• We’re changing how we incentivize work…
  • My gut tells me Square’s making a big play…
  • Self-driving companies are choosing sides…

Company job boards can be a fantastic place to gain insight into where a company is investing and building new products or services.

A job posting that recently caught my eye read: “Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Lead.”

Parts of the job description were even more telling:

“You will leverage your domain expertise in Blockchain, Distributed Ledger, Central Bank Digital Currencies and Cryptocurrency to develop the case for the capabilities which should be developed, drive the overall vision and product strategy, and gain leadership and buy-in and investment for new capabilities.”

This title and job description would sound normal for just about any blockchain company. But what made this job listing interesting was that it was posted by Amazon.

I’ve long predicted that not only will Amazon develop its own digital currency – likely a stablecoin – it will also create a marketplace for digital assets. Amazon will be able to leverage its own currency and enable rewards programs, enable consumers to transact entirely in digital assets, and empower its own customers to convert from one digital asset to another.

Amazon is the master at creating marketplaces that deliver immense value for its customers. Whether it’s through its e-commerce marketplace or its own Amazon Web Services – which is a marketplace for on-demand compute, storage, and information technology services – Amazon has transformed industries.

Why not do the same for digital assets? I wouldn’t even be surprised at all to see Amazon create a marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In fact, the smarter move would be for Amazon to acquire a prominent NFT marketplace growing rapidly today and make that the foundation for its digital asset marketplace.

That’s exactly what the company did back in 2014 when it acquired Twitch. It used that acquisition to create what is basically the most successful marketplace for live streaming of video games.

My predictions about Amazon may have been early, but they have now been confirmed by an Amazon insider. This internal project is a lot further along than the job description indicates.

The insider revealed that the initiative will begin with bitcoin and that the directive came from “Jeff Bezos himself.” They went further by stating that “Ethereum, Cardano and Bitcoin Cash will be next in line before they bring about eight of the most popular cryptocurrencies online.”

The team has been working on the plans since 2019, and there are even discussions of creating an Amazon native token.

Perhaps my predictions weren’t so crazy after all. And perhaps it’s no surprise that bitcoin has jumped about 20% over the last three days since the news of Amazon’s plans leaked out.

Game on.

The no-CEO structure is becoming part of a bigger trend…

We will start today with yet another decentralized finance (DeFi) blockchain project dissolving its leadership to become a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). This comes hot on the heels of the dramatic developments at ShapeShift that we discussed just last week.

The project is Maker. It’s a seven-year-old project that can be thought of as a central bank for Ethereum. And it produces a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. Dollar called DAI.

DAI tokens get minted when users lock up assets in a contract and borrow against those assets. This would be similar to giving a friend your $200 watch and asking to borrow $100. And once you return the $100 to your friend (plus some interest) you get your watch back.

And because the number of DAI minted is less than the capital locked up in Maker contracts, DAI has been able to remain near its peg since its initial release in 2017.

The stablecoin is wildly successful to date. There are now about 5.5 billion DAI in circulation.

And until recently, the main entity behind Maker was the Maker Foundation. The Foundation – along with its investors such as a16z, Polychain, and Paradigm – held outsized influence in determining the direction of the project.

But with the latest news, the Maker Foundation will return to its original mission and decentralize the project. The Maker Foundation expects to step away entirely by the end of the year.

Maker, as users know it today, will continue to exist as a purely decentralized system. The innovation surrounding the project will continue – DAI will continue to be created, and loans will get settled without witnessing a default.

And it will happen without central leadership, a board of directors, a physical mailing address, or employees.

For many of us, this concept feels unnatural. And we may think that there is no chance it will succeed.

But I believe the project will continue its success… and more importantly, I think it is part of a larger trend unfolding. The recent news from ShapeShift and Maker signals a shift in how we organize and incentivize work.

Projects are incentivizing developers and contributors for their hard work by paying them in the platform’s native token. And as the project becomes more successful, their tokens will go up in value as well, which incentivizes even more development.

It is a way to replace the traditional salary and bonus model of today. And it is why blockchain teams are pulling top talent from Wall Street and Silicon Valley to make the next biggest projects.

And thanks to these DAOs, projects such as Maker will likely continue to thrive and attract top talent. We can expect to read about more projects like Maker dissolving their central leadership in favor of this new leadership model.

Square’s new TBD project…

The fintech company Square announced it is taking yet another bold step into the blockchain space. In a post on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey unveiled that the company would begin the development of a DeFi business primarily built for bitcoin called TBD – short for “To Be Determined.”

Readers of The Bleeding Edge know this is not Square’s first foray into the blockchain space. In 2018, Square quietly introduced the ability to buy and sell bitcoin on its Cash App.

The move was incredibly successful – Cash App raked in $75 million in gross profit in the first quarter of this year. The app is proving strategic for Square.

And with its 30 million monthly active users, Cash App is proving to be one of the most useful apps in the market for crypto.

So it will be interesting to see how Jack Dorsey and his team approach Square’s newest project. Bitcoin does not natively support smart contracts like Ethereum. So one of the questions here is how the team will bring these features to the network.

My suspicion here is Square sending the message that it’s going big on bitcoin. And while it does so, I can see it quietly getting involved with crypto in other ways too.

In fact, Square also announced it’s going to begin offering a bitcoin hardware wallet. This enables users to self-custody their bitcoin in a safe way using a physical hardware device.

This news surprised me, as there are already great alternatives to Square’s wallet. And with its Cash App, the company set it up so the user only needs to remember a password instead of dealing with the intricacies of self-custody.

So I don’t believe the hardware wallet will be very successful. But then again, with its incredible free cash flow, Square has the money to greatly incentive users to adopt the hardware wallet.

This got me thinking…

Square started as a point-of-sale credit card reader. It has since evolved to become a more complete financial service company for small- and medium-sized businesses…

So what if the hardware wallet went just beyond storing bitcoin and began storing stablecoins? It could then act in similar ways to our everyday debit and credit cards.

What if the strategic play here is to put all this functionality on a single device?

It would be incredibly bullish.

While this idea is speculative, my gut tells me there is something much bigger at play here.

Square is one of my favorite next-generation finance companies.

In fact, subscribers of The Near Future Report are already sitting on 249% gains… With the potential to make even more as Square continues to innovate the financial services industry.

I’ll be excited to watch this play out.

Self-driving taxis are launching this year…

We’ll finish off today with big news coming out from Ford and the self-driving tech company Argo AI.

Readers might remember the last time we wrote about the two. At the time, Ford revealed the progress from its $1 billion investment in Argo AI back in February 2017. The two were testing self-driving cars in Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C.

In this latest announcement, the two are now partnering with Lyft to launch autonomous ride-hailing services in Miami, Florida, and Austin, Texas.

Argo AI is one of the tech companies that were further along than many others in its development. It originally set its sights on deploying its tech in 2021. But with the pandemic, the company pushed back its timeline to 2022.

With this latest development, it seems it’s still looking to make good on its original promise by deploying its services in tech-friendly cities later this year.

This means we’ll see commercial self-driving taxi services in 2021… Not in some distant future.

Now the interesting part of this deal is that Ford and Argo AI will be able to access all of the data the Lyft cars generate when they are in self-driving mode. They call it a network access agreement. It is similar to what Tesla does when its cars are using autopilot.

The billions of data points generated from these cars are crucial for improving Tesla’s AI. I expect that’s why Ford and Argo are so interested in getting their hands on similar data.

And for once, we can actually put a price tag on just how important this data is for improving self-driving AI and tech. Part of this deal gives Lyft a 2.5% equity stake in Argo AI in exchange for the data.

Argo AI’s latest valuation estimate is $12.4 billion, making the equity stake worth about $310 million. It is a price to pay in the race for self-driving AI tech… One that is likely to pay off handsomely.

The other note to make here is we are beginning to witness companies choosing sides as fully autonomous vehicles become more advanced.

Back in February of this year, we saw Toyota and Aurora partner up with Uber. Now the other major ride-hailing company Lyft is essentially choosing its partner for autonomous driving tech.

I expect more partnerships like this to form in the coming months as we get closer to a world without drivers behind the wheel.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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