Cryptocurrencies – The Future of Money?

Cryptocurrencies – The Future of Money

The first cryptocurrency the world ever knew was first described by a software developer named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2010. In the white paper he wrote, titled ‘A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’, he defined a decentralised distributed ledger that would determine ownership of a virtual coin and record all transactions that ever occurred in serialised blocks of encrypted information.

This elegant concept used distributed cryptography and proof-of-work to validate new transactions. Every transaction or transfer ever made is added to a “ledger” held by every owner of the currency in the network, with each additional transaction forming an additional ‘block’ which is chained to previous blocks.

With blockchain technology, the entire transactional history of the digital currency is available for viewing by every computer on the network– preventing duplication or editing of records, and ensuring robustness and security: the data in any given block cannot be altered without the alteration of all previous blocks and all the blocks that come after it, which requires vast computing power and the collusion of the network majority.

Everyone who owned Bitcoins, and everyone who owns a Bitcoin later, would have and receive the same “ledger” updates. Most importantly, no editing of transaction records would be possible.

This removed the need for a trusted middleman or agency, such as a government or bank, to guarantee the transactions between buyers and sellers of goods and services.

The rise of bitcoin

In essence, this new currency works via a peer-to-peer network in which the participants jointly emulate the central server that controls the correctness of transactions, in particular: it ensures that there is no “double spending”, i.e., a given coin was not spent twice by the same party.

It could in theory overcome any hostile party’s attempts to undermine, change or control its records. What’s more, each peer is incentivised to stay honest because they were allowed to mine and own new coins by taking part in the proof-of-work for new transactions.

Most importantly, the currency is also invulnerable to attempts to manipulate its value by governments, as well as hard to trace.

The first ever recorded bitcoin transaction was made on May 22, 2017, when two Papa John’s pizzas were purchased for 10,000 BTC.

Skip forward to today, and BTC is now accepted for payment at over a hundred companies worldwide. The market cap of bitcoin has surpassed 100 billion USD, with the coin touching an all-time high of $19,783 on December 17th 2017 before dropping back to its present level below $10,000.

However, adoption of Bitcoin as a mode of payment is slowing.

One of the reasons is that as bitcoin began to be traded at higher and higher prices, it was increasingly seen as an store of value instead of a currency. Technological issues too, such as a slow transaction rate per second and rising transaction fees, means it is now more attractive for cryptocurrency punters to hold on for the long-term, than to use bitcoin for what it was actually created to do: pay for things.

Besides, there are now more 1,300 other cryptocurrencies in the market, many of them based on much faster technology and lower transaction fees, which makes them more practical to use and own as virtual currencies.

The rise of new cryptocurrencies

Like bitcoin, these new cryptocurrencies are “independent” currencies whose exchange rates fluctuate freely. They owe their popularity mostly to the fact that they have no central authority, and hence it is infeasible for anyone to take control over the system, “print” the money (to generate inflation), or shut the entire system down.

The majority of them are made available to the public globally via what is called Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which is akin to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) held by corporations. A total of 235 ICOs were launched in 2017, raising a total of 3.7 billion dollars[1].

Virtually everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has heard of these ICOs and the amount of capital they raised in short amounts of time, which is unprecedented in the history of capitalism.

But experts caution that most cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are overvalued, and that the ‘bubble’ for bitcoin itself will burst as it has not fulfilled its purpose as a currency.

Despite this, people are still buying many new cryptocurrencies during ICOs, as they want to cash in on the promise of quick and easy gains. However, many crooks too have jumped into the game, and many companies launching ICOs have inexperienced people at their helms as well.

How to choose a safe ICO

So, before buying into a new ICO however, ask yourself these four questions:

1. Does the ICO’s white paper inspire you with its vision? Or do you feel like you are afraid to miss out on value creation if you do not take part in it? This is the primary tactic scammers use to manipulate readers.

2. What is the team’s track record, reputation and trustworthiness?

3. Does that business or use case really require blockchain? Or is it simply using the word to generate buzz and raise capital?

4. Is it the onlu company delivering this kind of product? How does this company intend to differentiate itself from the rest in future?

Not all ICOs will make money in the long term. So do your due diligence before committing your hard earned money.

Give your business a push on social media

Social media has come a long way in a short period of time. When Facebook and Instagram first launched, no-one could have predicted that these two social network companies would be worth billions.

Today, social media has become an added marketing tool for most businesses. Social media helps businesses communicate to their target audiences directly and find new leads by way of using users’ shared information to identify interest. Additionally, social media advertising proactively targets relevant users even before they begin their search. It’s no wonder why companies are leveraging social media channels to promote their brand and or product sales.

When it comes to marketing, small and medium enterprises are often required to think of innovative and cost-effective solutions to get their brands seen. Social media also offers brands the opportunity to connect with prospects and engage with them in real time.

How can SMEs benefit from using social media? Here are some points:

1. Build a loyal following
Social media offers a collaborative platform for businesses to captivate, connect and communicate
– what I would term as the three C’s of communication
– with both their audiences and prospects. And it is simple: all you need to do is constantly engage your online followers because people want to feel that you truly care for them. By continually checking in with your followers and fans, you are essentially building rapport with them, thus letting them feel that they are important.

Treat your customers like friends. To do that (and right), you need to care about their needs. And even if you do not have anything to offer your customers, it does not hurt to say “Hi!” and or send them a personalised greeting on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and or WeChat. After all, the customer is king and he or she wants to be treated like royalty.

Businesses can also take their engagement a step further by organising regular meetups to get to know their prospects and fully understand their needs and wants. Over time, your fans will better understand your brand values and business offerings. That will differentiate your business from your competitors.

2. Invest in building a strategic asset
Over the last decade of deep explorations into the changing business landscape, I have found that the best way to succeed in a dynamic world lies in viewing digital marketing and communication channels as a strategic revenue generating activity, rather than as a cost-centre for activities. Knowing how to use your social media channels effectively can make an impact in your company’s bottom line.

With the prevalence of digital technology in marketing, instant messaging and blogs taking precedence as the main and preferred form of marketing to connect with audiences, captivating them with compelling brand messages and communicating one-on-one, investing in digital properties is the preferred way to be seen and heard.

3. Communicate your brand stories

Modern customers enjoy social interaction and are perpetually glued to their smart devices. Along with a high smartphone penetration rate, people are forever swiping the screens of their mobile devices. More so than any other generation, Millennials are spending 5.4 hours of their time on social media a day, according to a study by multi-channel response direct marketing company, Koeppel Direct. To engage audiences, SMEs must be able to effectively communicate their brand’s stories in whatever ways that captivate them.

Take Singapore Chinese Orchestra for example. Steeped in heritage and revered in tradition, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) is probably an unexpected heritage brand that would embrace digital marketing channels to communicate its brand’s ideals. SCO constantly puts out interesting information in the form of three to fi ve minute digital videos and short bites that are well-put together and that engages the audience. A cursory glance at the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s Facebook page reveals the organisation’s efforts in constantly connecting with its current fans, plus reaching out to the younger audiences.

Branding is all about perception. Knowing how to position your brand is equally important as knowing how to sell your company’s products and solutions. Positioning statements give your brand character and lay the foundations for both the marketing and operating decisions of a business.

All in all, SMEs can successfully overcome traditional advertising shortcomings by leveraging on digital platforms and social media channels to give their brands a push.

– Florence Fang, Managing Director and Principal Consultant,

Flame Communications Pte Ltd