Nickel Research Centre

Nickel News Roundup - Week 11

17th March, 2022 

Market Overview:

Digital assets rose slightly but traded within a relatively tight range this week, amidst continuing global macroeconomic uncertainties.

  • Bitcoin spent the majority of the week trading between $37,800 and $39,650, before rallying on Wednesday and peaking around $41,320 early on Thursday
  • Bitcoin’s current price of $40,690 marks a 3.3% increase on last week
  • Ether performed similarly, spending the majority of the week trading between $2,525 and $2,595, before rallying back above $2,700 on Wednesday, hitting a weekly high of $2,781
  • Ether is currently priced at $2,754; a healthy 6% increase from last week
  • Total market capitalisation grew slightly to $1.81tn 
  • Total value locked in DeFi grew in line with Ether’s rise in value, to $76.5bn, according to industry analytics platform DeFi Pulse

General market uncertainty continued globally due to the war in Ukraine, but institutions demonstrated a continued appetite for digital asset investment. Three separate companies concluded funding rounds above $1bn valuation, the EU confirmed broad support for the industry by voting against a de facto Proof-of-Work consensus ban, and big names like Microsoft, American Express, HSBC, SoftBank, Temasek Holdings, and Three Arrows Capital all featured in the news this week.


What happened: Ethereum ecosystem developer Consensys valued at $7bn after Series D

How is this significant?
  • Consensys, a blockchain development company specialised in the Ethereum ecosystem, confirmed the successful conclusion of a $450m Series D raise this week, valuing the company at $7bn
  • Backers in this round included Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek holdings, tech giants Microsoft, Japanese financial group SoftBank, and billionaire Dan Loeb’s Third Point hedge fund
  • Consensys CEO (and Ethereum co-founder) Joseph Lubin described the fundraising process as “relatively easy”, indicating support for the broader Ethereum ecosystem from established institutions
  • According to a statement released announcing the raise, the company’s Metamask browser wallet currently has 30 million active monthly users, up more than 40% from 4 months ago
  • The company plans to increase their headcount to over 1,000, compared to a current employee base of around 700, as well as using the funding to further develop Metamask, and purchase Ether for their corporate treasury

What happened: Binance awarded exchange licences across multiple gulf state jurisdictions

How is this significant?
  • Binance, the world’s largest digital asset exchange, was granted a licence on Tuesday to conduct their business in Dubai—one day after being granted similar permission for Bahrain
  • Bahrain’s central bank accorded them “crypto asset service provider” status, whilst in Dubai they will be the first anchor in the Dubai World Trade Centre economic free zone
  • The moves are part of a wider push into the Middle East region by Binance, addressing demand in a region underserved by digital asset trading infrastructure
  • Binance identified Dubai as a “base for expansion into the region”, whilst representatives from Dubai said the licence was “symbolic of Dubai's confidence in the potential of this future economy driver—if introduced with prudence and legitimacy”

What happened: Crypto startup founded by ex-Diem employees valued above $1bn

How is this significant?
  • After Meta abandoned their long-planned Diem stablecoin project, several employees decided to launch their own digital asset startup; one which achieved a “unicorn” valuation within four months of founding
  • Aptos Inc. confirmed a $200m funding round including investment from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Three Arrows Capital, Tiger Global, Coinbase, FTX, and ex-a16z partner Katie Haun’s new crypto-focused VC
  • Whilst declining to share exact figures, chief executive Mo Shaikh did confirm a valuation above $1bn
  • Shaikh says the Aptos blockchain plans to build on the work that the team did during Diem’s development; “We did not feel right that something like this couldn’t make its way to market despite all the work that we had done”

What happened: Mark Zuckerberg confirms upcoming NFT integration into Instagram

How is this significant?
  • Speaking at the SXSW festival this week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that social media platform Instagram would be integrating NFT technology “in the near term”
  • Zuckerberg didn’t provide exact details, but did tease that it could include “the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, and hopefully over time be able to mint things within that environment”
  • This follows initial statements that Instagram was exploring the NFT space back in December, and aligns with parent company Meta’s overall vision of a metaverse featuring digital goods accessible across multiple platforms

What happened: Gauntlet joins digital asset unicorns club

How is this significant?
  • Gauntlet, a risk-modelling platform for crypto lending achieved a $1bn valuation this week, following a $24m Series B round
  • Co-founded by Tarun Chitra—a former employee of hedge fund billionaire David Shaw’s D.E. Shaw Research—the company features several major DeFi protocols (including Aave and Compound) as clients
  • Gauntlet essentially “stress tests” smart contracts and DeFi protocols “to help DeFi companies decide optimal lending and collateral levels”
  • Chitra said the company plans to use new funding to expand Gauntlet’s services across more different blockchains, as DeFi increasingly grows outside of its formative space on Ethereum

What happened: EU legislation confirms support for Proof-of-Work blockchains

How is this significant?
  • A late addition to the EU’s Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) bill that sought to impose “minimum environmental sustainability standards” was defeated on Tuesday
  • The new clause was seen as an updated version of a previous clause that called for an outright ban on Proof-of-Work (PoW) protocols—including Bitcoin—and would likely have resulted in a de facto ban on PoW within the EU
  • MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor said “Bitcoin won that vote…You need energy to create real property”, and EU lawmaker Markus Ferber called it a “clear signal” that the EU leans towards supporting the nascent digital asset industry; “If we want to foster innovation, we should be open for new technologies, not banning them”

What happened: Revolut executive departs company to found digital asset startup

How is this significant?
  • Alan Chang, chief revenue officer of popular UK e-bank Revolut, is founding his own digital asset startup, according to sources speaking to Bloomberg this week
  • He has already invested several million of his own money in the venture, and now seeks $100m of financing, “in exchange for future access to tokens”
  • As Revolut’s fifth-ever employee, he spent seven years at the company, helping grow it to a $33bn valuation, after investment from companies including SoftBank and Tiger Global
  • Chang can now be found as director of a company called Fuse Supply Limited on the Companies House website, although it isn’t clear whether this is (or will be the final name of) his digital asset company
  • On the same day as Bloomberg’s report, news also emerged that Citigroup’s co-heads of digital assets Greg Girasole and Alan Krete were leaving to launch their own crypto asset venture

What happened: American Express and HSBC become latest to enter metaverse race

How is this significant?
  • Two more major financial institutions joined JP Morgan’s recent foray into the metaverse this week, as AmEx and HSBC moved to establish a presence in blockchain-based virtual environments
  • HSBC became the first global banking institution to buy virtual real estate on popular metaverse platform The Sandbox (and the second overall, after Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank)
  • HSBC’s chief Asia-Pacific marketing officer, Suresh Balaji commented: “The metaverse is how people will experience Web3, the next generation of the Internet—using immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and extended reality… we see great potential to create new experiences through emerging platforms… we are making our foray into the metaverse, allowing us to create innovative brand experiences for new and existing customers”
  • Meanwhile, American Express were less vocal about their plans, but trademark filings showed the company wants to protect a host of its intellectual property across various metaverse platforms
  • An AmEx spokesperson told industry publication Coindesk that “American Express is always monitoring emerging technologies to see how they could benefit our customers, and the metaverse is a space we’re following… We have no plans to share at this time but are watching as this space evolves”
News Roundups