Blog : CryptoCurrency

How FTX Blew Up Overnight… In Flames

How FTX Blew Up Overnight… In Flames

FTX, recently valued at $32 billion, has just blown up. But not in the “viral-overnight” sense. More like, a nuclear catastrophe. 

On Wednesday, the largest cryptocurrency exchange on earth, Binance, tweeted that it was terminating its partnership with FTX. Binance stated, “We have decided not to pursue the potential acquisition of FTX as a result of corporate due diligence and the most recent news reports regarding mishandled customer funds and alleged US agency investigations. Initially, our hope was to be able to support FTX’s customers to provide liquidity, but the issues are beyond our control or ability to help.”

And on Friday, FTX filed for bankruptcy, and its CEO resigned.

Not exactly a good day for the company.

So… what the heck happened?

Alameda Research is where it all starts. Sam Bankman-Fried established Alameda, a proprietary trading firm that dabbled in cryptocurrencies, in 2017. They made money buying and selling crypto… and there was a lot of buying and selling going on. After a while, Sam realized he wanted more. He didn’t just want to trade cryptocurrencies himself. He wanted to also get very large financial institutions involved.

So, in 2019, he set up a crypto trading platform called FTX, which became a wildly popular mobile app that had a quick rise to disrupt the financial industry.

If you’re familiar with FTX’s model, they were (emphasis on “were”) a crypto marketplace that would locate a crypto vendor if you intended to make a purchase, and vice versa. When FTX handled a transaction, the company earned a fee. Customers who were willing to place large wagers were also eligible for loans. The exchange imposed interest on this of course. Money was made. RobinHood App, move over.

Except… then it wasn’t. FTX almost went bankrupt due to a “liquidity” problem, according to the media, which essentially meant that the crypto markets were crashing and customers wanted their money back. As in, $6 billion over the course of three days. And, of course, FTX was unable to issue these refunds because they, like any exchange would, had used these customer-earmarked funds for business expansion, under the belief that the crypto market was too big to crash. When it did crash and every Chad and Aidan on earth wanted to cash out the $750 they had sitting in FTX for the next coin rush and FTX had nothing for them, chaos ensued. 

FTX has always had lofty goals. When they launched their trading platform, they also unveiled their own cryptocurrency token called FTT. “We can make our own coin and make serious money with it!” was the big idea. And of course, making your own cryptocurrency costs… money.

So, FTX offered all buyers of their proprietary tokens discounted or free withdrawals and reduced trading fees as an incentive to join their platform. 

The token’s potential began to emerge quickly. The costs started to emerge, too. So FTX started buying its own tokens with a portion of its actual revenue generated from transaction fees, artificially inflated the demand for their own coin by purchasing it in large quantities. 

Basically, FTX created a coin, asked people to buy it for perks, then bought more of their own coins using the money people paid for the coins originally to artificially inflate the value of their coin, so people would buy more.

What could go wrong?

When the cost of FTT started going up, the value of Alameda’s holdings of these coins started going up as well. When the FTT tokens started going up in price, this would greatly benefit Alameda (and Sam, FTX’s founder… definitely not shady).

FTX likely used customer deposits or borrowed money to make loans for trades. But when customers all at once started demanding their deposits back, FTX didn’t have enough to cover everyone’s accounts.

The worlds largest crypto exchange, Binance, was positioned at first to essentially bail FTX out of its situation. But, as mentioned above, they pulled out. In a statement, Binance explained,

“We have seen over the last several years that the crypto ecosystem is becoming more resilient and we believe in time that outliers that misuse user funds will be weeded out by the free market.”

Burn. So much burn.

Since its inception, the cryptocurrency industry has battled to win over skeptical regulators, investors, and everyday customers. As a result of Binance’s withdrawal and the decline of FTX, a company that appeared more stable than others, the market has been jolted.

If anything, the FTX crash will turn off institutional investors just as they were starting to warm up to the cryptocurrency space. It may take years to restore faith in the sector’s promise, even though some people will continue to work on interesting projects. Because, you know, crypto.

Tightening screws for crypto companies that make it through the oncoming purge will almost certainly increase. Crypto’s future will be heavily debated on Reddit threads across the world.

Crypto will survive. But for FTX… big, big L. Billions’ worth.
 

But hey. Let’s go make some s’mores in the flames.

What Are Blockchain Smart Contracts?

What Are Blockchain Smart Contracts?

Imagine that you wanted to purchase a car from your neighbor. You open an app and accept a contract. Instantaneously, money is sent to your neighbor and the car is transferred into your possession. Everyone can see that you own the vehicle. Your neighbor doesn’t have to do anything other than send the contract. 

This is the future of the blockchain — the incredible benefits of smart contract technology. But it’s also, like most new technology, potentially dangerous and disruptive.

How is a Smart Contract Created?

Smart contracts are created on a blockchain. They are programmed to exchange a given blockchain’s token (such as wrapped Ethereum) under specific conditions. A smart contract can be sent to anyone, anywhere, if you know their address. This also means that smart contracts can technically be sent to those who have no idea that they’re about to receive them. Driven by blockchain, smart contracts have risen into power alongside crypto and NFTs. Binance, Polymatic, and Solana all support smart contracts.

What Are Smart Contracts Used For?

Smart contracts can send and receive money and record transactions on the blockchain. Essentially, though, that boils down to one thing: smart contracts, given a set of conditions, write to the blockchain. That means smart contracts can be used to validate real-life contracts, exchange goods and services, and complete very fast financial transactions. 

What Are the Benefits and Limitations of Smart Contracts?

Like crypto, the major limitation of smart contracts is that they’re difficult for the average person to understand and they’re difficult to use. More than cryptocurrency, an individual needs detailed tech knowledge to launch a smart contract. But ideally, smart contracts will become more prevalent and easier to use as time passes.

Smart contracts record transactions. But they cannot influence anything outside of their individual blockchain. That means that additional work has to be done to do things like validate real estate transactions or validate car transactions — even if that work is merely acknowledging that the blockchain provides a real record of contracts.

What is the Relationship Between Contracts and the Blockchain?

Smart contracts are built on the blockchain. This provides for triggering events (such as opening a transaction) as well as for recording events (recording them directly on the blockchain). A smart contract is blockchain technology, but blockchain doesn’t necessarily imply smart contracts. NFTs could be called a type of smart contract, as they do convey ownership to an item in exchange for money.

What is the Legality of Smart Contracts?

A contract, legally, is something that two or more parties agree upon. Consequently, no new laws are necessary for a smart contract to be a type of contract; if it is validated that both parties agreed upon a transaction, then both parties agreed upon a transaction. A car can be sold through a smart contract right now, all that would be necessary (which admittedly is a hurdle) is for the law to understand what a smart contract is and how it operates.

That being said, smart contracts aren’t intended to be a legal venue, at least not yet. A lawyer should be involved if smart contracts are used for anything that is more valuable than a car or more obscure than an NFT.

Conclusion

Smart contracts are very disruptive. Presently, someone can borrow money, buy an NFT from themselves, and then send that money back within milliseconds. That may not seem helpful, but people have borrowed millions of dollars to buy their own NFT (in a fraction of a second) thereby boosting the value of their NFTs.

Start to dig deeper and you can see how smart contracts could be disruptive. Because they aren’t regulated (and can’t be regulated) they can give illusions of profitability where there isn’t one. People who work with smart contracts need to be tech-savvy and knowledgeable due to the potential complications and ramifications.

What the heck is r/WSB? How did a small mobile app called Robinhood disrupt the Titan’s on Wall Street?

What the heck is r/WSB? How did a small mobile app called Robinhood disrupt the Titan’s on Wall Street?

When was the first time you heard about r/WallStreetBets or RobinHood? If you’ve been following financial disruption at all, it was about two years ago, when the “infinite leverage” glitch catapulted the Reddit sub and the app into fame.

The stock trading platform for “the little guys,” the RobinHood app makes it easy for anyone to trade. Not just stocks, but options. And that means that at-home, single-person traders (like Redditors) have the ability to place trades (really, bets) that can get them practically infinite income… and practically infinite losses.

YOLO: The Culture of r/WSB

The denizens of WallStreetBets call themselves “autists.” This isn’t as denigrating as it sounds; it’s praise, to them. While not politically correct, it’s their way of saying that they focus on one thing and only one thing. Sometimes to the detriment of the rest of their life.

And sometimes they’re horribly wrong. But often they’re horribly right. Either way, they disrupt.

r/WSB users focus on “YOLOing” stock. In other words, they place very large positions on things that are essentially gambles. But the beauty and complexity of WSB is that they often aren’t gambles. Usually, the people on r/WSB are trading on news, which are entirely valid ways to trade.

Moreover, r/WSB takes advantage of a cyclical effect. While they aren’t organized (and therefore aren’t illegal per the SEC), they have significant visibility. When someone posts that a stock is “winning” for them, others will fall in line. From r/WSB, it eventually gets into the mainstream media. This all crystallized with GME.

But again, this isn’t anything that anyone else hasn’t been doing for a long time, such as stock reports on the news.

GME: WE LIKE THE STOCK

Tune into r/WSB and you’ll see everyone saying something very simple about GameStop: “We Like The Stock.” This is about more than just defying SEC’s collusion standards.

Way back in the before times of “a couple of weeks ago,” GameStop brought in a couple of executives from Chewy. Investors became bearish on the stock, expecting these executives to turn the retailer around.

This was around when people noticed that GameStop was incredibly over-shorted.

People started investing in GME because they genuinely did “like the stock”; they saw that it was undervalued because of the shorting. Essentially, hedge fund managers were trying to drive GME into bankruptcy by selling over 100 percent of its available stock.

RobinHood: Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich?

However, the very same company that started the GME surge is the one that ultimately betrayed its own users. At the height of GME hysteria, RobinHood decided to restrict trading, so investors could only sell GME and not buy it. GME plunged to half its value before starting to recover again. And RobinHood wasn’t alone. Many other brokerages restricted trading GME for high volatility.

This is now being investigated, by such high-profile individuals as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz. Essentially, brokerages were able to fix the price, because they only allowed for selling — theoretically to help hedge fund managers.

GME, AMC, BB: To the Moon

GME isn’t the only one that’s being promoted by r/WSB. AMC and BB are other stocks that those on WSB appear to have a consensus about: They think they’re undervalued. AMC was nearly driven to bankruptcy but received a cash infusion, and its problems are likely to be over after COVID. BlackBerry is leaning hard on privacy at a time when privacy is being questioned on almost every frontier. While some believe that these are distractions (the more people invest in AMC and BB, the less they’ll invest in GME), they’ve been on Reddit’s collective mind for a while.

GME was unique because it was so incredibly over shorted. It was over shorted by nearly 150 percent. Comparatively. AMC is over shorted by only about 50 percent (which is still a lot). But a short squeeze actually isn’t critical for market disruption; this was seen with TSLA’s explosive performance over the course of 2020.

What’s Next for r/WSB?

So, r/WSB is moving its money off RobinHood’s mobile app and there are a few new contenders for the crown. While the mobile app Cash App doesn’t allow purchases of GME, it does allow AMC — and it allows for the purchase of fractional shares. Stockpile still allows the purchase of fractions of GME. And other brokerages, like E*Trade and Fidelity, never stopped. 

r/WSB is still leaning into GameStop. After all, they like the stock. And now it’s become not just an investment but an ideological mission; a way to say “F-YOU!” to the Wall Street fatcats.

This isn’t illegal. It’s not even strictly frowned upon. r/WSB is just a collection of like-minded people discussing stocks and determining whether they like a stock. They have absolutely no inside knowledge; they only know what is reported from the outside. They then independently decide on whether they want to invest.

This is something that’s baked into the market. But never before has it been so easy for someone to invest directly into the stock market. People today can manage their own retirement accounts, buy their own stocks on their lunch break, and otherwise invest freely — and quickly.

Right now r/WSB is pumping up GME, AMC, BB, and… you probably won’t believe it… Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency based on a Shiba Inu meme. And as crazy as it might sound, there are millionaires being made overnight… and billions being lost… all on a mobile app.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels