FTT Update: Seems Reasonable

Hi all, Julie here. Very much glad that it is Friday. Tomorrow I'm heading to Washington Heights to grab an outdoor brunch with some of the incredible middle and high school girls that I mentor from Operation Exodus. We've been virtual for a year now and it's going to be so nice to see them in person! If anyone has volunteer groups in Austin that they'd recommend, please let me know :)


The News

NFTs

On Sunday, my husband/head of partnerships Jordan is writing a piece on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) because this story is wild. Before late last year, Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, had never sold a print for more than $100. If you added a few zeros to the end and then doubled that price, you would still be a far cry away from the amount his NFT sold for at Christie’s this month. 

A NFT of his work sold for $69M, making him one of the three most valuable living artists. NFTs are unique files that live on a blockchain and are able to verify ownership of digital items - it does not necessarily have to be art. So instead of hanging up a Renoir in your Upper East Side mansion, you can have a jpeg stored in your crypto wallet. Not sure I’d be game to spend my hard earned cash on that, but who am I to judge? Guess the hope is to resell it later for a nice markup. Do I hear $70M anyone? Allegedly it was a crypto investor in Singapore that bought the token for $69M. 

Anyways, Beeple believes this is a wave of the future, telling The Verge he sees this “as the next chapter of art history,” adding that “now there is a way to collect digital art.” To read more about this phenomenon and how one even goes about creating an NFT, check out Jordan’s piece on Sunday for FTT+ subscribers

BlockFi's New Round

Cryptocurrency player BlockFi has hit a $3B valuation off the back of a $350M funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures, partners of DST Global, Pomp Investments, and Tiger Global.

The 4-year-old startup BlockFi is working to build a bridge between cryptocurrencies and traditional financial and wealth management products, a space we’ve seen grow as of late. 

The company said that since the end of 2019, it has seen its client base grow from 10,000 to more than 225,000, with monthly revenue currently exceeding $50M, and more than $15B in assets on its platform. Today on BlockFi, users can earn yield on digital assets, buy and sell digital assets directly, and get US dollar loans secured by the value of digital assets on the platform. The new funding will go towards rolling out even more products. 

Plaid x Codat

Small and medium sized businesses across the world are continuing to struggle even as economies begin to reopen. A partnership that Plaid and UK based Codat announced this week is meant to aid in their recovery. Plaid will be working with Codat, an API for business accounting, POS, and commerce data, as a way to help these small businesses manage their finances and cash flows more efficiently. It will also allow users to streamline their loan application process and ideally get approved for funding more rapidly. Hopefully solutions like this make businesses even stronger on the other side of this pandemic. 

New DC Fintech Group

New administration, new groups to focus on policies in Washington DC. Say hello to The Financial Technology Association (FTA), a new trade group formed by founding members like Afterpay, Betterment, Brex, Carta, Figure, Marqeta, Quadpay, Plaid, Ribbit Capital, Wise and Zest AI. Some of the priorities of the group include protecting consumers and promoting financial literacy, fair financial services to all consumers, upgrading financial infrastructure and healthy competition. The group’s initial paper argues that fintech companies are working towards a number of these goals and are an important piece of our financial system. More information can be found here

Binance Probe

Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange, is being investigated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) over concerns that it allowed Americans to place wagers that violated U.S. rules, according to Bloomberg. The government regulator is trying to determine whether Binance allowed U.S. residents to buy and sell derivatives that the regulator polices. Binanance co-founder Changpeng Zhao said the company closely follows American rules and has strong controls to prevent its customers from laundering funds. 

Some people believe that regulators are going to crack down on the space in the coming months as it becomes a larger area of focus. Part of the reason for the delay has simply been trying to figure out which agency should regulate them. The CFTC, for instance, considers virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ether to be commodities and claims jurisdiction over their futures and other derivatives.


Community Highlights

On Wednesday, March 17th, Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures and Will Quist of Slow Ventures are teaming up for a virtual conversation on the importance of mission-driven companies: The Value of Values

Where on the value chain, if at all, do a company's values impact consumer choice? Are mission-driven and impact-oriented companies advantaged in attracting and retaining top talent? What about investors – do they agree that values-oriented businesses are better businesses? Additional speakers include: 

The event will run from 11:00am-12:30pm PT / 2:00pm-3:30pm ET. Click here to register!


Julie VerHage-Greenberg is the co-founder of Fintech Today, where she focuses on editorial content and brand. Prior to joining, she was Bloomberg’s first fintech reporter, covering Robinhood from before it was a billion dollar company, breaking the news that Plaid was acquiring Quovo, and interviewing executives on Bloomberg TV and at several large conferences.

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