Over Labor Day weekend (Sept 2017), needing a break from my startup Harvey, I had the choice of binge watching Narcos 3 on Netflix or taking a deep dive into cryptocurrencies. Since learning about the impressive $100M fundraise by Coinbase at a $1.6B valuation, I was been eager to understand their product suite a little better and discover where there might be a new income opportunities, so I jumped in and went deep.
Gemini is a fully registered, New York-based exchange that holds the status as being a NY state limited liability Trust. Its USP is its auctions, which are held twice a day and function pretty much like the auctions on major stock exchanges. Gemini operates in a similar space to Coinbase as it allows users to withdraw and deposit directly to and from their bank accounts. Although it serves a relatively small number of countries, the trust gives investors a bit more confidence compared to other entities in the cryptocurrency space. For a more in depth catch look at Gemini's exchange, read my review.
An initial coin offering (ICO) is a controversial means of raising funds for a new cryptocurrency venture. An ICO may be used by startups with the intention of avoiding regulation. However, securities regulators in many jurisdictions, including in the U.S., and Canada have indicated that if a coin or token is an "investment contract" (e.g., under the Howey test, i.e., an investment of money with a reasonable expectation of profit based significantly on the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others), it is a security and is subject to securities regulation. In an ICO campaign, a percentage of the cryptocurrency (usually in the form of "tokens") is sold to early backers of the project in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies, often bitcoin or ether.
But, once again, be warned. Just because it's a digital currency doesn't mean you won't lose real cash money trading in it. And given that the current Bitcoin market is more volatile than a bag of plutonium nitrate, multi-explosive, sound seeking projectiles, you stand a very good chance to lose a lot of money, especially if this is your first foray into day trading. So unless you have cash to burn or you're already a grizzled day trading veteran, you might want to take one more look at mining after all.
Nor was it simply the deep pockets. At these prices, even smaller operators have been able to make real money running a few machines in home-based, under-the-radar mines. Take the 20-something Wenatchee man we’ll call “Benny”—he didn’t want to be identified—who last July bought three mining servers, set them up in his house (one in the master bedroom and two in the living room)—and began mining Ethereum, bitcoin’s closest cryptocurrency rival. As Ethereum climbed from $165 in July to nearly $1,200 in January, Benny had not only repaid his $7,000 investment but was making enough to pay his mortgage. As a side benefit, this winter, Benny’s power bill went down: The waste heat from the three churning servers kept the house at a toasty 78 degrees. “We actually have to open the windows,” he told me in January. His servers, meanwhile, pretty much run themselves—although, when he’s at work, clerking at a grocery, he monitors the machines, and the Ethereum price, on his phone. “It’s just basically free money,” Benny says. “All I have to do is wake up in the morning and make sure nothing crashed during the night.”
Speaking of the personal information, you need to know about a certain KYC and AML requirement before signing up. According to some recent regulatory frameworks, the governments have asked Bitcoin exchanges to follow certain identification procedures (just like those practiced by banks) where a user is required to submit their confidential information. These measures are taken to ensure that users do not use Bitcoin for anti-social activities such as money laundering, funding terrorism, drug trafficking, etc.
For all that potential, however, the basin’s nascent mining community was beset by the sort of troubles that you would have found in any other boomtown. Mining technology was still so new that the early operations were constantly crashing. There was a growing, often bitter competition for mining sites that had adequate power, and whose landlords didn’t flip out when the walls got “Swiss-cheesed” with ventilation holes. There was the constant fear of electrical overloads, as coin-crazed miners pushed power systems to the limit—as, for example, when one miner nearly torched an old laundromat in downtown Wenatchee.
Ethereum has recently created a new standard called the ERC721 token for tracking unique digital assets. One of the biggest use cases currently for such tokens are digital collectibles, as the infrastructure allows for people to prove ownership of scarce digital goods. Many games are currently being built using this technology, such as the overnight hit CryptoKitties, a game where you can collect and breed digital cats.
The second yellow rectangle on the charts marks the FBI’s announcement of the large btc confiscation. The prospect of an US law enforcement agency holding a large chunk of bitcoins spooked markets. The BTC/USD took a dive from 195.20 to a low of 152.49 on the news. But as can be seen on the chart, the spike lower was again used by investors to gabble up coins at a bargain.
Before you can find any blocks, however, your computer needs to go through a process called “building a DAG”. This DAG (short for “Directed Acyclic Graph”) is a large data structure (~1GB) required for mining, intended to prevent ASIC machines (“Application Specific Integrated Circuits”) from being mass manufactured for mining ether. Its goal is to protect miners like yourself so that you will only ever need your home computer to remain competitive. The DAG should take about 10 minutes to generate and as soon as it finishes, Geth will start mining automatically.
We recommend any groups handling large or important transactions to maintain a voluntary 24 hour waiting period on any ether deposited. In case the integrity of the network is at risk due to issues in the clients, we will endeavor to publish patches in a timely fashion to address the issues. We will endeavour to provide solutions within the voluntary 24 hour waiting period.