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How freelancers, entrepreneurs can start accepting cryptocurrencies

(FINANCE) If you’re considering accepting cryptocurrencies for your good or services, there are a growing number of options available these days – here are just a few.

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cryptocurrencies

There are many reasons a small business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur might consider accepting cryptocurrencies as payment.

One of the most noteworthy is the access to the more than 2.3 million people who used bitcoin as payment last year alone – that’s a growing pool of people who want to pay with a decentralized means of digital currency. Many have gravitated to cryptocurrencies as some believe they have proven to have clearer policies compared to traditional banks, less hidden fees, and more security against chargebacks.

More importantly than why though (especially in determining if its worth it to you and your business) is how you can start accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for your product or service.

Just like PayPal or credit card payments, you’ll need to first integrate a crypto payment processor wherever you plan to accept payment. This can be from your phone, your Shopify website, or your independently designed website. When deciding on which processor (and there are plenty to choose from), it’s important first understand the two types of cryptocurrency services available to you.

Custodial Wallets – These kind of wallets work like a bank do, in that they serve as a third party entity in control of your assets. Custodial services store your private keys, which is the secret alphanumeric code paid with your public keys. When you receive your crypto payments, they go into a wallet, where you request your money by withdrawal. These are popular for freelancers who are interested in converting cryptocurrency to traditional currency. Another advantage for this kind of wallet is you can contact your custodian’s customer service for access to your account if you’ve lost your password. The major disadvantages are that you don’t have complete control of your funds; so your wallet can be frozen by the custodian in case of maintenance, or stolen by hackers if they get into the processor.

Non-Custodial Wallets – These wallets can exist on paper, desktop, hardware, or mobile and are called cold wallets. No matter where it is stored, it is defined as an offline wallet provided for storing bitcoins. Your information is usually stored on a platform not connected to the internet, offering an added level of protection against cyber hacks and other vulnerabilities that a system connected to the internet is vulnerable to. If you don’t already have one of these cold wallets, you’ll need to establish one for a non-custodial processor. These kind of processors do not store or protect your private keys’ information, which allows the user complete control over their coin which can be important to you if you are accepting large amounts of money you want to keep safe, or you want to keep certain information very private. If you lose your private keys though, you lose your coin also since there’s no one to call and retrieve, like with custodial processors.

Once you understand the type of processor is best suited for your business, it’s easier to research and find processors that do exactly what you are looking for. Like I mentioned before, there are lots of different processors to choose from, but we’re going to go over a few custodial and non custodial processors to help inspire you in which direction to go

Custodial Processors:

Bitcharge: Bitcharge has the easiest instructions and interface on this entire list; so if simplicity is what you are after, start here. Instead of web integration, lengthy APIs or email invoices, all you need to start accepting cyrpto payments is a unique link they create for you. Once you have the link, you can give it to your clients however you choose, just like sending your Cash App or Venmo name. Another unique feature at Bitcharge is that they don’t require you to create new wallets for your cyrpto payments – all you have to do is add the address of your existing wallets to receive payment there. Bithcharge accepts Bitcoin, Etherum, and Litecoin, but are planning to add more to their portfolio. There are no transaction fees listed on the Bitcharge website.

Coingate: This payment processor is popular for accepting Altcoin (coins other than Bitcoin) payments, and currently accept over 40. This processor allows freelancers or entrepreneurs to accept payments in-store using an Android, iOS device, or other internet enabled devices. It’s also available as a plug-in so it can be easily integrated into your existing online store. There is a 1% transaction fee to use Coingate, with no additional monthly, registration, or support fees.

Cryptopay: Cyrptopay is a crypto payment processor that provides a guaranteed exchange rate, and also charges a flat 1% transaction fee. With this processor, freelancers can accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum, or Ripple. This cryptocurrency settles payments daily and provides funds straight to your bank account

Bitpay: Bitpay serves merchants in over six continents and is currently integrated with several different ecommerce solutions, including Shopify. Freelancers can also accept payment from automatically generated email invoices, or in person with a smartphone or tablet. They charge a 1% transaction Fee, with no hidden fees. The only cryptocurrency they accept is Bitcoin for now.

Coinbase Commerce: Coinbase is one of the world’s biggest payment processes and is also integrated with a variety of ecommerce solutions including Shopify and WooCommerce. With this processor, you are able to instantly convert it into fiat (traditional currency) to avoid price volatility. Users with this processor are able to accept Bitcoin Ethereum, Litecoin, or Bitcoin Cash. There is no transaction fee to accept cryptocurrency with Coinbase Commerce.

GoCoin: Go Coin is another popular gateway accepting payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Etherum, Litecoin, Dash, and EOS. It can also be integrated into popular commerce platforms like WooCommerce. Although there is no cost to sign-up for an account with GoCoin, there is a flat 1% transaction fee for each payment you accept. The most unique factor about this processor is the one-on-one help offered for experienced and inexperienced merchants. They also help with integrating the processor, customer invoicing, and payment support.

Non-Custodial Processors

These are newer on the market so there aren’t as many non custodial options, but here are the two options:

BTCPay: This processor is a non custodial, open sourced, and self-hosted payment processor designed for the technologically and cryptocurrency inclined. This particular processor allows the merchant to be in full control with no fees, or third party control like with the aforementioned processors. Payments go directly into their cold wallet, not the processor’s wallet. There are currently no fees to use BTCPay.

Atomic Pay: Atomic Pay is a global, non-custodial cryptocurrency payment processor. They eliminate the involvement of a third party processor by allowing you to accept payments “within seconds.” Unlike the aforementioned services, Atomic Pay does not store or withhold any of your information, so you’ll need to have a cold wallet setup. Atomic Pay also boasts an API Interface that allows developers and business to integrate with their “back end systems, websites, games, mobile applications, and point of sales systems.” The processing fees are 0.9% per transaction for the personal package, 0.8% for businesses, and 0.7% for their Enterprise package.

In conclusion:

Digital currencies continue to expand globally and offers a variety of benefits to small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. No matter where your potential client is located, international or domestic, both payments are handled the same, without any clearance necessary; unlike a wire transfer payment from an international client that could take up to a week or more. Not to mention the fees are less than credit card payment fees…

Despite all these perks, I am still not a certified accountant, and am merely suggesting you take a look at your business needs and see if those more than 2.3 million potential clients can be of use to you.

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

Business Finance

What this Gamestop stock upheaval could mean for the future of finance

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Yay America! We’ve witnessed our first populist uprising in finance, all thanks to the Gamestop drama unfolding in the last week.

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Gamestop storefront in a shopping mall.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last week, chances are you’ve heard about the drama surrounding the GameStop stock. Essentially, GameStop – or that spot I used to frequent in middle school to search through bins for used N64 games – has become the epicenter for what’s being called the first populist uprising in finance. We love to hear it.

What happened?

For some background, GameStop became one of the most shorted stocks on the market. Groups within Wall Street’s hedge funds, known as the short sellers, have been colluding with each other and using the media to manipulate the market – and in doing so, were able to drive down the value of specific stocks (i.e., GameStop, which was essentially put on-course for bankruptcy) and, in turn, collect billions. This is common, legal practice on Wall Street. Just in case you were wondering.

Enter Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets page; another key player in this drama. With just shy of 2 million users last week (and now with over 7.4 million), WallStreetBets is a place where amateur day traders can exchange tips on penny stocks and rake in the “tendies”. Recently, one user popularized the fact that over 100% of GameStop’s stock was being shorted for no valid reason, so many from the group decided to take action – they began buying up cheap shares of the stock and demanding that their brokers not lend their stocks to short sellers, which in turn exploded the market value of GameStop as the short sellers attempted to “cover their shorts”.

Long story short (ha!), the entire GameStop drama has resulted in at least $3.3 billion disappearing from hedge fund balance sheets. One of the Wall Street hedge funds targeted by the Redditors, Melvin Capital, had to take a $2.75 billion bailout from other industry insiders. GameStop’s stock skyrocketed from $17.25 at the beginning of the year to $325 by this past Friday – reportedly the largest gains the company has seen in 18 years.

What you should consider

  • GameStop is brick-and-mortar. They sell the clunky, physical versions of games, which can be bought online with less hassle. Let’s face it; outside of the few nerds who still enjoy the experience of standing in line to be the first to buy the new game, the retailer is essentially becoming obsolete. COVID, of all things, has only expedited this process. Even with the release of new gaming consoles, such as the PS5, the likelihood of GameStop bouncing back to its former heyday is highly unlikely. Hence the term “meme stock”. With a meme stock, users chose to invest in the name of an allegiance, based on a feeling, or just “for the lulz”, not because of perceived value. Wall Street elites do this all the time (Tesla, anybody?), but with the complicity of the media so we all buy into it as well. When people say: “The stock market is just a graph of rich people’s feelings”, they’re not kidding.
  • Many of the involved Redditors are likely unemployed millennials, disenfranchised by the economic fallout from the pandemic, who have sat by and watched as the rich have gotten richer. Like, so much richer. According to some, this movement is less about the financial gains (though they must be sweet) and more about screwing the shorters – it’s about pointing out how corrupt a minimally-regulated free market is when it is only truly serving the elite inner circles of Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. So why can shorters short with mainstream backing just because they’re wearing suits?
  • While I wish GameStop-gate was a simple populist win, it’s important to note that the rich own most of the market shares. Though some Wall Street wealth is undoubtedly being redistributed into the pockets of Main Street right now, let us not forget that a byproduct of the Redditors’ rebellion is that the already rich stockholders are now even richer. This poses the question of if you can have a real populist financial uprising if you’re working within the current market systems in place, which are designed to feed the few and deregulated to insure it.

What does the future hold?

Good question. As of now, everyone is scrambling to make sense of what has happened; Redditors are celebrating with a sleuth of victorious memes while politicians (*cough* Janet Yellen), the hedge funds, and the media gatekeepers are calling foul play, collusion and even meddling from the Russians (LOL).

Also, can we talk about the fact that the politicians (on both sides!) who reacted so urgently to the GameStop mania were the same ones dragging their feet to come up with a stimulus checks agreement?

In addition, Robinhood — the now infamous commission-free investing tool — put a pause on GameStop and other meme stocks, like AMC, Nokia, BlackBerry, and American Airlines. Others want the FCC to get involved. The pot WOULD call the kettle black.

All this being said, I think that GameStop-gate has, in a lot of ways, opened Pandora’s box, exposing the possibility of power-shifts and new financial realities to many who might feel powerless and financially vulnerable, especially right now. That the average Reddit day trader, when properly rallied alongside her fellow troops, could give such a massive middle finger to the hedge funds and make a little extra cash along the way is truly inspiring.

I think we’re going to see more meme stock shenanigans (AMC’s stock had quadrupled at one point!), and the weeding out of greedy short sellers with the methodical drole-ness that only a subreddit could conjure. Unfortunately, I do also see an eventual crash, a bubble bursting, that will leave many investors who didn’t get out in time at a loss. And many plan on riding out the storm, when she comes, in solidarity.

Gamestop stock meme - Billionaire encourages middle class to invest in stock market, increases stock against them, Billionaire gains angry eyebrows in response.

My two cents

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think short selling as it stands now should be legal, nor do I think speculative buying is a good idea. It’s gambling. And it’s dangerous.

But the Government would never enforce a blanket policy against all speculative buying, not when the billionaires who reap the majority of the benefits are buddy-buddy with the media and lawmakers. Plus, how would the right, in all its free-trade glory, react to increased market regulations? Could this mania uncover the elusive partisan glue we’ve all been looking for? Oh, how the turn tables.

My take? Beyond everything else, I see this as an opportunity for something even larger. We’ve learned that everyday people like you and me can be a part of something greater; something that shakes our market’s foundations. GameStop (sorry nerds!) is a random company that doesn’t have too much appeal beyond the games they sell (the same ones you can get online).

But what if we could drive up the market price on other companies that are being shorted for the wrong reasons? Companies that we could all get behind, such as ones that pay their workers well or that share equity with their employees. What we’ve learned from this all is that with collective action directed towards the corrupt “cartel” of Wall Street’s inner circle, you can take key players down and make waves.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t that the best way to approach a free market — to make it serve the people?

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Business Finance

6 questions to ask when considering a startup accelerator

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Accelerators can help change startups from unknowns to leaders in the industry, but does your startup need one? And if so, which one?

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accelerator pitch

When I’m advising startups, I often hear the question: “which accelerator is the best fit for me?” (Besides the obvious YC or Techstars.)

First off, I’ll ask if your company would benefit from an accelerator, or if you need to pursue something for early early stage companies before you achieve more market validation, like an incubator. (Side note: If you’re curious about incubators, here is a comparison of the two.)

If you’re new to these terms, here’s a brief recap on startup accelerators:

Startup accelerators are for companies with established co-founders and market validation – companies can be anywhere from pre-revenue/self-funded, or even have raised at least $1M.

Most programs can last anywhere from 10 weeks to 3-4 months. With many top accelerators like YC and Techstars, you’ll be expected to move to the city where it’s hosted and spend 40+ hours a week minimum in their dedicated coworking space, and several accelerators will often offer housing stipends to make the move easier. These programs typically conclude with a demo day to pitch your product to a variety of community leaders, angel, and institutional investors.

If your product has achieved market validation and is in a place where you’re ready to scale, congrats!

Before you commit to an accelerator, ask yourself and the program these six questions:

1. What kind of mentorship is available?

By and large, one of the most valuable portions of an accelerator is the networking with peers and mentors. Ask what kind of mentors are available to you as a part of a program, and ask their specific involvement and the opportunities to connect. These mentors will be crucial in guiding your company’s growth. Even if they aren’t in the same industry or have solved a similar problem that your company is trying to achieve, their advice and connections could prove to be invaluable.

2. What are the perks?

You’re giving up a lot of equity to be in a program, but it doesn’t come without its perks. Many programs offer not only a cash investment or stipend for housing or other growth costs, but programs like Techstars offer free services such as web hosting costs (an upwards of ~250k), legal and accounting services, and other credits and perks that can be worth 6-7 figures. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you say yes to a program.

3. Do I want an industry-specific or industry-agnostic program?

This one is important and is directly related to #2. If your company sells CPG products, web hosting credits may not be valuable to your business, but a CPG-specific accelerator like SKU or The Brandery with direct connections to Sephora, Target, and Whole Foods may make more sense.

4. How much equity am I willing to give up?

Try not to make this a guessing game and make as many data-driven decisions on this as you can. Create a revenue and valuation model and see how much your company would benefit from the networking, fundraising opportunities, and perks offered, and see what the ROI would potentially be.

5. What are the funding and exit numbers?

This is an objective way to view the success of an accelerator: # of funding raised and exits. Of course, younger accelerators will have smaller numbers, but it’s worth looking to see if a company has raised $ after. Seed-DB is a great resource to view these numbers for hundreds of accelerators globally.

6. What do alumni think?

All accelerators are going to tout the transformative experience that is their program, and program mentors will likely have a similar narrative.

The best resource to learn the real experience of an accelerator: ask its alumni, and they’ll give you the truth. Make sure to survey both recent and more experienced alumni, as they’ll be able to speak to both the short term and long term benefits.

Personal experience: the night before I was set to hear from an accelerator on my application status, two alumni stressed to me that the time and equity investment wasn’t worth it. I consider this providence!

Finally, two items to note:

Choosing an accelerator is all about finding the right fit between you and the organization. Sadly, not all accelerators are created equal, and try to view a potential relationship with an accelerator as an investor relationship, or better yet, dating. There’s a reason the phrase “no money is better than bad money” is prevalent in the startup community.

Make sure to do your due diligence and ask the right questions to make sure a specific program is worth the investment of time, energy, and equity.

And sometimes? That may not mean an accelerator is a right fit right now or at any point, and that’s okay.

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Business Finance

Under-representation of women in fintech: Let’s talk about it

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Representation of women in fintech remains scarce despite a prevalent population of interest. Why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

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Woman reading a document in front of her computer, one of the women in fintech.

Women are 50% of the population – so why are there only 9 of us on the 2020 Forbes Fintech 50?

I’m personally shocked by how underrepresented women are in such a lucrative industry. By 2022, it’s predicted that fintech, or financial tech, will be worth $26.5 trillion, and we cannot afford to miss out.

And I’m serious when I say fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing, online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments (think Venmo or Cash App), financial software, to name a few. For some perspective, half of consumers use digital banking services as the primary way to manage their money. That’s a big deal.

So why does it matter that women are drastically underrepresented in leading roles at these companies?

  • Women CEOs receive only 2.7% of all VC funding – that is astonishingly low, considering that the remaining 97.3% is secured by their male counterparts.
  • While a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories (I could’ve told you that), women founders make up only 17% of fintech companies. Some of the categories tested on were:
    • Bold leadership
    • Taking initiative
    • Resilience
    • High integrity & honesty
    • Collaboration and teamwork (this is a big one!)
    • Inspiring & motivating others

If you’re a woman interested in business, tech, or entrepreneurship looking to break into the big leagues, here’s some exclusive advice from lady CEOs, founders, and COOs:

  • Stay Passionate
    Suneera Madhani, Founder + CEO of Fattmerchant, says: “…remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.”
  • Be Open to Learning
    “Never behave as the smartest person in the room because you may miss some of the best ideas.” Says Snejina, Co-founder + CEO of Insurify.
  • Trust Your Intuition
    As the Founder + CEO of Tala, Shivani Siroya urges us to: “Stay excited, focused on results and be incredibly optimist. It’s okay to really believe in your gut – just make sure that you see the results with it.”

2021 is a new year full of opportunity – even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. We have lost time – and profit – to account for.

Author’s Note: Thank you to CreditRepair for the linked infographic!

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