NBA Top Shot Maker Raises $305M, Investors Include Michael Jordan & Hollywood Stars

Canadian Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot and CryptoKitties, raised $305 million from a pool of investors that included NBA stars and other celebrities, such as Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Will Smith, and Ashton Kutcher.

The funding round was led by Coatue Management, and Dapper Labs was valued at $2.6 billion.

Dapper Labs Fundraising Demonstrates Surging Interest in NFTs

Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot has been making headlines amid the hype surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are blockchain-based digital assets with the ability to have independent value and represent something unique. NFTs are used in crypto art, music, and certificates, among others.

NBA Top Shot has become a symbol of the NFT success. The website enables basketball fans to purchase and become the owners of the digital copy of a video clip highlighting the best moments of the sport, such as a game-winning shot or a dunk. For example, a LeBron James dunk highlight was sold for over $200,000 in Ethereum.

While each tokenized video clip can be seen by anyone, it is owned by a single entity, whether it’s a basketball fan or a group of investors.

NBA Top Shot is still in beta testing five months after the launch. Nevertheless, the platform has managed to attract over 800,000 registered users and has handled about $500 million in sales.

Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou reportedly said:

“NFTs are breaking into the public consciousness in a big way. Whether it’s musical artists, gamers or sports leagues, everyone wants to explore how NFTs can change their business.”

Indeed, the NFT market is expanding at an impressive rate, and some tokens are sold for millions. For example, digital artist Beeble holds the record for the most expensive NFT ever sold. His artwork titled “Everydays: the first 5000 days” made him richer by $69 million. If you think it’s too much, the buyer told CNBC in his first TV interview that he had no regrets and would have bidden even higher.

Dapper Labs Expands to Other Businesses

Thanks to the success of NBA Top Shot, Dapper Labs is targeting other sports leagues and businesses. The company will use the raised funds to continue its expansion.

Dapper has already partnered with Warner Music Group, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and video game company Ubisoft. Gharegozlou explained:

“We want to bring the same magic to other sports leagues as well as help other entertainment studios and independent creators find their own approaches in exploring open platforms.”

Former SEC Chairman Advises Bitcoin-Oriented Hedge Fund on Crypto

Investment manager One River Asset Management, a $2.5 billion firm, hired former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair, Jay Clayton, as an adviser to its crypto-oriented subsidiary One River Digital Asset Management.

Clayton served as SEC Chairman under the Trump administration from May 2017 until the end of 2020. During his tenure, the SEC blocked several attempts of various funds providers to launch Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Nevertheless, the financial watchdog decided that Bitcoin and Ether – the two largest cryptocurrencies by market cap – were not securities, which left the door open for a wider adoption among institutional investors.

Now Clayton is advising the crypto fund backed by hedge fund billionaire Alan Howard and is supporting the digitization of the monetary and capital ecosystem.

One River’s Advisory Council Also Include Former Trump and Clinton Administration Officials

One River Digital has recently formed the Academic and Regulatory Advisory Council to lead its crypto investment efforts. Besides Clayton, it also includes Kevin Hassett, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Donald Trump, and Jonathan Orszag, who worked in the Clinton administration.

The new council will help One River founder and CEO Eric Peters, who embraced digital assets at the end of last year. He raised funds from Howard and Ruffer LLP to buy Bitcoin and Ether through his crypto-oriented subsidiary.

Clayton said that he enjoyed discussing cryptocurrencies from the other side of the table and admitted that he would have never predicted that digital assets would be embraced by respected investors so quickly. He said:

“The digitization of our financial ecosystem isn’t just is coming, it’s already here. Three years ago, I didn’t believe we would be where we are today — the number of respected investors who have embraced digital assets. I would not have predicted this level of take-up.”

One River has been purchasing Bitcoin since November last year, when the price was at around $15,000. Last November, it conducted one of the largest public transactions with the cryptocurrency, as the hedge fund amassed $600 million in Bitcoin.

SEC Commissioner Worried About Regulator’s Though Stance on Pending Bitcoin ETFs

While the SEC has been harsh on initial coin offering (ICOs), Bitcoin ETF applications, Ripple’s XRP distribution, and the crypto market in general, not all staff members are crypto-averse. For example, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce has openly expressed her support for digital assets on several occasions. The crypto community even nicknamed her “Crypto Mom.”

Yesterday, she told Forbes that the SEC was late with the approval of a Bitcoin ETF, which has its consequences. Peirce said:

“My view has been that we’re overdue on approving one of these things. I also think we’ve dug ourselves into a bit of a difficult hole by setting standards for approval that are difficult to figure out how to satisfy.”

Visa to Settle Transactions in USDC, Preps for CBDCs

Global payments giant Visa announced that it would accept stablecoin USD Coin to settle transactions on its network, which is another big step towards wider adoption of cryptocurrencies.

Visa noted that it was only the start of the journey, and one day it may support Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) when they become available.

Visa Shares “Some Historic News”

Several years ago, when some major banks or fintechs, such as Morgan Stanley or Barclays, launched blockchain trials, most of them made sure to explicitly detach their blockchain efforts from the crypto industry. Today, Visa presents its cryptocurrency adoption plan as “some historic news,” which is another demonstration that digital assets are not only a marginal phenomenon anymore.

On Monday, Visa said that it executed the first transactions settled in USDC – a stablecoin launched in 2018 by Coinbase and Circle. It is pegged to the US dollar with a 1:1 ratio. Currently, it is the 12th largest cryptocurrency by market and is the most dominant stablecoin in Decentralized Finance (DeFi), which has been the fastest-growing sector within the crypto space.

Visa is collaborating with Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency exchange and payment platform that provides Visa cards to its users. Visa said it would make its option accessible to more partners by the end of this year.

Cuy Sheffield, head of crypto at Visa, commented:

We see increasing demand from consumers across the world to be able to access, hold and use digital currencies and we’re seeing demand from our clients to be able to build products that provide that access for consumers.”

Thus, users of Visa-backed crypto cards will be able to use digital currencies to pay at merchants and the transactions will be settled in USDC on blockchain. Previously, if a client used Crypto.com’s Visa card to pay at a merchant, the cryptocurrency held in the digital wallet had to be converted into fiat money.

To build the infrastructure, Visa partnered with Anchorage, which is the first US federally charted digital asset bank. Visa uses Anchorage’s custody platform.

Stablecoins Will Continue to Play a Major Role

Visa’s move demonstrates once again that stablecoins are poised to play a major role, as they act as a bridge between traditional finance and the crypto world. USDT, the oldest stablecoin, is currently the third-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin and Ethereum, which reflects the huge demand for digital assets with fixed prices.

Visa selected USDC after analyzing stablecoins based on three main criteria: demand, stability, and security.

The payment giant noted that one day it might support CBDCs when they become available.

Fidelity Seeks SEC’s Nod for Bitcoin ETF

Financial services giant Fidelity applied on Wednesday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to launch a Bitcoin tracking exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Fidelity’s Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust to Hold BTC

Fidelity’s subsidiary FD Funds Management plans to roll out the ETF called Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust, which will hold Bitcoin and value its shares based on the cryptocurrency’s prices on major exchanges, such as Coinbase, Gemini, Kraken, and Bitstamp.

The filing reflects a preliminary application process with the SEC, and Fidelity said it couldn’t provide more details about its planned Bitcoin ETF because of this.

The investment behemoth said in an email seen by Reuters:

“The digital assets ecosystem has grown significantly in recent years, creating an even more robust marketplace for investors and accelerating demand among institutions. An increasingly wide range of investors seeking access to bitcoin has underscored the need for a more diversified set of products offering exposure to digital assets.”

The prospectus discusses all the detail of the ETF. For example, it even addresses the scenario in which Bitcoin is forked. If that is the case, the fund could hold both the original Bitcoin and the forked version.

The goal of the ETF is to help institutional investors get exposure to Bitcoin and implement asset allocation strategies conveniently, without the need to buy the actual cryptocurrency, which can hardly be integrated into a traditional portfolio.

In the case of a long-term bear market, the ETF might not attract sufficient investors, and in this case, it might be terminated or liquidated at the request of Fidelity.

What Does Fidelity’s Move Mean for Bitcoin Market?

If the SEC approves Fidelity’s Bitcoin ETF, the cryptocurrency will make another giant step toward Wall Street adoption. Bitcoin has experienced more adoption from retail investors, driven by the accelerating trend of digitalization amid the pandemic. However, the main boost came from institutional investors, and another major product aimed at Wall Street investors would bode well for the crypto market and specifically Bitcoin.

Fidelity Bitcoin ETF could be available for its large wealth-management and brokerage platforms that manage trillions of dollars in assets.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the SEC had previously rejected several Bitcoin ETF applications.

Fidelity is not the only major investment firm seeking to launch products that expose investors directly or indirectly to Bitcoin.

Earlier this week, banking giant Goldman Sachs has filed an application with the SEC for an investment product tracking the ARK Innovation ETF, which is heavily exposed to Grayscale – which provides the world’s largest Bitcoin fund. In this way, potential investors in Goldman’s product would get exposure to Bitcoin.

Elsewhere, SkyBridge Capital, founded by former Trump administration White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, also submitted an application to the SEC for a Bitcoin ETF.

US Citizens Can Buy Tesla Cars with Bitcoin, Musk Says

US citizens are now able to buy Tesla cars with Bitcoin. Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the announcement on Tuesday, adding that buyers from other countries will be able to do so later this year.

Initially, Musk revealed in February that the company would accept Bitcoin payments. At the same time, Tesla, the world’s largest carmaker by market cap, bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin to diversify its balance.

Tesla’s Bitcoin Payment Process Is Already Set

Bitcoin has finally received a major boost for its status as means of payment, as Tesla is now accepting the cryptocurrency from US buyers. Musk tweeted:

The company set a dedicated page that answers the most important questions related to the Bitcoin payment process.

Buyers are advised to send the required amount in a single transaction rather than in multiple payments. Tesla confirmed that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency it accepts and warned that the funds sent to a different address result in a loss.

Tesla produces electric vehicles, which cost between about $38,000 and $124,000 without taxes.

Musk specified that the company was using “internal” and “open source software” to process the payments.

It’s worth mentioning that the Bitcoin received from payments will not be converted to fiat. Thus, Tesla’s crypto balance might further increase based on these payment operations alone.

Bitcoin has been considered a store of value (SOV) rather than a means of payment. The largest cryptocurrency by market cap has consolidated its SOV status during the pandemic, as national currencies have devalued due to the quantitative easing and stimulus measures implemented by central bankers and governments worldwide. Bitcoin’s relevance as a payment method has been suffering because of extreme volatility, but the move made by Tesla could encourage other major companies and support the cryptocurrency’s position as a means of exchange.

Bitcoin Surges 5% on Tesla News

Shortly after Musk’s tweet, the price of Bitcoin spiked from about $54,000 to over $57,000 at the time of writing. The move from Tesla adds to the bullish stance after the cryptocurrency lost some ground as a result of the comments made by Fed chief Jerome Powell, who said that Bitcoin was a risky investment.

However, the share price of Tesla is flashing red today.

Nevertheless, since April last year, both Bitcoin and Tesla have been among the best-performing assets across all markets, gaining 750% and 590%, respectively.

Bitcoin Mining Adds to Existing Shortage in Semiconductor Market, Chip Prices Surge

Bitcoin is now a trillion-dollar market thanks to an impressive rally that propelled the oldest cryptocurrency to a fresh all-time high at over $61,000. While market participants enjoy the bullish run, some industries are suffering because of the inflated price of chips.

Everyone is talking about how Bitcoin mining affects the environment due to the huge demand for electricity and the giant carbon footprint. What few people know is that crypto mining impacts the costs of chips, which have been recently booming in price.

Chip Shortages Affecting Entire Industries

Chips are indispensable in so many devices and industries – think about laptops, smartphones, TVs, or cars. The semiconductor industry has already been struggling with supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the winter storm in Texas, and fires at factory sites. But Bitcoin mining is putting even more pressure on the chip market, creating an additional shortage and boosting the price of chips.

The profitability of mining depends on the cryptocurrency’s price, which has rallied for the last few months, surging well above the 2017 peak. The huge competition among miners is prompting an increasing demand for advanced chips. This results in a price boom for chips and thus affects the other industries relying on semiconductors.

CW Chung, head of research at Nomura in Seoul, told Financial Times:

“Added demand from cryptocurrency miners is coming when the chip industry is dealing with simultaneous crises — from supply constraints to a structural shortage of high-end chips. The squeeze should last through the end of the year.”

The problem is so severe that Toyota and Volkswagen – the world’s two biggest carmakers by the number of vehicles manufactured – were forced to cut production due to the shortage of chips. Elsewhere, smartphone makers have no choice but to delay the launches of new devices.

Chung explained that crypto demand might have a great impact on the chip market. For example, during the last Bitcoin rally, demand from miners represented a tenth of the entire sales of TSMC – the third-largest chipmaker in the world.

Nvidia Makes Sure New Chip Is Not Miner-Friendly

The situation is affecting the gaming industry as well, forcing Nvidia to program one of its new chips – GeForce RTX 3060 – to reduce mining efficiency by 50% when it spots mining activity.

Elsewhere, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) told PC Gamer that it had no plans to restrict its graphic cards from being implemented for crypto mining. The truth is that AMD might have no choice at all, as all its drivers are open source.

NFT Auction for Jack Dorsey’s First Tweet Ends, $2.5M Remains Highest Bid

At the beginning of March, Dorsey made the headlines when he announced that he would auction the tokenized version of his first-ever tweet. He said that he would immediately exchange the proceedings for Bitcoin and would donate the entire amount to charity via GiveDirectly.

The Twitter boss, who is a well-known Bitcoin fan, published his first post on the platform exactly 15 years ago, on March 21, 2006, tweeting: “just setting up my twttr.” That tweet was put to the sale as a unique digital signature on an NFT marketplace called Valuables.

Who Is the Lucky Buyer?

The highest bidder is Sina Estavi, the CEO of Bridge – a blockchain oracle network built on Tron. He offered to pay $2.5 million worth of ETH for Dorsey’s tokenized tweet. Interestingly, Estavi made the $2.5 million bid the very same day when the Twitter CEO launched the auction. No other person had topped that figure for two weeks after that.

However, that was not the only offer. In fact, based on the last few bids, we can see that Estavi competed with Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of Tron – the same blockchain platform that Estavi’s Bridge is built on. The highest bid coming from Sun was $2 million.

On a side note, Sun was in the spotlight last year when he paid $4.5 million for dinner with legendary investor Warren Buffett, although the event occurred at a much later date than initially planned.

As for Estavi, he also offered over $1 million for Elon Musk’s first NFT, which is a techno song clip with the lyrics: “NFT for your vanity. Computers never sleep. It’s verified. It’s guaranteed.” However, Musk eventually turned down the offer last week, saying:

“Actually doesn’t feel quite right selling this. Will pass.”

What Are NFTs Anyway?

For those unfamiliar, NFTs are blockchain-based digital tokens representing something unique or scarce. What sets these tokens apart is that they are not replicable fungible, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, or fiat money. In other words, any ETH unit is not different than the rest of the ETH units in terms of value, which is not true about NFTs. While they can reside on the same blockchain and be issued by the same entity, each NFT has its own value.

NFTs are probably the fastest-growing sector within the crypto industry right now, together with Decentralized Finance (DeFi). They can be used to tokenize both digital and physical objects, with use cases ranging from collectibles, art, sports, fashion items, certificates, and even real-estate.