Welcome to the weekly briefing presenting developments in blockchain and fintech industry from the Billon's point of view. This week we visit Malaysia, Singapore and Estonia, as those three countries are introducing blockchain-supported COVID-19 vaccination certificates. We will also check what's happening in Germany, where the Bundesbank works on a pretty smart exchange between crypto and fiat currencies, and why Microsoft and Facebook will not like each other's approach to digital money. And we are not forgetting about the fans' favourite Elon Musk and his latest crypto endeavours. Let's go!
Let's start with some nice news about fundraising (because fundraising for start-ups is always nice). Blockchain.com raised $300 million in a mega fundraising round valuing the company at $5.2 billion, CNBC reports. News come just one month after the crypto start-up raised $120 million at a $3 billion valuation. It seems venture capitalists are looking to capitalize on the boom in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Still, crypto and stablecoins are still not in position to replace fiat currencies - at least according to Brad Smith, president of the Microsoft Corporation. According to Bloomberg, Smith, while speaking at an online conference organized by the Bank for International Settlements, claimed that fintech firms have no business issuing private digital currencies. As part of his address, Smith argued that money supply should exclusively be under the aegis of governments and central banks. Smith’s comments likely put Microsoft in opposition to Facebook with the social media giant being a participant in the Diem project.
Perhaps, having the same policy in mind, German authorities have developed technology allowing investors to buy and sell securities on the blockchain in return for central bank money, bridging a gap between two worlds that once seemed irreconcilable. The Bundesbank, which partnered with Deutsche Börse and the German government’s debt agency for this project, said on Wednesday its solution was the first allowing those who sell securities on the blockchain to receive their proceeds on their account at the central bank. The technology could be scaled up to the entire euro zone shortly and well before the European Central Bank’s digital euro is launched, it said.
Meanwhile Malaysia and Singapore are poised to use blockchain for vaccination certificates. Digital vaccination documents issued by both countries will come with a traceability feature that tells the exact batch of the vaccine vial used for inoculation, claims Malaysia's Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. Malaysia and Singapore are also committed in becoming a working model of post-pandemic recovery - and blockchain can play a role in that.
Estonia is also planning to start issuing digital vaccination certificates in April, an official from the social affairs ministry said on Wednesday. Digital certificates, prepared by enterprise blockchain company Guardtime, would help people both for travelling and in their everyday life and would be both easier to verify and more secure than paper ones.
As demand for COVID-19 vaccines increases and people become frustrated with delays in getting their shots, there’s also a growing market for forged vaccination cards. A new report from Check Point Research says there has been a surge in fake vaccination certificates online, via the darknet. Users send their details and $200 to hackers and, in return, receive an official-looking vaccination card. That's why we need them digital!
Finally Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Wednesday that Tesla would begin accepting bitcoin payments. The chief executive said that Tesla "is using only internal & open source software" and that it "operates Bitcoin nodes directly." Paying with bitcoin is possible only in the US at the moment, Musk said, adding that he would expand the payment method later this year.
And that's all for now. See you next week!
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