The Weekend Read: April 25

I am back after a brief brisket-induced coma (courtesy of Franklin's BBQ of Austin) to resume weekly read duties. Many thanks to Jo for her contributions last week. franklins

Taking some inspiration from this fairly underwhelming TechCrunch story, let's break down a few of this week's links into a version of love and hate.

1. Blockchain Love

Another press hit for DA Holdings and Blythe Masters with this profile in Institutional Investor:

Q: [Bitcoin] didn't want to be part of the organized financial industry [snip] Do you think these worlds want to be bridged?

A: I would say your general characterization of some of the space is correct. But if you had a really good idea about how to build a better tire for an automobile, you would probably be really interested in talking to the auto companies...

Infosys may be looking at the blockchain for its banking software:

With an eye on regaining industry-level growth rates and to retain top talent, Infosys is sprucing up the capabilities of its core banking software Finacle [snip] the Bengaluru-headquartered information technology services provider is assessing the merits of Blockchain, an open-source financial database that records all transactions of virtual currency Bitcoin, to see if the technology could be integrated into Finacle.

Mariano Belinky of Santander Innoventures highlights the promise (as well as potential solutionism) inherent in distributed ledgers:

We shouldn't be focused on the adoption of a digital currency. The underlying technology is a powerful one and I think that we will see adoption of that technology much sooner.

2. Bitcoin Bashing

The post "Does Bitcoin make sense for international money transfer?" is a lengthy yet comprehensive review of the reasons why many of the bitcoin-for-remittance arguments don't hold water. Fusion does a take down of bitcoin's lack of gender diversity (which anyone who has attended a bitcoin event can confirm):

Men make up an estimated 96% of the Bitcoin community, which means that if Bitcoin does end up succeeding, as its adherents think it will, and if the people who own Bitcoin see their holdings soar in value, then all of the profits will end up going to what Brett Scott calls the “crypto-patriarchy”. Not many men, to be sure: as Charlie Stross says, the degree of inequality in the Bitcoin economy “is ghastly, and getting worse, to an extent that makes a sub-Saharan African kleptocracy look like a socialist utopia”. But it’s not many men, and effectively zero women.

3. ESMA Call for Evidence on distributed ledgers

Full document can be found here, with the exciting bit (for me at least) being the brief closing request for clarity on the broader application of distributed ledger technology. Watch this space ESMA

4. The Unbanked

This lengthy article on the rise and fall of Liberty Reserve shows how a libertarian dream for creating "a PayPal for the unbanked" could turn into a hyper-efficient money laundering platform. Yet the (currently incarcerated) founder does raise an interesting counterpoint:

“I have asked everyone in prison: How do you move money?,” Budovsky said. “Two ways: cash in suitcases and Western Union. There’s no verification required for up to $900 with Western Union.”

FiveThirtyEight showcases the positive trends in reaching the unbanked:

Worldwide, about 2 percent of adults have a mobile money account. But in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 12 percent do. Kenya is a huge outlier with 58 percent of adults there having a mobile money account. In five countries — Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe — more adults have a mobile account than a traditional one.