You are currently viewing Mastercard makes big move into crypto, plus an iris scanning company with universal ambitions

Mastercard makes big move into crypto, plus an iris scanning company with universal ambitions

Crypto roundup: Also, Gamestop meets metaverse, Purpose adds to ETF stable and Nigeria launches digital currency

Mastercard will soon allow all of the banks and merchants on its payment network to integrate Bitcoin and other crypto into their services. That includes crypto wallets allowing users to buy, sell and hold crypto as well as any programs that offer crypto as a reward. Customers will also be able to convert loyalty points they’ve already earned into Bitcoin.

To accomplish this, the company will be partnering with Bakkt Holdings Inc., a crypto firm and recent offshoot of Intercontinental Exchange. The partnership follows Bakkt’s Oct. 18 NYSE listing. On this news, its shares surged 234 per cent. The firm will handle the behind-the-scenes operation of providing crypto services to Mastercard’s 2.8 billion card holders.

“As brands and merchants look to appeal to younger consumers and their transaction preferences, these new offerings represent a unique opportunity to satisfy increasing demand for crypto, payment, and rewards flexibility,” Nancy Gordon, Bakkt’s vice president of rewards and payments, said in a statement .

While there are already a few Mastercard debit and credit cards for those who use crypto, this represents the biggest on-ramp into the crypto world for the company.

It’s this latest foray that will have the most impact, as the company has stated it will affect more than 20,000 financial institutions involved with them.

Gamestop meets metaverse

In a likely inevitable move, Gamestop is looking to join the metaverse. At least, that’s what their job listing for a “product manager — head of web3 gaming” would suggest. The listing , posted Monday, hopes its ideal candidate has “experience across several domains in gaming, content creation, partnerships, game design/development/mechanics, and a general understanding and experience with Ethereum, NFTs and blockchain-based gaming platforms.”

They’re asking for someone with at least seven to ten years’ experience in the gaming industry as well as with blockchain and NFTs. LinkedIn’s own estimates place the salary range for the role between $94,000 to $152,000.

This isn’t the video game company’s first dip into the blockchain pool. In May, they teased an in-house NFT marketplace based on Ethereum, for which it still appears to be hiring. is still up and still asking for “exceptional engineers (solidity, react, python), designers, gamers, marketers, and community leaders” to join its team.

In June, the company also hired Jordan Holberg as its principal engineer. His LinkedIn profile says that he is “bridging traditional legacy e-commerce and blockchain.”

Amusingly, the post also asks that the ideal candidate be able to operate in a “highly ambiguous” environment, which is certainly one way to refer to the rapid ups and downs of life in crypto.

Purpose adds to ETF stable

Last Wednesday, not long after the launch of the first U.S. Bitcoin ETF, Purpose Investments filed to list three more crypto ETFs with Canadian securities regulators: Purpose Crypto Opportunities ETF, Purpose Bitcoin Yield ETF and Purpose Ether Yield ETF. This follows the firm’s previous launches of the world’s first Bitcoin and Ether ETFs earlier this year.

Crypto Opportunities will aim to invest in publicly listed securities with exposure to digital assets. That includes investment funds as well as derivative instruments. The fund will be have as independent subadvisor private investment manager Neuberger Berman Breton Hill ULC.

The other two ETFs will naturally offer monthly yield through a derivatives-based strategy. That includes direct and indirect exposure to Bitcoin and Ether.

“The cryptocurrency markets are known for their volatility. We filed to launch these actively managed cryptocurrency ETFs to help investors benefit from active management by seasoned investment professionals who will be well-positioned to generate income, and manage risk and the volatility for investors,” says Greg Taylor, Chief Investment Officer of Purpose.

The asset management company also announced the to-be-determined launch of the privately offered Purpose DeFi Opportunities Fund, “focused on providing exposure to the growing opportunities in decentralized finance and the unique DeFi investment universe.” Purpose currently handles around $12 billion in assets.

Nigeria launches digital currency

After initially planning to launch Oct. 1, Nigeria’s digital currency eNaira went live Monday , marking the country as the first African nation to institute one. It was developed by the fintech company Bitt, whose digital currency management system was also behind the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s CBDC.

This launch comes after Nigeria banned crypto transactions or operations back in February. Four months later, plans for the eNaira were introduced. The hope is that the digital currency will boost cross-border trade, financial inclusion and make transactions more efficient. Specifically, the potential exists to grow the economy by US$29 billion over ten years, enable direct government welfare payments and even increase the tax base.

To use the currency, the eNaira speed wallet and the eNaira merchant wallet are available from the Apple and Google app stores.

At the official launch, central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said that at least 500 million eNaira or US$1.21 million had already been minted. That includes 33 banks, 2,000 customers and 120 merchants registering with the platform. The digital naira and its physical counterpart will always have the same one-to-one value. The physical naira has dropped 5.6 per cent this year.

It is not yet clear whether or not it will be possible to transfer eNaira back into regular Naira.

As Africa’s largest economy, the International Monetary Fund predicts a GDP of $480 billion in 2021. The eNaira follows the Bahamas’ CBDC, the Sand Dollar, which was also launched this month.

Scan your iris for crypto

Worldcoin, the latest Silicon Valley fever dream turned dystopic reality, was “stealth” launched last Thursday. The brain child of billionaire tech investor Sam Altman, the start-up plans to hand out free cryptocurrency to people who verify their accounts via an iris scan from the company’s grey orb devices.

Worldcoin boasts that it has already received $25 million in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase and billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, giving the firm a $1 billion valuation.

Altman, CEO of artificial intelligence group OpenAI and former president of start-up accelerator Y Combinator, co-founded the company with theoretical physics student Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, a former investment associate at Bridgewater Associates.

The not-at-all-creepy orbs have already been shipped to 12 countries. After scanning customers, the image is encrypted and becomes an individual code, the original data deleted, while users are given a share of Worldcoin’s crypto.

So far, over 100,000 people have signed up, and about 700 are onboarding each week. The company aims to have a billion users by 2023.

CEO Blania insists there is no large biometric database, and that the “proof of person” via orb was their best method for protecting privacy and preventing fraud.

While an early feature of Worldcoin will be a digital wallet, Blania told CNBC that an eventual goal is to have developers come in to build their own apps on the platform a la Facebook.

Blania also sees the platform as a building block for an eventual universal basic income: “We see ourselves as building this huge network of people where entrepreneurs can jump in and build applications like this. UBI is one of those, but building big financial, global companies is another big one.”

Whether any of this will come to fruition is something only time, and the all-seeing orb, will tell.

Source: Financial Post