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The blockchain and cryptocurrencies might be a big thing. Maybe. Some day. If a lot of things go right.
Don’t take my skeptical word for it, though. That’s more or less the conclusion of one of the field’s true believers, Adam Ludwin, the articulate founder of technology company Chain. (Blockchain.com wasn’t available, he says.) I interviewed Ludwin Tuesday night in San Francisco at a well-attended walk-up dinner for July’s Brainstorm Tech conference.
If the nascent field were populated exclusively by people like Ludwin there’d be far less hype. But that’s not how these things work. He freely admits there is ample noise but also a discernible signal. A decentralized system for managing software applications and for trading money free of government control (read: censorship) has much promise. The problem is that it’s more promise than current value, even less so than was evident in the fledgling “Internet” a generation ago. (Read Jonathan Vanian’s write-up here, where you also can watch the video, as well as Andrew Nusca’s review in today’s CEO Daily.)
Ludwin’s thesis is that we’d be a whole lot less hot and bothered about the blockchain, a word he thinks has lost most of its meaning amidst the hoo-hah, if it didn’t involve money. Because it does it’s easy to get people’s attention—and mindless investment dollars.
Incidentally, Ludwin is a sought-after speaker on this topic because last October he wrote a long memo taking to task cryptocurrency troglodyte Jamie Dimon. Ludwin says Dimon graciously reached out to meet, which the two did in Davos in January. And Ludwin lavished praise on crypto projects JPMorgan Chase has pursued since.
That’s near proof something will come of this. Maybe. Some day. If a lot of things go right.
Crypto law enforcer. Did somebody mention bitcoin? New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into 13 digital currency exchanges, including big names Coinbase and Bitfinex, seeking information about their policies on privacy, fraud, and money laundering, among other matters. The Gemini Exchange, founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, also got a request. “We look forward to cooperating with and submitting our responses to the questionnaire that has been circulated,” Gemini CEO Tyler Winklevoss tells the New York Post.
Tax it to me later. Sticking with the legal world, the Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., which challenges the landmark 1992 ruling Quill Corp. v. North Dakota holding that online retailers don’t have to collect sales taxes for states where they are not physically present. While Justice Anthony Kennedy signaled his desire to overturn Quill a few years ago, it didn’t seem like many of his colleagues were on board on Tuesday. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked a series of withering questions challenging South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. “I’m concerned about the many unanswered questions that overturning precedents will create a massive amount of lawsuits about,” Sotomayor noted.
Tax it to me later, part two. And speaking of taxes, the Internal Revenue Service’s online portal for paying taxes crashed on Tuesday, the last day to make an on-time payment for 2017 income taxes. So the IRS extended the filing deadline until today.
NIMFY: Not in my front yard. San Francisco is cracking down on the wave of scooter startups (LimeBike, Bird, and Spin) that have blanketed the city’s sidewalks with a scourge of electric-powered bikes. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a rule requiring a permit to park a scooter on the sidewalk. “I’m quite amazed at the brouhaha,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at the meeting.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. With new privacy regulation under discussion in Congress, Facebook is looking for potential allies and reaching out to conservative groups, Politico reports. Given “the rapidly changing discussions here in Washington, there’s an increased chance Washington will rush to regulate, with privacy concerns at the top of the radar,” Facebook public policy manager Lori Moylan wrote in an email to the groups that was obtained by Politico.
You’re holding it wrong. IBM is finally growing again, but not the right way, at least in Wall Street’s eyes. The recovering tech giant posted first quarter revenue of $19.1 billion, up 5% from last year and better than analysts expected. But the growth of sales in IBM’s so-called strategic imperatives—which includes social, mobile, analytics and cloud services—slowed to 15% from 17% in the prior quarter. IBM shares were down 5% in premarket trading on Wednesday.
Hasty retreat. Chinese telecom giant Huawei is scaling back its decade-long effort to crack the U.S. market, the New York Times reported. Layoffs hit the company’s lobbying office in Washington, D.C., where the climate has turned decidedly negative on the Chinese tech industry.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Do you still love going to see a movie on a big screen at the movie theater? Startup MoviePass is fueling a bit of renaissance in cinema going by effectively subsidizing ticket buying. Brent Lang at Variety takes a deep dive into the controversial business model. Surprisingly or not, it seems some theater owners are not amused:
Michael Barstow, who runs business development and sales analytics for Main Street Theatres, an eight-location chain based out of Nebraska, has been partnering with MoviePass since December. He cuts the service in on ticket sales in exchange for having the company promote Main Street on its app and drive people to its cinemas. “Our customers were demanding MoviePass, and we were listening to them,” says Barstow. “We’re a small family-run business, and we compete with the titans of the industry, with your Regals and your AMCs, so we’re always looking for a competitive advantage.”
Others feel MoviePass’ strategy isn’t well thought out.
“It’s a chain-saw approach when a surgical scalpel is needed,” says Jeff Logan, president and CEO of Logan Luxury Theatres, a South Dakota-based chain with three locations.
Logan hasn’t had any talks with MoviePass and says he’s not interested in working with the company. He thinks it’s lunacy to cut prices on moviegoing in such a comprehensive manner.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How to Watch Beyonce’s Record-Breaking Coachella Performance By Kirsten Korosec
U.S. Homeland Security Chief on Potential Russian Voting Hacking By Jonathan Vanian
Snapchat’s Newest Feature Lets You Build Your Own Face Filter By Kristin Korosec
BEFORE YOU GO
Keeping up with our sporadic series of updates on the world’s largest airplane and the wacky billionaire who’s building it, Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch said it will try the first test flight of its 385-foot-wingspan craft this summer. Last we heard, back in February, the plane successfully sped down a runway in the Mojave desert at 46 miles per hour.