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Anyone can invest in startups in a new, more bite-sized way

(BUSINESS FINANCE) With this new platform, startups can now seek funding in different ways than the traditional paths, using blockchain to set themselves up for financial success.

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Blockchain’s democratization of currency and investing continues to roll along, and it has just dug it claws into startup funding and investing.

A startup up called Securitize wants to offer an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) platform service for startups. The company believes this platform improves the equity experience on both sides of the aisle.

For startups, the ICO format streamlines the access to capital “without the overhead of needing to cultivate personal relationships and go through individual due diligence procedures.” Put simply, it takes less time and logistics to earn funding.

That trend of reducing logistical issues is also beneficial for investors. Traditionally, being a startup investor or equity holder is restrictive for numerous reasons. For outside investors, there are restrictions around investor accreditation to determine who can invest, and how much. Employees compensated with equity struggle with getting equity converted into an actual asset, if it ever gets converted at all.

According to Securitize, thanks to the ICO format, “investors can buy-in knowing the assets are completely liquid from day one.”

Furthermore, because currency investments differ from traditional business investing, more people can get in on the action.

That last point is important, since investing in cryptocurrencies this year is a bajillion times larger than the volume being pointed at startups. When these two world convene, startups get more eyes (and more dollars) pointed at their companies.

All that said, the floodgates aren’t open to free-market bedlam investing by anybody’s Uncle Ricky. Take 22x, a Securitize project that offers “tokenized equity in 30 startups – up to 10 percent of each.” For this project, you must be an accredited investor with a yearly income of 200k and a net worth over $1 million. These restrictions (among others) still allow Securitize to operate within the rules of US law; however, that barrier is still lower than traditional venture capital firm accreditations.

The implications of a more diversified set of funding will be interesting. Perhaps companies will be able to prioritize their journeys differently to align with new funding incentives. Its certainly a worth option to consider, and one that is important to follow as the first sets of companies embrace it.

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Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

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Business Finance

Yes, cryptocurrency pricing has been manipulated

(FINANCE) Research shows that some cryptocurrency value has potential to be manipulated by fraudulent bots. Welp.

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Yes, cryptocurrency price can be manipulated, thanks for asking. A new research paper in the Journal of Monetary Economics dove into how bad actors may be controlling the Bitcoin (BTC) ecosystem, and found that one person may have pushed Bitcoin from $150 to $1000 in 2013. One. One person.

Researchers Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, and Tali Oberman published “Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem,” a paper describing how fraudulent activity likely influenced trading activity leading to increased BTC-USD exchange rates in 2013.

Their paper specifically analyzed suspicious activity on the (since shut down) Mt. Gox Bitcoin currency exchange. Mt. Gox used to be the hotshot for crypto exchange, with over seventy percent of worldwide bitcoin transactions taking place on its platform.

Late in 2013, the USD-BTC exchange rate spiked from around $150 to over $1000 in two months. There was also a period where over 600,000 Bitcoins valued at $188 million were acquired fraudulently.

Former CEO Mark Karpelès worked super hard to cover up the fraudulent activity, but Mt. Gox eventually met its Mount Doom and shut down in 2014.

According to the research, on days where suspicious activity took place, the exchange rate rose an average of four percent a day. Analysis shows that the exchange rate declined on days without suspicious trading activity.

Price manipulation was due in part to how thin the crypto market was in 2013. At the time, only around 80 cryptocurrencies were around compared to over 843 today. This made the market more susceptible to price manipulation.

Fraudulent activity was primarily attributed to Markus and Willy, two bots that appeared to be performing valid trades. However, the bots didn’t own the bitcoin they were using, so all the trades were fake.

When Mt. Gox was hacked and millions of dollars of Bitcoin were stolen, it was due to bots creating fake trades and artificially increasing BTC pricing.

The high volume of trades signaled heavy trading activity, driving up the exchange rate on Mt. Gox. The platform profited greatly from transaction fees from legitimate, non-bot trades. But even without fraudulent activity, exchanges were higher on days these bots were active.

Although it’s alarming that bots potentially jacked up prices, better security systems are set in place for crypto exchange now.

Blockchain keeps users responsible by keeping a record of anyone who changes or updates any element of a crypto transaction.

So while theoretically crypto pricing can still be manipulated, it’s a bit more difficult with the checks blockchain puts in place to identify all users and activity. It’s still worth staying vigilant though, because even with blockchain in place, cryptocurrency markets are not regulated.

This story originally ran on January 22, 2018.

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Business Finance

First impressions matter – how to win over investors immediately

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Impressing investors is nerve-wracking, but these tips can help you to nail your first impression.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve wracking—especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

  • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
  • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
  • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

  • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
  • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
  • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
  • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
  • Warm up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
  • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
  • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

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Business Finance

How to invest in any cryptocurrency without the IRS hunting you down

(FINANCE) Paying taxes on your cryptocurrency investments doesn’t have to be a headache with this simple tool.

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As the 2018 tax season approaches, those of you who took a chance on cryptocurrency may be wondering: Do I have to pay tax on my digital investments? Sorry, but yes you do.

Although tax laws are constantly changing, especially in the wild west of cryptocurrency, fear not. Token Tax is the one tool to rule them all, and can help you report cryptocurrency taxes.

In this past year, cryptocurrency investment has skyrocketed. The total market cap rose over 1000 percent, even breaking a record and climbing over $600 billion in December.

Coinbase, the most popular online platform for buying and selling digital currency, gained one million users in one month alone.

Cyrptocurrency’s increasing popularity led to changes in IRS rules.

Although cryptocurrency investors were previously able to use the “like-kind” tax code exemption, the IRS now says digital investments must be taxed as short and long-term capital gains.

Back in 2015, only 802 Americans reported Bitcoin related gains and losses. At the time, cryptocurrency could technically be categorized a property instead of income. The 2017-18 year should show a greater increase in reports due to the new IRS regulations.

It can be difficult to determine how to report your taxes, and many other available tools victimize you with information overload. Understanding your tax liability is no fun at all, but it’s not something you’d want to get wrong unless tax jail sounds exciting.

The newly minted Token Tax does the work for you, integrating directly with Coinbase’s API to import all your investments in an easy to read format that’s directly exportable to the IRS. Kraken, Bittrex, and GDAX are also securely integrated with the platform.

Using FIFO, Token Tax calculates your tax liability and displays it in an easy to read interface. You can then export a fill-out 8949 form directly to your accountant or the IRS for review.

Creators Alex Miles and David Holland Lee say they believe Token tax “could be the TurboTax for crypto.”

Even though Token Tax is still in test mode, not even beta, it caught our attention by winning first place overall in Product Hunt’s Global Hackathon.

If you have invested in cryptocurrency and want to get ahead of the curve for tax season, check out their demo and see for yourself.

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