Blockchain This Week – AWS to Scale Blockchain, Crypto Layoffs, GoT NFTs, Shanghai Prep

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AWS Partners With Avalanche Creator

Amazon Web Services is partnering with Ava Labs, the company behind Avalanche blockchain, with the intent of scaling blockchain adoption across enterprises and governments. AWS will support the listing of Avalanche’s dApp products and services on its marketplace. Furthermore, Ava Labs will join AWS Activate, AWS’ startup program.

Another Week of Brutal Layoffs

Crypto exchange Coinbase has let go of another 950 employees, or 20% of its staff, which it claims will reduce the operating expenses by 25%. Coinbase estimates the layoffs would cost between $149 million and $163 million in severance and stock related compensation expenses. Meanwhile, crypto brokerage firm Blockchain.com has slashed 28% of its workforce or about 110 employees. Furthermore, Crypto.com is reducing its global workforce by 20% due to crypto winter and FTX induced damage. Consensys is also reportedly planning to lay off around 100 people.

Game of Thrones NFTs

The much anticipated NFTs celebrating one of the most popular HBO series, Game of Thrones, launched this week and, as expected, sold out within seven hours after release. Dubbed “Build Your Realm,” the collection is the result of the collaboration between Nifty and Daz 3D and was minted on the Palm blockchain. But the crypto Twitter took to the social platform to criticize the lack of aesthetics in the design of these NFTs. They were particularly miffed about the comical, claw-like hands each of the NFT characters was given.

In Prep for Shanghai

Ahead of the Shanghai upgrade of the Ethereum network in March, which will allow validator staking withdrawals, there were some announcements from the Ethereum developer community. A new developer network, “devnet 2,” was released this week. Developers are also prepping up for a shadow fork of Shanghai on the mainnet. They are also planning for a public testnet release by the end of February.

Return of Trump… NFTs

Yet another NFT collection of former US President Donald Trump, “Win Trump Prizes,” has launched on OpenSea. NFT holders can get one-on-one Zoom meetings with Trump for 200 ether, a gala dinner ticket for 50 ether, and more. The collection has garnered over $48,000 in trading volume.

Nexo, Bithumb Under the Radar

Crypto lender Nexo’s Bulgaria unit was raided by authorities. They suspect money laundering and tax violations by Nexo. Within 24 hours of the raid, Nexos witnessed withdrawals amounting to over $158 million. Meanwhile, South Korea’s tax officials are investigating Bithumb Holdings, the parent company of the Bithumb crypto exchange. They are probing for possible tax evasion via domestic and international transactions of Bithumb Holdings and affiliates.

Wyre Withdrawals

Crypto payments provider Wyre imposed a limit on withdrawals to only 90% of the customers’ account funds to enable it to navigate the current market environment.” It lifted the cap after raising an undisclosed amount of new funds from an unnamed strategic investor.

Gemini Ends Earn Program

In an email to its clients, crypto exchange Gemini informed its decision to wind down its Earn program and terminate the customer loan agreements with Genesis Global. It also stated that it would prioritize the return of customer funds with “utmost urgency.” Meanwhile, the US SEC has charged Genesis and Gemini with allegedly selling unregistered securities in connection with the Earn program that offered over 8% returns to the investors.

Winklevoss Vs Silbert

Gemini chief Cameron Winklevoss was at loggerheads with Genesis’ Barry Silbert. He accused him of defrauding 340,000 of the Earn program users and rebuked him for his failure to absorb the shock from the 3AC collapse. In response, Silbert published an open letter reiterating that parent group DCG didn’t commingle funds across its subsidiaries and defended the company’s involvement in 3AC.

FTX Saga This Week

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) seized more than 55 million shares of Robinhood stock worth over $456 million owned by FTX founders SBF and Gary Wang. Meanwhile, a bankruptcy lawyer disclosed in a hearing that FTX had recovered more than $5 billion in crypto and other liquid investments. Next, a federal bankruptcy judge terminated FTX’s naming rights deal with Miami Dade county for the arena where the NBA’s Miami Heat play. Besides, FTX has obtained a nod from the court to sell LedgerX, Embed, and FTX’s EU and Japanese units. While all of these were happening, SBF decided to launch a newsletter on Substack. In the first article, dubbed “FTX Pre-Mortem Overview,” SBF forcefully defends himself, emphasizing that he didn’t steal funds or stash billions away.

Ark Continues COIN Buy

Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management continued its Coinbase stock purchase spree by adding 52,813 Coinbase shares to its Ark Innovation ETG. Ark reportedly has paid around $2.5 million and has spent over $7 million on Coinbase shares to date.

News Shorts

After months of staying low, bitcoin shot past $21K today. Easing recession fears and interest rate woes are cited as the reasons for the current bullish sprint.

Crypto firm Bitvavo said it had rejected DCG’s offer to repay part of the $297 million it owes to Bitvavo, stating that DCG has the liquidity to return the entire amount.

DeFi investment firm Ondo Finance has released tokenized versions of the US treasuries and bonds that lets investors earn interests that can be transferred on the chain.

Bankrupt firm Celsius plans to sell 2,687 “new-in-box” MicroBT M30S units mining machines for $1.3 million. 

DeFi lender LendHub lost $6 million worth of crypto in an attack that saw the hacker exploit a critical vulnerability to steal the funds, which have now been moved to other chains, such as Ethereum and Optimism.

China’s central bank, the PBOC, included digital yuan for calculating the amount of sovereign currency in circulation for the first time in Dec 2022.

UAE based investors Venom Foundation and Iceberg Capital are jointly investing $1 billion in scores of web3 apps, including DeFi and gaming.

Web3 Investments

DeFi startup Quasar Finance raised $5.4 million in a bridge round led by Shima Capital, which brought its valuation to $70 million.

Digital asset market maker CyberX secured $15 million in a Series A funding round led by crypto investment firm Foresight Ventures.

Castle Island Ventures and 1kx led the $7.2 million funding round of hedge solutions provider Alkimiya.

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