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Employers Can Now Pay Salaries in Ether Via Crypto Startup Bitwage



Bitwage, a startup that helps companies pay their employees in cryptocurrency, has added ether as a payroll option.

Announced Monday, companies that want to offer tax and HR-compliant ether benefits can sign up to offer it as a benefit to employees.

The company has been providing direct deposits of bitcoin since 2014, and serves over 30,000 workers. Employees, freelancers and independent contractors can receive from their clients or employers any percentage of their fiat obligations due to them in crypto.

The company has experimented with the ethereum ecosystem since 2017, including launching the consulting services firm Inwage, which built several projects on the second-largest blockchain. This includes the Moria initial coin offering, which raised $50 million, and a pilot project for a major insurance company that leverages ethereum for audit trail capabilities. 

But adding ether to Bitwage’s main offering took a lot of behind the scenes work… because the whole system was optimized for BTC,” a company representative told CoinDesk. “It’s just a matter of now having gotten the infrastructure to add it.” 

When Bitwage was founded five years ago, CEO Johnathan Chester realized that merchants were already accepting bitcoin, but there was no way for employees to get paid in it as well.

“Our goal was to close the financial loop,” Chester said in a statement. The company currently processes $2.5 million in monthly volume for contractors and full-time employees.

Bitwage provides two payment services, direct deposit – in which employees have part of their salaries sent to the company to be exchanged for crypto automatically through dollar cost averaging – as well as team wages, where Bitwage provides companywide payroll services. Team wage contracts are primarily provided for companies that may want to pay hundreds of contract employees spread across the globe with just one payment, the representative said.

Though the company makes a spread on the exchange, there is no fee for the basic service. There is also a premium version, which provides payments sooner and costs $15.99 per month.

Square offers a similar service where an employee’s direct deposit goes to the payments platform, but the employee has to manually swap it for bitcoin. Coinbase allows automatic monthly purchases of crypto out of a customer’s bank account.

Several blue-chip companies have employees that use Bitwage to automatically convert their cash salaries into crypto including Amazon, Google, and Apple. Additionally, many gig workers for Uber, Caviar, and Doordash utilize the services, according to the representative.

Bitwage clients can have up to two payments distributions per pay period in either fiat or crypto as a non-premium user, or three for premium. 

The company has received around $1 million in total funding from such investors as Draper Associates, Candela Reach Capital, and BPI France.

Check image via ShutterStock

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US Realtors Association Invests in Blockchain Startup Propy




The venture capital arm of the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR) has bought a stake in blockchain-based real estate startup Propy.

Second Century Ventures – NAR’s real estate technology VC fund – invested an undisclosed amount in Propy via its REACH accelerator program, according to a press release sent to CoinDesk on Monday.

Propy allows users to transact real estate online, recording the deals on a blockchain, as well as with traditional methods. It previously raised $15,5 million via an initial coin offering in 2017, according to Crunchbase.

Its blockchain-powered platform connects real estate buyers, sellers, and brokers allowing them to close property deals in a paperless, online process. Propy also provides real estate agent tools, including DocuSign and other security features, to help ensure security risks, such as wire fraud, are lowered.

The firm has previously helped auction a 17th century Italian mansion on a blockchain, partnering with Beverly Hills real estate brokerage Hilton & Hyland last May to sell part of the Palazzo Albertoni Spinola, which dates back to between 1580 and 1616.

It’s also helped TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington purchase a $60,000 apartment in Kiev using ethereum and smart contracts to settle the deal.

Speaking of the investment, Propy CEO Natalia Karayaneva said:

“We believe Propy is at the forefront of bringing automation and blockchain to real estate with its easy-to-use platform for agents, buyers, and sellers. Working with Second Century Ventures (SCV) and NAR executives will help achieving adoption of our products. We look forward to the next chapter in order to better our business tactics and goals at Propy.”

NAR is the largest real estate trade association in the U.S., with 1.3 million members across the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Toy houses image via Shutterstock

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Retail Giant Target Is Working on a Blockchain for Supply Chains




Retail giant Target has been quietly working on a blockchain-powered solution for supply chain management.

According to the company’s own corporate blog, it recently open sourced the project as a blockchain solution for suppliers certification, dubbed ConsenSource. It’s also pledged to support the Hyperledger Grid project, a supply chain framework that earlier saw the participation from Cargill, one of Target’s suppliers, together with Intel and Bitwise IO.

“I’m proud that Target will support the Hyperledger Grid project, and that we’re committing dedicated engineering resources to build out components in the Grid architecture!” Joel Crabb, Target’s vice president of architecture, said in the blog post.

The post revealed that Minnesota-based retailer has been working on a blockchain proof-of-concept since mid-2018. The project was primarily focused on the certification of suppliers for the company’s own paper manufacturing. Target has been “working directly with the forest managers and certification boards” studying the technology and trying to figure out what data can be shared on a distributed ledger, Crabb wrote.

The exploration led to Target recognize the benefits of open-source projects – and even joining some.

The blog reads:

“Many companies – including Target – see the most potential for enterprise blockchain initiatives as open source. Open-source projects require all participating parties to define the governance model collectively from the outset, so companies then can focus their time working on blockchain-based solutions that will lead to greater speed, transparency and cost savings.”

To boost the DLT-related work, Target is now looking for a blockchain engineer and systems developer, according to the company’s career page. The new engineer will be contributing to the recently open-sourced ConsenSource and to Hyperledger Grid, developing “distributed ledger systems, protocols, smart contracts, CLI’s, and RESTful APIs in an open source environment,” the job posting says.

Target did not respond to CoinDesk’s requests for comments by press time.

A secret Hyperledger member

Earlier this year, CoinDesk learned from a source within Hyperledger that Target – the eighth-largest retailer in the U.S. – had been working on a supply chain product under the umbrella of the open-source Hyperledger consortium.

The source, who did not want to be identified, said Target had joined the Sawtooth Supply Chain project, which is developing a distributed application to track the provenance of food and other assets using the Sawtooth implementation of Hyperledger.

Target, however, has largely stayed under the radar with regard to its blockchain initiatives. The company hired Aarthi Srinivasan – who has previously worked at JPMorgan and IBM, among others – as its director of product management for personalization, machine learning and blockchain, in 2016.

While it is still in the development phase and far from reaching production, the Sawtooth Supply Chain has been a hotbed of coding activity, with more than 5,000 commits from 46 contributors on GitHub. According to the ConsenSource’s GitHub repository, the project uses the Sawtooth code.

Among Target’s notable moves has been incorporating identity verification technology from another Hyperledger project called Indy. Cargill, the food production giant, is also known to be involved in the supply chain project.

The Sawtooth codebase, which was contributed to Hyperledger by Intel, is the main alternative to Fabric, the best-known Hyperledger implementation, developed by IBM. Fabric is already being used in food tracking on a network called Food Trust – a project spearheaded by IBM and Target’s big-box rival, Walmart.

Hyperledger didn’t comment on Target’s participation at press time.

Target image via Shutterstock

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Zilliqa Passes ‘Milestone’ With Addition of Smart Contracts to Its Blockchain




“Next-generation” cryptocurrency Zilliqa has announced the launch of smart contracts on its platform.

In an announcement sent to CoinDesk, Zilliqa president and chief scientific officer Amrit Kumar said passing the “milestone” means the project has “developed the technology we envisioned two years ago, and now, we are open for business.”

Following the launch, developers will now be able to write and deploy smart contracts on the Zilliqa blockchain with the project’s functional smart contract language, Scilla.

“With this, we’ve come to realise our vision of a better smart contract language, one built with greater security guarantees at the language level,” claimed Kumar.

The Singapore-based crypto platform presents itself as solving the common blockchain hurdle of scalability through sharding, an efficiency-boosting technique that predates bitcoin but has yet to prove its viability in big permissionless networks. The team claimed in its white paper in 2017 that “at ethereum’s present network size of 30,000 miners, Zilliqa would expect to process about [1,000] times the transaction rates of ethereum.”

Over the last six months, Zilliqa has passed other milestones, launching its mainnet and enabling transactions, Kumar said. According to CoinMarketCap data, its zilliqa (ZIL) token passed the $1 billion market cap threshold last May. At press time, that stands at around $1.9 billion.

Among the core features offered by Zilliqa’s smart contracts, Kumar listed that they are amenable to formal verification and come with a suite of static analyzers that help spot potential bugs and issues in contracts. Further, the Scilla language is designed to handle different operational components, such as computation and communication with other contracts, in a “clean manner,” eliminating complex interleaving.

“This can prevent incidents like the DAO and the Parity hacks,” Kumar said.

Scilla also comes with a suite of standard libraries, such as one that performs arithmetic operations in a “safe manner,” removing the need to rely on external libraries.

Zilliqa flag image via Shutterstock

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