Blockchain This Week – CES and Web3, Crypto Layoffs, Crypto Firms in Choppy Waters, Coinbase Settles

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Happy New Year Folks! Hope you had a great time with friends and family!! I sure did. As promised, I am back with the new articles, beginning with the first newsletter of the year.

Web3 and Metaverse Galore at CES 2023

The most anticipated consumer tech expo of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show, happened this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). This time metaverse and web3 had their own dedicated space in LVCC Central Hall. There were several sessions and panels discussing the crossroads of web3, XR, and metaverse. Furthermore, there were some interesting and quirky web3 and metaverse product launches at the expo. 

Mastercard Launches Web3 Incubator for Music Artists

Mastercard, in partnership with Polygon, is launching a web3 focused incubator to connect emerging music artists with fans through a new medium. This incubator gives artists access to web3 experts who will guide them on how to use web3 to advance their work, monetize, and build their fan community.

LG Doubles Down on Web3

Meanwhile, LG released Blade Wallet, a “security audited Web3 wallet on the Hedera network.” LG users can use the wallet to buy, sell, and trade their digital artwork at home using their LG smart-TVs via the LG Art Lab platform. Smart-TV users can now connect to Sansar, a social metaverse platform, and access live events such as concerts. Sansar is built in collaboration with Ubitus. Furthermore, LG has also teamed up with cloud streaming firm Oorbit to bring an “interoperable metaverse” to its smart TVs.

Crypto Layoffs Continue

NFT marketplace SuperRare is cutting 30% of its workforce as CEO John Crain admits aggressive over-hiring during the bull run has become unsustainable. Meanwhile, Silvergate Capital has laid off 40% of its staff, or about 200 employees, to reduce operational costs. At the same time, crypto exchange Huobi is slashing 20% of its employee base. Recently, crypto lender Genesis Trading announced it is letting go of around 30% of its people.

Many Crypto Firms Under Weather

Crypto lender Genesis Trading is reportedly mulling over filing for bankruptcy. The company is said to be working with investment bank Moelis & Co to evaluate its options. Meanwhile, Silvergate Capital saw an outflow of $8.1 billion in crypto deposits in the fourth quarter, the disclosure of which resulted in its stock tanking 46%. Following the news of layoffs, Houbi saw an outflow of $60 million in 24 hours, with a cumulative $94.2 million net outflows in the past week. Huobi’s HT token dropped 11% in 24 hours. Tron’s TRX fell nearly 8% and TRX based stablecoin USDD fell 3 cents.

Coinbase’s $100M Settlement

Crypto exchange Coinbase has reached a $100 million settlement with the New York state financial regulator, who had sued Coinbase for its shortcoming in its AML and KYC standards. Coinbase will pay a $50 million fine and use the other $50 million to strengthen its internal compliance process.

SEC Nails CoinDeal Scammers

The US SEC has charged six individuals and two businesses tied to an investment scheme called CoinDeal, which the agency says raised more than $45 million from sales of what it deems as unregistered securities. One defendant, Neil Chandran, has been behind bars since Sep last year, awaiting trial in a separate wire fraud case.

Mashinsky Sued

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has filed a suit against Alex Mashinsky, the former CEO of Celsius Network. The case alleges Mashinsky of defrauding investors by making false statements about the company and misleading them into investing in Celsius. She said that the state intends to ban Mashinsky from doing business in NY and seek restitution for affected investors.

Critical Vulnerabilities Found

Security audit firm Debaub found a critical vulnerability in Uniswap’s Universal Router contract that could have been abused to steal funds. Uniswap has patched the bug and awarded $40,000 worth of USDC as the bug bounty to Debaub. Meanwhile, an Immunefi security researcher was awarded $1 million for finding a critical bug on three Polkadot parachains that could have been exploited for as much as $200 million.

Mutant Ape Planet Founder Charged

A federal court in Brooklyn has charged Aurelien Michel, the founder of the Mutant Ape Planet NFT project, for allegedly defrauding customers of $2.9 million. Michel supposedly used customers’ funds for personal use while promising the NFT holders rewards on NFT purchases.

China’s NFT Platform

The Chinese state sanctioned digital assets trading platform, the China Digital Trading Platform (CDEX), went live on New Year’s day. China Tech Exchange, Cultural Relics Exchange, and Copyright Service Center created this system to standardize NFT trading and avoid black market activities.

Cryptosat’s Second Satellite

Cryptosat, the company that builds satellites that power blockchain and crypto applications, has launched its second satellite to provide isolated computational environments in low Earth orbit. Crypto2, the satellite that is no larger than a mug, was sent as payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 flight. Crypto2 supposedly has 30 times more computational power than Crypto1, which launched last year.

News Shorts

Animoca Brands chief Yat Siu, who in Nov was planning to raise $2 billion for a new web3 and metaverse investment fund, has halved the amount, citing challenging markets.

Troubled crypto lender Vauld rejected Nexo’s acquisition proposal due to the questionable state of Nexo’s solvency.

Crypto exchange FTX’s former CEO Sam Bankman Fried pleaded not guilty to all fraud charges in a New York federal court.

Bitcoin Core developer Luke Dashjr lost over 200 bitcoin worth over $3.6 million due to his compromised PGP key.

Meanwhile, an anonymous DeFi user lost $3.4 million worth of GMX tokens due to a phishing attack where they were tricked into approving a malicious transaction.

Two bankrupt firms, Core Scientific and Celsius, have reached an agreement to cut off power to 37,000 mining rigs of Celsius as Celsius owes Core $7.8 million in power costs.

The UK’s National Crime Agency is recruiting a bunch of law enforcement officers to its new “crypto cell” to counter and investigate crypto crimes.

Bitcoin Mining Firm Riot Blockchain rebranded itself as “Riot Platforms” as it seeks to diversify amid crypto winter.The government body responsible for the collection and sale of the state property in Iran has returned some of the hardware seized from illegal crypto mining farms as ordered by Iranian courts.

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