Is the ICO party over?

After a record-breaking year of more than $5.5B in funding last year, many saw a bright future for ICOs. And when looking at the raw numbers, it’s tempting to think that’s still the case. This year’s ICO funding has already surpassed $10B, in a significant increase over last year’s total, and new token projects continue to launch every day.

But storm clouds are on the horizon for ICOs – securities regulators have been cracking down in recent months (four more ICOs were shut down in the US just yesterday), and regulatory pressure has forced many token projects to look elsewhere for funding.

In the third quarter of this year, ICOs raised just $1.8B – a dramatic decline from Q2 of this year, which saw more than $8B in funding raised. This regulatory pressure, combined with an overall downturn in the crypto markets, has left investors reluctant to invest in ICOs with poor prospects of a healthy return.

But is the ICO party really over for good, or will other funding methods take its place in the blockchain industry? It seems likely that for the time being, venture capital and private equity firms will pick up the slack where ICOs left off.

As ICO funding for crypto projects has continued to decrease in recent months, VC funding for those projects has only been increasing. In fact, a recent report from Outer Ventures found that VC investments in the crypto sector rose from $900 million in 2017, to more than $2.85 billion this year. This influx of VC funding is helping blockchain projects continue to build even as ICO funding slows, which should be encouraging for crypto founders.

Still, the Securities and Exchange Commission remains focused on regulating ICOs, and the regulatory body maintains that the funding mechanism won’t be going away anytime soon. This week, the regulatory body created an ICO guide for investors that outlines how ICOs are presently regulated, and how to handle risk and unregistered offerings when assessing investment opportunities.

After much uncertainty, the SEC has finally confirmed that ICOs are indeed securities, and this is also reflected in its latest update. The site also provides updates on the latest regulatory activity around ICOs, which should prove useful for token projects considering launching an ICO of their own.

Recent events have made it clear that the ICO party isn’t dead yet – it’s just moved locations. While the verdict is still out on how ICO fundraising will evolve in the future, for now at least, venture capital seems set to become more prevalent than token sales for at least the next few quarters.

Understanding the Bitcoin Cash hash war

Bitcoin Cash has undergone a hard fork this week after unresolved deliberations on a number of key upgrades, and tensions are running high.

Two of the largest Bitcoin Cash implementations (Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV) are at odds over which features to include, and as a result, a “hash war” has broken out.

Bitcoin SV is led by Craig Wright (of nChain fame), while Bitcoin ABC is supported by the controversial crypto influencer Roger Ver. Both implementations are incompatible with each other, which means that in theory, only one can continue to be the “real” Bitcoin Cash.

A hash war consists of two competing sides that are boosting their computing power in a bid to gain increased influence (and show support for) a preferred implementation, with mining power being used as a weapon to potentially kill off another blockchain.

This is done using a pooling of hash power resources, which are the total computing resources assembled by a group of miners in the interest of keeping a blockchain secure.

If either side has more than 51% of the hashing power in Bitcoin Cash, the dominating side would in theory be able to launch debilitating attacks on the smaller chain. This represents a troubling turn of events for a community that’s been equal parts competitive and collaborative in recent years.

Perhaps most important here is that neither side has implemented replay protection in the lead-up to the hash war. Replay protection is what allows traders to safely spend their funds when a fork takes place, and without it, any hard fork can quickly become a dangerous proposition.

A lack of replay protection means that both chains intent to keep boosting their hash rate until the other loses, with the victor becoming the “one true chain” for Bitcoin Cash traders. Crypto investors on the losing side stand to lose a lot of money, and that’s part of what makes this war amidst a hard fork so risky.

On the exchanges front, most are already listing both Bitcoin Cash hard forks as trading pairs. Some (such as Poloniex) have suspended Bitcoin Cash trading altogether until the outcome is confirmed.

With a number of attacks that can be launched, both sides seem willing to fight to the death for the right to control Bitcoin Cash’s future. While it seems likely ABC will emerge as the victor in this hash war, SV could still execute an attack to destroy ABC.

Both blockchains are being pushed to their limits, and it’s a great way for the crypto community to see the pros and cons of each. To follow the hash war live, check out Hashware Live or read this primer on the battle.

Introducing CryptoTracker

During a late night in Bangkok a few months ago drinking wine with friends, we were discussing how news could impact the prices of cryptocurrencies.

We all agreed it would be cool if there was a site that listed live coin price data alongside live news. After searching Google and not being able to find what we wanted, myself and one of the guys set out to build a site that did just this – provide live coin data with live news associated with each coin.

After many weeks of working on the design, setting up a back-end system, testing and integrating different API’s, and securing a great domain name for the project, I’m pleased to introduce the first version of the product at CryptoTracker.io

It was a super fun project to work on and I’m thankful we had some amazing partners who supported the product pre-launch, including:

  • LocalEthereum – The smartest way to buy and sell ether
  • Heat Wallet – A 3rd generation cryptocurrency with high-frequency trading
  • CXO.ai – The all-in-one crypto learning platform
  • Gem – The friendliest way to manage your crypto portfolio

If you’re after live coin data with live news, check CryptoTracker out. We have a great roadmap laid out which will make the site even better to use over the coming months, which we are working on now. With that said, I’m really excited to see the progress we make over the coming months and years.

The best places to setup a Crypto Company in 2018

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly – my weekly crypto newsletter covering the week’s must-read blockchain news.


One of the most important decisions founders will make when setting up a crypto company is deciding where to incorporate. It’s a simple decision with profound implications. One change in regulations or a simple change in taxation rules could provide serious complications for any new crypto venture, and as such, choosing the right city to incorporate in is critical.

The rise of cryptocurrencies is irreversible, and some cities are capitalizing on the massive opportunity this presents – both for the cities themselves and for the communities they support. A few in particular have actively embraced cryptocurrencies, and are turning themselves into magnets for crypto investment.

After hours of research, I’m excited to reveal the cities which I believe provide the best balance of opportunity, stability, and access to funding for founders:

  • Zug, Switzerland
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • San Francisco
  • Gibraltar
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Malta

Let’s get started.

Zug, Switzerland

Why Zug?

Commonly known as “Crypto Valley”, tiny Zug has quickly risen to become one of the top destinations for setting up a crypto company. A decentralized political system and a light-touch approach to crypto regulation have turned this sleepy town into a magnet for crypto companies, ICOs, and investors looking to benefit from the attractive climate for research and development here.

Zug has been on the forefront of crypto innovation for years (Ethereum was incorporated here all the way back in 2014), and the city is now home to dozens of crypto startups and blockchain accelerators – as well as the Crypto Valley Association, the city’s official blockchain community.

In addition, you can even pay bills and taxes here through Bitcoin, which is officially accepted as a currency – what’s not to love?

Pros:

On account of the entrepreneurs that have already migrated to Zug, the city boasts a large talent pool for its size. With this talent, has come a significant amount of capital. Crypto founders will find that Zug is a place brimming with funding, and high-quality talent and mentorship to go along with it.

In addition, crypto founders will benefit from the huge community of crypto firms that have already set up shop in Zug (Ethereum, Tezos, Monetas, and many others have a presence in town).

The crypto community is vibrant, supportive, and growing – which is exactly what one needs when starting up a new venture. Part of this ecosystem is the Crypto Valley Association, a government-backed organization that’s dedicated to turning Switzerland into a world leader in the crypto and blockchain spheres. The CVA hosts a number of networking events each month and serves as a forum for crypto entrepreneurs to learn from one another.

Another significant benefit of setting one’s crypto company up in Zug is its tax rate, which is minimal for crypto companies (even in Switzerland, the canton boasts the 5th lowest tax rate among all others). As is true in the rest of Switzerland, this low-tax environment is ideal for most businesses.

Lastly, in a world of crypto markets where volatility reigns supreme, it should come as no surprise that crypto entrepreneurs are flocking to Zug (and Switzerland more generally) for its famed stability. The government’s opening-up to crypto has been slow but methodical, and its light-touch approach to crypto regulation lies in contrast to most other foreign governments, which have taken a haphazard approach to regulating cryptocurrencies.

Cons:

The cons of incorporating in Zug are few and far between, but they do exist. Some crypto entrepreneurs may be put off by the canton’s high cost of living, which should be a consideration for anyone looking to start their venture here.

In addition, although Zug is a growing crypto hub, it doesn’t yet have the international profile of Singapore or Dubai, meaning one may still have to travel further afield to find high-quality blockchain talent or capital that isn’t already tied up.

What the experts say:

Ralf Glabischnig, partner at Zug-based Lakeside Partners, shares:

Crypto Startups should establish their business in the Crypto Valley because Switzerland has decentralization and consensus in their DNA! Already more than 350 companies with more than 3000 experts are working here in the blockchain field (see CryptoValley Directory)

Get involved:

Singapore

Why Singapore?

After the US and Switzerland, Singapore was the third-largest destination for ICOs in 2017.

The tiny island city-state has long been a hub for international business, and recently Singapore’s central government has started making a concerted effort to attract crypto firms to its shores by setting up FinTech incubators and drafting clear regulations around cryptocurrencies. In particular, Singapore’s central bank alone has set aside a reported $166m for developing and investing in new crypto and FinTech projects.

The city-state also boasts a vibrant crypto ecosystem, with numerous crypto events and meetings happening around town every week. Finding an advisor here for one’s crypto company is easier than in most places, and there’s also a wealth of engineering talent in this cosmopolitan city.

Pros:

Always critical for crypto companies, the taxes in Singapore are low, ranging from 0-20% for most businesses. In addition, the central government has so far taken a light-touch approach to crypto regulation – much of this is due to Singapore historical position as a global financial hub, but the government is open to and curious about experiencing with cryptocurrencies themselves.

With literally hundreds of banks and VC funds headquartered on just a few square kilometers of land, proximity to massive amounts of capital is probably better here than anywhere else in the world.

Founders will find it convenient and easy to line up meetings with investors here, which are more open to investing in crypto companies than in most other cities. In addition to all that capital, Singapore has a massive crypto ecosystem, with numerous crypto startups headquartered here.

In addition, it’ll soon be home to a dedicated cryptocurrency and ICO advisory center, which will act as a hub for crypto founders looking to locate talent and start up their own venture in the city-state.

In addition to capital, Singapore is also home to a wealth of engineering talent – both homegrown and from overseas. It’s home to several of the world’s top research universities (including the National University of Singapore) and is a magnet for engineering talent on the corporate front as well.

The ranks of blockchain engineers in Singapore are small still and slowly growing, but their numbers are likely to increase as more crypto firms set up shop in the city-state.

Cons:

There remains a lack of regulatory clarity around the launch of ICOs in Singapore. Officially, Singapore’s stance has been to allow ICOs for the time being, and in the past, it has explicitly allowed any virtual currencies that do not engage in illegal activity, such as gambling or money laundering. Still, many investors and entrepreneurs remain cautious, as updated regulations have not been announced yet. As recently as several months ago, Singapore lawmakers met to discuss additional regulations around ICOs, but the results of those conversations are pending as of now.

What the experts say:

Bobby Ong, CEO of CoinGecko, shares:

CoinGecko is incorporated in Singapore because the regulators here have a very progressive attitude towards blockchain technology and are supportive of startups in this space. Also, for the first 3 years of incorporation, startups here are given full tax exemption on the first $100,000 of normal chargeable income and a further 50% exemption on the next $200,000 of normal chargeable income. This is a very attractive benefit for startups considering incorporation in Singapore.

Laurent Dedenis at Singapore based Acronis, shares:

Most people will agree that Singapore is regarded as one of the best ran countries in the world. Singapore is efficient, transparent with a sound and mature Legal system. The MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) has designed a flexible framework regulating Crypto Currency and ICOs locally but also adapted to change quickly so that it would support the fast pace of the blockchain economy.

Still, Singapore has got a limited number of real Blockchain experts and the size of the country makes it more difficult to hire talent, but it sure is set to become one of the main hubs for Blockchain projects in Asia – and possibly, in the world.

Get involved:

Hong Kong

Why Hong Kong?

Alongside, Singapore, Hong Kong is quickly developing to become the second-largest hub for cryptocurrencies in Asia. Like Singapore, Hong Kong’s status as a lightly-regulated banking hub means it has an abundance of capital, dealmakers, and advisors to ensure that a potential ICO goes smoothly.

As regulations on ICOs in the United States and China have become more restrictive, founders have increasingly been considering Hong Kong as a launchpad for their crypto companies.

Hong Kong has a thriving crypto community, and a number of blockchain accelerators (such as SuperCharger) and crypto VC funds have also sprouted up around the city-state.

In addition, recent crackdowns on cryptocurrencies in China have sent a number of entrepreneurs across the border to neighboring Hong Kong, contributing to a growing pool of blockchain engineering talent. Hong Kong is also home to one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world in Bitfinex, which is headquartered here and remains quite active in Hong Kong’s crypto community.

Pros:

As a global financial hub, funding in Hong Kong is abundant and generally accessible to founders. A variety of funding options are available, from venture capital all the way down to seed funding from independent accelerators and advisors.

In addition to an ample supply of funding, Hong Kong also benefits from a collaborative and open crypto community. Organizations like the Hong Kong Bitcoin Association and major crypto exchanges like Binance have fostered a vibrant community of founders in Hong Kong, which also hosts a number of key industry conferences each year (such as TOKEN2049 and others).

Like Singapore, Hong Kong has a regulatory environment that’s generally favorable to cryptocurrency firms. That said, there are a couple of caveats here that I’ll elaborate upon in the following section. Guidelines for setting up a business are clearly-defined, and cryptocurrencies have historically been lightly-regulated (although this is starting to change – more on that below).

Cons:

Despite having an open and collaborative business environment, Hong Kong is starting to crack down on token sales that look suspect in any way.

As recently as this year, the central government said that it would begin looking at and regulating token sales as conventional securities, saying that it would “continue to police” cryptocurrency exchanges and token sales launched within its jurisdiction.

Although the central government is appearing to take a middle-of-the-road approach (in contrast to China, which has essentially banned cryptocurrencies completely), this has caused some founders to be wary about starting their crypto company in Hong Kong in the near-term.

In addition, Hong Kong’s government recently launched a public awareness campaign (spanning print, television, and online) warning its citizens about the potential dangers of investing in ICOs and cryptocurrencies. The impact of this remains to be seen, but in the long run, such a position towards cryptocurrencies may lessen investor sentiment over time.

What the experts say:

Cyrus Wen, CEO of Plutux Labs, shares:

While Hong Kong positions itself to be a prominent financial center in Asia, its regulators are not known to be immediately adaptive to emerging technologies, and prefer to be a follower rather than a first mover. As such, neither overnight crackdown nor deregulation towards cryptocurrency is expected from the regulators at this point.

Due to regulatory concerns over tax issues and money transfers globally, obtaining a bank account has become increasingly difficult in Hong Kong. This has been the case for any businesses, but far more so for finance-related sub-segments such as remittance companies as well as technology startups dealing in cryptocurrency.

It is worth noting that most of the top cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volume involve Hong Kong-based entities. After all, Hong Kong provides world-class business infrastructures and talent pool enabling many businesses to advance into the blockchain space.

Get involved:

San Francisco, California, USA

Why San Francisco?

As the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, it’s perhaps no surprise that San Francisco makes our list of the top places in which to launch a crypto company. With an unmatched concentration of engineering talent, close proximity to the hundreds of VC firms dotting the Bay Area, a culture of creativity, and an active crypto community, this city has all the ingredients critical to a healthy startup ecosystem.

Like any city, though, San Francisco isn’t perfect – most notably, it faces regulatory challenges as a crypto hub on account of it being located in the US. But despite these uncertainties, it remains one of the best cities for founders to set up a crypto company, and this will likely continue to be the case for years to come.

Pros:

San Francisco is home to some of the most influential blockchain-focused VC funds in the world (such as Blockchain Capital), making it perhaps the best place in the world for founders to search for funding from institutional investors who truly understand the transformative nature of cryptocurrencies.

Funding of all types is plentiful in Silicon Valley, but in San Francisco in particular, extensive networking is critical to getting access to key dealmakers.

In addition to a significant amount of available funding, San Francisco also has perhaps the largest concentration of blockchain engineering talent of anywhere in the world. According to a Forbes study, it also has the second-highest number of blockchain-related job openings in the US.

The numerous crypto firms that have already set up shop here act as a significant magnet for talent and the allure of Silicon Valley is often difficult for many engineers to ignore. Founders setting up shop in San Francisco (or the greater Bay Area, for that matter) will certainly benefit from the deep crypto and blockchain talent pool in the region.

As one might expect in Silicon Valley, San Francisco also has a thriving blockchain and crypto community, with numerous events and industry conferences happening throughout the year. As an added bonus, some of the top VCs and startup advisors in the world (like Spencer Bogart of Blockchain Capital) remain very active in the community, offering founders numerous networking opportunities.

Cons:

For now, ICOs and crypto companies launched inside the US (and consequently in San Francisco) will be subject to a high level of scrutiny from regulatory authorities. The Securities and Exchange Commission is watching developments in the crypto industry closely, and in recent weeks has resorted to calling the heads of suspect ICOs, many of which discontinued their token sales shortly thereafter.

In addition, there appears to be disagreement within the US government around how ICOs and cryptocurrencies should be regulated. The head of the SEC was recently quoted as saying “every ICO I’ve seen is a security”, but some lawmakers disagree.

This uncertain political climate (and the threat of having one’s crypto operations shut down altogether) has forced some founders to pursue launching their crypto companies in more supportive jurisdictions like Switzerland or Gibraltar.

What the experts say:

Andrew Lee, CEO of Purse, shares:

SF is not the most convenient place to start a company, but it is the frontier of innovation in crypto. Top developers for every major project reside or spend a lot of time in SF, and as a result, it has the highest density of intellectual prowess.

However, the market is very global and the majority of crypto companies don’t need to be at the edge of innovation. The most successful crypto businesses are actually based outside the US in cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, or Seoul.

Get involved:

Gibraltar

Why Gibraltar?

The UK overseas territory of Gibraltar is quickly becoming an attractive destination for crypto founders. Long a strategic outpost of the British Empire, this tiny territory sits astride the Strait of Gibraltar, which acts as the primary entrance for seaborne traffic in and out of the Mediterranean.

In recent years, its lenient regulations and low taxation have attracted entrepreneurs of all types, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon – particularly in crypto.

As the first territory to introduce and fully formalize government-sanctioned ICO regulations, Gibraltar is leading the way in normalizing the use of cryptocurrencies and ICOs within the global financial system. ICOs and token sales are completely legal here, with no ambiguity.

This guarantee of stability has emboldened crypto founders to set up shop in the territory, which now is home to the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange, the world’s first government-backed crypto exchange.

Pros:

Gibraltar is a world leader in building a business-friendly environment for crypto companies. It’s taking a market-driven approach to drafting regulations around ICOs and cryptocurrencies, and the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) has said in the past that it would like to create a “self-regulating environment” for token sales.

On February 9th, the territory announced that it had drafted the world’s first regulations for ICOs and that it would soon be issuing clear regulations on how cryptocurrencies could be used in investment funds as well.

This clear-eyed approach to cryptocurrencies benefits would-be founders, as there will likely be no ambiguity around the legality or corporate structure of one’s company, should it be domiciled in Gibraltar.

In addition, Gibraltar recently announced the launch of the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), which aims to provide an institutional platform for token sales, ICOs, and crypto exchanges.

The exchange is operating with the backing of the GFSC, and will provide crypto founders with a fully legal, legitimate, and a government-approved way to launch their projects or token sales. In a world where uncertainty around crypto regulations is the norm, this is a huge benefit.

Cons:

Unlike the other cities on this list, Gibraltar has a tiny population and a dearth of blockchain engineering talent. As many founders are apt to fly in and do a day’s worth of business before flying out in the evening, the crypto community here is more transient and less active than some other cities.

Despite Gibraltar being a mini-financial hub, there’s also a general lack of access to funding within the territory’s borders – especially when compared to financial powerhouses like Singapore and Hong Kong. That said, there are still some high-quality events held here on an irregular basis (such as its annual Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference).

In addition, early this year, some British banks (most notably RBS) began refusing any crypto transactions originating from Gibraltar. Many British banks see cryptocurrencies as a dangerous investment bubble and are reluctant to process transactions related to them.

As a true innovator in the crypto space, some of this friction is to be expected in Gibraltar, but time will tell whether this resistance is temporary or symptomatic of a more long-lasting opposition to cryptocurrencies by the British government.

What the experts say:

Dmitrij Pruglo, CEO of COVESTING, shares:

COVESTING is heavily focused on providing a secure, and compliant platform for cryptocurrency trading. Cryptocurrency business incorporated in Gibraltar has to comply with the strictest standards of risk management, client asset protection, corporate governance, IT systems and controls, and financial crime prevention. So, the registration in Gibraltar can be seen as a sign of reliability.

Marcus Killick, CEO of ISOLAS LLP, shares:

DLT is a financial wild west, many participants will fail and many individuals will lose money. This is the risk they take for the rewards they seek. If you are going to be in the wild west it is best to be somewhere with a decent sheriff. Gibraltar’s regulatory environment will make it one of the few places where there is a sheriff in town to provide a level of protection.

Get involved:

Dubai, UAE

Why Dubai?

In the past few decades, this former fishing village has risen to become one of the most prosperous cities, and one of the most well-connected transportation hubs in the world. Dubai has long been a hub for business in the Middle East, but it’s increasingly becoming a haven for crypto investors and founders as well.

The central government here is taking an openly experimental approach to crypto, and has already announced plans to roll out a national cryptocurrency and turn Dubai into the “world’s first blockchain-powered government”.

With its low tax structure, extensive access to capital, and an open-minded governmental approach to cryptocurrencies, Dubai has many of the critical ingredients for becoming a true global crypto hub.

Pros

As the Middle East’s most prominent business hub, Dubai is brimming with fresh capital and an investor community that’s increasingly interested in crypto. Several major crypto exchanges (such as AI-driven SaharaChain) are based here, and institutional investors are increasingly willing to invest in crypto and blockchain projects.

In addition to an active investor community, Dubai also houses a vibrant development community as well, with some of the brightest development talent in the region being based here.

Perhaps most promisingly for founders, Dubai’s government is prioritizing the adoption of blockchain technologies and is aiming to run its entire government on blockchain applications by 2020. The city government envisions blockchain underpinning every facet of daily life, including real estate transactions.

This initiative signals that the government is both willing and open to working with the right partners on crypto and blockchain applications, provided they’re relevant to the 2020 Initiative. Dubai, in particular, has taken a proactive approach to adopting emerging technologies and has entire accelerator programs set up to lure in promising tech talent (such as through the Dubai Future Accelerators Program, which is run by the Dubai Future Foundation).

Cons

For founders without proven and fully-funded crypto projects, cost of living is something to consider. Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live, which could give any entrepreneur bootstrapping their project significant challenges without any outside funding.

In addition, while Dubai has become more business-friendly in recent years, government regulations around incorporation can be byzantine and difficult to understand. Many regulations are not clear, and as such, setting up a business can be difficult without a local partner.

In addition, Emirati law generally requires at least one local partner be involved to establish a business – although there are sometimes ways around this depending on one’s unique circumstances by leveraging one of the many free trade zones.

What the experts say:

Luigi Menghini, founder of Dubai based DomusCoins, shares:

Dubai is for sure an interesting city in terms of business and growth possibilities. Taxes are almost zero. The approach towards cryptos is positive, but there is no legal framework yet and the UAE might implement strict regulations as it is already happening for banking and finance. In this case, established corporations will be advantaged compared to start-ups.

Last but not least, finding skilled software developers can be challenging, in fact, 90% of the employees is foreign and to be in the country they must have an occupation. This means that you’ll probably have to look abroad to set up a new team.

Get involved:

Tokyo, Japan

Why Tokyo?

Tokyo is the financial and business center of Japan, which is the world’s most active crypto trading market, with over 40% of the world’s crypto trading volume taking place in Japan last year. A number of the world’s largest crypto exchanges are based in Tokyo, and many blockchain firms also have regional headquarters located in town as well.

The world has long looked to Tokyo for first-mover innovations in the world of crypto, and its government has been more active than others in engaging with the technology.

After a spate of high-profile cryptocurrency thefts of some of the Japan’s largest crypto exchanges, the country has established a self-regulatory body focused on securing and regulating Japan’s largest crypto exchanges. This should boost both security and investor confidence in the markets while resolving the regulatory ambiguity that has long plagued the country.

Pros

Tokyo has one of the most active crypto communities in the world – in fact, researchers have estimated that over half of its adult population has purchased or traded cryptocurrency in the past two years. Many businesses and cafes accept crypto for payments, and the level of mainstream adoption here is on another level compared to the other crypto hubs on this list.

This is primarily due to crypto’s recently-minted status as a legal tender and its mass appeal in the Japanese market. There are a variety of meetups happening every night of the week for crypto entrepreneurs and investors from all walks of life, giving the city’s crypto community a more diverse makeup than other cities of a similar size.

As the largest city in what is arguably the world’s most crypto-friendly country, Tokyo is one of the best cities for crypto entrepreneurs to set up shop. In addition to a supportive regulatory environment, the country also has robust safeguards for both traders and investors, leading many to see the country as a “safe haven” for crypto (this was recently illustrated in Coincheck’s willingness to provide full refunds to its customers following an unprecedented $530m theft several months ago).

Tokyo has benefited from recent regulatory crackdowns on cryptocurrencies in China and South Korea, as many retail investors in those countries have transferred their crypto holdings (and the trading activity that goes with that capital) to crypto exchanges based in Tokyo.

Cons

Following the Mt Gox debacle, Japanese regulators have been extremely conservative about allowing crypto exchanges in the country, even banning them outright at one point.

Recently, the government allowed 11 of the country’s largest crypto exchanges to build a self-regulatory body, which seems to bode well for the future of crypto exchanges in Japan, but uncertainty remains around whether these regulations will be held up, or tightened up yet again if another Mt Gox-like event happens again. Given the past precedent for such actions, this is certainly a key consideration for founders thinking about setting up shop in Tokyo.

In addition, despite the high trading volume, Japan still is somewhat unfriendly to crypto investors due to its high-tax environment. This year, Japan’s government announced that it would be taxing proceeds from crypto at between 15 and 55%, depending on the amount of gains realized. This likely won’t impact crypto trading in the short-term, but the long-term impact of high taxation could dampen investor enthusiasm in the future.

What the experts say:

Gabriel Yang, COO of Tokyo based BeyondBlocks, shares:

Simply put, Japan is the “New Heart” of cryptocurrency. As of Jan. 15, Japanese yen accounts for 56.2% of bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, according to coin hills.com.

Japan’s stronghold on No.1 position is owed to a solid legal system supporting the industry to build credibility among individual investors, as well as Japanese familiarity with securities trading, said Midori Kanemitsu, the CFO of Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchange operator, bitFlyer Inc.

Japan is also the first and only country to establish a proper legal system regulating cryptocurrency trading, eliminating the worry of what would happen to users’ money if an exchange were to crash or go bust. We also can’t ignore the Japanese familiarity and expertise in day trading, another reason why the nation is a driving force for cryptocurrency development.

Dennis Jarvis, VP of Product at Orb, Inc, shares:

While other countries have been tightening regulations lately, the Japanese government has done a very good job of taking a balanced approach to protecting consumers versus encouraging innovation. As a result, more and more startups are moving to Japan to take advantage of the friendly regulatory environment.

I believe this will, in turn, attract more developers and crypto talent in general to the marketplace. One thing to note though is that English is not as widely spoken in Japanese business environments as it is elsewhere. Managing a multi-national team requires a sustained effort in bridging cultural and linguistic divides. In the end, though, it is more than worthwhile to be part of such a vibrant crypto community.

Get involved:

Malta

Why Malta?

With the lowest corporate tax rates in the European Union, an innovation-friendly government, and a tropical climate, Malta is fast becoming a key hub for crypto firms. Recent crackdowns on crypto in China and Japan have left many firms looking for a new home base, and Malta is increasingly stepping in to fill that role.

Even Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, has moved its headquarters here on the heels of increased regulatory pressure in Japan and Hong Kong.

With its progressive attitude towards cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, Malta’s government is being proactive about adopting crypto entrepreneurs. It recently set up the Malta Digital Innovation Authority to certify blockchain platforms set up in the country, as well as verify all crypto transactions.

The authority is also set to issue formal regulations around ICOs, which is giving crypto entrepreneurs increased confidence in the viability of setting up their own businesses in Malta.

Pros

The creation of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority has given investors confidence that the central government is serious about becoming a magnet for crypto talent from around the world. This measure, aimed at giving crypto entrepreneurs “peace of mind”, will also involve defined regulations around ICOs and definition of the roles of intermediaries within the crypto markets.

In addition to a progressive regulatory environment, Malta also has the lowest corporate tax rate in the EU, with some individuals and corporations able to pay as little as 0% tax on their profits. As Maltese law is presently ambiguous regarding how its corporate tax rate applies to crypto firms, this tax rate is certainly subject to change – but for now, it remains a huge draw for the many crypto startups that have moved their operations here.

Malta’s crypto community is still nascent, but with significant players like Binance moving in, the diverse community here is quickly growing. Regular meetups take place within groups like the Malta Bitcoin Club, and one community of crypto entrepreneurs has even created ICO Malta, a turnkey service for founders looking to incorporate and launch their ICO within the country. After welcoming Binance into the country, it seems likely that Malta may begin looking for other prominent crypto firms to lure to its shores, although it remains to be seen if any additional incentives will be provided.

Cons

As of right now, the only true disadvantage of Malta is merely that it’s mostly unproven as a crypto hub, and despite having been a hub of offshore finance for years, its banking systems haven’t been stress-tested quite as much as in some other countries.

This leads some to believe that the country may run a risk of being caught off-guard by a black swan event (such as the notorious 2014 Mt Gox scandal) that would damage the country’s pristine reputation in the crypto community. Some long-timers in Malta’s finance sector also believe that the government’s openness to crypto is superficial at best, and hasn’t been truly thought through in-depth from a regulatory perspective.

In additional, cryptocurrencies are presently still classified as “unregulated digital instruments”, meaning that funds deposited by firms on Malta’s shores may or may not be insured by the government. Regulation isn’t yet clear on this point, and some entrepreneurs may opt to hold off on setting up shop until the finer points around insurance of funds have been cleared up by Malta’s Digital Innovation Authority.

That said, regulatory ambiguity is something that should clear up during the upcoming year, as the MDIA continues to ramp up its focus on making Malta an attractive place for crypto entrepreneurs to do business.

What the experts say:

Jan Sammut, CEO of ICO Launch Malta, shares:

Malta is shaping up to be the ground-zero of blockchain innovation in Europe. The strategic nexus between a highly skilled technical workforce, pro-business government and efficient tax structures whilst being a fully fledged EU and Eurozone member make it the obvious choice for blockchain start-ups. Also, never discount the advantage that the climate and lifestyle here offers when recruiting and relocating staff members from the northern countries.

Get involved:

In closing

As anyone involved in crypto already knows, the regulatory landscape is constantly changing, and any country that’s open to cryptocurrencies today could easily swing the other way at any given time.

Such regulatory uncertainty makes choosing the right place to incorporate one’s crypto company all the more important. At present, it’s impossible to completely eliminate regulatory risk when setting up a crypto company, but one can minimize it by choosing a jurisdiction with a stable government and an optimistic approach to cryptocurrencies.

At present, I believe the five cities on this list have the most stable environments for setting up a crypto company or launching an ICO. None of them are perfect, but the risk profiles of all five are much lower compared to other crypto hubs around the world where the regulatory uncertainty is a bit more pronounced.

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter covering the week’s must-read blockchain news.

20 Crypto Companies in Hong Kong You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s foremost financial hubs and is a key player in the global crypto ecosystem. As a magnet for both capital and talent, its long played a significant role in the fintech space – and that role has evolved into becoming a true hub for crypto.

Numerous crypto startups have moved their operations to Hong Kong for its ease of doing business, and a vibrant community of crypto-focused funds and advisory firms call this city home as well. The city-state is also attractive for its proximity to the Chinese market, which is the largest Bitcoin mining market in the world and has massive numbers of people that are beginning to adopt crypto.

1. Bit-Z

Bit-Z is one of the world’s largest exchanges for buying, selling, and trading digital assets. Founded in Hong Kong in 2016, the firm has a global presence and is continuing to expand rapidly. The Bit-Z platform offers users the option to perform retail over-the-counter trading, or use their professional trading portfolio services. US dollars or Chinese yuan are both accepted for purchasing cryptocurrencies via fiat.

Compared with over crypto exchanges, Bit-Z has fairly low fees (which can run as low as 0.5% for Bitcoin withdrawals) and has so far maintained an excellent security record, with no hacks yet reported in the company’s short history.

2. 300cubits

300cubits is a startup with a blockchain solution that it hopes will transform the staid world of container shipping. The Ethereum-based project, which leverages a native cryptocurrency called the TEU token, allows shipping companies to strengthen trust between themselves and their consumers through the usage of smart contracts. In addition, 300cubits sees their smart contract technology adding value at each step in the supply chain, given the increased transparency and tracking ability it will bring.

This Hong Kong-based startup (along with an accompanying pre-ICO) was launched in mid-2017, and its public ICO is scheduled to launch on April 12 of this year.

3. CryptoBLK

CryptoBLK is a Hong Kong-based startup that’s looking to revolutionize the fintech industry through the creative implementation of blockchain solutions. The firm specializes in deploying distributed ledger services for large enterprise clients, which are run on its proprietary DaaS (DLTapp as a Service) platform and then deployed on the client side.

CryptoBLK has already landed some significant partnerships, and counts Microsoft and Amazon Web Services as official partners. The company is also a member of the R3 Partner Network, which gives CryptoBLK the ability to offer clients additional professional services to go with its crypto offerings.

4. OKCoin

OKCoin operates one of the world’s largest crypto trading platforms. The firm was originally founded in Beijing before moving its international headquarters to Hong Kong last year. The trading platform allows investors to perform spot trades between a number of fiat currencies and a wide array of cryptocurrencies.

Last year, OKCoin also opened a subsidiary office in Seoul and began an all-out push into the Korean market. This move was backed by a significant amount of funding from NHN, one of Korea’s largest conglomerates, and puts the trading platform in direct competition with Bithumb, presently the leading exchange in the Korean market.

5. MATRIX

Founded in 2016, MATRIX operates an open-source blockchain-based platform that leverages the latest AI technology to execute smart contracts in an incredibly fast and streamlined way. The startup most recently raised $15.5m via its ICO in early January 2018, and plans to use the funds to accelerate product development and increase R&D hiring.

The MATRIX platform allows users to architect their own smart contracts without any coding, and uses AI technology to anticipate users’ needs while in the contract drafting process. In addition, MATRIX has some of the fastest transaction times in the industry, and is aiming for its platform to handle over 1m transactions per second.

6. Genesis Block

Founded in 2017, Genesis Block is the largest over-the-counter crypto trading floor in Hong Kong, with support for over 1,000 cryptocurrencies. As part of its trading offerings, Genesis Block also provides crypto ATMs, miner reselling services, and direct crypto selling services. The trading floor also functions as a co-working space and event venue for Hong Kong’s blockchain community.

The Genesis Block also had a hand in the inception of Bitcoin Cash, as one of its miners performed the initial mining that started the BCH blockchain. In addition to its trading space, Genesis Block is also extremely active in Hong Kong’s crypto ecosystem, and frequently participates in (or hosts) events for investors and entrepreneurs.

7. Cryptonator

Hong Kong-based Cryptonator is an online cryptocurrency wallet service with support for most major cryptocurrencies. In addition to its online wallet platform, Cryptonator also offers merchant accounts that allow online retailers to accept crypto for payments with a flat-rate 0.9% transaction fee (11 major currencies are presently supported).

Cryptonator’s online wallet service also allows users to instantly exchange currencies within their existing holdings with extremely low transaction times. The wallet also has a portfolio that dynamically analyzes the value of each user’s assets over time and allows for advanced performance reporting as well.

8. ANX

ANX is a fintech company with a focus on providing high-quality blockchain solutions for its global client base. ANX has been a true pioneer in the blockchain space, and was one of the first to offer crypto debit cards (all the way back in 2014).

ANX’s flagship product is ANX Blockchain Services (ABS), a cloud platform that empowers developers to build their own digital wallets, crypto exchanges, or token systems. In addition to ABS, the firm also offers its own white-label crypto exchange and provides bespoke advisory services for crypto entrepreneurs looking to launch their own project.

9. BitSpark

Hong Kong-based BitSpark is the creator of the world’s first end-to-end remittance service powered by blockchain technology. The firm initially started out as a crypto exchange, but quickly pivoted to being a remittance service once its founders recognized the potential for such an idea (particularly in a market like Hong Kong, where there is a massive opportunity for more efficient international remittances).

Users who join the BitSpark platform can perform international remittances with fees far lower than competitors like MoneyGram or Western Union, and transactions happen instantly since the entire network is powered by BitSpark’s distributed ledger technology.

10. Gatecoin

Gatecoin is one of the fastest-growing Bitcoin and Ethereum exchanges in Hong Kong. Founded in 2013, Gatecoin was one of the first major crypto exchanges in Hong Kong, and it remains active in the city-state’s crypto ecosystem today.

In 2016, the firm suffered a high-profile hack that saw more than $2m in tokens stolen from users, but the firm has since rebounded from that setback and continues to grow in the Hong Kong market. In addition to exchanging crypto, the firm also allows users to purchase BTC and ETH using fiat (USD, HKD, and EUR are the only currencies supported for the time being).

11. Zippie

This Ethereum-based platform lets anyone turn their smartphone into a blockchain-powered app explorer. The first iteration of Zippie’s platform is a crypto wallet that allows users to manage their crypto holdings, digital tokens, and private keys in one streamlined format.

The second phase of Zippie’s development is even more exciting, as the firm plans to create a decentralized software layer that will run on top of any smartphone OS, and give users the ability to access hundreds of blockchain-based apps (including crypto exchanges, digital financial services, and more) through a secure, anonymous platform.

12. Global Open League (GOL)

Global Open League (GOL) is an eSports platform that is using crypto to transform the payment and compensation systems for online gaming. Using its GOLT token in conjunction with a proprietary blockchain-based gaming platform, GOL allows gamers to compete with each other and exchange prize winnings using cryptocurrency or the league’s native tokens.

The Hong Kong-based startup launched its ICO pre-sale in March of this year, and will be opening the token sale to the public in May 2018. The firm is led by serial entrepreneur Patrick Tang – formerly the founder of Jaha (a mobile fitness tracker) and Timeless Elements (an ecommerce company).

13. OKEx

The Hong Kong-based OKEx is one of the world’s largest digital asset exchanges. It’s affiliated with fellow exchange OKCoin, though the two are run as separate entities. In addition to offering token trading, OKEx also offers crypto traders the option to invest in hundreds of crypto futures trading pairs on its asset exchange.

The OKEx exchange is one of the largest in the world by volume, with over 20m customers served to date, and its BTC futures exchange sees more than $1.5b in trading volume on a daily basis. The firm also offers other digital services for crypto traders beyond just its exchange services, such as margin trading and a mobile crypto portfolio management app.

14. Equitybase

Equitybase is a Hong Kong startup that’s looking to transform the world of real estate investment through blockchain technology. Its decentralized real estate exchange allows developers “to offer asset-backed investment opportunities directly to investors around the world.” Once on the platform, users can then purchase BASE tokens to make digital investments that are backed by actual real estate properties around the world.

By combining the liquidity of public markets with the real estate industry, Equitybase has an intriguing value proposition that could help nearly anyone become a real estate investor. The firm has raised around $3m from its token sale to date, and plans to use the proceeds to accelerate platform development and hiring.

15. Galaxy eSolutions

Hong Kong-based Galaxy eSolutions is a crypto startup that recently launched the first iteration of its hybrid ecommerce ecosystem on the blockchain. The decentralized platform enables users to buy and sell pre-owned electronics using cryptocurrency, which can then be used to conduct transactions and receive discounts through GES tokens, the platform’s native cryptocurrency.

Galaxy eSolutions’ product offering benefits from already having an established platform and customer base, as it already is operating in 26 countries around the world. The firm launched its ICO earlier this year, and is set to conclude its token offering on April 15th.

16. AirSwap

AirSwap is a decentralized crypto exchange for trading Ethereum-based tokens on the blockchain. Instead of relying on order books, the AirSwap platform uses a decentralized P2P trading model that purportedly has increased security and is impervious to hacking attempts.

AirSwap matches users for trades using an Indexer protocol, which allows users to choose who they want to trade with, and have a secure dialogue beforehand if necessary. The exchange already boasts some of the lowest fees in the Ethereum exchange space, and it’s also aiming to make all transactions free of charge in the months to come.

17. LianLian

Hong Kong-based LianLian is China’s fourth-largest payments provider, and it’s recently committed to blockchain technology in a big way. In February of this year, LianLian announced a landmark partnership with RippleNet that will allow it to process ecommerce payments, crypto transactions, and remittances securely on the Ripple platform.

LianLian is presently leveraging the blockchain-based xCurrent protocol to process cross-border transactions through Ripple. Through its partnership with Ripple, the payments provider is now poised to expand into markets outside of China, and it may be looking to form partnerships with other financial institutions in the region as a result.

18. UBI Blockchain

UBI Blockchain is a startup that’s working with Hong Kong’s central government to use blockchain technology to resolve key food and drug safety issues. The firm recently announced an official partnership with one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious universities that’s aimed at using blockchain technology to track the provenance of any given pharmaceutical or food product.

Until early this year, UBI was one of the fastest-growing startups in Asia, with its stock rising more than 1,000% before the end of 2017. Early this year, however, trading was suspended for UBI shares pending an SEC investigation into irregular trading activity. UBI is presently petitioning the SEC for trading reinstatement, but the regulatory body has yet to finalize its ruling on the matter.

19. IOHK

IOHK is a cryptocurrency and blockchain R&D lab that seeks to bring academic rigor to the world of blockchain development. While headquartered in Hong Kong, the firm has a global presence and has a number of partnerships with some of the world’s top research universities.

Most recently, the startup announced a major initiative to build a “Bitcoin 2.0” (Link: https://www.ccn.com/input-output-hong-kong-takes-stab-bitcoin-2-0/) that can support a blockchain with exponentially more transactions than Bitcoin has today. IOHK’s Ouroburos protocol can purportedly handle far more transactions than Bitcoin, while also improving user governance, security, and equitability among miners.

20. BTCC

Founded in 2011, BTCC was China’s first Bitcoin exchange and is a key player in the Chinese crypto ecosystem. This year, however, it was acquired by a Hong Kong-based blockchain investment fund, which is now running the firm.

BTCC is one of the most active crypto exchanges in the world, seeing more than $25b in bitcoin trading activity in 2017 alone. Since being acquired, BTCC is now shifting its presence to Hong Kong and looking to use its fresh injection of funds to expand its full suite of services globally (including its USD trading service, mining pools, and Mobi, its multi-currency crypto wallet).

These are the Top 10 Lightning Apps out right now

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

The Lightning Network has long been heralded as Bitcoin’s “killer app”, and for good reason. The platform, which presently runs solely on top of Bitcoin, may prove to be a panacea for the scaling woes that have plagued the cryptocurrency in recent months.

Lightning Network is transformative because it enables the execution of off-chain Bitcoin transactions across numerous payment channels, without hampering Bitcoin’s primary network. Since transactions happen off-chain, they can be executed nearly instantaneously without having to wait for confirmation from miners already on the network.

After the mainnet release of Lightning’s network earlier this year, dozens of startups began experimenting with the network to see what use cases would best leverage the technology. There are now dozens of Lightning apps being released each month, with more on the horizon as the network expands to support additional cryptocurrencies.

Read on to learn more about some of my favorite Lightning apps on the market today. These startups make up a diverse set of platforms that range from file-sharing to gaming, and they’re all raising awareness about the unique capabilities of the Lightning Network.

1. CoinMall

CoinMall is building what some are calling “the eBay of the future”. It’s a fully decentralized P2P marketplace where anyone can buy or sell their digital products with zero fees, using cryptocurrency as the primary payment layer.

Last month, the CoinMall team launched the public beta of its platform, which now features full support for Lightning Network, as well as deposits and withdrawals. The CoinMall platform presently supports transactions in Bitcoin or Zcash, but plans are in the works to accept other cryptocurrencies as well.

2. Zap

Zap is a Bitcoin wallet that enables anyone to send and receive Bitcoin instantly using the Lightning Network. The fully open-source project was built by the Lightning development community, and is supported by a decentralized team of engineers. For now the project is still in a testnet stage, but a mainnet release is anticipated to be announced later this year.

In addition to just being a conduit for transactions, the lightweight wallet application’s network functionality allows users to organize their frequently-used merchants or transaction partners.

3. Bitrefill

Bitrefill is a service that allows anyone in the world to recharge their prepaid phone using crypto. The platform (which is available via both desktop and its mobile app) operates with a simple, three step process: enter your phone number, select the amount to top up, and pay with Bitcoin or a number of other supported altcoins.

The service has been lauded for its anonymized approach to phone billing, as it ensures user privacy throughout the entire billing process. Bitrefill is already available in 15 countries, and has plans to expand globally in the coming months.

4. FileBazaar

Released during Blockstream’s “week of LApps” earlier this year, FileBazaar is an ecommerce platform designed exclusively for content creators. FileBazaar’s mobile app enables makers to accept micropayments for their creations through the Lightning Network.

Unlike many digital content platforms, FileBazaar is advertising-free, and it puts control of content (and the presentation of that content) firmly in the creators’ hands. Every FileBazaar user has the ability to configure their own storefront, as well as dictate what sample content should be shown to potential buyers.

5. Nanopos

Nanopos is a Lightning-powered point of sale system that’s designed for brick-and-mortar businesses that sell fixed-price items (such as restaurants or retail stores) and have minimal requirements for setting up their online storefront.

Using a simple configuration portal, vendors can enter a full price list of their products and begin selling their products using the Lightning network within minutes. Payments are conducted through QR codes, which are then scanned through the Nanopos mobile app.

6. Strike

Strike is an API for the Lightning Network that makes it easier than ever for online merchants to accept payments in crypto. The service, which looks and functions much like Stripe, takes a flat 1% fee from all transactions and offers unlimited free daily withdrawals for all users.

After half a year of beta testing, the mainnet release of Strike was unveiled just last month, and the platform is now available for public use.

7. Lightning Conductor

Lightning Conductor is a system that enables developers to easily convert Bitcoin to Lightning (and vice-versa) on one’s Lightning channel. The company, which was founded by a team of investment bankers, provides developers with an embeddable form that can automatically extract credit from any Lightning channel and turn it into BTC.

In addition to supporting BTC-Lightning conversions, Lightning Conductor provides full support for bidirectional channels as well. This is a huge win for users that want to be able to convert their payment channel balances to Bitcoin (and vice-versa) while avoiding having to close the channels as well.

8. LightningTip

Released in beta earlier this year, LightningTip makes it dead-simple for anyone to accept tips for their content via the Lightning Network. The service leverages the Lightning Network as a backend to create and track invoices (as well as track which invoices include tips).

The service is already being used by dozens of businesses, and was a significant contributor to Bitcoin Lightning hitting a record node count earlier this year.

9. Starblocks

Currently in its testnet phase, Starblocks is a creative app that lets consumers pay for their coffee via the Lightning Network. As is the case with most apps on the Lightning network, transaction fees for Starblocks are incredibly low, ranging from 1-2 cents per transaction.

While it’s still a simulation for the time being, the service is an excellent proof-of-concept that shows how Lightning can be leveraged in the retail space. It’s a great way to get familiar with the technology behind Lightning Network from a consumer perspective, without having to use real dollars – for now.

10. Hammercoin

Hammercoin is the first video game built on the Lightning Network and powered by Bitcoin. The game, which is modeled after Minecraft, gives users the ability to navigate an expansive online environment while purchasing upgrades within the game using crypto.

In Hammercoin, users are also able to create and sell their own in-game digital products for crypto. All transactions leverage the Lightning Network, and the game’s Chile-based development team has been diligent about pushing out regular updates to the game in the months since its release.

20 Crypto Companies in San Francisco You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

The heart of Silicon Valley has always been a magnet for both founders and capital, but it’s now one of the key hubs for the blockchain revolution.

Hundreds of crypto companies have set up shop in San Francisco to take advantage of its proximity to capital and massive talent pool in recent years, and the trend isn’t slowing down.

There’s now a thriving crypto ecosystem in the city, ranging from crypto-focused hedge funds to Tachyon, the city’s first Ethereum-focused accelerator.

1. Blockchain Capital

Blockchain Capital is one of the world’s most influential blockchain VC firms, and a significant player in the worldwide crypto ecosystem. Founded by serial entrepreneurs Brock Pierce, Bart Stephens, and Bradford Stephens in 2013, it was one of the first venture firms to focus exclusively on crypto and blockchain investments.

Earlier this year, the firm announced that it had raised $150m in its fourth round of funding, of which $25m came in the form of Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency. The investments will be used to research new use cases for Ripple’s proprietary protocol, as well as identify promising new investments in the blockchain space.

2. Purse

Purse is a San Francisco-based startup that’s looking to enable Bitcoin purchases through Amazon and the creation of an entirely new, crypto-powered online marketplace. The Purse platform matches would-be online shoppers with crypto holders that are wiling to give up their tokens for online gift cards. Though in its infancy, the team at Purse hopes to eventually turn their service into a fully-fledged crypto ecommerce platform.

The service is powered by bcoin, which is an enterprise-level implementation of Bitcoin designed for large-scale ecommerce applications. Founded in 2014, Purse is a true innovator in the crypto ecommerce space, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

3. Augur

Augur is a decentralized “prediction market” that’s based on Ethereum and lets crypto investors bet on the likelihood of future events. Prediction markets can be created around the outcome of any given event, which can then be bet on using Augur’s native token. The firm issued 11m tokens in its initial token sale, on which there is also a hard cap.

Earlier this year, Augur’s engineering team released the next iteration of its whitepaper, which suggests the platform is preparing for a large-scale launch in the near future. This will allow an entirely new group of users to create markets for different outcomes, while increasing the amount of fiat flowing into the firm’s crypto markets.

4. Ripple

Ripple is a San Francisco-based blockchain startup that’s taken the world by storm in recent months. At its core, the Ripple platform is a blockchain-based system that allows enterprises and individuals to send global payments and remittances incredibly cheaply and quickly. The platform also has an open-source payment protocol, and that protocol has garnered significant interest from some of the world’s largest financial firms (such as Santander and MoneyGram).

Ripple’s native cryptocurrency is known as XRP. The cryptocurrency is unique in that it exists directly inside the Ripple protocol, and as such doesn’t require any mining (tokens like these are known as a “pre-mined” cryptocurrencies).

5. Coinbase

Coinbase is one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, and it’s rapidly expanding its offerings into every area of the financial services industry. The exchange already supports trading between Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ethereum, and fiat currencies in dozens of countries around the world, and has plans to expand even further in the coming year.

Founded in 2011, Coinbase is a true pioneer in the crypto exchange space, and it was one of the first to offer trading capabilities and a crypto wallet in one platform. In addition to its core offerings, Coinbase also offers developers an API for connecting the exchange to third-party applications, and in what may be a sign of things to come, recently acquired paid email service Earn.com for $100m.

6. Harbor

Harbor is a platform that allows anyone to convert their rights to an asset (such as fine art or real estate) to a digital token on the blockchain. Launched just this year, the San Francisco-based firm recently raised $10m in Series A financing to help it accelerate development of the first generation of its platform and accelerate hiring on the R&D front.

Competition in the market for tokenized private securities is presently light, and Harbor is one of its first entrants. As part of its launch, Harbor has also created the R-Token, an Ethereum-based token that allows Harbor to enforce compliance across any trading platform.

7. Kraken

San Francisco-based Kraken is one of the world’s most active crypto exchanges in terms of trading volume, and also one of its most acquisitive – in the past two years, it’s purchased at least four crypto startups to fuel its growth plans and build out its trading platform. It was one of the first exchanges to offer Ethereum dark pool trading, and is also the source of truth for Bitcoin pricing on the Bloomberg terminal.

In early 2018, Kraken decided to close its operations in Japan after a steady rise in the cost of doing business there. It continues to maintain an outsized presence in North America and the EU, however.

8. Bitwise Investments

Last year, after raising $4m in seed funding, Bitwise Investments launched the world’s first cryptocurrency index fund. In the first two months of 2018, the fund reportedly delivered 45% returns to investors, beating out both the bull and bear markets for crypto in recent months.

Bitwise plans to use its round of seed funding to hire up to 10 new employees, and further build out its software platform. Presently the fund is passively managed, and Bitwise is hoping to build out a fully-fledged software layer for its fund that will distinguish it from other offerings in the market.

9. LibraTax

LibraTax is the world’s leading accounting solution for crypto investors. The LibraTax platform tracks one’s entire crypto portfolio, and can automatically calculate capital gains and losses on crypto investments for tax reporting purposes. The platform supports most major cryptocurrencies, and is presently available as a free service for crypto investors.

For US taxpayers, the LibraTax platform is designed for compliance with all IRS regulations and has historical reporting capabilities for retroactive taxation as well. Founded in 2014, LibraTax was one of the world’s first firms to focus on the tax implications of crypto, and it continues to be a leader in the space today.

10. CoinList

CoinList is a San Francisco-based startup that’s quickly transforming the way crypto companies launch token offerings. The startup is looking to build out a full suite of financial services products for founders looking to launch an ICO, including a blockchain-based securities exchange.

Earlier this month, the firm raised $9.2m in Series A funding (led by Polychain Capital), which it plans to use to build out its software platform that will allow investors to quickly identify and invest in the most promising ICO opportunities on a fully-accredited platform.

11. Uphold

Uphold is a cloud-based cryptocurrency platform that allows users to buy, sell, and trade dozens of cryptocurrencies and crypto commodities. Founded by entrepreneur Halsey Minor in 2013, the platform enables the conversion of Bitcoin into fiat, other cryptocurrencies, and previous metals.

Earlier this year, Uphold received $57.5m in investment from former Ripple executive Greg Kidd. As part of the investment deal, Kidd joined Uphold’s board of directors and has created an R&D arm of the company to help it scale and build out its still-nascent platform.

12. Chia Network

San Francisco startup Chia Network is building an energy-efficient cryptocurrency that it hopes will one day rival Bitcoin in usage. Founded by Bram Cohen (one of the early pioneers in the BitTorrent community), Chia is powered by a blockchain based on proofs of space and time – theoretically, this makes the cryptocurrency for more energy-efficient than both Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Chia is further distinguishing itself from its rivals by avoiding the traditional ICO route – instead, it’s opting to launch a mini-IPO later this year under a federally-sanctioned equity crowdfunding program. This should allow the firm to raise up to $50m, which it plans to reinvest in research and development of its platform.

13. SureRemit

SureRemit is building a crypto-powered ecosystem for worldwide cash remittances. Founded by Nigerian entrepreneur Adeoye Ojo, the blockchain-powered platform enables anyone to perform remittances with zero fees by using a combination of cryptocurrencies and digital shopping vouchers.

The SureRemit platform is powered in part by SureGifts and its merchant partners. This allows users to easily purchase gift vouchers that they can then send to friends or family members in other countries, as well as pay their online utility bills.

14. Hexel

Hexel is a San Francisco-based startup that’s building a platform which allows anyone to create an Ethereum-based token for their hyperlocal online community. Businesses can use Hexel to create their own token-based reward program, or even create their own branded token for digital payments purposes. Tokens can be created through AirDrop, and can be distributed to users as dictated by businesses themselves.

Since the Hexel platform runs on the Ethereum network, transactions can be conducted between individuals and businesses for just pennies, and tokens can be rapidly transferred between both parties as well. In addition, Hexel allows users to browse its entire global library of token programs, and enroll (or invest) in the token programs that suit them best.

15. OpenSea

OpenSea bills itself as “a decentralized marketplace for digital assets on the Ethereum blockchain”. On the OpenSea marketplace, users can purchase rare crypto assets (like CryptoKitties) and even digital artwork. The service, currently in beta, is based on the Ethereum platform and presently has more than 600k digital assets for sale on its network.

In addition, the OpenSea platform boasts a number of developer tools that allow designers to open their own OpenSea shop or pull real-time market data from the OpenSea API. The firm also partners with independent designers to get their work posted on the platform through its OpenSea Studios design program.

16. TrustToken

The TrustToken platform enables anyone to create securitized digital tokens backed by real-world assets (like real estate), all the while being regulatory-compliant and backed by US dollars. Its TrueUSD native token is a USD-backed cryptocurrency that can be used for all manners of online transactions, from remittances to ecommerce. The firm is now pursuing formal partnerships with a number of financial institutions that are looking to use its platform to increase liquidity in certain markets.

Founded in 2017, the TrustToken team boasts a high-profile lineup of investors – including Stanford University, Blocktower, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

17. Logic0x

This decentralized, San Francisco-based investment fund is unconventional in almost every way. The investment fund is fully decentralized and is funded through user deposits of ERC-20 tokens through a proprietary Dapp. According to Logic0x’s founders, over 160 people have contributed to the fund to date, with more investors set to come onboard soon.

The fund primarily focuses on crypto and blockchain startups for its investment opportunities, and uses AI technology to help identify promising investments in the space. The firm was founded in early 2017 by Kyler Chin, formerly founder of drone startup Stratospheric Technologies.

18. CoinTracker

CoinTracker is a San Francisco-based crypto portfolio tracker and tax manager. As a member of Y Combinator’s Winter 2018 class, the team is presently focused on building a scalable tool that individuals and businesses can use to dynamically track the value (and taxable value) of their crypto portfolios.

By connecting the service with one’s crypto wallets and exchange accounts, users can access one unified dashboard with all of the key investment metrics for their portfolio. On top of the portfolio layer, CoinTracker also provides a simple software tool to calculate one’s taxes owed on a cost basis, as well as capital gains taxes.

19. Origin Protocol

The team at Origin is focused on building a decentralized sharing economy on the Ethereum blockchain. Through the Origin platform, any business can build their own decentralized marketplace, and it’s already built a sizable list of clients (including Australian startup CanYa) that are using its service to transform their ecommerce experiences.

In late April of this year, Origin landed its most significant round of funding to date – a $28.5m round of funding led by FBG Investments. The firm plans to use the fresh injection of capital to continue building out its platform, while accelerating hiring on the R&D front.

20. Omniex

Omniex is an institutional crypto trading platform that provides a full-service operating platform for crypto hedge funds and quant traders. The firm was launched on the back of a $5m round of seed funding raised in late 2017, and it’s continued to grow ever since.

The Omniex team plans to use its seed funding to build out its trading platform and proprietary algorithms, while growing its customer base. The firm is led by a number of former executives from State Street, the storied investment fund.

The most innovative apps in the NEO ecosystem right now

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

NEO is perhaps one of my favorite blockchain projects out there today, and for good reason. While some platforms (like Ethereum) are focused on building centers for dApp development, NEO is looking to put the physical world on the blockchain as well.

Its vision of a “smart economy” involves creating a distributed network that supports not just applications that run on it, but also the digitization of physical assets, which will have proof of ownership stored on the blockchain.

These physical assets can then be sold, invested in, or traded using smart contracts. The team at NEO has also done a great job of remaining regulatory-compliant as they continue to scale, which is commendable given the disregard many token projects have for regulators today.

In addition to developing the core platform, NEO’s founders have also spun off a couple of organizations that are proving instrumental to the growth of the NEO ecosystem. One key player is OnChain, which has created a Decentralized Network Architecture (DNA) that enables the development of private blockchains that can be leveraged by businesses and government organizations.

OnChain’s DNA technology is what enables NEO applications to connect their users’ private data with NEO’s public blockchain, and a number of token projects are already formally partnering with OnChain to secure their users’ data on a public blockchain.

This strategy of bridging the digital and physical worlds is just one of the reasons I’m so bullish on NEO as a platform. The team clearly has an ambitious vision, and it’s already attracting notice from the development community.

A new crop of applications has surfaced in recent months, and they promise to transform everything from global shipping to HR. Below are my favorite apps in the space that are creating truly innovative solutions to some of the most pressing problems online today. Let’s get started.

1. NEX

NEX is a platform for decentralized crypto trading and payment services. Unlike many exchanges, NEX uses an off-chain matching engine that makes it possible to conduct complex trades quickly across multiple blockchains. The NEO-based platform also provides a crypto wallet for investors, in addition to its proprietary suite of trading products.

The service was founded by developers Fabio Canesin and Fabian Wahle, and has a quickly-growing team that’s already making tangible progress on its project roadmap. NEX’s highly-anticipated mainnet release for its trading platform is presently scheduled for later this year.

2. Moonlight

Moonlight is a decentralized platform that empowers HR department to transform the way they recruit and build their workforces. The platform allows recruiters to find top talent for their organizations through a built-in talent matching service that leverages smart contracts to verify applicants’ experience and professional skills.

Most of Moonlight’s founding team comes directly from the NEO open source community, better known as City of Zion. While the platform itself is still in development, the Moonlight team are scheduled to launch their ICO in the coming months, with the public beta of the platform scheduled to go live in the third quarter of this year.

3. QLC Chain

QLC Chain has created a public blockchain that supports decentralized, network-as-a-service applications. QLC aims to democratize the global telecommunications industry, and make it possible for anyone to become a network provider. To aid in this, QLC offers an open-source SDK that developers can leverage to build dApps on top of QLC’s public blockchain.

Through its proprietary Shannon Consensus protocol, QLC enables anyone to become a micro network operator, provided they already have a supported network device. The firm bills itself as the world’s first NaaS (network-as-a-service), and recently went through a major rebranding (the startup was previously known as Qlink).

4. Phantasma

Phantasma is a decentralized content distribution platform that runs on the blockchain and provides a more secure environment for content creators to store and share their data. The Phantasma platform uses a hybrid system of both on and off-chain hashing to improve performance across the NEO blockchain.

The Phantasma team is laying the groundwork for their ICO later this month, and plans to launch the testnet version of its product later this year. Once the platform is ready for production, the team plans to fork it from the NEO blockchain and create its own blockchain, which will continue to utilize the NEOX protocol for cross-compatibility.

5. NeoAuth

NeoAuth is a free NEO-based application that allows users to login to any app or platform using the NEO blockchain. The product is designed for online businesses looking to provide a more secure way for users to log on to their services, and is powered entirely by the NEO blockchain. Logins are conducted through a combination of public keys and smart contracts.

NeoAuth’s technology will first be implemented on the NEO community’s own applications before rolling out to other platforms. In addition, NeoAuth also supports integration with a number of NEO crypto wallets, which allows users to verify ownership of their public addresses with ease.

6. AdEx

AdEx is a decentralized ad network built on the NEO blockchain, and is the first dApp based on NEO. Originally built on Ethereum, the AdEx core platform was ported over to the NEO blockchain late last year to improve overall performance and reliability. The platform’s public beta was released earlier this year, and the company is aiming to launch its mainnet release later in the year.

The AdEx platform connects advertisers looking for high-quality ways to reach their audience, with influencers seeking to get paid for online advertising. AdEx already works with a number of international publishers, and operates on a commission-free model – making it incredibly attractive to advertisers.

7. Zeepin

Zeepin bills itself as a “distributed new economy for the creative industries”. It’s a platform which enables creatives around the world to protect their intellectual property, form distributed teams, and attract funding for their projects. The NEO-based platform uses ZPT (its native token) for all transactions, from creative sales to investments in new projects.

The Zeepin project is presently in its testnet phase, and is aiming for a mainnet release later this year. In addition, the company already has established technology partnerships with a number of industry leaders, ranging from OnChain to the public blockchain organization Ontology

8. Chain Line

Chain Line is a decentralized shipping platform built on the NEO blockchain. The platform, which currently only has a public demo available, promises to connect shippers with couriers around the world – creating what is effectively a P2P shipping platform powered by the blockchain. Most recently, the Chain Line team won 3rd place for their idea in the most recent City of Zion dApp Competition.

Every shipment initiated through Chain Line’s platform is signed and secured via a smart contract, which tracks shipments from point to point. In addition to simply shipping products, users are able to register their travel on the Chain Line platform, and are matched with potential shippers in real time.

9. Imusify

Imusify is a blockchain-based music media platform that is powered by user-generated content. The Imusify team is looking to build a decentralized platform that enables anyone to easily become a music content producer, and it’s already taking significant strides toward that goal. The project was launched at NEO’s developer conference earlier this year, and has continued to grow since then.

Through Imusify, artists can upload their own content, which can then be sold to users on the platform. Content is then compensated for in IMU, the platform’s native token. Imusify is launching its token pre-sale on July 1st, with its public ICO set to follow shortly after.

10. Red Pulse

Red Pulse initially distinguished itself from the competition by becoming the first ICO token built on the NEO blockchain. Initially founded by executives from a Hong Kong-based consultancy, Red Pulse is a decentralized market intelligence marketplace focused on the China market. By paying for data using RPX tokens, users are able to request and consume market intelligence on specific topics, all generated by the Red Pulse platform.

Although still a relatively new entrant to the crypto scene, Red Pulse has already inked partnerships with some of the world’s largest content providers – including news organizations like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters.

11. PikcioChain

PikcioChain has created a NEO-based exchange for personal data. Pikcio enables anyone to buy and sell their data through a trustless platform that’s backed by smart contracts. As the global regulatory environment becomes increasingly stringent for data protection, PikcioChain provides businesses with an easier way to ensure that any data they procure is both regulatory-compliant and legally available.

In its token sale earlier this year, PikcioChain raised more than $12M to fund platform development and accelerate hiring. The company has already established several strategic partnerships with key players in the corporate data space, including Ernst & Young and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

12. The Key

The Key has created a decentralized identity verification platform based on the NEO blockchain. The company’s platform is designed for governments, and will allow any branch of a given government to securely verify a citizen’s identity based on data they’ve previously stored on the blockchain.

The Key has started working with some governments already, and recently launched a partnership with the Chinese government to integrate its technology into the central government’s existing tech stack. In addition, the company has received more than fifteen different patents for its groundbreaking technology, and it’s presently scheduled to launch the mainnet release of its platform in December of this year.

13. Switcheo

Switcheo is a multi-chain, decentralized exchange that allows crypto investors to trade NEO, GAS, SWH, and a number of other tokens across multiple blockchains. Presently, the exchange supports all NEO and NEP-5 tokens, with plans to support more in the future.

Switcheo boasts far lower trading fees than most exchanges, and doesn’t impose any withdrawal fees either. The exchange launched its mainnet release in March of this year, and plans to build in support for ERC20 tokens by the end of the year.

14. Travala

Travala began its life as a startup called Concierge, but rebranded itself last month after completing its public token sale. Travala is a blockchain-based online travel marketplace that enables users to book flights and hotels using a P2P platform that secures all transactions through smart contracts.

By the end of the year, users will be able to book travel using AVA, Travala’s native token. Upon the platform’s mainnet release, transactions will be conducted with 0% commission, and any disputes will be able to be resolved using an automated, AI-based conflict resolution system.

15. Bridge Protocol

Bridge Protocol is building a decentralized identity management platform that enables anyone to digitally store and protect their private data online. Through Bridge’s proprietary Identity Management System, users can import their private data and save it on a private blockchain for use in future transactions.

Private data can only be accessed through a user’s public address, and is governed by privacy settings that define which applications can access user data (as well as what kind of data those applications are allowed to access). By securing user data in a portable format, Bridge Protocol is aiming to ease the cumbersome process of obtaining KYC details that many ICOs and token projects go through when raising funding – all the while making it easier than ever for crypto investors to pass along their relevant details and get involved.

15 Crypto Companies in Malta You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

Malta is one of the newest (and fastest-rising) hubs for crypto companies this year. The country is aiming to become a magnet for crypto companies worldwide through a top-down initiative that’s being led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The tiny island nation has already attracted some of the world’s largest crypto exchanges to its shores and is in talks with countless others about potential partnerships. With low corporate taxes, a supportive government, and clear regulations, Malta is quickly becoming one of the top places for crypto entrepreneurs to launch their crypto projects.

1. Binance

Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange, and it recently moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Malta after heavier crypto regulations were enacted by the Hong Kong government. Led by longtime CEO Changpeng Zhao, the exchange chose to move to Malta due to heavier regulations in Japan and Hong Kong, but also because of the Maltese government’s openness to crypto.

Founded just last year, the crypto exchange presently supports dozens of the world’s leading cryptocurrencies and alt-coins, in addition to its native token, the Binance Coin (BNB). In addition to offices in Tokyo and Hong Kong, the firm also recently opened its newest office in Taipei last month.

2. OKEx

OKEx is one of the world’s largest digital asset exchanges, and it recently moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Malta. It’s affiliated with fellow exchange OKCoin, though the two are run as separate entities. In addition to offering token trading, OKEx also offers crypto traders the option to invest in hundreds of crypto futures trading pairs on its asset exchange.

The OKEx exchange is one of the largest in the world by volume, with over 20m customers served to date, and its BTC futures exchange sees more than $1.5b in trading volume on a daily basis. The firm also offers other digital services for crypto traders beyond just its exchange services, such as margin trading and a mobile crypto portfolio management app.

3. Decentralised Ventures

Decentralised Ventures is a Malta-based consultancy that provides advisory services around blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and decentralized technologies. The firm is a joint venture between TokenKey (another Maltese crypto company) and Strategic Coin, a blockchain consultancy.

The venture was launched this month at the World Blockchain Forum in Dubai, and it aims to be the first “full-stack service provider” in Malta’s nascent crypto ecosystem. The firm will provide crypto companies with end-to-end support on everything incorporation and taxation, to launching ICOs and token sales.

4. Coinvest

Following in the footsteps of Binance and OKex, Coinvest has become the latest major player to move its headquarters to Malta. The crypto investment trading firm relocated to Malta this month and has announced a new collaboration with the Maltese government to establish a blockchain council that is reportedly set to create hundreds of local jobs as well.

The Coinvest platform allows crypto investors and asset managers to create their own crypto index funds. The executive team is comprised primarily of Microsoft alumni (including CEO Damon Nam). The firm closed its ICO in April 2018, raising more than $5m in funding to help it accelerate product development and ramp up hiring.

5. Yovo

Yovo is the world’s first fully tokenized mobile network. The startup recently relocated its global headquarters from London to Malta, and is continuing to develop its unique mobile platform, which allows users to purchase YO tokens and then use them to pay one’s phone bill with more than 500 providers around the world.

In addition, tokens can be earned on the Yovo network by doing simple daily tasks, like browsing the web or downloading certain apps. Yovo’s blockchain-based mobile network is built using the Stellar protocol, and the Alpha version of its platform is slated for release later this month.

6. ICO Launch Malta

ICO Launch Malta bills itself as a “full-stack ICO platform” that offers legal, technical, and financial support to help crypto founders turn their ICO idea into a reality. The firm specializes in launching EU-based ICOs that comply with current European Union regulations, and already has a lengthy client list of successful token offerings.

Founded in 2017, ICO Launch Malta also offers pre and post-token sale marketing services, such as Airdrops and Bitcoin brokerages. The firm also provides crypto founders with PR and legal services, which can be retained after completion of a given token sale.

7. Exante

Exanta is a multinational investment firm based in Malta that recently began branching out into the world of crypto. Most notably, it’s the only licensed brokerage in the world to offer Bitcoin spot and Bitcoin CMOE futures in one unified account. The firm was one of the true pioneers in Malta’s crypto ecosystem, and it remains highly active in the crypto island’s community as well.

In addition to its for-profit business, Exanta also is partnering with the Maltese government to attract more crypto companies to the island, and is actively investing in other crypto companies in the region as well (such as Comino, which produces at-home GPU miners).

8. Ledger Projects

Ledger Projects is a Malta-based startup that’s looking to build the next generation of distributed ledger applications for crypto companies and enterprise businesses. Founded in mid-2017, the startup was the first in Malta to launch a distributed ledger application (an asset management transfer tool for institutional investors).

According the LP’s founders, the firm decided to incorporate in Malta due to their government’s open approach to crypto and a innovation-friendly regulatory environment. This year, the firm is working towards accreditation by Malta’s new Digital Innovation Authority so that it continue developing its distributed ledger technology and further expand its platform to crypto companies.

9. Learning Machine

Learning Machine Technologies is a Malta-based startup that has just launched the world’s first pilot program for storing one’s digital learning credentials on the blockchain. Under the new program, Maltese citizens will be able to record all of their online learning achievements on the blockchain, and any results will be immediately verified by Learning Machine’s technology partners.

Users are able to access their digital records through Blockcerts, a crypto and digital asset wallet that’s been designed for use with participating institutions. By leveraging a blockchain-based solution that works across many educational providers, the government of Malta hopes to better understand what skills its citizens are learning, and better prepare them with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace of the future.

10. nChain

nChain is one of the true pioneers in the global blockchain community, and it was recently acquired by a Malta-based private equity fund in exchange for $100m in funding. As part of the deal, the firm will be run primarily out of Malta, and it intends to use the fresh funding to accelerate research and development of its flagship enterprise platform.

nChain’s platform is entirely open-source and boasts a large developer community, as well as some of the most prominent names in blockchain on its team (including former Bitcoin Foundation director Jon Matonis). The firm is a global leader in blockchain research and development, and has a worldwide staff of over 60 employees.

11. STASIS

STASIS is a startup that gives governments the ability to tokenize fiat currencies and track their usage through a blockchain-based platform. The project is led by a team of Maltese and Kazakh entrepreneurs, and is seeing collaboration between the countries’ governments as well. The STASIS team sees its platform becoming the foundation for a pan-European digital currency, and is actively reaching out to other countries about the possibility of running a pilot program for its platform as well.

In addition to their intergovernmental initiatives, the team at STASIS is also putting together a proposal for crypto asset governance within financial markets, which would see STASIS’ native token (which has yet to be announced) pegged to the Euro.

12. Loci Nexus

Loci Nexus is a foundation focused on promoting the Loci Coin ecosystem. Based in Malta and formed just last month, the foundation is now taking a more active role in facilitating the purchase and sale of intellectual property through the Loci platform.

Although Loci was originally founded in Washington DC, it’s now investing heavily in Malta’s crypto ecosystem and is partnering with the European Patent Office to bring its vision of a fully decentralized IP marketplace to life.

13. Bitmalta

Bitmalta is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to increasing the adoption of cryptocurrency in Malta. Founded in 2017, the organization is headed up by Jonathan Galea, Head of Consulting at TokenKey and Managing Director at The Blockchain Advisory firm.

As part of its effort to promote the use of cryptocurrencies in Malta, Bitmalta coordinates regularly with the Malta Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to host events and workshops around Blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

14. Neufund

Neufund is an equity raising service that’s run entirely on the blockchain. The firm made headlines in April of 2018 when it announced that it would be relocating its worldwide headquarters from Berlin to Malta after a number of discussions with the Malta government and its financial regulators.

Founded in late 2016, the Neufund platform allows nearly anyone to raise private equity funds in the form of cryptocurrency, making it one of the most elegant solutions bridging the gap between the worlds of equity and crypto to date. The firm is led by CEO Zoe Adamovicz, a serial entrepreneur who has founded and scaled numerous startups in the European market.

15. Blockchain Malta Association

The Blockchain Malta Association is perhaps the most influential organization in Malta’s crypto ecosystem at the moment. The organization consults regularly with Malta’s government on how the country can continue attracting more crypto companies to its shores, and also plays a significant role in influencing the development of crypto regulations within the country.

In addition, the association is highly active in Malta’s nascent crypto community, and it participates regularly in events and conferences held around the country. The organization is led by a mix of private entrepreneurs and public officials, and its efforts to attract crypto investment to Malta have paid off so far – including its wooing of large exchanges like Binance and OKex.

20 Crypto Companies in Zug You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

Zug is an unlikely contender for the world’s foremost hub of crypto companies. Nestled in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, the low-key city has become a talent magnet for blockchain companies and is now home to dozens of crypto startups.

The Swiss city benefits from a local government that has taken an open approach to blockchain technology, as well as a vibrant startup ecosystem that’s attracting blockchain researchers from around the world.

With a low-tax environment and an ample amount of funding, Zug could be the ideal place to start up your next crypto venture. Read on below for some of the most exciting crypto projects that have already set up shop in this quaint, but technologically advanced city.

1. Ethereum

Ethereum has an outsized role in Zug’s crypto ecosystem. Not only is it owner of one of the world’s largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, but it also has a nonprofit arm – the Ethereum Foundation – which is wholly headquartered in Zug. The company also hosts numerous meetups and events in Zug and the surrounding area.

In addition, the company is getting involved in local government initiatives as well. Late last year, Zug’s municipal government began recording citizens’ digital ID registrations on an Ethereum blockchain in partnership with Uport, a self-sovereign identity and data management platform.

2. Tezos

Tezos is a self-governed, decentralized blockchain platform that has a “digital commonwealth” of members that work together to establish on key decisions related to the development of the platform. It’s also a platform for smart contracts that, unlike Ethereum, leverages the Michelson programming language to facilitate verification.

Its nonprofit arm, the Tezos Foundation, is also active in Zug’s crypto community while maintaining stewardship of Tezos’s finances. Tezos contributor Ryan Jesperson was recently named head of the Tezos Foundation after a recent reshuffle and is looking to grow the foundation’s presence in Zug even more in the months ahead.

3. Bitfinex

Bitfinex is the newest entrant to Zug’s crypto ecosystem, having just announced its intent to relocate its global headquarters from Hong Kong to Zug just weeks ago. Bitfinex is the 5th largest crypto exchange in the world by trading volume, and its pending move to Zug is likely to bode well for the crypto ecosystem there.

As part of Bitfinex’s relocation, its legal, financial, and technical departments will be moving to Zug. This significant geographic transfer of talent is likely to have a positive impact on Zug, which has historically been seen as a haven for founders and investors, but is less of a hub for blockchain development talent.

4. Monaco

With its Monaco Visa card and mobile platform, this Zug-based startup is set to transform the crypto payments landscape. Monaco’s mobile platform allows users to pay for nearly anything using crypto, and it most recently unveiled two new products – Monaco Credit and Monaco Auto invest, which will allow users to automatically invest in crypto on credit.

Although the firm is headquartered in Zug, it also has a significant presence in Asia, with offices in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Monaco’s native token, MCO, is also traded on most major crypto exchanges worldwide.

5. Xapo

Xapo was originally founded in Hong Kong, but recently moved its headquarters to Zug after noticing the influx of crypto talent into the region. Xapo is best known for its cold wallet crypto storage solution, which has set an industry standard for data security and is approved by FINMA to operate in Switzerland.

Xapo’s crypto vault is decentralized and is run by a network of servers in high-security, undisclosed locations around the world. Some of the firm’s technical operations are also headquartered in Switzerland and are run out of a network of World War II-era bunkers in the countryside around Zug.

6. Cardano

Cardano is a decentralized public blockchain organization that is wholly focused on preserving user privacy. Headquartered in Zug, it is backed by its nonprofit arm, the Cardano Foundation, which is also based in Switzerland. Cardano is one of the largest cryptocurrencies worldwide in terms of market cap, with a market cap in excess of $3.5b as of March 2018.

Cardano runs a multi-layer protocol that provides support for smart contracts and enhanced identity verification. In partnership with Emurgo and IOHK, it most recently launched futures for its native token, ADA, on the BitMEX exchange.

7. Feathercoin

Feathercoin has been around for more than five years, but in recent months its been making deeper inroads in Zug’s crypto ecosystem. Its nonprofit arm, the Feathercoin Development Foundation, moved its headquarters to Zug last year, and the firm has been active in attracting investment from several prominent Swiss investment groups.

Like many other cryptocurrencies, Feathercoin is fully open-source, and it was originally formed via a hard fork from Litecoin by the creation of its genesis block. Feathercoin leverages NeoScrypt for its encryption, making it significantly more difficult to crack and mine than other alt coins.

8. Shapeshift

Shapeshift is a digital asset exchange that doesn’t require any private information from its users (nor does it create physical accounts for them). In addition, it distinguishes itself from other crypto firms by having a “no fiat” policy, meaning that traditional banks and currency are not used anywhere in the company’s operations.

Shapeshift was founded in 2014 by prominent crypto entrepreneur Erik Voorhees, and has been headquartered in Zug since its inception. Through its services, users can anonymously buy and sell a variety of tokens and crypto assets – all that’s required is a user’s receiving address in order to complete a transaction.

9. Cryptos Fund

Cryptos Fund is a relatively new entrant to Zug’s crypto ecosystem, and it’s already making a significant impact. Created by a team of researchers and academics based in Zug, the fund tracks the CCI30 Index, which indexes the top 30 cryptocurrencies worldwide.

The fund launched to retail investors earlier this year and requires a minimum of $100k to participate. Annual management fees are low, and the fund’s performance fee is 0%, the lowest in the industry. Over $100m in institutional investment has already been poured into the fund, which has already reached 10x its starting capital in just a matter of months.

10. Status

Status has built an elegant mobile Ethereum client for Android and iOS. The firm markets its offering as a “mobile Ethereum OS”, and offers a number of creative features – including support for decentralized apps, user messaging, and a hard wallet for storage of the cryptocurrency. The client also offers users the option to verify transactions with smart contracts.

Status’s R&D efforts are based in Zug, but its developer community is global in reach. The firm has been active to date in Zug’s crypto community and frequently participates in events and meetups there.

11. Omega One

Zug-based Omega One is building a “decentralized automated execution platform” that can automatically perform trades across the world’s largest crypto exchanges. Once the service goes live, users are set to see significantly lower trading fees (and likely higher returns as well) on the trading platform.

Omega One’s platform is intended to improve liquidity in the crypto market and will introduce intermediaries (agency brokers) to help facilitate this. Omega One’s trading protocol works through its native token, the Omega Token, which can be used by crypto investors to trade on the platform, make investments in crypto, or trade in the firm’s proprietary dark pool.

12. Etherisc

Etherisc is a startup on a mission to create a decentralized insurance platform that’s accessible to all. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the platform is accessible to individuals and corporations and supports Dapps for different types of insurance (for example, the firm recently released a dedicated Dapp that automatically purchases blockchain-based flight insurance for airline delays).

The German startup moved its headquarters to Zug in 2017 and has formal partnerships with Lakeside Capital and Inacta, two other major players in the Zug crypto ecosystem. The firm also operates a nonprofit arm, the Decentralized Insurance Foundation, which is also based in Zug.

13. Sweetbridge

From its headquarters in Zug, Sweetbridge is looking to transform the world of global supply chain management through the blockchain. The startup is a member of the Liquid Value Alliance, which is seeking to collaboratively improve upon existing supply chain processes around the world by using blockchain technology.

The Sweetbridge protocol also allows users to receive low-cost loans on crypto assets without any need for an intermediary bank. The company is seeking to build the foundations of a new supply chain ecosystem built on the Sweetbridge platform, unlocking the potential of underutilized supply chains globally.

14. Bitmain

The China-based crypto mining giant recently expanded its operations into Zug, on the heels of news that the Chinese central government is preparing a major crackdown on crypto miners. The company has said that it plans to be active in the Crypto Valley Association, and will also be building data centers in the country as well.

Bitmain views its Switzerland subsidiary as a way to begin growing its presence in Europe and diversify its portfolio beyond just China. Upon entry into the market, it will almost immediately become the largest mining player in Europe by a wide margin.

15. Datum

Datum is a decentralized marketplace that allows users to store, sell, and trade data. The marketplace allows users to buy data by using the native DAT token, which is then stored on a network of decentralized storage nodes. The firm completed its ICO in late 2017, and has begun ramping up its presence in Switzerland in recent months.

Users have the ability to submit any type of data to the Datum network. That data can then be sold, shared, or distributed across Datum’s decentralized network. Datum customers are allowed to have granular control over how their data is stored and shared as long as it remains on the network.

16. LoyaltyCoin

A Swiss development team led by Thomas Goetschmann founded its Ethereum-based startup to put retail shopping loyalty programs on the blockchain, while tokenizing the entire concept of customer loyalty. Users can sign up for loyalty programs with a number of vendors, and earn tokens that can then be exchanged for crypto and tracked in the LoyaltyCoin mobile app.

Late last year, the team also won third place in a major blockchain startup competition at the inaugural Blockchain Summit held in Zug (the judging committee was made up of subject matter experts in the fintech and legal spaces).

17. ClimateCoin

ClimateCoin is a cryptocurrency that allows anyone to invest in the fight against climate change. Based in Zug, the startup looks to encourage businesses to be environmentally sustainable while giving back to their investors in the form of tokens.

In December of last year, the firm inked an agreement with the Carbon Trade Exchange (CTX) to build the first P2P decentralized network for the trade and exchange of carbon credits. Carbon credits are attached to each coin sold or traded, and these credits are applied whenever a transaction occurs.

18. UBEX

UBEX advertises itself as a “global decentralized advertising exchange” that allows publishers to tokenize the engagement that happens with marketing assets on their sites. The company uses AI to calculate future ad revenue based on engagement and token activity, and is a relatively recent entrant to Zug’s crypto ecosystem.

Uber’s head office is in Zug, but the team has developer talent located around the world. The firm is presently working on developing its smart contract protocol, which will form the underpinnings of its advertising analytics platform.

19. Crypto Valley Association

The Crypto Valley Association is one of the key players in Zug’s startup ecosystem. As a nonprofit focused on fostering a healthy crypto ecosystem in Zug, the organization routinely holds meet ups and events around blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.

This organization is one of the primary places members of Zug’s crypto community come to network, exchange ideas, and recruit new talent. The organization also tracks the token metrics and successes of its members on its website, and recently helped draft a set of ICO regulations for its member organizations.

20. Proxeus

Proxeus enables almost anyone to build high-impact blockchain applications that integrate with existing enterprise systems. The Proxeus platform is targeted towards large enterprises looking to add a layer of blockchain technology to their business processes and can be integrated with a number of 3rd party applications as well.

Earlier this year, the Proxeus team won first place in the Early Stage category of the Swiss Fintech Awards, in conjunction with the official launch of its native token, XES. The tokens can be transferred via Ethereum, and will be listed on most major exchanges later this year.