5 Tales From the Crypto: Fidelity’s New Offering, Ledger’s Card, Kriptomat’s Exchange, and More!

5 Tales From the Crypto: Fidelity’s New Offering, Ledger’s Card, Kriptomat’s Exchange, and More!

Fidelity Brings the Bitcoin

If you’ve been crying over your crypto wallet due to all the negative headlines about digital currencies, then now is the time to dry your eyes and thank Fidelity for giving crypto enthusiasts the greatest sign of approval since BTC and ETH peaked last year.

Fidelity announced this week that it has enabled cryptocurrency trading in retail accounts. Fidelity Crypto, as the offering is called, enables retail accountholders to buy and sell both Bitcoin and ethereum with as little as $1. The new functionality will be available in 35 U.S. states initially – California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas are among them. Fidelity plans to bring the technology to other states; the company is offering an early-access sign-up to let interested customers know when Fidelity Crypto is approved in their state. Similarly, the company is examining other cryptocurrencies with the potential to “expand trading opportunities over time.”

The fallout from FTX and the collapse of even the most widely traded cryptocurrencies have been only a few of the headwinds that might have convinced Fidelity to wait longer to launch its crypto trading capability. As recently as this month, a group of senators including Elizabeth Warren asked the company to reconsider its plan to enable its customers to invest up to 20% of their retirement savings in Bitcoin. Clearly those eager for signs of spring amid this crypto winter need look no further than Fidelity.


Ledger’s Crypto Card

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, French fintech Ledger has launched its crypto debit card in the U.K. and Europe. The new Crypto Life card enables users to transfer crypto between Ledger’s hardware wallets and card accounts via Ledger’s Ledger Live app. Crypto Life offers 1% crypto rewards in both Bitcoin and USDT, as well as offering 2$ in BXX, the native token of Baanx. Baanx is the U.K.-based fintech that developed the technology for Crypto Life.

Ledger users can use Crypto Life at approximately 90 million merchants and online stores across the U.K. and Europe that accept Mastercard. Ledger VP of International Development JF Rochet called the new offering an “easy and secure solution to pay with crypto that also allows you to self-custody until you want to top up.”

Headquartered in Paris, France, and founded in 2015, Ledger demoed its technology one year later at FinovateEurope 2016. The company specializes in trusted hardware solutions for Bitcoin and blockchain applications, which it distributes both directly via online sales as well as through an international network of retail merchants.


Kriptomat Adds Real Time A2A Payments via Volt Partnership

Sticking with the crypto-across-the-pond theme, we read news that Kriptomat, a cryptocurrency platform based in Estonia, has teamed up with U.K.-based payment gateway provider Volt. The goal of the partnership is to give customers the ability to make account-to-account payments, in real-time, to buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies.

More than 500,000 cryptocurrency traders and investors on the Kriptomat platform are expected to benefit from the partnership. Previously, Kriptomat customers were required to use methods such as bank transfers, credit cards, and even e-wallets to make their transactions. Integrating with Volt payments will enable customers to be seamlessly directed to their banking app when paying with Volt, where they can authorize payments using their preferred authentication method. The result is a faster, more streamlined, and less costly way for Kriptomat customers to fund their crypto purchases.

“Today’s new crypto users are more like car owners, who expect to turn the key and have it work immediately – without learning the ins and outs of the processes that happen in the background,” Kriptomat CEO Srdjan Mahmutovic said. “Volt’s technology has helped us provide that level of usability to our customer base.”


BlockFi’s “We’re Not FTX”-Based Bankruptcy

The news that many feared was coming to BlockFi arrived this week as the cryptocurrency company, which carved out a niche in the space as a lender for small cryptocurrency investors, filed for bankruptcy. The company’s Chapter 11 filing follows the bankruptcy filings of other cryptocurrency lenders such as Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, both of which tapped out in July. But the far more looming shadow over BlockFi’s misfortunes is clearly the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with which BlockFi was financially entangled.

That said, both BlockFi’s bankruptcy declaration and the opening statement from BlockFi attorney Joshua Sussberg in court yesterday were attempts to do as much untangling as possible. Sussberg referred to BlockFi, which FTX both financially supported and – at one point – moved to acquire, as the “antithesis of FTX.” He credited BlockFi for its “focus on creating an opportunity for people that otherwise don’t have access to the financial system.”


Dimon’s Crypto Curious Bank: JP Morgan Gets Crypto Wallet Trademark

If Fidelity can be credited for the “giant leap” in crypto this week, should we salute JP Morgan’s “small step” of securing a crypto wallet trademark?

There’s a certain sport in highlighting any pro-crypto moves by JP Morgan – given the the outspoken crypto-skepticism of the bank’s legendary CEO Jamie Dimon. As a refresher, Dimon has referred to cryptocurrencies as “decentralized Ponzi schemes,” and said that the “notion that (crypto) is good for anybody is unbelievable.”

But that’s not stopping the bank he runs from expressing some crypto curiosity including, this week, news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved of the J.P. Morgan Wallet. According to the registered trademark, the J.P. Morgan Wallet supports “virtual currency transfer + exchange, crypto payment processing, virtual checking accounts, and financial services.”

JP Morgan has been open about its interest in launching a digital wallet since October. Despite the disinterest of the bank’s CEO in most things crypto, JP Morgan has worked with Fidelity and New York Bank Mellon to offer various cryptocurrency related services and, earlier this month, completed the first cross-border transaction using decentralized finance (DeFi) on a public blockchain.


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5 Tales from the Crypto: MoneyGram Partners with Coinme, Paxos Earns License in Singapore

5 Tales from the Crypto: MoneyGram Partners with Coinme, Paxos Earns License in Singapore

MoneyGram Lets U.S. Customers Go Crypto

MoneyGram is enabling its customers in (nearly all of) the U.S. to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies via their MoneyGram apps. Three cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC) – are the digital assets available courtesy of the new service. MoneyGram expected to offer other cryptocurrencies in 2023.

“Cryptocurrencies are additive to everything we’re doing at MoneyGram,” Chairman and CEO Alex Holmes said. “From dollars to euros to yen and so on, MoneyGram enables instant access to over 120 currencies around the globe, and we see crypto and digital currencies as another input and output option.”

The new service is made possible thanks to MoneyGram’s partnership with licensed crypto exchange, crypto-as-a-service provider, and new Finovate alum Coinme. The company’s alliance with Coinme extends back to 2021, when the two firms teamed up to expand access to cryptocurrencies by establishing thousands of U.S. locations where consumers can use cash to buy and sell bitcoin.

Coinme demoed its crypto-as-a-service solution at FinovateSpring earlier this year. MoneyGram made a “strategic investment” in the Seattle, Washington-based company in January. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.


Revolut Enables Crypto Spending for Debit Card Holders

MoneyGram isn’t the only company busy making it easier for its customers to participate in the cryptocurrency market. Revolut debit card customers in both the U.K. and Switzerland will now be able to alternate between crypto and fiat purchases both online and offline.

“This year we have not only increased the number of cryptocurrencies available in the Revolut app to close to 100 tokens and launched Crypto Learn & Earn education courses enjoyed by millions of our customers,” Revolut crypto general manager Emil Urmanshin said. “Now we are making crypto even more mainstream by empowering people to use crypto-enabled cards to spend their tokens for everyday purchases.”

To enable the capability in the Revolut app, customers open the Cards section and select one of their existing physical or virtual cards. Customers then enter the card’s settings function and changes the setting from fiat to one of the nearly 100 supported cryptocurrencies. Once linked, a crypto-enabled card will process the transaction using the preferred digital asset. Revolut’s crypto-enabled cards will offer a 1% cashback on all purchases for a promotional period. Customers are also able to order a dedicated virtual or physical card specifically for crypto payments.


About That Blockchain … Lex Fridman Interviews Balaji Srinivasan

If you’re looking for something to listen to while on your drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco (and halfway back), then this 7+ hour discussion between Lex Fridman and former Coinbase CTO – and current angel investor – Balaji Srinivasan may be just what you’re looking for!

Failing that, skip ahead to 6:40:42 or so in this extended interview to listen to Srinivasan talk about the present and future of cryptocurrencies, AI, AR, and VR.


Blockchain Platform Paxos Gets Green Light in Singapore

Blockchain infrastructure platform Paxos secured a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore this week. The license will enable the company to offer digital payment token services to companies based in Singapore. The license – made possible courtesy of the Payment Services Act of 2019 – also makes Paxos the first U.S.-based blockchain infrastructure platform to earn regulatory approval in both New York and Singapore.

Paxos Asia CEO and co-founder Rich Teo underscored the company’s commitment to “innovating within regulatory frameworks”. Teo said, “We believe blockchain and digital assets will revolutionize finance for everyone around the world, but development of this technology must have clear oversight and consumer protections.”

Paxos offers tokenization, custody, trading, and settlement of digital assets. The company builds enterprise blockchain solutions for financial institutions such as PayPal, Nubank, and Bank of America. Paxos launched the first regulated cryptocurrency exchange, itBit, in 2012. The company issued the world’s first regulated stablecoin, PAX (now known as USDP) in 2018.


Eswatini’s Central Bank to Explore CBDCs

Did you know that the country formerly called Swaziland is now “Eswatini”? If not, then consider this news that the Central Bank of Eswatini (CBE) has teamed up with Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) to research development of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a twofer.

Located in southern Africa and bordered by Mozambique and South Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini is one of a number of developing economies that has expressed interest in CBDCs in recent years. The country’s central bank inked an agreement with G+D this week that calls for research into the practicality of developing and implementing a CBDC in the country. The CBE will also explore the possibility of issuing digital Lilangeni to complement the country’s banknotes and coins, the dominant forms of payment among the nation of 1.2 million people.

The relationship between the bank and Munich, Germany-based G+D extends back to a time before cryptocurrencies were a significant part of the fintech conversation. G+D Currency Technology CEO Dr. Wolfram Seidemann highlighted the “long history of trusted collaboration” – of more than 40 years – between the Central Bank of Eswatini and Giesecke+Devrient. “The Kingdom of Eswatini is among the first African countries to take the step towards a retail CBDC and we are honored to support this journey towards digital public currency with our expertise,” Seidemann said.


Photo by Garrett Morrow

5 Tales from the Crypto: NYDIG’s New Leadership, Juno Raises $18 Million, Circle Acquires Elements, and More!

5 Tales from the Crypto: NYDIG’s New Leadership, Juno Raises $18 Million, Circle Acquires Elements, and More!

Crypto friendly banking platform Juno has raised $18 million. The Series A round was led by ParaFi Capital ‘s Growth Fund. The fundraising included a sizable number of investors including Greycroft, Antler Global, Hashed, Jump Crypto, Mithril, 6th Man Ventures, Abstract Ventures,, and Uncorrelated Fund.

As part of the investment, Juno announced the launch of a new loyalty token, Juno coin (JCOIN). The program acts similarly to credit card rewards points schemes, and tokens will only be distributed to verified account holders. Juno users can earn JCOIN by spending crypto with their Juno debit card or by taking their paychecks in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, Ethereum or USDC. The company says that more than 75,000 customers in the U.S. take and invest at least a portion of their salary in cryptocurrency every month on its platform.

Juno offers cryptocurrency checking accounts that enable individuals to earn, invest, and spend in crypto. The checking accounts are free to open, and both crypto deposits and withdrawals are free, as well. The accounts are FDIC insured, courtesy of a sponsorship by Evolve Bank & Trust. Note that the USD holdings in the account, not the crypto holdings, are covered.


The dust has finally settled from Circle’s big announcement last week that it has accelerated its crypto payments roadmap courtesy of its acquisition of Elements.

A merchant and developer-first payments orchestration platform, Elements was credited for its ability to “take the complexity out of crypto payments,” by Circle Chief Product Officer Nikhil Chandhok. The Elements acquisition will help make it easier for merchants to integrate their current PSP relationships with Circle’s crypto payments solutions. “Providing well-designed payment products that can facilitate seamless, efficient, frictionless and delightful customer experiences are key to empowering merchants to take advantage of these next-gen payment solutions,” Chandhok said.

An issuer of both USD Coin (USDC) and Euro Coin (EUROC), Circle enables companies around the world to leverage digital currencies and public blockchains to facilitate payments, commerce, and financial technology. Founded in 2013, the Boston, Massachusetts-based company recently announced partnerships with GIANT Protocol to facilitate tokenized mobile data and with non-profit Mara Foundation to help developers in Africa build DApps and blockchain solutions.


There are big changes at the top for New York Digital Investment Group – more popularly known as NYDIG. The cryptocurrency investment company began the week with news that both CEO Robert Gutmann and President Yan Zhao were stepping down from their positions. Replacing them will be Tejas Shah, who will become NYDIG’s new CEO, and Nate Conrad, who was promoted to President.

Shah was formerly NYDIG’s Global Head of Institutional Finance. Conrad was previously NYDIG’s Global Head of Payments. Both Shah and Conrad joined NYDIG in 2020. In their new roles, both executives will be tasked with boosting investment in the company’s mining franchise and accelerating bitcoin adoption via solutions like the Lightning Network, which facilitates payment by bitcoin.

Speaking of investment, NYDIG’s C-suite personnel news came at the same time that reporters uncovered an SEC filing revealed that NYDIG had raised $720 million for its institutional digital asset fund. According to the filing, 59 investors participated with an average investment of $12 million.

Founded in 2017, NYDIG is among the industry’s biggest custodians of cryptocurrencies. The company holds more than $1 billion in digital assets for its customers.


As more card issuers authorize cardholders to transact in cryptocurrencies, it becomes increasingly important to make sure that card issuers are up-to-date and compliant with the regulations that govern digital assets. This week, we learned that Mastercard had launched a new solution, Crypto Secure, designed to enable issuers to determine the risk profile of crypto exchanges and other crypto providers, before specifying which purchases of cryptocurrency should be approved.

The new offering will enable issuers to accurately identify the crypto exchanges from which their cardholders are buying crypto, measure transaction approvals and declines, review their exposure to crypto risk at a portfolio level, and compare themselves to a peer group of financial institutions.

“Crypto Secure will provide card issuers with a platform that allows them access to insights which will improve the safety of crypto purchases,” President of Mastercard Cyber and Intelligence Ajay Bhalla said.

Crypto Secure is powered by CipherTrace, a cryptocurrency intelligence company Mastercard acquired just over a year ago. CipherTrace’s data analytics and algorithms provide insight into more than 900 cryptocurrencies, helping companies bring better security to their crypto-related operations. The Menlo Park, California-based company was founded in 2015.


We mentioned the Lightning Network earlier in our look at the goals of the new leadership team at NYDIG. Just recently, a company based in Vancouver, Canada, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, announced that it has secured $2.25 million in seed funding for its technology that brings the benefits of bitcoin’s Lightning Network to the payments rails of southeast Asia.

Hivemind Ventures led the round for Neutronpay, which disclosed the investment last week despite raising the money in June. Participating in the investment were Republic Cavalry, Ride Wave, Studio, Iterative, Fulgar Ventures, along with individual investors. Among these individual investors is Lisa Shields, founder and CEO of Finovate alum FISPAN.

The company has already put the new capital to work, adding talent with an eye toward boosting its capacity to develop enterprise APIs, soon, a consumer mobile app. ‘”Laying the infrastructure for Lightning across South East Asia would make it very easy for locals to better transact with each other and for the rest of the world to transact in the region – whether while on vacation or for doing business,” Neutronpay founder and CEO Albert Buu said.


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Miami-Based Milo Unveils its Crypto Mortgage Solution

Miami-Based Milo Unveils its Crypto Mortgage Solution

Courtesy of a new offering from Miami, Florida-based digital banking and lending platform Milo, investors can leverage the world’s newest source of value to finance a purchase one of the world’s oldest. The company recently announced that it is offering the world’s first “crypto mortgage” – enabling digital asset holders to use their crypto to help them buy real estate in the U.S.

The program is available to both U.S. and international investors who are seeking to use their Bitcoin holdings as collateral for Milo’s 30-year mortgage loan. Milo allows customers to continue to own their bitcoin, and diversify into real estate ownership, while taking advantage of potential price appreciation of both assets. Customers can finance 100% of their real estate purchase, and no dollar downpayment is required.

“This is an exciting time for the crypto and mortgage industries,” Milo CEO and founder Josip Rupena said. “With our new crypto mortgage, we can expand our offerings to consumers that were previously denied by other banking firms just for having crypto. We have an opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore and their bitcoin wealth can now help them buy a property.”

In development since 2021, Milo’s crypto mortgage program avoids the problem that cryptocurrency holders often face when trying to use their digital assets to help fund real estate purchases. “The existing way for crypto consumers to access home credit has left them with unintended tax liabilities of selling for a down payment or worse the opportunity cost of seeing their crypto increase in value,” Rupena explained. “There are countless stories of people buying property with bitcoin proceeds only to see it increase in value and be worth millions more.”

Milo’s crypto mortgage innovation says as much about the company’s ability to embrace new asset classes as it does the firm’s commitment to helping individuals with significant assets overcome the hurdles that prevent them from deploying those assets as they choose. The company was founded in part from a need identified by Rupena when he was a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. A private wealth client with a seven-figure net worth was unable to secure a home loan because of what Rupena called “traditional banks’ domestically focused processes.” He noted that less than a third of prospective homebuyers outside of the U.S. are successful in getting home loans and those that are approved often face high interest rates or, at minimum, a subpar customer experience. In 2020, Milo became the first company to conduct a completely remote digital closing for an international customer.

Founded in 2018, Milo has raised $6 million in funding from investors including 10X Capital, MetaProp, and QED Investors. The company has clients in 63 countries around the world, and has originated $300 million in loans from foreign nationals. The company’s crypto mortgage program has already begun granting loans via its early-access stage and plans to open the service to additional customers on its waiting list in the months to come.


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Crypto Compliance Company TRM Labs Raises $60 Million in Series B Investment

Crypto Compliance Company TRM Labs Raises $60 Million in Series B Investment

A $60 million investment will enable digital asset compliance and risk management platform TRM Labs to help organizations and institutions better identify cryptocurrency-based financial crime.

“Crypto is moving faster than any sector in our lifetimes,” TRM Labs CEO Estaban Castaño said. “Organizations need a blockchain intelligence partner that can stay ahead of the evolving risk landscape – from ransomware attacks to DeFi exploits. This round enables TRM to continue to offer the most reliable data and most innovative technology solutions in the market to its customers.”

The Series B funding was led by Tiger Global and featured participation from a number of major firms including Visa, Amex Ventures, Citi Ventures, PayPal Ventures, Block (formerly Square), as well as DRW Venture Capital, Jump Capital, and Marshall Wace – among others. Combined with the capital TRM Labs has raised to date, the San Francisco, California-based firm now has total equity funding of nearly $80 million.

TRM offers a cohesive platform to empower businesses to better manage financial crime risk. The company’s technology enables firms to assess the risk profile of Virtual Asset Service Providers – what TRM calls “Know-Your-VASP” – and other cryptocurrency businesses. TRM’s platform provides forensic capabilities that allow organizations to investigate the source and destination of cryptocurrency transactions, and transaction monitoring that helps companies screen cryptocurrency wallets and transactions for AML and sanctions compliance.

TRM supports more than 900,000 digital assets across 23 blockchains, and features cross-chain analytics to enable seamless movement between Bitcoin, Ethereum, other blockchains. This allows organizations to build comprehensive visualizations that enable a more accurate and complete tracking of the flow of funds. Users of TRM’s platform can select from more than 80 different risk categories to establish their own risk scoring criteria.

Founded in 2017 and emerging from the Y Combinator two years later, TRM has since grown revenues by 6x year-over-year and expanded its workforce from four to 60. Cryptocurrency businesses such as Circle and MoonPay currently use TRM’s technology to identify suspicious activity in digital asset transactions and to satisfy AML requirements. Government agencies are using the company’s solutions in order to learn more about advanced cryptocurrency-related financial crime, ranging from hacks to terrorist financing. Last month, cryptocurrency payments company Dash announced an integration with TRM Labs to bolster its ability to monitor transactions on its platform for financial crime.

“By integrating with Dash, we enable organizations, including virtual asset service providers who want to list Dash, the ability to detect cryptocurrency fraud and financial crime and strengthen their compliance with AML/CFT regulations,” Castaño said when the integration was announced in November.


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Visa to Enable Cryptocurrency Trading

Visa to Enable Cryptocurrency Trading

For those still waiting for greater institutional endorsement of digital assets, the news that Visa will enable cryptocurrency trading on its network should come as a welcome sign.

Visa CEO and chairman Alfred Kelly announced the plan in an earnings call last week. Kelly noted that not only would Visa allow buying and selling of cryptocurrencies on its platform, but also that the company was “uniquely positioned” to do so, and to do so safely and securely.

Visa’s plan is to divide digital assets into two categories: cryptocurrencies and digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies, per Kelly, represent the “digital gold” of the digital asset market insofar as they are not typically used as a form of payment. For these assets, Visa plans to work with wallets and exchanges to allow users to buy these currencies using their Visa credentials. Visa also plans to enable users to cash out of their cryptocurrencies onto a Visa credential to make fiat-money purchases wherever Visa is accepted globally.

With regard to digital currencies, Visa defines these assets as “fiat-backed digital currencies including stablecoins and central bank digital currencies.” These assets, per Kelly, could find use cases in global commerce “much like any other fiat currency” and could run on public blockchains as additional networks much like RTP and ACH rails.

Kelly noted that Visa already has a strong relationship with 35 digital currency platforms and wallets, including BlockFi and BitPanda. These partnerships, Visa claimed, represent potentially more than 50 million Visa credentials – a significant size advantage over the company’s rivals. “And it goes without saying,” Kelly added, “to the extent a specific digital currency becomes a recognized means of exchange, there’s no reason why we cannot add it to our network, which already supports over 160 currencies today.”

Visa’s positive news on cryptocurrencies comes on the heels of the company’s announcement that its planned $5.3 billion acquisition of fintech infrastructure provider and fellow Finovate alum Plaid is now off the table. Visa is an alum of both our Finovate conferences, making its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring ten years ago, and participating in our developers conference, FinDEVr Silicon Valley, four years later in 2014.


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Launching: 2,000 Bitcoin/Crypto-currency Startups

English: Looking north up Eleventh Avenue (Man...

Jacob K. Javits Center (Wikipedia)

The bitcoin logo

Bitcoin first passed the $200 mark a year ago (vs. $450 today). I didn’t know much about it then, figuring it was a fad best left to the speculators to debate. But I was wrong. Bitcoin, or something similar, appears to be here to stay.

Case in point: There is a 2,000-person Bitcoin event in NYC today and tomorrow, Inside Bitcoins, at the Javits Center no less. But don’t worry if you miss it, the event is scheduled to travel the globe with stops in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, London, Singapore, Berlin, before landing back in NYC a year from now.

In the keynote, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire estimated 2,000 startups globally are working on crypto-currency products and services. That alone makes it more than a fad (bubble perhaps, but not a fad). There is no putting the crypto-currency genie back in the bottle. The technology is too compelling. The demand for alternative stored value is so huge that I don’t see it being regulated away, at least outside the west.

Relevance for Banks: U.S. financial institutions will steer clear until regulatory uncertainties are cleared up. While regulators ARE paying attention (even the IRS recently weighed in), don’t expect banks or credit unions here to be accepting Bitcoins for deposit anytime soon.

However, I do expect U.S. prepaid-card based “near banks” (Moven, Onbudget) to work with Coinbase and others to make it easy to move Bitcoin value onto their cards (see note 1). For inspiration, check out the Bitcoin debit card launched today by Hong Kong-based Cryptex Card (press release).

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Notes:
1. Both Coinbase and Onbudget will demo separately at FinovateSpring, three weeks from now.       
2. For more, see our Feb 2014 OBR report on alt-payments, Money 3.0 (subscription).