Welcome to our weekly Bitcoin news recap, where we cover top headlines and stories in the world of Bitcoin each week. This week we saw a huge spike in bitcoin transaction volume, as pointed out below by Blockchain’s co-founder Nic Cary. Also making big headlines this week was the U.S. government unsealing documents that revealed federal agents allegedly extorting and laundering bitcoins.
In other news, Bitcoin continues to makes waves all over the world, from Argentina all the way to Japan.
— Nic Cary (@niccary) April 1, 2015
New information in the Silk Road case is sending ripples through the cryptocurrency community as it reacts to a foiled effort by two US Federal Agents to skim thousands of Bitcoin out of Silk Road and Mt. Gox coffers.
Swiss banking giant UBS is to open a technology lab in London to explore how blockchain technology can be used in financial services. The lab, set to open this month and occupy a dozen desks at Canary Wharf-based fintech accelerator space Level39 – a hub in London for financial technology startups– will bring together technology experts from the bank and the wider fintech community, UBS said.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has taken note of the issues hindering partnerships between bitcoin businesses and banks. At a Brussels meeting with industry figures last Friday, the anti-money laundering policy maker proposed a risk-based approach that ensures every digital currency business is evaluated on an individual basis.
International payments cost companies a great deal of money and Bitcoin-related startup Align Commerce wants to change that. According to Marwan Forzley, CEO and Founder of Align Commerce, “businesses spend over $50 billion on wire and foreign exchange fees,” and his startup hopes to change that by using the Bitcoin blockchain as intermediary instead of the current, inefficient legacy systems in place now.
Founded in 1997 Rakuten quickly become an internet pioneer in its homeland of Japan. The company runs the fourth largest e-commerce business, trailing only behind Alibaba, eBay and Amazon. The e-commerce website has gone beyond many companies in the US that have accepted bitcoin in the past, by adding multi-signature transactions for high-value items.
Many Japanese may be skeptical about the encrypted currency bitcoin, but a Singapore-based venture sees a big opportunity in fostering a Bitcoin market in Japan. “When we thought about it, Japan is the third-biggest economy in the world, huge economy, huge market . . . nobody was really tapping that market from a Bitcoin perspective” Mario Gomez Lozada, CEO of Quoine Pte Ltd., said during a recent interview in Tokyo.
Due to Argentina’s recurring inflation crisis, capital controls, and overall financial repression, it’s become a staple opinion in Bitcoin circles to predict that the country is set for a cryptocurrency boom. Actually, Argentina is very far from widespread bitcoin adoption. However, a lot of Argentinians have heard about bitcoin through the media, and they are perhaps more willing than others in Latin America to try it out.
In Kenya’s start-up scene, Bitcoin is all the rage. Kenyan companies have been attracting funding lately to build cheap Bitcoin-based remittance services that some think could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go.[Bitcoin Gathers Massive Support From Investors in India](http://www.newsbtc.com/2015/04/03/bitcoin-gathers-massive-support-from-investors-in-india/)
Indian investors are jumping on the Bitcoin bandwagon and are looking for potential startups to invest in, understanding that the cryptocurrency may well become a norm in the future. Angel investors and VC-backed funds have been approaching lawyers, experts and start-ups ever since the Bitcoin India Alliance – an alliance of all the Bitcoin related companies in India – came into existence.
A year after China began tightening regulations around Bitcoin, the virtual currency is still thriving. Chinese buyers are trading the currency in high volumes with the help of BTC China, an exchange that witnessed the boom days back in 2013, only to see the bust following the Chinese government’s announcement, in December of that year, that banks would be banned from trading in bitcoin.
While Bitcoin has received the lion’s share of attention since its conception, recently the blockchain — the distributed public database used to record Bitcoin transactions — has just begun entering the spotlight for enabling some important capabilities outside of Bitcoin.
Digital currencies have come and gone, and despite the astonishing rise of Bitcoin’s popularity over the past 18 months, the majority of the population has yet to board the Bitcoin bandwagon. One of the things that has plagued digital currencies in the past has been the perception that they are a solution in search of a problem. Does anyone really need digital currencies like bitcoin? Who are they intended for, and what purpose do they really serve?
William Blair partner Brian Singer explains how Bitcoin and blockchain encryption has a greater ability to bring more of the world’s population out of poverty than anything we’ve seen in decades.
A new executive order signed into law this week by the president has one online community up in arms, after its loose wording effectively ruled out donating to Edward Snowden and others. In a post on Reddit’s Bitcoin subreddit, members pledged to donate to the whistleblower’s relief fund, despite the wording of the new executive order suggesting that doing so was illegal.[Our HackPSU Recap](http://blog.blockchain.com/2015/03/31/our-hackpsu-recap/)
We visited Penn State campus in State College, PA, to attend HackPSU, a hackathon with a focus on beginner participants but open to all levels of experience. Attendance at this event was a great way for young coders to build their portfolio, learn some new skills and network with other students and sponsors.
BitLanders is the proud sponsor of the New York Open Judo Team Championship. The New York Open Judo will be the only international sports competition to reward its athletes in Bitcoin. BitLanders will award the prize money in Bitcoin for the equivalent of $100 for every Ippon (Judo knock-out) scored in the Women’s Team competition.
Invoiced.com, a billing service that allows businesses to create invoices and accept online payments, has started to allow its customers to accept bitcoin in addition to other forms of online payment. The systems customers can offer their own customers the option of paying in bitcoin.
Retirees and wealth managers who have been eyeing the Bitcoin market from the sidelines next week will get access to a publicly traded cryptocurrency investment tool, albeit at a premium cost. Shares in the soon-to-be publicly traded Bitcoin Investment Trust, run by prominent bitcoin cryptocurrency advocate Barry Silbert, will cost about two percent above the market value of bitcoin, to cover fees.