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Someone made a game where you ride the rapidly changing prices of cryptocurrencies

The cryptocurrency world is a strange one, but at least it has a sense of humor. A new game has you riding a little crypto-car along the wildly fluctuating prices of major and minor currencies. It’s quite ridiculous, and it isn’t even a bad game!

It’s called Crypto Rider, predictably, and is very much a spawn of the popular Line Rider type of game, though (hopefully) different enough that there won’t be any cease and desists forthcoming.

You select your car, then pick a chart to ride — most are a ride from a coin’s humble start to its highest value. But there’s a mountain-like “total market cap” track, a “drag race” where you need to clear a valuation gap and one that must be depressing for BTC holders: a bumpy downhill ride from $20K to $7,850. New tracks should appear in time, as new cryptocurrencies rise and fall.

The game is cute — there are fun messages along the track, and the exhaust is tiny coins — and you collect coins toward unlocking new cars. I’m pretty sure they’re just aesthetic changes, but I’m gunning for a Dogecar anyway.

“The game was a side project for me to do in my own time,” wrote back Daniel Fahey, founder of the developer, SuperFly Games. “So the first original 10 tracks were what I felt were needed to give the game some replayability. But after the reception the game has received during its launch day, I will certainly be adding more tracks.”

It’s free, it’s dumb and it’s a fun way to waste a few minutes while you inadvertently lampoon the hubris of this rushed attempt to overthrow existing financial systems.

“I hope people find the game funny because it certainly wasn’t meant to be serious,” Fahey wrote. “It’s a bit of light-hearted fun in a somewhat serious space.”

Blockchain stuff is promising and we’ll get there eventually. But as the game seems to emphasize, it’ll probably be quite a ride.

You can download Crypto Rider for iOS or Android.

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Accel Partners

With at least $1.3 billion invested globally in 2018, VC funding for blockchain blows past 2017 totals

Although bitcoin and blockchain technology may not take up quite as much mental bandwidth for the general public as it did just a few months ago, companies in the space continue to rake in capital from investors.

One of the latest to do so is Circle, which recently announced a $110 million Series E round led by bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain. Other participating investors include Tusk VenturesPantera CapitalIDG Capital PartnersGeneral CatalystAccel PartnersDigital Currency GroupBlockchain Capital and Breyer Capital.

This round vaults Circle into an exclusive club of crypto companies that are valued, in U.S. dollars, at $1 billion or more in their most recent venture capital round. According to Crunchbase data, Circle was valued at $2.9 billion pre-money, up from a $420 million pre-money valuation in its Series D round, which closed in May 2016. According to Crunchbase data, only Coinbase and Robinhood — a mobile-first stock-trading platform which recently made a big push into cryptocurrency trading — were in the crypto-unicorn club, which Circle has now joined.

But that’s not the only milestone for the world of venture-backed cryptocurrency and blockchain startups.

Back in February, Crunchbase News predicted that the amount of money raised in old-school venture capital rounds by blockchain and blockchain-adjacent startups in 2018 would surpass the amount raised in 2017. Well, it’s only May, and it looks like the prediction panned out.

In the chart below, you’ll find worldwide venture deal and dollar volume for blockchain and blockchain-adjacent companies. We purposely excluded ICOs, including those that had traditional VCs participate, and instead focused on venture deals: angel, seed, convertible notes, Series A, Series B and so on. The data displayed below is based on reported data in Crunchbase, which may be subject to reporting delays, and is, in some cases, incomplete.

A little more than five months into 2018, reported dollar volume invested in VC rounds raised by blockchain companies surpassed 2017’s totals. Not just that, the nearly $1.3 billion in global dollar volume is greater than the reported funding totals for the 18 months between July 1, 2016 and New Year’s Eve in 2017.

And although Circle’s Series E round certainly helped to bump up funding totals year-to-date, there were many other large funding rounds throughout 2018:

There were, of course, many other large rounds over the past five months. After all, we had to get to $1.3 billion somehow.

All of this is to say that investor interest in the blockchain space shows no immediate signs of slowing down, even as the price of bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies hover at less than half of their all-time highs. Considering that regulators are still figuring out how to treat most crypto assets, massive price volatility and dubious real-world utility of the technology, it may surprise some that investors at the riskiest end of the risk capital pool invest as much as they do in blockchain.

Notes on methodology

Like in our February analysis, we first created a list of companies in Crunchbase’s bitcoin, ethereum, blockchaincryptocurrency and virtual currency categories. We added to this list any companies that use those keywords, as well as “digital currency,” “utility token” and “security token” that weren’t previously included in the above categories. After de-duplicating this list, we merged this set of companies with funding rounds data in Crunchbase.

Please note that for some entries in Crunchbase’s round data, the amount of capital raised isn’t known. And, as previously noted, Crunchbase’s data is subject to reporting delays, especially for seed-stage companies. Accordingly, actual funding totals are likely higher than reported here.

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The SEC creates an educational “token” to stop scammers

“Travel is expensive, but we are at the cusp of a revolution that will democratize travel and leisure for everyone,” reads the breathless white paper for HoweyCoins. “The Internet was the first part of the revolution. The other part is blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”

“I’m all about HoweyCoins – this thing is going to pop at the top!” writes @boxingchamp1934, an official celebrity backer of the token. The website is full of beautiful beaches features a handsome team of international men and women and the technology is nowhere to be seen, buried under a sea of excitement. The white paper is complete and well-written, focusing on the upside that is to come. Riches await if you invest in HoweyCoin, the latest ICO opportunity from trusted folks.

Or do they?

They don’t. All that breathless optimism is a site created by US Securities Exchange Commission to warn investors of scams and issues associated with token sales. The site features all the trademarks of a scammy security token including tiered pre-sale pricing and an urgent countdown clock.

The site features a number of red flags that the SEC encourages users to watch out for including, most importantly, claims that tokens can only go up in value. They write:

Every investment carries some degree of risk, which is reflected in the rate of return you can expect to receive. High returns entail high risks, possibly including a total loss on the investments. Most fraudsters spend a lot of time trying to convince investors that extremely high returns are “guaranteed” or “can’t miss.”

The SEC also notes that “it is never a good idea to make an investment decision just because someone famous says a product or service is a good investment” and that it is never a good idea to invest with a credit card.

They also warn against pump and dump language found on many ICO pages. “Our past two pumps have doubled value for the period immediately after the pump for returns of over 225%,” wrote the HoweyCoin “creators,” a giant no-no in the world of investing.

You can read the rest of the red flags here.

While the site is fairly comical, it is sufficiently complete and would fool the casual observer. The SEC also posted a real-looking white paper which makes it clear that anyone can string together a few buzzwords can write a passable investment prospectus. That this is now a service available to anyone – for a price – makes things even scarier.

The site is part of the SEC’s outreach efforts to help investors understand ICOs.

“Strong investor protection is part of what makes American markets so strong…and striking the balance, [between innovation and investor protection] is very important,” said Chief of the SEC Cyber Unit Robert Cohen at Consensus this week. During the same panel the SEC claimed its doors were always open for questions.

Ultimately there is little separating the scams from the real token sales. This is a problem. The SEC is framing this problem in their own way based on decades of dealing with pink sheet pump and dumps and bogus get rich quick schemes. While HoweyCoins may not be real there are plenty of scammers out there and at least something like this bogus website makes it easier to spot the warning signs.

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Ripple is going after startups to build an ecosystem around the XRP cryptocurrency

It’s finally happening. Ripple is making a push to expand the use of the XRP cryptocurrency it created into new verticals and segments beyond the payment and banking space where the company is focused.

XRP is the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency behind only bitcoin, the original breakout artist, and Ethereum, the platform that most developers pomp for. XRP has a total ‘coin market cap’ of $28.7 billion today, according to, and yet it is barely used beyond a handful of pilot customer deployments that Ripple has announced.

That might change soon, however, after Ripple announced a new initiative called Xpring — pronounced ‘Spring’ — which is aimed at bringing entrepreneurs and their businesses over to XRP, both the cryptocurrency and the smart ledger, to build an ecosystem. The project will use a mixture of investment, grants, and incubation to lure companies and expand the use of XRP whilst allowing Ripple to continue to focus on its financial services business.

Ripple says it doesn’t control or own XRP — it’s hotly debated issue since it owns over 60 percent of all tokens — but it has a vested interest in seeing it succeed. Even in the short space of six months the need for variety has been clear.

The value of XRP shot up in December and January during a crypto surge which saw bitcoin reach an all-time high of nearly $20,000 per coin. The collective value of XRP was worth more than $128 billion at peak before a market crash in January walked those prices back significantly. Ripple has come under fire for a perceived lack of use for XRP, which has been marketed as a tool for banks but has attracted only cross-border payment services as customers.

Going beyond Ripple

Ripple has hired Ethan Beard, formerly director of Facebook’s developer network and an ex-EIR at Greylock Partners, to lead Xpring and more broadly Ripple’s developer program.

“The goal is to support businesses that we believe would see benefit from building upon the XRP ledger,” Eric van Miltenburg, Ripple SVP of business operations, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Support will come in a variety of ways: investment, incubation, and the potential of acquisition or grants. We’re focused on proven entrepreneurs who can use the ledger and XRP to really address their customers’ problems.”

Van Miltenburg said Ripple has been approached by entrepreneurs and companies wanting to work with XRP “for years,” but nothing came of discussions because Ripple is focused on financial services.

“There’s been enough interaction to say there’s something here [and] now is the time,” he added. “Over the last four to six months [the idea of Xpring] has really crystallized.”

Ethan Beard speaking at LeWeb in 2010 (via Adam Tinworth/Flickr)

If you’ve been keeping an eye on Ripple this year, the launch of the program won’t be a huge surprise.

Aside from the fact that many in the crypto space are pulling together their own funds — whether it be informally as a company, or more broadly across industries like the Ethereum Community Fund — Ripple has quietly upped its investment focus.

Initially, two Ripple executives took part in a $25 million investment in January for Bay Area-based startup Omni then in March CEO Brad Garlinghouse told TechCrunch that Ripple would “certainly partner with companies that are looking to use XRP in lots of different ways” whilst maintaining its focus as a business.

Xpring is that project.

Enter the Bieber… kinda

Van Miltenburg and Beard told TechCrunch that the kind of segments where they see the most potential for XRP are trade finance, gaming, virtual goods, identity, real estate, media and micro-payments.

When I put it to them that XRP is looking for reasons to justify its $28 billion market cap, van Miltenburg claimed that XRP is far less speculative than other cryptocurrencies.

“There’s a use case we have established for it: Ripple is one of the only enterprise solutions on the blockchain that’s out in production. We believe the XRP ledger and the asset has a performance profile that lends it to others,” he said.

He added that Ripple has seen interest from projects that “started on a blockchain that isn’t living up to their needs,” and that Xpring could focus on rehousing would-be blockchain migrants. However, it won’t be investing in ICOs, buying other tokens or hosting ICOs on the XRP blockchain, van Miltenburg said.

Aside from Omni — which said it will “soon” add XRP as currency in its marketplace service — Xpring has pulled in a couple of early names. Scooter Braun, the man best known for managing Justin Bieber, is “pursuing several endeavors that will use XRP to improve artists’ ability to monetize and manage their content.”

Neither van Miltenburg nor Beard could be specific on exactly what Braun is working on — there are already a number of blockchain-based digital rights and music streaming projects in development — but they said he isn’t one to jump on a bandwagon.

Braun said in a canned statement that he is “excited our team is among the first in the entertainment industry to lean into the blockchain movement.”

“This is only the beginning as we will continue to build out more use cases for XRP,” he added.

Other early partners being announced today include Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas who is transitioning out of his role to build micro-payment services using XRP via a new venture called Coil. In addition, Xpring has backed VC firm Blockchain Capital while Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, raised his latest fund entirely in XRP.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse previously spoke of plans to partner with companies on XRP (via Christopher Michel/Flickr)

Building an ecosystem

Generally, the plan for exactly how Xpring will work seems fluid at this point.

Beard spoke of the next wave of innovation coming from the blockchain, much like Facebook’s Timeline and social graph helped scale companies like Spotify, Zynga and BuzzFeed from startups into major tech names. He believes that, in turn, Xpring and XRP can help “build new businesses and change how industries function.”

Van Miltenburg was non-committal in terms of goals.

“Our motivation is to ensure that the XRP ledger and digital asset reaches its full potential. We want to see an extremely healthy and robust XRP ecosystem; that benefits Ripple and all others,” he explained.

Ripple is known to incentive its partners with XRP bonuses for signing, but it isn’t talking numbers this time, either the specific incentives that it is giving to high-profile names like Braun, or the overall budget that it has put behind Xpring.

“For the right opportunities, we can be aggressive. There’s no hesitation or reluctance to make big bets with opportunities that require investment,” is all van Miltenburg would say.

You can bet a large chunk of capital (XRP) is supporting Xpring. The current system with hundreds of cryptocurrencies isn’t sustainable, those that make it through will be the ones that offer the most value, and ecosystems could well be a measure of that. XRP, as the third-largest cryptocurrency, has considerable expectations on it which, as the crash earlier this year showed, can wipe out money faster than it made crypto wealth.

You can bet that Xpring, while outside of Ripple’s core financial services focus, will be a very key focus for building a community and ultimately usage for XRP. The question is how the startup community will reach to a different kind of investment option.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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