ecuador, South Africa and Brazil. Even though Seedcoin is a ‘virtual incubator’, face to face relationships remain an essential ingredient in this kind of business.
With China wobbling as a bitcoin haven and a difficult 48-state regulatory environment for ‘money transmitters’ in the US, the world is likely to see more bitcoin innovation from other places, which have plenty of entrepreneurs but are not traditionally associated with startup activity.
“We don’t have any plans to invest in the US at the moment, but the people we know there are asking us to provide them with opportunities in Asia and elsewhere,” Travia said.
Hong Kong And Singapore
Hong Kong is a desirable place for any business to operate, said Travia, not just bitcoin-related ones. Despite the fact he hasn’t seen much bitcoin activity in Hong Kong yet, he believes it could easily grow into a hub for trading platforms. The territory’s legal system is business-friendly and autonomous from China’s, and there haven’t been any overt moves to regulate bitcoin there so far.
Singapore also shows promise, as another city-state with financial hub status and a healthy technology startup scene. Its financial regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued warnings on bitcoin but also recently approved the trading platform itBit, which itself raised $5m in startup capital.
“The Singapore conference in November was a lot bigger than we expected,” Travia said. “It’s all going very fast, as you can imagine.”
Travia says he, like many people, only became involved with the bitcoin startup scene in mid-2013. He began traveling to Asia in 1999 to recruit students for a technology-focused MBA, and then moved to China permanently in 2004 to engage in private equity investments.
After arranging several VC deals for Chinese startups and attending VC conferences, he noticed Chinese companies starting to look internationally for investors. He decided to become a bridge between them and foreigners looking for new opportunities.
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