“Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” are among some of the most-searched terms in Google recently thanks to news of high profile celebrity backers. Most people don’t know much about digital currencies, yet they are growing in profile despite not being backed by a central bank.
In this article, we define blockchains and cryptocurrencies, so you better understand what the fuss is all about.
Defining Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies
Let’s start with the basics and explain what these two terms mean.
- Blockchains are essentially digital edgers where transactions in cryptocurrencies are recorded. It’s a form of technology that enables cryptocurrencies to exist in the first place. Think of it as a gigantic database where every single transaction is kept in chronological order. You don’t need to understand how it works if you’re interested in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, but it’s nice to get a general overview of what it implies.
- Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that utilize encryption techniques to regulate their value and also validate transfers safely. These cryptocurrencies are independent of banks and generated digitally. Two good examples of popular cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin and Ethereum. There are many different advantages to both the currencies, and their values fluctuate drastically over the years. Ethereum, for instance, was worth $10 per unit in 2017. Currently, they are quoted at around $800. Ripple is another popular cryptocurrency that has recently grown in popularity.
Now that you have a basic understanding of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, let’s see what the fuss is all about and why it’s making waves in the news.
Advantages of Cryptocurrencies
So why use cryptocurrencies over regular currency? Here are just a couple of the most popular advantages:
- Lower transaction fees. Unlike other currencies, there are lower fees involved when making payments with cryptocurrencies.
- Immediate transactions. Transactions happen faster when using cryptocurrencies unless a third-party is involved.
- No risk of fraud. Cryptocurrencies are digital and, unlike paper money, cannot be counterfeited.
- No risk of identity theft. Since your personal information isn’t required when making payments with cryptocurrencies (unlike credit and debit cards) you’re not at risk of identity theft.
- Decentralized currencies. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, which means that there isn’t a single source or authority that governs them.
- Universal use. Virtually every country can adopt cryptocurrencies because various rates like exchange rates do not bind them. They are exchanged wherever a cash system supports them.
Industries That Use Cryptocurrencies
As you might expect, cryptocurrencies are slowly becoming more mainstream and being used in all kinds of different industries.
One of the first industries to adopt the use of cryptocurrency is the technology industry. Early uses of cryptocurrencies involved being able to purchase goods on the internet or trade digital items and pay for services.
There are now many uses for cryptocurrency on the web, such as making donations with it or accepting crowdfunding payment.
Some car dealerships offer vehicles for BitCoins, and there are even some realtors that accept Bitcoin payments. With the use of BitCoin expanding so rapidly, don’t be surprised to see your local coffee shop offering goods for cryptocurrency in a few years or even months.
Here’s some information on two of the most popular cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and Etherum and why you should notice Ripple.
Bitcoin is the world’s first and top cryptocurrency that had gained popularity and a considerable increase in value. It was created in 2009 by a person under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Its main feature is that transactions can be made without the middle man – meaning that no banks are involved!
You can use Bitcoin to book hotels, pay for Xbox games, and buy furniture. But most of its hype has recently come from people trading it. In February 2018, the price per share was around $8207 which if you bought it then you’d be pleased as it is now $49,000+ a coin and we can only expect it to grow due to release of more development apps on its platform and ‘whale’ investors like Elon Musk.
Another reason why Bitcoin is impressive is that it is mined. A person (company or group) can mine Bitcoin through record-keeping and advanced math. This is how it works; when someone sends Bitcoin to someone else, the network records it and then records the other transactions and places them on a “block.”
Miners use powerful hardware and specialized software to convert the blocks into code sequences known as “hash.”
Bitcoin is ranked first because it started new concepts such as “decentralization” and “peer to peer trading.” We would see other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum use this concept to help users make apps and trade their currencies at a rate that’s faster than Bitcoin.
Ranked second on our list is Ethereum. Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is running on a public blockchain network. While Bitcoin and Ethereum are utterly different in technology, their most considerable distinction is their difference in capability and purpose.
Ethereum’s blockchain is used to run the program code for any decentralized application. Instead of miners obtaining Bitcoin, they receive Ether, the main currency that fuels the network.
Ethereum also has smart contracts, which acts like a self-ran computer program that automatically execute once specific guidelines are met. Since they are running on the blockchain, the code can run without downtime, third party interference, and censorship.
What makes Ethereum a top cryptocurrency is its ability to let startups create decentralized apps. They can receive funding from other Ether owners to help power their app without the long process of seeking a venture capitalist to invest in them. Ethereum priced in February 2018 at $857.70 a share, and lately, it’s passed $1800 a coin.
Ripple is the third top cryptocurrency on our list. Like other cryptos, Ripple has a distributed ledger network that allows users to help each other validate transactions.
Where Ripple excels is its transaction speed. On average, Bitcoin takes about 10 minutes to complete a transaction. Ripple can accomplish this task in under 60 seconds. Ripple is, therefore, more appealing to a mass market, used to a faster network when paying for purchases.
Ripple Labs currently develop ripple. As of now, they have 100 billion XRP available, as it is unable to be mined. Ripple’s price was $.73, making it the cheapest option on this list in February 2018, and while it’s the price has dropped it’s a popular currency with banks.
While other cryptos used for separating financial transactions from centralized banking, Ripple seems to do the opposite.
To conclude, we believe that each of these cryptocurrencies provides a lot of value to today’s current market. Not only are they bringing in new financial options for users, but their combined technology helps make transactions safer and faster. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how these cryptocurrencies will act as blockchain technology evolves.
Disclaimer: This article is informational only and not investment advice.
How To Prepare For The Next Wave of the Outbreak
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US warned that a second wave of the COVID-19 infection is inescapable and may cause more harm. The WHO also stated in March that COVID-19 is far from over and that a second wave is respectable.
With as many as 100,000 new cases reported since late May, the new wave may be upon us now. The global count of infected persons has exceeded 9 million, and COVID-19 deaths have crossed 480,000. The Director-General of WHO urged countries to be creative and pragmatic in finding solutions as they ease the lockdown restrictions and get back to business as usual amid the spread of infection.
The Second Wave
There has been a surge in new COVID-19 cases. On June 21 the WHO reported an increase in the global number of new COVID-19 infections. 183,020 new cases were reported mostly in South Asia, South America, and North America. Beijing recently reported 158 fresh cases.
In the US nearly 20,000 new cases were reported. India reported 15,968 new cases on June 23. There are also reports of new COVID-19 cases in Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. South Korea, which contained the virus in March, now records 40-50 new cases per day since late May. South Korea’s Director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the country is going through a second wave of the virus.
The WHO believes that the new cases could be a result of easing lockdowns and travel restrictions too early.
Currently, we don’t have a proven vaccine for COVID-19. The WHO is collaborating with pharmaceutical companies and research institutions to develop one. As of June 24 a total of 141 options were in various stages of development.
In a report by the WHO on June 24, 16 candidate vaccines are in the clinical evaluation stage. One of these is called ChAdOx1-S, and is already in phase 3 of clinical evaluation. It was developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The trials of the test vaccine will be conducted in July. More than 4,000 participants have enrolled for the trials in the UK.
Another 30,000 participants enrolled for the ChAdOx1-S trials in the US. Simultaneous trials will also be conducted in other parts of the world, including South Africa. Some of the other vaccine candidates are in phase 2 of clinical evaluations. These include Adenovirus Type 5 vector developed by CanSino Biological Inc. and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. Another of these is the LNP-encapsulated mRNA developed by Moderna and NIAID.
Scientists at the University of Oxford reported in early June that the Steroid dexamethasone reduces mortality rate in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. COVID-19 directly attacks cell linings in a patient’s airways and lungs.
Dexamethasone reduces the inflammation, thereby protecting the cells. Dexamethasone has also been used in Spain and the US to treat patients. The results from Spain and the US match the findings in the UK.
Currently, dexamethasone is only being administered to patients with severe COVID-19 under close clinical supervision. In response to the report from the University of Oxford, The Director-General of WHO urged countries to increase the production and distribution of dexamethasone.
Until a vaccine is tested and mass-produced coronavirus will remain a threat. Governments and individuals must prepare for the second and subsequent waves of COVID-19 infection. With the easing of lockdown measures and businesses reopening we must take additional precautions.
New cases of infection in Seoul were traced to nightclubs. In Germany, the fresh cases were tracked down to a slaughterhouse. Risks increase when people congregate and precautions are ignored. Governments must rethink preventive measures.
Many countries have chosen not to ease their lockdowns until a vaccine is found. As is usual in case of public measures, the effectiveness and success eventually come down to the actions of individuals. We must be mindful of our safety at all times.
One aspect of preparation is securing our supply chains. For millions of families worldwide, remittances are lifelines. Switch now to a reliable channel to send money online. Ensure that your family back home can cope with the economic situation throughout this difficult time.
About The Author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.
5 Must-Haves To Get Small Business Funding
Securing financing for your small business when it most needs it can be ‘make or break’. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to the volatility of poor trading conditions like a recession.
Even a minor dip in sales revenue can send a start-up or small business to the wall, and this is why lenders need to know their funds are in good hands. While the process to get a loan is stringent the positive is when you get the approval you know it’s due to have a robust business model.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of success with a lender. Here are some essential tasks that must work well for you before applying for business finance.
Well-Grounded Business Plan
Having a sound business plan is key to securing investment for your business. You need to make sure that you have a complete, realistic business plan that articulates every facet of your company. The executive summary must present what you do, who for and why it’s a great offering, so lenders are encouraged to delve deeper into the detail of the plan.
Improve Your Credit Score
If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a home loan or personal finance you’re already aware of the importance of a good credit score. The same conditions apply for companies they too must have a good business credit score – if not your options for finance from tier-one lenders, i.e. banks is limited.
Learn how your credit score is calculated and stay up-to-date with it so that you know if anything needs doing – like paying off business credit cards and other loans – before applying for new funding. If you’ve just started your business and it has no credit history, your credit score may be taken into account if you apply for a bank loan, so keep on top of that too.
Invest Your Own Cash
Putting some of your cash on the line is one way to increase your chance of success when applying for a business loan. Typically, lenders favor applicants who have at least a 25% equity stake in the company that they are applying on behalf of. And, being able to put some of your own money down will mean that you can borrow less and will start your business off in less debt.
Rent Your Premises
Purchasing an office building might seem tempting if you can, but lenders tend to prefer businesses that rent, rather than buy their workplace. This is because they prefer to see you investing your money into assets that are going to generate income for your business, such as equipment and inventory.
Of course, if you own commercial real estate and it earns an income, this investment is viewed favorably by lenders. Personal assets can be used as security for loans. Often small business owners need to use their assets like property as security to get a loan for their company.
Finally, don’t assume that you have better chances of getting a loan with bigger banks. Smaller, local banks may be more inclined to provide funding to small businesses in their community, and you’re more likely to get individual attention.
Similarly, you might have better luck avoiding the banks altogether and applying to a small business funding circle, including private investors like angel investors. This action does not relieve you from providing the fundamentals that show the health and potential of the business.
Every lender needs to earn a profit from their investment, and they will be thorough in their assessment of risk. The higher the risk, the higher the interest rate too.
Offering a slice of the business may also be another way of securing investment from private investors.
There is no need to shy away from seeking funding for your business when all you need to do is what you should have in the first place, a good credit rating, robust business plan and some skin in the game.
Key Considerations When Applying For A Merchant Account
As a merchant, deciding which credit card processing company to partner with can be a Make or Break issue. As such, the decision should be made with the utmost care.
Weighing profitability versus reputability can be a difficult process especially if one hasn’t dealt with finding a credit card processing company previously.
Unfortunately, poor quality companies are abundant, so choosing an appropriate company for your company’s needs will require thorough vetting and knowing exactly what your company’s needs are. There may be various pressures to choose quickly, but it is important to make thoughtful deliberations to avoid pitfalls.
High and Low-Risk Accounts
Hopefully, you already know whether you are designated as a high or low-risk merchant account. This makes a huge difference in the types and willingness of credit card processing companies to work with your company.
These accounts are typically well-established industries with a limited chargeback, low average ticket size, and low monthly processing totals. Because these industries are easy to predict and require limited investment from the company to process your totals, these accounts are very attractive to banks and processing companies. Because of how attractive these accounts are and how plentiful processing companies may be, they can become the target for poor quality companies
These accounts are typically in an industry that is highly regulated, a possible reputational risk, or e-commerce. These accounts often face a difficult time finding quality companies to work with because of their drawbacks. However, there are companies that specialize in high-risk industries and actively seek high-risk clients in specific industries.
Customer (Service) is King
These two account types seem to have opposite obstacles but it boils down to the same decision-making process. For a business to function efficiently it is important to work with a reliable company that can cater to your needs to ensure reliability in case of an issue and keep your costs low.
An ideal credit card processing company will have easily contacted customer service representatives and is willing to tailor service to your needs, saving you money.
Easily reached customer support is vital in case of an issue, being able to speak with someone immediately to resolve an issue will vastly change the experience if something was to occur.
Although making this one of the utmost priorities may seem unnecessary, in the event of an emergency this may be the only attribute that really matters at that moment.
So How Do They Get You
Unfortunately, some of these companies operate with some impunity which makes it difficult to find companies that are reputable. Some companies will employ shady business practices which make them seem inexpensive compared to the competition then overcharging higher than industry standards. Some of these shady practices might include:
- Undisclosed charges and fees masked by seemingly low rates
- Locking in the long term or non-cancellable contracts which may have outrageous termination fees or monthly/annual fees that change as time passes
- Non-disclosed information or a misleading website that makes an informed decision possible
Options that employ these tactics may try to undercut the competition while not disclosing all the important information before signing with a processing company.
Even if you are quite savvy, research, and read through the contract you may still be taken advantage of; there are many ways for companies to save money. This can be done with non-competitive rates, poor quality equipment or requiring the customer to purchase/lease the equipment, and low functioning or non-existent customer service.
What To Look For
Now that we can spot and avoid poor quality companies, it’s time to start identifying what an ideal company looks like:
- Flexibility: A provider that is willing to tailor service to provide only what is necessary with quality products and services is ideal.
- Communication: It is important to be able to get into contact with someone at a moment’s notice in case of an emergency or an issue.
- Price: The most important aspects of price are early termination fees and competitive rates. Strangely enough, if it’s a quality company, the rate is not the most important issue. They will probably save you money in other ways like providing great equipment or showing extreme visibility regarding fees.
As with anything, not very much of this is cut and dry. All companies fall on the sliding scale of quality, it’s just important to avoid over compromising and protect the integrity of your business. There are good options out there!
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