Bear Market Is Helping Crypto Lending Businesses to Prosper

On Wednesday (2 June 2019), Bloomberg reported that while "a growing number of cryptocurrency ventures struggle for funding" in the current bear market, crypto lending businesses seem to be "thriving" rather than suffering.

Crypto lending businesses that primarily focus on the needs of individual HODLers (who might need a loan, for example, to buy a car or pay their taxes), such as Salt Ledning, allow you to borrow fiat currency (usually USD) or fiat-backed stablecoins using your crypto as collateral, while others, such as Genesis Capital, that mainly focus on institutional borrowing, can lend crypto (against fiat). 

The Bloomberg report says that these lenders are saying that "they’re finding strong demand from borrowers who don’t want to sell their virtual coins at depressed prices, as well as from big investors eager to borrow coins for short selling." Here are three examples:

  • "BlockFi says its revenues and customer base have grown 10-fold since June, when Michael Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Ventures invested $52.5 million."
  • "Aave, which owns online crypto-lending marketplace ETHLend, just opened an office in London, plans to enter the U.S. soon and is nearing profitability."
  • "Salt Lending, which already employs 80 people, said it’s hiring more every month as its revenue ticks higher."

Bloomberg says that, initially, crypto lending startups, most of which were reportedly launched in 2017, were "offering enthusiasts a way to borrow cash without having to sell down their stockpiles of Bitcoin or other crypto assets they believed would soar even higher," but after "prices crashed in 2018," they "pivoted into new roles and continued to flourish," and this type of crypto business may in fact "fare even better in bad times than good."

Michael Moro, the CEO of Genesis Capital, told Bloomberg in a phone interview:

“The bear market has certainly helped -- at least has fueled the growth... We’ve been profitable from day one... We’ve certainly proven that there is market demand, that there’s product fit and that it’s time to invest even more in this side of the business.”

Moro also said that Genesis Capital "has already issued $700 million of loans" and that it currently has "about $140 million in loans outstanding with an average duration of six weeks." Apparently, Genesis is planning "to more than double its staff in the coming year to as many as 12 people, and it’s looking at growing in regions such as Asia."

Their loan terms are a follows:

  • "Minimum loan size is $100,000"
  • "Fixed durations from two weeks to six months"
  • "USD collateral accepted to back loan"

Bloomberg says that Genesis "typically requires customers to deposit around $1.2 million in fiat to take out $1 million of crypto," and that if an institution wishes to borrow Bitcoin, for example, it is charged "an annual rate of between 10 percent and 12 percent."

According to Bloomberg:

  • Businesses that accept crypto as collateral for fiat cash loans "usually demand much larger buffers to ensure they don’t get burned by falling prices." For example, Zac Prince, the CEO of BlockFi, told them that his firm "typically requires customers deposit $10,000 of digital coins to take out $5,000 in fiat."
  • When the price of the crypto collateral falls, "customers face margin calls, often starting with a warning that their holdings may be sold off soon." In the case of BlockFi, "margin calls are triggered if the price of the crypto collateral falls by 35 to 60 percent from the time the loan was granted," and approximately "20 percent of the startups’ loans faced margin calls last year."

BlockFi says this is what happens if the value of your cryptoassets significantly change during one year term of the loan:

"If the value of your coins significantly increase then they are kept in storage until the loan is paid. If your coins significantly decrease then that sets off a trigger event, and you will have to add more collateral to your account to maintain a minimum LTV ratio. You can use the value of your cryptoassets stored with BlockFi to make principal and interest payments at anytime. We plan to add the ability to draw more USD funds in the event of price appreciation over time."

And here is how BlockFi defines a trigger event:

"A trigger event happens when the value of your collateral drops and thus increases the LTV of your loan. The first trigger event occurs at a 70% LTV, which would require a 50% drop from the price at loan initiation. At this point, you have 72 hours to take action by positing additional collateral or paying down the loan balance. We will keep you informed if your LTV starts to near the 70% mark so you can take action preemptively."

One happy customer of BlockFi is Angela Ceresnie, the CEO of Climb Credit. She says:

"The ability to get liquidity on my significant Bitcoin and Ethereum holdings, without selling them, is something that I was looking for and found with BlockFi. For long term holders like myself, the tax benefits alone make the value proposition a no brainer."

 

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Coinbase Commerce Now Lets Merchants Accept USD Coin (USDC)

On Monday (May 20), Coinbase announced that "Coinbase Commerce", which provides non-custodial cryptocurrency payment solutions, now allows businesses to accept fully dollar-collateralized stablecoin USDC.

History of USDC

As CryptoGlobe reported on 26 September 2018, "USDC Coin" (USDC for short) was launched on that day by Goldman-funded FinTech startup Circle Internet Financial (better known as "Circle"). This is a regulated fully-collateralized dollar-backed stablecoin that was originally announced on 16 May 2018. USDC is based on an open source fiat stablecoin framework developed and governed by the CENTRE project.

Circle said at the time that the problems with existing fiat-backed solutions (such as Tether's USDT) were that they "have lacked financial and operational transparency, have operated in unregulated jurisdictions with unknown banking and audit partners, and have been built as closed-loop ecosystems and closed proprietary technologies."

In contrast, Circle's USDC stablecoin deals with these issues by "providing detailed financial and operational transparency" and "operating within the regulated framework of US money transmission laws, reinforced by established banking partners and auditors." USDC tokens are ERC-20 compatible (meaning that they run on the Ethereum blockchain); they are minted, issued, and burnt/redeemed based on network rules defined by CENTRE. 

Coinbase's Previous Involvement With USDC

On 23 October 2018, Circle announced that Coinbase (another member of the CENTRE consortium) was making USDC available to its customers on Coinbase Consumer and Coinbase Pro, and that customers could "tokenize dollars into USDC and redeem USDC into dollars through both Circle and Coinbase."

Then, on May 14, Coinbase said via a blog post titled "Expanding USDC crypto trading globally" that:

  • It was making USDC trading available on Coinbase Consumer and Coinbase Pro in 85 countries.

  • It was doing this to help "accelerate the global adoption of crypto trading" and to provide wider access to "a stable store of value."

  • There are more than 300 million USDC tokens currently in circulation today, and that USDC is supported by 100+ ecosystem partners.

  • Stablecoins "have the potential to materially improve the lives of people in countries where inflation is eroding wealth." 

  • Coinbase serves customers in 103 jurisdictions.

Coinbase Commerce and USDC

Coinbase Commerce was launched on 14 February 2018. Coinbase described Coinbase Commerce as a new service that "enables merchants to accept multiple cryptocurrencies directly into a user-controlled wallet," and that in contrast to its previous merchant products, it was "not a hosted service, so merchants have full control of their own digital currency." Four cryptocurrencies were supported back then: Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ether (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC).

Coinbase Commerce can be "directly integrated into a merchant’s checkout flow or added as a payment option on an e-commerce platform." Initially, the only e-commerce platform supported was Shopify, but on 6 August 2018, support for WooCommerce was added.

Yesterday's blog post said that now Coinbase Commerce has added support for stablecoin USDC, thereby allowing "businesses to accept payments online in the same way they’re able to accept cash in-store." 

Here are a few things to note about Coinbase Commerce:

  • "Coinbase Commerce doesn’t charge any fees to process payments."
  • "Coinbase Commerce accounts are completely separate from Coinbase accounts."
  • "You can use the withdraw functionality to send cryptocurrency to an address associated with your Coinbase account."

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