Cryptocurrency News: Are FTX And Alameda Research Merging Or Not?

Dhanisa Mashilfa

Cryptocurrency News: Try as they might, Bitcoin and Ethereum won’t be ending the week on a high note. The two largest cryptocurrencies bounced in the early market hours but quickly dropped with the broader indexes following Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s hawkish comments. In cryptocurrency investments, Web3 projects continue to rake in funding. Development platform Thirdweb raised $24 million at a $160 million valuation. And there’s contradicting reports whether crypto exchange FTX is absorbing the VC arm of its sister company Alameda Research.




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Cryptocurrency Price Action

Bitcoin hit $21,800 before Friday’s market open, but plummeted to $20,728 by the closing bell. BTC passed $25,000 on August 18 but since tumbled on missed retail sales, Federal Reserve plans to continue rate hikes and central bank discussions over crypto risk and regulation. But the world’s largest cryptocurrency is down roughly 53% so far this year. It gained 16.8% in July, it’s best monthly performance since October 2021, and is up two of the past three days. Still, the latest dips continue to cut into Bitcoin’s rebound.

Ethereum also dropped to $1,561 by the afternoon after climbing to $1,721 Friday morning. Ethereum fell from $1,643 over the weekend but has steadily recovered from Monday’s low of $1,565 . ETH  hit $2,000 last week – it’s highest level since late May – after successfully transitioning its Goerli network to proof-of-stake earlier this month. Goerli marked the final test network before the official merge to a PoS blockchain, which was expedited to September 15. But the price of Ethereum has fallen along with the recent dip in the broader crypto markets.

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Note: MicroStrategy is a software company that converts its cash into Bitcoin and heavily invests in cryptocurrency. Former CEO and Board Chairman Michael Saylor claims MSTR stock is essentially a Bitcoin spot ETF.

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Are They Tying The Knot Or Not?

Bloomberg reported Thursday afternoon that crypto exchange FTX would absorb the VC operations of its sister company, Alameda Research. Both are owned by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, who allegedly wanted to consolidate his empire while cryptocurrencies work on rebounding.

Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison outlined the changes in an interview with Bloomberg. And Amy Wu, head of FTX’s $2 billion startup VC arm, FTX Ventures, told the news outlet that the transition began in January. No money changed hands between FTX and Alameda but venture investing is now completely concentrated under FTX Ventures, Bloomberg reported. The exchange, venture arm and Alameda are all independent from each other and, “all three are operating completely as separate entities,” Wu told Bloomberg.

But contradicting statements quickly emerged, with Bankman-Fried and Wu both denying the reports. Bankman-Fried tweeted, “this seems like a big misrepresentation to me! FTX has been doing more venture recently, and I guess maybe Alameda has been doing less? That’s a really different thing than what the headline implies!”

And Wu told CoinDesk via Telegram that, “the two entities, Alameda and FTX Ventures, did not merge. Sam decided to launch FTX Ventures as a new fund and investment strategy [at the] beginning of the year because we felt there was a great opportunity to support entrepreneurs in the space our own way.”

Thirdweb raises $24M from Haun Ventures, Coinbase and Shopify

Web3 platform development company Thirdweb raised $24 million in a funding round that included Haun Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, Shopify, Polygon and Protocol Labs.

Thirdweb makes software development kits for web3 apps, blockchain games, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and NFTs. It was founded in 2021 and received $5 million in a seed round that included investors Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Thirdweb says it has over 55,000 developers and has deployed 200,000 contracts across multiple chains. The company claims that active contracts deployed with its tools has jumped more than 110% since May and that Thirdweb projects have generated $7.5 million in revenue in the last 90 days. The Series A round gives Thirdweb a $160 million valuation.


Earlier Crypto News


Bitcoin ATM Operator Going Public

Georgia-based Bitcoin Depot, which operates over 7,000 Bitcoin ATMs and Kiosks in the U.S. and Canada, is set to go public via a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, deal with GSR II Meteora Acquisition Corp.GSRM. The companies will merge under the name Bitcoin Depot Inc. and trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker BTM. The merged company is valued at $885 million, according to the press release.

Bitcoin Depot’s ATMs are located in zip codes containing over 40% of the U.S. population, the company says. And its BDCheckout service, which allows users to deposit cash into their accounts at checkout counters, is available at more than 8,000 retailers.

Bitcoin Depot has recorded $1.2 billion in transaction volume since it began operating in 2016. Over the last 12 months as of June 30, Bitcoin Depot recorded $623 million in revenue and $6 million in net income, with an adjusted EBITDA of $38 million, the company says.

Mastercard and Binance Rolling Out Crypto Card

Mastercard and crypto exchange Binance have teamed up on a prepaid cryptocurrency card that they’re rolling out in Argentina, Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach announced on Wednesday. The Binance Card will allow users to make purchases and pay bills with cryptocurrencies at over 90 million Mastercard merchants worldwide.

The partnership was first announced on August 4 when the card was in the “beta” phase. It will begin rolling out in Argentina with plans to expand from there.

“We can unlock the full potential of blockchain technology when we make it easier to access + easier to use,” Miebach wrote in a LinkedIn post. “One way we do that is by bringing crypto to everyday purchases.”

Binance cardholders will be able to manage their cards through the dashboard on the Binance app and website, as well as view transaction history and access customer support.

Texas Mining

Texas is quickly becoming a major cryptocurrency mining hub after China banned such operations earlier this year. Miners are flocking to the Lone Star State for its supply of cheap, loosely-regulated energy, the Comptroller’s office said in its latest newsletter.

So far there are at least 27 major bitcoin mining operations in Texas, but there could be more as they’re not required to register with the State.

Crypto mining consumes a massive amount of energy. Texas officials predict mining operations could demand as much energy as the city of Houston by 2030. Miners currently use about 3,000 megawatts of energy per day, or about 4% of peak demand on Texas’ hottest days, experts estimate. And The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) projects mining operations could hit 17,000 MWs by 2030.

“With mining, we could see demand growing quite a bit faster than in the past, which presents challenges because we can only build power plants and transmission lines and substations so fast,” says Joshua Rhodes of the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas Austin.

But the Comptroller’s office believes mining offers a potentially beneficial, symbiotic relationship between power usage and generation.

ERCOT offers incentives for participating in demand response programs, to shut down or reduce operations when demand is high. And economic theory suggests increased mining activity could spur business investments in energy infrastructure, the newsletter argues.

Blockchain Hackers Getting Bolder

Cyber attacks targeting blockchain projects are on the rise this year, according to IT security consultancy firm The SecOps Group. Just three hacks have stolen nearly $1 billion in 2022. So far, $2.1 billion in crypto funds have been stolen in 2022 according to the REKT Database. And that doesn’t include the $40 billion LUNA implosion.

There are two main methods of successful hacks, Cambridge-based SecOps says. The first relies on social engineering tricks such as phishing scams. The other focuses on exploiting vulnerabilities in the blockchain technology itself.

A few of the largest hacks this year:

Solana Wallets Hack – $7 million stolen

Solana, a blockchain platform for web3 apps, experienced an attack on its wallets on August 3. A flaw in the wallet software compromised users’ private key information, which links users to their blockchain address. It resulted in more than 7,000 wallets being drained of $7 million in SOL tokens.

Nomad Hack – $190 million

In August, nearly $200 million was stolen from Nomad, a cross-bridge service that allows people to trade cryptocurrencies between blockchains. Hackers exploited the code to edit transaction data, allowing them to withdraw funds without validating the amount in their accounts. Copycat hackers copied the exploit and just had to change the transaction destination to their wallet.

Axie Infinity Ronin Bridge – $625 million

The largest crypto heist to date took place back in March on the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, which is deployed on Ethereum. An Axie developer clicked on a fake job offer which gave hackers control of four of the nine cryptographic keys that secured the game’s cross-bridge with Ronin. Majority control of the cross-chain allowed the hackers to steal the funds.

Wormhole Cross-Chain Bridge Hack – $325 million

Wormhole is a bridge between Ethereum and Solana that allows users to transfer tokens between the two networks. A hacker exploited smart contracts on the bridge to mint and cash out wrapped Ether (wETH, the token used for trading ethereum for cryptocurrencies on other networks) without collateral. The hack allowed them to steal $320 million in ETH and SOL tokens.

Coinbase CEO Predicts Crypto Winter Will Continue

Brian Armstrong, CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, expects the current digital asset bear market will last for 12 to 18 months but could go on longer, he told CNBC in an interview. Crypto bear markets aren’t unusual, he says. “We’ve been through four cycles like this as a company. We’re only 10 years old. This one just happens to coincide with the broader macro environment coming down,” Armstrong said.

He told CNBC Coinbase is looking for ways to cut costs and marketing, external vendors and Amazon Web Services expenses are the first on the chopping block. Back in June, the company had to let go of 18% of its workforce after a spree of over-hiring.

Armstrong also said he wants to reduce Coinbase’s reliance on trading fees. He wants 50% of revenue or more coming from subscription and service fees, which accounted for 18% of revenue in the second quarter.

Metaverse Avatar Maker Raises $56M From a16z, Celebrity Investors

Ready Player Me, a creator of avatars for the metaverse, has raised $56 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Kevin Hart and social media influencers the D’Amelio family.

Ready Player Me develops personalized, 3-D avatars for use in multiple virtual worlds and video games. The company’s goal is to connect the metaverse through avatars, where players have one individual identity across all of their various forms of online entertainment. Kind of like in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Ready Player One.

a16z’ s GAMES FUND ONE and a16z crypto both participated in the round. Other participants include Roblox co-founder David Baszucki, Twitch co-founder Robin Chan, as well as Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat Ventures and the D’Amelio family.

Digital Asset Funds Roundup

Digital asset investments saw minor outflows totaling $9 million last week, according to CoinShares weekly fund flows report. There was little investor activity as volume only hit $1 billion, which is 55% off the average and second lowest for this year.

Investors have a slightly bearish view of bitcoin, which had its third consecutive week of outflows totaling $15 million. Meanwhile, things have turned around for Ethereum, which had $3 million poured into its investment products last week. Ethereum had $459 million in outflows from the beginning of the year through mid-June. But since that point, ETH has had 9 straight weeks of inflows totaling $162 million with its merge to a proof-of-stake consensus drawing closer.

FDIC Issues Cease And Desist To Crypto Firms

On Friday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission sent cease-and-desist letters to five crypto companies regarding misleading statements about FDIC deposit insurance.

The FDIC says the companies falsely stated or suggested that certain crypto products and stocks held in brokerage accounts were FDIC-insured on their websites and social media feeds. The companies included FTX US, Cryptonews.com, SmartAsset.com, Cryptosec.info and FDICCrypto.com.

It’s illegal to imply uninsured products have FDIC protection as well as misrepresent the extent and manner of deposit insurance, the commission says. The FDI Act also prohibits companies from implying their products are insured by using FDIC in company names or advertising.

Following the letters, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tweeted, “Clear communication is really important; sorry! FTX does not have FDIC insurance (and we’ve never said so on website etc.); banks we work with do. We never meant otherwise, and we apologize if anyone misinterpreted it.”

NFT Collateral Collapse

Millions of dollars of Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks and CloneX NFTs risk liquidation as BendDAO faces a debt crisis. BendDAO is a peer-to-peer lending service that allows users to borrow Ethereum against their non-fungible tokens.

Loans are typically 30% to 40% of a NFT collection’s floor price, or the minimum purchase price on the open market, and customers put up their NFTs as collateral. BendDAO calculates the health of the loan based on the floor price of an NFT collection and how much is still owed. If the floor price falls too close to the amount of the loan, it encroaches on a liquidation threshold and BendDAO will auction the NFT to recoup the debt.

BendDAO will automatically put collateralized NFTs up for auction if their “health factor” falls below 1.2, and could liquidate them completely if it falls below 1. In that scenario, borrowers have 48 hours to repay their loans or risk losing their NFTs. And it’s starting to play out.

The price of Bored Ape NFTs fell below 70 ETH in August from about 153 in May.  Some crypto analysts estimate there are roughly $55 million worth of NFTs at risk of liquidation. Currently, there are dozens of Bored Apes, Mutant Apes and CloneX NFTs that have health factors under 1.2, according to BendDAO’s auction page. But a majority that defaulted have no bids. As things stand, NFT borrowers will need to pay 100% interest on their loaned ETH. And BendDAO is deciding on changing its terms to incentivize bids and make it easier to sell the defaulted NFTs.

Ethermine Ends Mining

Ethermine, the largest ethereum mining pool, will phase out operations with the company’s transition to a proof-of-stake consensus. The pool announced that it will no longer be possible to mine ethereum once the merge is completed on September 15 and the pool will switch to withdrawal-only mode to payout miners. Bitfly, which operates Ethermine, will not support any proof-of-work fork for the ethereum merge and recommends miners join another one of its pools, according to the company announcement.

FTX Revenue Up 1,000%

FTX thrived during the onset of the crypto winter while so many projects are still struggling to survive. The cryptocurrency exchange’s revenue skyrocketed more than 1,000% in 2021, according to internal financial documents obtained by CNBC. FTX’s revenue grew to $1.02 billion last year from $89 million in 2020, and net income grew to $388 million from $17 million during the period.

FTX recorded $270 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2022 and is on track to hit $1.1 billion for the year. CEO Sam Bankman-Fried confirmed the numbers on Twitter, saying they’re in the “correct ballpark.”

Meanwhile, other crypto exchanges have faced heavy losses from the falling price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Coinbase recently posted a $1.1 billion loss for its second quarter, compared to $1.6 billion in net income the year prior.

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