FundRequest, Aiming To Monetize Open Software


The open software community is a very special space. People are committed to open source as an ideology, a way of collaborating and a way of being. For many it is also a pastime or hobby to jump onto a platform like GitHub and start solving other people’s issues. There are downfalls, of course, sometimes solutions can be a long time coming. Waiting six months for a bug fix is not really ideal in a commercial operation. There is also the possibility of getting bad fixes or inelegant code. Given the open nature of the community it is hard to police and hard to determine quality.

Having said that, the open source community has come on a long way in the past twenty years. Nowadays many commercial operations use multiple elements of open source in their overall systems. The overall quality is as good, if not better than proprietary software (think of all those super brains fixing common issues) and it is typically robust and secure.

FundRequest is a project looking to propel open source to the next level – without compromising the core ethos of the community. The concept was originated by Karel Striegel, a Belgium IT entrepreneur.  He has worked in IT for thirteen years, working with databases, middleware and devops.

‘I began to notice that all the companies I worked for were using more and more open software,’ he says. ‘Now I am not an actual developer, but my colleagues relied increasingly on it, and biggest impediment was a time lag. We know that open software is robust but waiting for a volunteer to fix a problem could be a big headache.’

When the blockchain technology made its appearance in Striegel’s world he began to see a real opportunity to update open source and the people who worked on it.

‘I am not interested in monetizing the whole open source ecosystem,’ he says. ‘That would be counterintuitive. But I could see how it could be improved which is quite a different thing altogether.’

The video explaining FundRequest has a fun character coding on the beach and this is the beauty of monetizing what might otherwise by a hobby or an interest. Developers who code in the spare time might consider working full time in this area – and code wherever they liked. Or developers might just chose to earn extra money – a way of making their interest earn for them.

FundRequest works in the same way that open source works. A user or company publishes an issue. Interested developers can review the issue and if they wish, submit a solution. The best solution is reviewed and picked by the guardian or publisher or the issue.

What FundRequest adds is a fee or reward for the developer – as well as a smaller percentage for a guardian or proposer of the solution. In their scenario, the company wanting the fix offers a fee for the solution. Interested parties can submit solutions and get paid once the contract is executed.

Given there is money at stake, Striegel is also introducing a mediation option. ‘Should anyone at either end of the process feel cheated on code or money, they can enter into mediation to explain their grievance. Then the community can vote on who they think is right. It is a form of democratising work and value.’

There is another way that companies or users could choose a developer. Once the issue is posted, then the company could select a single developer based on reputation or score – all held on the blockchain of course.

In the future Striegel can also see value in a bridge between closed systems and open source. ‘Consider that many top brains are working in open source and that a company night like to hire them for a single job or project, this might be an interesting platform to promote gigs and reward open sourcers.

‘I am aware of some commercial organisations with in excess of 900 open source components. If they need fixing, it would be too expensive to hire internally. It would be much better to pay a fee for an expert than hire multiple programmers,’ he says.

There is another way in which the open source model can be improved according to Striegel. ‘With open source there are often problems and issues that face multiple users. Rather than rely on one source to stump up the money, we will be introducing crowdfunding. This way an issue can be flagged by many people and then a crowdfunded proposal set up. People looking for an answer could lodge ten euros for example and over time this could grow to a figure that would provide sufficient reward for a developer to solve the issue. Painless solution for everyone – but fast tracked because of general interest in getting it solved.’

Another plank in the FundRequest model is the data that will be captured on the blockchain. ‘We should be able to see trends in the open source community – that will be valuable as well in terms of trends, movements and issues.’

FundRequest is in the middle of a pre sale and is on target to hit the $7 million target. Currently the date of the ICO has not been finalised – it will be soon. ‘We are just juggling a few things, both external and internal,’ explains Striegel. ‘It is good not to launch in market uncertainty – that is for sure – but we have also started some development based on our pre sale income and find we are already ahead and under budget on our development costs.

‘Originally we put $20million as our hard cap, but we have revised that down to $15million based on those economies of scale and our increased experience. We shall be announcing soon the date for kick off.’



Xtrade And Gimmer Form Trading Partnership

CCN’s vision is to bring Wall Street Trading to the emerging Cryptocurrency markets. Before Christmas CCN interviewed Alexander Kravets on his new idea. An experienced trader with more than 20 years in the business, Kravets understood that for cryptotrading to be successful, it had to somehow mirror traditional trading.

Today Kravets announces a new partnerhship with Gimmer, an existing decentralised automated cryptocurrency trading platform. XTRADE.IO will be bringing their expertise to further develop Gimmer’s back end systems. This will include building a unified FIX API to allow Gimmer users to execute strategies across multiple exchanges automatically as well as aggregated liquidity.

Kravets says, ‘Gimmer is a pioneer in the retail algorithmic crypto market space and an ideal partner for leveraging XTRADE’s institutional grade infrastructure, single-portal API, and multi-market connectivity for market data and execution.

By partnering with XTRADE.IO, Gimmer and their clients can expect higher fill rates, deeper liquidity across exchanges, greater opportunities for arbitrage, longer uptimes, and reduced latencies for multi-asset crypto execution’,’ he says.

Using AI, Gimmer’s trading bots can execute deals quickly at the best possible price. Gimmer already has a working beta version and a crypto trading bot app that has been downloaded over 10,000 times.

The trading bots take the emotion out of investing and make cryptocurrency mainstream. In addition, Gimmer can recommend, based on the user’s risk profile, the best and most profitable trading bot strategy. In addition, successful traders can make additional revenue by renting their strategies to other customers through the Gimmer bot store.

The Gimmer platform works by securely connecting to a customer’s cryptocurrency exchange account and then uses advanced algorithmic trading bots to make the trades on behalf of the customer at parameters that the customer has preset. This makes Gimmer suitable for anyone who wants to trade and invest in the cryptocurrency market but does not have the relevant trading skills or the time to watch the markets all day long. It means that Gimmer users can buy and sell and earn profits while they sleep.

Gimmer allows its users to configure a trading bot to include any number of indicators, safeties and currencies, then back test it to see how the strategy would have performed over previous trading periods, which is worked out using historical data. When ready, users charge their bot with Gimmer tokens and it then connect directly and securely with the preferred exchange, sending the buy and sell commands automatically. By using AI and pre-planned strategies, the trader can take the emotion out of their investment decisions, meaning Gimmer is going to be a gateway into the crypto market for a whole new sector of investors.

The addition of the XTRADE.IO technology will enhance Gimmer’s offering, which gives novice and experienced traders the best and most intuitive decentralised trading platform in the crypto sector.

Gimmer yesterday launched its token presale and a public token sale will be held next month from February 1 until February 28, 2018. There is a soft cap of 4800 ETH and hard cap of 35000 ETH.

Philipe Comini, Co-founder and CEO of Gimmer says, ‘We have an excellent core team and array of advisers and partners that will enable us to hit all our roadmap targets and deliver the very best product. Currently, only a few platforms offer automated trading, but they also require expert programming skills and knowledge of the cryptocurrency market. Gimmer’s decentralised platform will make it easy for the mass market to become involved in automated crypto trading for the first time.’


Creating A Safe Haven For Crypto Investors


The X8Currency ICO closed early. It reached its hard cap of €3.4million on Saturday, a full week before the closure date. Founder and CEO Gregor Koželj, whose voice is worn out through speaking so much, is very happy. His project, an ultimate safe haven for crypto investors, is a way to provide an alternative to the current financial system.


‘I don’t want to replace the traditional financial systems,’ he explains.  ‘Replacing systems always involves too many hurdles, I want to transcend the current financial system – to offer a real alternative.’

Currency and its fluctuations played a big part on Koželj’s upbringing. Living in Slovenia, he witnessed the deflation of his native currency, the tolar – as a child his savings to purchase a bike were downgraded to only a tyre when the tolar lost its value – and he remembers the value of foreign currency when given as a present by visitors.

‘As a result I have always been fascinated by currency,’ he says.

As a grownup he followed his passion and worked in trading and investment. As head of asset management for a major brokerage he started to notice some unusual results.

‘When working with large funds and say if I held more than 1% or even 2% of total market activity, then every trade I made would lose money – without fail,’ he says. ‘This empirical evidence was hard to explain but it was true. Why did it happen? There may have been a number of reasons but one was that watchdogs in the system are constantly monitoring large movements and penalising the trader as a result.’

As head of asset management he made more than half a trillion in trades and these large volumes were being penalised.  Once Koželj took a step backwards, towards more moderate trades, then he was able to make money again.

‘I went to the principals of the brokerage firm I was working for and explained this discovery but they did not believe me and so I set up my own company, ioNectar.’

Headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, ioNectar is an innovative and ergonomic portfolio risk management platform and is the first trading platform in the world that facilitates Risk Currency trading.

For ten years Koželj worked on the platform, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve his trading problem – that of delivering stability. He incorporated all that he had learned previously and when the platform was finalised, he ported it to the blockchain.

‘There are two core components to the ioNectar platform. The first is the ARM, or Automatic Reserve Management system, and the second is the basket of currencies called X8C,’ explains Koželj. In the two years since the ARM AI has been running I have not had to manually interfere in any way and yes the results have been consistently successful,’

The basket of currencies is a total of eight fiat currencies with gold as a ninth asset. Koželj explains that there are only eight fully 100% convertible currencies in the world. ‘The Chinese Yen is not 100% convertible, despite been included in the IMF basket. Nor too is the Norwegian Krone,’ he says. ‘Both are major players but cannot be 100% converted. Until such time as another currency offers that, the X8C basket will remain at just eight fiat currencies.’

With the ARM AI busily calculating trades every millisecond and providing a scientific value each day, Koželj believes it has the potential to bump LIBOR off the table. ‘LIBOR is set artificially by a number of the main banks,’ he says. ‘But it is pretty arbitrary. ARM AI on the other hand is totally scientific and reliable.’

A side effect of ARM AI is that it can offer stability to the market. ‘This is where the X8 token comes in,’ he says. ‘How much does the market value stability? X8C can only be traded for X8X so that will be a natural valuation.’

Koželj believes his X8Currency is also crash proof. ‘If any one fiat currency fails, there are another seven to provide stability. In fact, even if they all fail, gold is still there. And we have insurance too. In essence it cannot fail. Even if we end up with no fiats, we still have gold coins and they will transition to the next financial system.’

Right now, Koželj is nursing his voice but he cannot rest, certainly not in the current crashing crypto sector. ‘There are very few professionals in this space,’ he says. ‘Crypto has not finished changing yet – there is more to come.’

As he continues working on creating the ultimate safe haven for crypto investors, Koželj will spend the ICO money on hardware and software, more development and marketing. ‘All I want to do is to provide a liquidity safety net – in a fully scientific way.’ That’s all then.


Blockchain And Traditional Industries – Where Is The Overlap?


Everyone knows that blockchain is transformational but sometimes it is hard to get one’s head around how it can transform a traditional industry. Kyle Forkey, CEO of Ethmint, thinks he may have the answer.

‘Blockchain at its most simple has a very simple value proposition,’ he says. ‘It is a way to show ownership and can be a way to raise capital. That makes sense.’

He has a point. He is currently advising for Moria, an asset backed, ICO. The asset in question is a real life gold mine based in Colorado, US. The project, billed as the world’s first decentralised investment platform for the extraction of precious metals, looks to reward investors with annual premiums far in excess of normal investment terms, but maybe not as much as traditional crypto investors might wish for. Given the week that is in it, with the spectacular crashes in value across bitcoin and its alt mates, this might not be a bad thing.

The mine is located in Colorado and is part of the ‘Gregory Lode’ once said to be the richest square mile on earth. Called the Bates Hunter Mine it extends over 35 acres of ground cover and consists of a series of proven gold veins. It is fully permitted and expert analysis shows a potential future value of more than $2 billion (just to 2000 feet) and potentially billions more at a greater level.

The mine is now run by the GS Mining company. GS Mining acquired the Bates Hunter Mine when the parent company, also in possession of iron mines in China, went under the financial crash of 2008.  Getting the mine back into production requires sizeable capital investment but this was not forthcoming in this current financial climate according to Forkey.

‘Most investments in the mining industry require a profitable cash flow, we could only point to future income,’ he says.

GS Mining Company approached Forkey to see if they could transition to crypto for investment. They set up an attractive percentage return and went out to market.

The response surprised Forkey. ‘At first I thought the target market might be crypto enthusiasts, but as we’ve progressed we have found our target audience to be traditional investors interested in crypto. It’s a way of dipping their toes in the crypto water.’

Last year they ran a private Pre Sale which raised a little more than $6million. Now they are launching the Moria token sale tomorrow and expect it to run until early February.

Last year they had planned a market cap of $50million but given recent retrenchments in the ICO marketplace, this has been downgraded to $30 million.

‘Using the crypto space to raise capital is attractive as investors tend to be less risk averse,’ says Forkey. ‘But the guaranteed return is very attractive when compared with traditional funds.’

The Moria Token will be available for trade on exchanges, with HitBTC currently showing interest, but the real attraction is that token will sit in a wallet and yield royalties from the mine, 20% of royalties from revenue. ‘The token holders will be rewarded before anyone else,’ says Forkey.

‘This marries the best attributes of crypto-currency and corporate bonds,’ he says. ‘And the Moria token is asset-backed, by gold. Soon as the mine starts production, the token holders will benefit.’

The initial funding raised will see production begin this year. If the hard cap is reached then full production will begin in twelve to eighteen months. The mine has already much of the infrastructure in place but it needs upgrading to get it back into production.

The lifetime of the mine is estimated to be between 30 and 40 years. Token holders who are still with the mine after five years may be bought out by at market rates or transitioned into future projects under GS Mining company.

Looking at the website, it is indeed obvious that this is not your traditional ICO. For starters the management team do not appear to be on linkedin. This is more a function of their mining experience than lack of social media profiles. ‘Construction and mining tend not to be about social media,’ says Forkey.

However, there is one more feature that binds the project back to blockchain with an app proposed that will track token prices, facilitate call backs and hold the MOR wallet.

But going back to the asset backed model, it is interesting to read the warnings in the white paper.  Price of gold may go and down, there may not be as much gold as expected or it may cost more to extract it. As it is a mining company it may be affected by staffing issues, government issues or environmental issues. While these are very much issues facing real world companies, it is to be welcomed in a crypto dominated sector.

Learning More About NEO, The Chinese Ethereum, Malcolm Lerider Explains


NEO offers the possibility of both Public and Private blockchains in the same ecosystem

Zalando, located in the heart of Dublin’s Silicon docks, was the venue for the first meetup of NEO – dubbed the Chinese Ethereum – in Dublin. It was also the kick start off for a European tour with the NEO stars heading off to London, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Zurich before ending January with a large two-day DevCon in San Francisco.  The Meetup was oversubscribed twofold with many developers disappointed not to make the gig.

The main speaker was Malcolm Lerider, senior R&D manager for NEO.  His talk covered off the key components of NEO, namely that it was designed with business in mind. Lerider spoke of the main features promised by NEO including speed.

‘We can cope with thousands of transactions per second,’ he said. ‘That is pretty impressive but I have to warn you that there are other projects suggesting they can offer multiples of that – I ask you to listen with a degree of scepticism. Claims like that are all using off-chain scaling mechanisms, which are technologies just as easily applied NEO. In the end, the on-chain single core processing speed is what matters. The faster on-chain transactions are, the more you can scale it with off-chain scaling solutions.’

Lerider went onto talk about the smart contracts on NEO which are written in familiar languages such as C+, Python, Java, Javascript, Kotlin, with more to come.

‘The chain never branches, so all transactions are 100% final directly after the first confirmation. We are building this platform to fulfil business demands, instead of forcing businesses to adapt,’ claims Lerider. ‘The 100% finality after just one confirmation is very important for financial applications’.

However, there was one part of his presentation which caused some interest. Lerider went on to speak of interaction between NEO’s public blockchain and OnChain’s private blockchain.  ‘It is possible to build your own private blockchain and then communicate with NEO’s public ledger in the same ecosystem,’ he said.

Onchain is the blockchain R&D company behind NEO. NEO was developed first and then Onchain began looking at private implementations of the technology.

This harps back to the philosophy that NEO was developed with business in mind. ‘We built a public blockchain, an open source structure,’ he says. ‘But it has to operate within regulatory requirements, and the decentralisation has to be balanced.

‘During the transition to a digitized society, we have no choice but to work with the tools we have today. Enterprises joining the transition to a Smart Economy still ask to sign physical contracts with physical enterprises,’ he says. ‘And so from this business requirement, Onchain was born to serve as the B2B gateway to NEO Smart Economy.’

Onchain develops private chains for enterprises that has specific requirement on for example data privacy. These private chains have the same underlying architecture as NEO and can connect to NEO Smart Economy using a cross-chain protocol. This gives us a unique situation where enterprises can control their own private chains using Onchain technology, and still connect to the public digitized economy on NEO, gaining the benefits of both private and public ledger.

Here Lerider introduced Ontology which he explains was forming the next part of the puzzle.

‘Enterprises are already storing personal data that is not to be shared on a public ledger for privacy reasons. There is a paradox here; it would be valuable to the individual to access this data in a digitized economy, but we cannot put it on a public ledger because of the data privacy issues.

‘For example, one may want to provide a digital signature proving certified bank account balance, but this data is safely stored offchain at the bank’s servers and is not to be published publicly. Ontology is specifically designed to bring ownership of data back to the individual, so that the individual can authorize third parties to share specified personal information in a secure manner on the public blockchain.’

NEO Smart Economy digitizes all assets and allow trustless digitized commerce on a public blockchain.

Onchain develops private chains for enterprises using the same underlying architecture as NEO, allowing them to connect to the public blockchain using cross-chain protocol. Private chains can thus also gain the benefits of the public ledger on NEO Smart Economy, and vice versa.

His talk was greeted with many questions including the location of the headquarters – China.

Lerider was very sanguine. ‘Yes, NEO is based in China but it is a distributed, decentralised platform. NEO is global project first,’ he assured the visitor. ‘There is no way to stop it.’

There were a further six speakers from Asia’s top NEO customers.

Red Pulse was presented by Stanley Chows from Red Pulse. Red Pulse claims to separate the signal from the noise. Its platform is an open eco resource system for research.

Deepbrain Chain was presented by Li Chuanfeng. His Artificial Intelligence company was the first to move to the blockchain – a powerful combination he contended.

Wowoo and OKWave gave a joint presentation. OKWave is Japan’s largest Q&A community – ‘O’ standing for question and ‘K’ for answer. It was looking for a way to monetise the kindness of people answering questions and decided the blockchain was the answer. Wowoo was providing a way for non-programmers to launch their own token without need for blockchain knowledge. The first project for Wowoo is OKWave and the next is a project based on stem cells

Next up was Hiroyuki Enomoto of the QRC Group. Hiroyuki explained that QRC was a RegTech company. He explained that changes to regulations often required huge expense and time to implement in financial companies. Some changes could run to thousands of pages with very costly impact on the company needing to comply.

‘In addition, regular compliance in implementing KYC or AML can be very time and labour intensive,’ he explained.  ‘Moreover banks don’t share this information which duplicates cost and irritates customers.’

QRC was putting these systems on the blockchain with the intention of ‘making the world more complaint and secure.’

Finally a major investor for Zeepin Chain, Leo Chai explained his company was connecting creators with consumers, giving greater value to the designer and cutting out the middle man.  In the Zeepin Chain eco system creators would earn more for their products, protect their copyright and reach new markets. ‘Earn, pay and invest,’ were the key words for the company.  Leo also pointed out that the CEO, Zhu Fei, was a former CEO of Arting365, a massive marketplace for creativity and innovation. ‘It was a natural extension to move the concept onto the blockchain with the advantages it brings,’ he says.

Two hours later the audience had a lot of information to digest. There will be more meetups to come.


Trying To Inspire Socially Responsible Trading, Bobby Bhatia, TrakInvest


Bobby Bhatia has worked in finance his entire career, much of it based in Asia, working for some of the biggest names in banking and trading. In his sector, he observed the way the world was changing, in particular for millennials and their careers.  ‘The world went from too little data to too much data almost overnight,’ he says. ‘And there was little or no curation. Artificial Intelligence was added in and all of a sudden the challenges facing millennials in their careers were huge.’

‘I saw an opportunity to teach trading as a life skill, proving a primary or even a second income.’

‘In Institutional trading the odds are stacked against the little guy,’ he says. ‘I felt there had to be a way to close the gap and also to head towards a social responsible trading concept.’ Not normally terms associated with trading but Bhatia is on the money in terms of his timing.

He first set up TrakInvest in 2014. It was a free to use, gamified trading platform with phantom money. It was also a world first. Mirroring the top ten equity exchanges across the world, people could set up accounts and learn to trade in a risk free environment.  The ‘Trak’ in the name allows people to track successful traders and copy their trades if desired. In a short while the platform has grown in popularity to a community of more than 100,000 people, of which 35,000 are very active.

TrakInvest runs regular competitions to find the best traders and soon corporates began to take notice. As a result, TrakInvest became a talent identification platform for financial organisations.

‘Someone might be a straight A student but learning trading theory is very different from actually trading,’ says Bhatia.

‘The person’s record on the platform is very detailed. You can see the trades they made, and then ask them about each individual one. For a prospective financial employer this is very powerful.’

Such is the enthusiasm that TrakInvest set up a reality game on its YouTube channel. Over ten weeks the top six traders were featured on the video show, explaining how they made the decision to trade as they did. TrakInvest also brought in legends of the Capital Markets to mentor the contestants, Each week, people were eliminated if they fell down the rankings, creating a natural selection and new people each time. At the end of the series all top 100 traders were offered jobs or internships.

The success of the show – more than 600 minutes of original content and 10 million viewers – attracted the attention of the ET Now, India’s biggest business news TV channel, which is a group company of Times of India. As a result, the second series will be telecast on ET NOW this year to vast audience.

TrakInvest not only acts as a talent identifier and education platform, it also brings with it the holy grail of all trading engines – data. However, the data generated on TrakInvest differs from traditional trading data. Firstly, it is unstructured data collected from blogs, forums and chat rooms. Secondly, there is a vast amount of transactional data available based on the community of traders. Nowhere else has this depth and cross sector knowledge base.

This has expanded its reach into mainstream education. Across India and Thailand there are TrakInvest learning centres attached to 20 colleges, giving real experience to would-be traders without the associated risks.

So, now enter the blockchain, cryptocurrency and the ICO. This was an obvious step according to Bhatia. It is also another first to have a cryptocurrency virtual exchange.

‘We know how social media such as Facebook and Twitter hi-jacks our data,’ he says. ‘We are big on the ‘my data is my data’ philosophy. We were educating people on the risks of trading and also the rewards. We allowed members to track successful traders and so we began to think wouldn’t it be nice to reward them properly.’

On the blockchain, and using the key features of immutability, transparency and most importantly, smart contracts, TrakInvest will now monetize the good content generated. It operates three key features.

Certification: People can sign up for a course that lasts typically 3 months, or shorter if they are very capable. They must consume data but also achieve real time trading results too – hitting the top ten leaderboard. This is not easy but it is achievable. Once completed this will be stored on the blockchain for prospective employers to view.

Next up TrakInvest will monetise reputation. People can follow the more expert traders, crowdsourcing wisdom if you will, in exchange for tokens. ‘Before smart contracts this was not possible,’ says Bhatia.

Finally there is huge data collected on the site. This can be sold to external organisations and the fee split with the creator of the content. ‘This is a fair redistribution of wealth,’ says Bhatia.  ‘The creator and not the platform benefits the most with 70% of any fees donated to the creator.’

In some ways it might seem unusual to use trading a new form of income. Traditionally trading have all been staked with the big guys, the house always wins and there are some shocking accounts of brokers scamming off their clients. Then with the huge interest in cryptocurrency, it seems everyone wants to be a trader.

‘TrakInvest will help people wanting to earn an income but it can also help people just wanting to punt on cryptocurrency,’ says Bhatia. ‘We are talking to various exchanges about putting us up a front room. Let people practice, get used to the system, and learn how to navigate a cryptocurrency exchange, before they sign up to a real exchange  This will promote social responsible trading as well as helping the exchange cut down on support issues – they can choose to fast-accept people who have used the pilot first. Given the main issues for Binance at the moment, this would have to be a good thing.’

All up, TrakInvest aims to create 20,000 jobs in the next year. The pre ICO is live since December 16 and they hope to raise approximately $15 million now and then a further $15 million in the main ICO later on in the year. After that, it’s every millennial for themself!


From yesterday’s Irish Times – a decade on in the recession – however, I was much more upbeat about my future. I have turned the corner, I am proud of my achievements, and the future is looking very rosy!

Irish Times

Jillian Godsil lost her home in the recession and was one of the the first women to go bankrupt under Ireland’s new bankruptcy regulations.

“Until 2008, life was very good. I was happily married, or so I thought, running my own PR and marketing company, living in a big house we’d bought in 1996.

“Then two things went wrong. I discovered to my horror that I wasn’t happily married, and we started separation proceedings. The second thing was that my ex had got into property. The house had been worth €1.6 million at one stage, and it seemed to make sense to release some equity. So we had huge debts that we couldn’t pay.

“It happened so quickly. My husband went back to the UK and declared bankruptcy. I made a video to try to sell the house on YouTube. The video was quirky and it went viral. I got a cash offer of €500,00 in 2011, and I put that to the bank, but they refused to sell and went on to repossess the house. It sold for €165,000 in 2013. I kept telling my story and I became the poster girl for austerity. But I suppose I took my eye off the ball a bit workwise. I eventually had to close the business and go on the dole.

“I kept thinking I would turn the corner, but it was the longest corner ever. I went bankrupt in Ireland, and when I discovered that meant I could never run for public office, I decided to take a case against the State, which led to a change in the law. I went back to college and did a master’s, but still couldn’t find work.

“By early 2014, I was like a zombie. I was suffering from depression. I didn’t want to commit suicide, but I came very close to it. I felt empty. All roads seemed blocked to me. The lowest point, though, came when I exited bankruptcy last year, in the summer of 2017. I was one of 800 people discharged that day. But we had to move out of our rented cottage, and I wasn’t able to find alternative accommodation. I was couch surfing; it was middle-class homelessness. I wrote about it in The Irish Times, and a friend read the piece, and offered me a cottage he owned to rent.

“I changed the law, I did my master’s, but I feel like the universe turned on its axis that day, and since then, things have got better. Now I have a new career working in marketing for the blockchain industry. I had 10 years where I felt, ‘why can’t I get out of the mud? I have worked everywhere, I have a great network of contacts, and I couldn’t get off my knees’. Finally, things are looking up.”

Why Binance Is The Number One Cryptocurrency Exchange, Exclusive Interview With Changpeng Zhao, Aka CZ


Binance has exceeded all expectations, including those of the CEO and founder Changpeng Zhao, or CZ as he is known, to reach the number one cryptocurrency exchange in just six months. Binance is arguably also the fastest ever Unicorn reaching double the valuation required (hitting $2billion) and is moreover profitable.

‘If you had asked me a month ago when we would hit the number one spot,’ says CZ from Tokyo where he had not stopped working all over the holidays, ‘I might have answered six to nine months. If you had asked me about unicorn status, I might have thought the same period. This growth has surprised even me.’

Binance may be an overnight success but CZ has certainly put in the time and there is very little left to chance in this booming exchange.

With three lines of business: trading, incubation labs and Binance’s ICO Launchpad, things are moving very quickly.

Two ICOs have already been rolled out on the Launchpad; GIFTO and Bread. The two ICOs raised $3million and $3.5million respectfully in a matter of minutes.

‘We are building a community of trust,’ says CZ. ‘Part of that is the release of ICO funds.’

In an exclusive interview with CCN, CZ revealed that the Binance Launchpad operates on trust.  ‘Ironic,’ he admits in the era of the blockchain.  ‘But we have an obligation to our traders and we also work hard with the ICOs.’

CZ revealed that his Launchpad does not release the monies raised straight away. 25% is delivered post ICO and the remaining 75% is released based on milestones agreed and reached.

‘Most ICOs do not need the full amount on day one,’ says CZ.  ‘This way we can hold the ICO accountable for their work. It does not guarantee their eventual success but it does winnow out scams and bad practice.’

‘We are operating like a traditional VC in some regard, but with more control,’ he explains.

Choosing the ICO is also an interesting job and one that will see a slew of enquires to the Exchange this year.

CZ is pragmatic about what ICOs he will look at. ‘In both the cases of GIFTO and Bread they had an established user base and a product that worked.’

However, he is also covering the software startup angle, having emerged from this industry himself. ‘We are setting up Binance Labs where we can incubate technology startups – giving them the advice and support they need to progress to full ICO status. This is a very exciting platform too.’

The maturity of the Binance exchange is reflected in CZ’s career. Approaching 40, he is no baby faced whizz kid. CZ cut his teeth in software startups and exchanges well before Binance was a twinkle in his eye.

Educated at McGill University in Canada, his first summer job was with a trading exchange in Tokyo. ‘The Tokyo Exchange out sourced development work to the company I was placed with and so I got early experience of coding for a trading environment.’

After he finished college, CZ was offered work by the same company in Toyko and spent the next four years there before moving to New York and working for Bloomberg. But the entrepreneurial urge was strong and he next moved to Shanghai where he founded a startup with four other principals.

‘By 2013 I knew that bitcoin was important,’ says CZ but he could not persuade his fellow directors and so he left.  ‘Ironically they are keen to do something in the space now,’ he says.

Next up he joined OKCoin in Beijing as a co-founder and also met Roger Ver in Tokyo. While they remain good friends, Ver tried to talk CZ out of running an exchange. ‘It just wasn’t on his radar or interest,’ laughs CZ who did not take Ver’s advice.

By 2015, CZ knew he wanted to set up his own company again. He looked at Poloniex and saw the trading volume was very low – Bitcoin was only trading at $200.

‘So we developed software to run trading exchanges. This is what I knew and I could pull together an experienced team.’

For the next two years CZ worked for 30 different exchanges, providing the trading software and support. This was his golden bullet. ‘Every exchange was different and we learnt about every possible issue,’ he says.  Except perhaps the speed of his own company’s growth.

In 2017 when CZ decided to build his own exchange he had all the experience gathered from his 20 years working in trading software. He had seen first-hand the problems and the challenges facing popular exchanges.

‘Often an exchange will take an easy route to market – because of cost or speed,’ says CZ. ‘We built in scalability from the beginning.’

CZ reckons the current number of users, standing at 3.4million and climbing by 100,000 a day, could easily scale to 50million or 100 million.

‘However, where we are hurting is in the support. We have 50,000 outstanding support tickets and we cannot hire people fast enough. The growth is huge but so too is the learning curve for new users. Most of those tickets require human intervention,’ he says ruefully.

Part of the solution may be the role of community in Binance. CZ was very keen from the start to provide an open solution and listen to the community.  Binance angels and community volunteers have grown much faster than even CZ expected.

‘People love to be part of a successful project,’ he says. ‘We listen to our community and volunteers. The community has voting rights on our coin. This is very important to our ethos and development.

‘This is not a short win; we are in for the long haul. We see this at least as a ten year project.’

The odds are looking good. Already there is huge interest in the two spin off arms of the business; the incubation labs and Launchpad. CZ believes strongly the community needs to trust each other. ‘I know, it’s funny to repeat that word trust,’ says CZ, ‘but it is core to Binance and its success.’

The Pineapple Fund, Using Bitcoin Profits For Crypto Good


When Bitcoin hit the $20,000 high in late 2017 there was endless talk of how much money people holding coins had made. It was reminiscent of Dublin during the Celtic Tiger where dinner party conversations were dominated by the rising price of houses. On the face of it, these Bitcoin conversations were all about greed. However there are exceptions.

While there are many people making money from Bitcoin, there are also do-gooders who are donating Bitcoin to charities and causes. We have covered some of these people and organisations here (Paxful) and here (CharityStars).

One of the largest donators to hit the press ever in the history of Bitcoin is an unknown man or woman who goes by the name ‘Pine’ and has set up ‘The Pineapple Fund’. The name The Pineapple Fund comes from the fact that if you eat too much pineapple your mouth can become sore and you can develop a temporary intolerance to them.

While anonymous, he or she quoted on their website: “I’ve always liked Pineapple but since it contains bromelain [an enzyme that digests protein] your mouth becomes tender if you eat too much of it. Then, like now, is a good time to share the pineapple. I have too many Bitcoins for the life I would like to live, so I am sharing them.”

‘Pine’ got on the bitcoin train near the very beginning : “I remember starting Bitcoin a few years ago. When Bitcoin broke single digits for the first time.”

Years later and now ‘Pine’ finds they have too much bitcoin: “Bitcoin has changed my life, and I have far more money than I can ever spend”.

While many people may be very envious of this person, it is heart-warming to see ‘Pine’ ready to donate up to $86 million to deserving charities and causes.

The Pineapple Fund was set up to receive applications and recommendations on which charities and causes should receive donations.  ‘Pine’ and a friend are reviewing the applications and then decide who to donate to based on three main requirements-

  • How impactful their work is (especially on an international scale);
  • What new innovative skills they are bringing to the table;
  • and how efficient and sustainable they are.

However according to ‘Pine’ another important factor is their gut. Pine says: But to be honest, the biggest factor is my gut. I only fund charities that I trust, and with trust, I believe they are best posed to answer the more micro questions and do good in this world.”

Some of the charities that The Pineapple Fund has donated to so far include Watsi, the SENS Research Foundation, The Water Project and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies).

‘Pine’ and The Pineapple Fund seem to be starting a trend. MAPS was the lucky recipient of a further anonymous donation of almost $1m in bitcoin after the announcement of The Pineapple Fund donation went public.

‘Pine’ is certainly inspirational. On the website ‘Pine’concludes: “Once you have enough money, money doesn’t matter.”

However, if you want to apply to the fund it closed already, or at least this first round has closed. They received zillions of emails and are currently sifting through the bulging inbox. 14 charities have been identified already and more will be announced in the coming months. Spending the bitcoin may be a tougher job than ‘Pine’ anticipated.

Did You Realise Coinhive Has Been Using Your CPU Power For Altcoin Mining?


Coinhive mining – a victimless crime?

Coinhive delivered a clever piece of software in September with very little fanfare. Website owners were asked to create an account with Coinhive and then run their application on their websites. The software was an in-browser java script app that allowed the host website use the visiting people’s CPU’power to mine for alt coin Monero.

Visitors were unaware of this CPU filtering, or stealing, and may only have spotted that their machine had slowed down or their fans suddenly revved up.

Typically the additional electrical costs per stolen CPU ran in the region of a few dollars per month, but it all adds up of course for the website miner if they can get multiple visitors ‘donating’ their CPU.

Sophos Senior Technologies Paul Ducklin is calling out the practice. ‘Here at Sophos we don’t agree with the subterfuge,’ he says. ‘We are calling it parasite-ware. The donating CPU may not be actually damaged and the energy costs next to minimal in most cases, but it is permission-less and therefore unacceptable.’

Ducklin compared it to an employee driving to a restaurant for lunch and the loaning the company car to a stranger to run around the corner to get groceries. ‘They might not use much petrol, there may be little or no wear on the actual car, but it’s not really on, is it?’

Ducklin has a point, especially as the software exploded over the internet in a number of ways. He did a trawl of URLs that installed the CoinHive and could find very little to connect or unify them. ‘None of the big brands did it of course, but there was a strange mixture of websites that did not exhibit any patterns I could detect.’

Of course, an auxiliary action happened when hackers took to the idea. The actual mining key for the destination money is anonymous and impossible to trace, so many websites were actually hacked, the software installed without the permission or even awareness of the owner and funds trafficked that way.

‘It could also be an employee of a company that decided that this was a cool way of earning some extra free money,’ said Ducklin. ‘There was a high profile case of in Australia where an employee decided the rendering macs used for cartoons for a broadcasting station were idle and could be used for this purpose. In this case the costs were high and discovered as a result.’

‘I’m not sure if he was fired or not,’ says Ducklin, ‘but it certainly shows up how the Coinhive app spread – a mixture of website owners feeling it was okay, employees thinking it was a good idea or hackers trawling through stickie sites looking for extra income.’

The popularity of the Coinhive app was driven by the rise in alt coins generally. Maybe the slow down in price might relax the speed of adoption. ‘We posted graphs on our blog which showed the rise in price of Monera and alt coins in general and the speed of adoption,’ says Ducklin. ‘It was fast and furious.’

Coinhive went public via Pirate Bay, a site offering fast download speeds. It decided that rather than pester its clientbase with advertising, it would simply borrow its extra CPU power. When it went public, all hell broke loose with many complaints.

‘Pirate Bay, like the name, has an irregular reputation. But it did two things. It alerted people to the Coinhive app and it also called out the position on whether it was victimless or not, and if switching unwanted advertising with possibly unwanted CPU approbation was okay,’ Ducklin says.

To actually make money mining Monero the minder would need multiple visitors all spending at least ten minutes on their sites. ‘But I guess if the miner was making small money from each visitor it would seem like harmless appropriation of their CPU,’ he says.

Coinhive suggested that miners tune down how much of the visiting CPU they were borrowing but in many cases this was not done resulting in very angry visitors watching their computer totally slow down or stop. For the most part the public feeling is that stealing even unused CPU is not on, at least not without permission.

‘On the plus side, this may be a wakeup call to the Advertising industry,’ suggests Ducklin. ‘No one wants click bait, auto play videos with sound and popups. This might make the clever folk that work in that industry come up with some other form of advertising.

‘In the interim, we here at Sophos are blocking it. If you want to give away your CPU to strangers then at least give permission,’ he says.

He is not alone with other antivirus companies such as Malwarebytes doing similar. In an article in TheRegister, Malwarebytes said Coinhive was the second-most-commonly blocked domain by its users, with 130 million users expressing their disdain for the technology.

The publication quoted Adam Kuiawa, director of Malwarebytes as saying: “We do not claim that Coin Hive is malicious, or even necessarily a bad idea. The concept of allowing folks to opt-in for an alternative to advertising, which has been plagued by everything from fake news to malvertising, is a noble one. The execution of it is another story.”

A case of visitor beware.

As Ducklin pointed out, some sites claimed the mining was a genuine alternative to advertising.  Ýet they still ran ads,’ he says. ’A question of having your cake and eating it.’

Since speaking with Sophos, Coinhive has responded to media interest and in a blog on their website confirmed they have released a new version of the software called AurthMine which insists on asking the client PC if they will allow the mining. This is good and bad in parts as the original, non-authorised version is still available allowing the host website to decide if they are going to be naughty or nice this Christmas. Given the projected income from the Coinhive craze to the owners of Coinhive is sizable it might be fair to assume those nice anonymous German programmers are playing both sides of the fence.