IBM, Columbia University Launch Blockchain Accelerator Programs

Tech giant IBM has teamed up with Columbia University to launch a pair of technology accelerators as part of a broader push to spur blockchain development.

The IBM Blockchain Accelerator and Columbia Blockchain Launch Accelerator, announced Monday, will support 10 startups each, according to a press release. The two are part of the Columbia-IBM Center for Blockchain and Data Transparency, a collaboration between the groups launched this past summer to incubate blockchain applications.

IBM Blockchain Accelerator managing director David Post believes that the collaboration with the Ivy League institution will help the company supplement early-stage companies with the required technologies and social networks to grow their businesses.

“The possibilities presented by blockchain technology are seemingly endless, and we are seeing strong dedication by technical talent to build game-changing applications,” he added in a statement.

The IBM accelerator will be looking for companies significantly further along in terms of product development, specifically for companies “focused on building out an enterprise business network and client base for their blockchain application.”

In contrast, the Columbia Blockchain Launch Accelerator will be accepting applications from “pre-seed” or “idea stage” companies, which will receive support and training on how to build a blockchain startup. However the companies are required to have an affiliation with Columbia or a other recognized New York City-based University.

Both of the programs are scheduled to last about eight weeks on-site in New York City, though the later-stage companies will split their time between New York and San Francisco.

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Source: Coindesk

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Humans.net Launches Blockchain-Backed Freelancer Marketplace

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Humans.net has officially launched its peer-to-peer, blockchain-based freelancer marketplace, following a US$10 million seed funding round and a successful trial run in the US that attracted 200,000 users.

Humans.net aims to streamline and improve the process of searching for and hiring freelancers by eliminating middlemen and instead, leveraging blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer a freelancer platform featuring an immutable reputation-based scoring system.

The platform uses a so-called DNA-based verification system supported by blockchain technology that allows each user to identity an individual by their digital fingerprint, verified references and proof of work left by other users.

“We are using advanced AI to drive the search process on the platform which will radically alter how we connect online with peers and businesses. People will get swift and accurate search results irrespective of geographical location,” said Vlad Dobrynin, founder and CEO, Humans.net. “It’s a revolutionary online model which is set to radically alter how we interact online and how we trade skills and services.”

Humans.net seeks to become a “one-stop shop for those looking to turn their talents into cash and those looking for help with every task imaginable.” It aspires to challenge existing social platforms, which exploit user data and charge for their services.

“By leveraging decentralized networks, power is given back to users ensuring no one can use their data without their permission,” Dobrynin said. “In today’s world of data driven economies, this is a radical but far-reaching step.”

Humans.net charges no fees, nor commissions, and lets users have full control over their data which they can choose whether or not to monetize by allowing these to be used for advertising. Each user has a unique access key, and users who agree to have their data used for marketing receive 25% of revenue generated from the advertising.

The company said the successful trial in the US showcased a strong need for skills and services across many areas including household and gardening, law, finance and taxes, business assistance and homes and different types of training.

KPMG: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are Not Store of Value [Yet]

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It will take a long time for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to attain the status of a store-of-value asset, said KPMG in its latest crypto study.

The Big Four firm’s “Institutionalization of Cryptoassets” report asserted that assets like bitcoin could neither be used as a medium of exchange nor a store of value, mainly because of lack of trust and scalability. It suggested that crypto sector must undergo institutionalization if it plans to thrive any further concerning stability and adoption.

“More participation from the broader financial services ecosystem will help drive trust and scale for the tokenized economy and help the crypto market grow and mature,” declared KPMG chief economist Constance Hunter.

The Phase of Big Money

Institutionalization, according to the KPMG report, defines large-scale participation of fintech companies, banks, payment institutions, exchanges, broker-dealers, and other entities in an industry. The involvement of major institutions in the crypto space could validate its potential to reduce friction and inefficiencies that exist in the current global economic system.

As of now, the crypto market is undergoing a phase of speculation driven by investments at the retail levels. Individuals are betting more on the potential of cryptos than on what they can practically deliver, resulting in maximized risks in a mostly unregulated space. The KPMG study posed compliance with regulations as one of the challenges facing the cryptocurrency industry, stating that crypto businesses would need to clearly define their product before the regulators.

At the same time, a coherent approach at defining comprehensive legal parameters for crypto space could allow big businesses to enter significant capital into its market.

According to Coinbase, a contributor to the KPMG report, the market will transit from the speculative phase into the institutionalization one as it explores adoption by the world’s most prominent financial institutions. The San Francisco company maintained that they are already building scalable platforms required for “large players to enter the space,” adding that they would feature “high-frequency, low latency matching engine, transparent and efficient price discovery tools” to attract significant monies.

The KPMG report mentioned that Coinbase would also be a qualified custodian that allows the safe storage of assets in a compliant manner.

“Institutions have a different set of requirements than retail consumers and need to see a focus on compliance, transparency, and governance to use and transact with crypto comfortably,” it explained.

Cryptoassets are Inevitable

Regardless of the interim challenges faced by the cryptocurrency industry, the KPMG report predicted a bright future for it.

The study believed using cryptos would be a standard thing in the future as participants become more comfortable with them. It would – of course – happen when institutions find solutions to manage compliance, taxes, software upgrades (hard forks), security, financial auditing, and asset provenance.

“New tokens and assets are one thing, but new business models and market participants may redefine the space significantly over the next few years,” KPMG indicated.

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