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Going meta: Paris Hilton, Times Square and ETFs

Decentraland and Paris Hilton plan competing virtual New Year’s Eve celebrations, while ProShares plans to launch a metaverse-tracking ETF.
Following the announcement that Facebook’s parent company would be rebranding in a shift…

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Decentraland and Paris Hilton plan competing virtual New Year's Eve celebrations, while ProShares plans to launch a metaverse-tracking ETF.

Following the announcement that Facebook’s parent company would be rebranding in a shift towards the Metaverse, many projects have started similar initiatives entering the virtual space, from buying property to testing the limits of what this universe has to offer. 

Virtual ball drop on NYE

The Ethereum-based virtual reality world Decentraland announced on Wednesday that a New Year’s Eve celebration would be taking place in the Metaverse. Grayscale owner Digital Currency Group has partnered with real estate firm Jamestown to create a virtual One Times Square — the iconic New York City location where a giant ball descends on a flagpole, stopping at midnight to mark the start of the new year. The virtual event starting at 11:00 pm EST will feature a live feed of the real Times Square as well as crypto art galleries, games and virtual gatherings.

“The metaverse is quickly evolving to bring together the most interesting and alluring parts of our favorite physical places around the world,” said Simon Koster, the Digital Currency Group’s head of real estate. “This event highlights how virtual events can cohesively integrate with real ones in an effort to bring once-in-a-lifetime experiences to so many that would have never been able to participate otherwise.”

Times Square in the Metaverse. Source: Decentraland

Celebrity capitalizes on the space

Reality TV star Paris Hilton has her own New Year’s Eve party plans involving the Metaverse — and these are (virtually) far away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Gaming platform Roblox is home to a virtual island called Paris World where the socialite will be playing an electronic set for virtual patrons on Dec. 31. Hilton, who commands a following of millions on social media, may draw quite the virtual crowd.

It’s unclear how many people will be attending Metaverse events as opposed to celebrating the new year in person due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States and worldwide. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the New Year's Eve events in Times Square would be limited to 15,000 people — there are usually 58,000 in attendance — with everyone required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination.

Exchange-traded funds going meta

At least three companies in the United States and Canada have launched or plan to launch exchange-traded products with exposure to metaverse-related firms.

In November, Evolve Funds Group and Horizons ETFs Management listed their metaverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with the latter tracking the performance of the Solactive Metaverse Theme Index (SOMETAV). The index includes tech companies Apple and Nvidia, as well as social media giant Meta. Shares of the offering have fallen roughly 5% and 3%, respectively, since launching on Nov. 29.

Related: Baidu metaverse app would take 6 years for a full launch, VP says

In the United States, however, the first company to successfully launch an ETF with exposure to Bitcoin (BTC) futures has begun delving into the metaverse. A Tuesday filing from the Securities and Exchange Commission shows ProShares plans to launch a metaverse-focused ETF tracking SOMETAV. The SEC has yet to approve the offering.

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Global financial regulators will discuss crypto at G7: Report

Bank of France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau reportedly said that the recent crypto market volatility had been a “wake-up call” for global…

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Bank of France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau reportedly said that the recent crypto market volatility had been a “wake-up call” for global regulators.

Central bank governors and finance ministers from the Group of Seven, or G7, are reportedly planning to discuss the regulation of cryptocurrencies.

According to a Tuesday report from Reuters, Bank of France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau said representatives from the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom will likely speak on issues related to a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies at a meeting in Germany's cities of Bonn and Königswinter starting on Wednesday. Villeroy reportedly said that the recent crypto market volatility — likely referring to some stablecoins depegging from the U.S. dollar and prices of major tokens dropping — had been a “wake-up call” for global regulators.

“Europe paved the way with MiCA,” said Villeroy at an emerging markets conference in Paris, referring to the European parliament’s legislation aimed at forming a regulatory framework on crypto. “We will probably [...] discuss these issues among many others at the G7 meeting in Germany this week.”

The Bank of France governor added in a speech to the Emerging Market Forum in Paris on Tuesday:

“Crypto assets could disrupt the International Financial System if they are not regulated, overseen and interoperable in a consistent and appropriate manner across jurisdictions.”

According to the G7 website, finance ministers and central bank governors will meet in Germany from May 18-20 to discuss policies related to member nations’ recovery and financial stability due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “shaping the upcoming transformation processes in the context of digitalisation and climate neutrality,” and business policy at the International Monetary Fund. The group issued guidelines around the possible rollout of central bank digital currencies in 2021, and reportedly warned that certain stablecoins could threaten the global financial system in 2019.

Related: Bank of Japan official calls for G7 nations to adopt common crypto regulations

Villeroy has previously urged EU officials to develop a regulatory framework given crypto’s growing role in regional markets, saying they only had “one or two years" to act. Prior to his election victory in France, Emmanuel Macron said he supported the European parliament's recent efforts to regulate crypto — including MiCA — adding that any rules should not hinder innovation.

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Madeira ‘embraces’ Bitcoin, and how its president met Michael Saylor

Here is why the archipelago of Madeira is “adopting” Bitcoin and how its president fell down the BTC rabbit hole.
The tiny Portuguese…

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Here is why the archipelago of Madeira is “adopting” Bitcoin and how its president fell down the BTC rabbit hole.

The tiny Portuguese archipelago of Madeira has “adopted” Bitcoin (BTC) — but what does that mean? The announcement, made during the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, has spurned confusion and misinformation.

Miguel Albuquerque, the president of the Regional Government of Madeira, hopped on the stage in April to announce: “I believe in the future, and I believe in Bitcoin.” He also said he would work to “create in Madeira a fantastic environment for Bitcoin.” However, the details remained unclear.

Cointelegraph spoke to André Loja, a Madeiran entrepreneur who spearheaded the plan to bring BTC to the archipelago in the Atlantic ocean, to find out how Bitcoin is shaping the islands’ development.

Madeira exploded onto the Bitcoin world map on April 7 when JAN3 CEO Samson Mow proudly announced that it “will be adopting Bitcoin.”

Upon the announcement, news outlets around the world reported that Madeira had adopted Bitcoin as legal tender; however, this was not the case. Loja explained to Cointelegraph that prior to the announcement, he would have preferred to use the phrase “Madeira is embracing Bitcoin.”

“We embrace it, we support it. We are not ‘adopting’ Bitcoin because adopting looks like we were making it legal tender when it’s already de facto legal.”

Indeed, in Madeira and across Portugal — which is around 620 miles to the northeast — there is zero tax on Bitcoin capital gains. That means any time one of Madeira’s residents disposes of, spends or uses BTC, it does not need to be declared to tax authorities.

Loja orange-pilled the president of Madeira just a few weeks prior to the conference, sharing his vision for Bitcoin as not only a means to attract foreign investment but to “protect my island from the fiat system.”

By happenstance, Albuquerque came to visit Loja’s coworking space — one of the few places to accept BTC in Madeira — and Loja jumped at the opportunity to share his passion for Bitcoin. Madeira was kneecapped by the COVID-19 pandemic as critical tourism revenue fell off a cliff. Loja, therefore, presented a Bitcoin future to the president as a means to diversify and restructure Madeira’s economy, among other advantages.

Albuquerque was reportedly open to the idea, so Loja quickly sought the help of Bitcoiners around the world, including Daniel Prince, a renowned Bitcoin podcaster; Jeff Booth, author of The Price of Tomorrow; and even Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy.

Within weeks, the Bitcoiner all-star team had contacted the organizers of Bitcoin 2022 to organize the president’s appearance on stage. Ultimately, having the head of state of an autonomous region endorse Bitcoin was an opportunity too big to miss.

Upon landing in Miami, Loja and Albuquerque were invited to Saylor’s flashy Miami villa, “with the yachts and everything,” Loja joked. While Loja had already orange-pilled the president, the conversation with Saylor was on another level:

“Michael Saylor sat down with President Albuquerque, and well, […] it was more like he sat down with his head!”

Saylor told Albuquerque that “You need to focus on Bitcoin. Everything else is garbage.” A conversation the president is unlikely to forget, the seminar was sufficient preparation for him to step on stage in front of 25,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts.

Loja explained that the announcement that Madeira is adopting Bitcoin would “kickstart an intention” for Madeira to become an island in which Bitcoin prospers alongside the people. For Loja, who has already translated popular Bitcoin-related books into Portuguese, “It starts with education — the most important thing.”

Loja (far right), President Albuquerque (center with book) and Knut Svanholm (far left) in Madeira in May 2022. Source: Loja

Indeed, Loja cut his teeth during the bear market of 2018. A passionate educator, Loja works closely with other educators in the space, such as Knut Svanholm, author of Bitcoin: Everything Divided by 21 Million, to teach the principles of sound money:

“I have a lot of ideas, from kindergarten to schools to adult workshops — and to bring people from outside the island. The association will have the best people as consultants.”

To this end, Loja is founding the Sound Money Foundation, a Bitcoin education center in Madeira. The center has support from Mow and Booth, among others, and seeks to help locals to better understand cryptocurrency from a young age.

Accompanying the education drive and the focus on improving “financial literacy,” Loja’s hometown also lures Bitcoin companies with attractive fiscal incentives. At the International Business Center, companies pay just 5% business tax, a highly competitive rate. Portugal was already a budding hub for individual Bitcoiners, but companies can now reap the benefits.

Related: Bitcoin, Bukele and a bevy of central bankers meet in El Salvador

Further down the road, Loja plans for the autonomous government of Madeira to mine Bitcoin with leftover renewable energy — as the island has abundant wind and sunlight — and even utilize “a multisignature wallet for the government to work with Bitcoin financially.”

Madeira's International Business Center. Source: IBC

As a result, the government would take full custody of the Bitcoin it mines by taking control of the private keys. Loja highlighted that the electrical power grid is a standalone “public company,” so any Bitcoin mined by the grid would go into government multisig wallets.

In essence, Madeira’s approach to Bitcoin goes above and beyond the lauded legal tender status. From public sector BTC mining and education to state-run multisig wallets and having Saylor on speed dial, the island is slowly steering toward a Bitcoin future.

Unsurprisingly, Loja’s holistic approach to the island “embracing” Bitcoin has a low time preference. 

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Presenting a live Endpoints News event: Managing a biotech in turbulent times

Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of…

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Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of savvy, experienced execs coming together to run startups.

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

And in these times, they are being tested as never before.

Biotech is going through quite a rough patch right now. For 2 years, practically anyone with a decent resume and some half-baked ideas on biotech could start a company and get it funded. The pandemic made it easy in many ways to pull off an IPO, with traditional road shows shut down in exchange for a series of quick Zoom meetings. Generalist investors flocked as the numbers raised soared into the stratosphere.

But it wasn’t all over the top. Some of these far out ideas are destined to change the practice of medicine and save lives. And they will make some people wealthy along the way. The numbers, though, got to be too good to be true. And now it’s time to pay the piper as even good biotechs with strong prospects are being cooked in the same boiling kettle as the bad.

So how do you respond to these extraordinary times?

In a nutshell, that’s what I’ll be exploring during our upcoming live panel discussion at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina during BIO22 week in San Diego on June 14. The networking gets started bright and early between 6 and 7 am. And I’ve got a great panel lined up for the discussion. I’ll be joined by:

— Andrew Lo, one of the original, out-of-the-box thinkers in biotech who’s been fascinating audiences on biotech financing from his post at MIT for years.

— Neil Kumar, CEO of BridgeBio, will be on hand to discuss his own experiences reorganizing the company in the past couple of months.

— Kristina Burrow, the managing director at ARCH, who has funded a slew of biotechs that have laid out extremely ambitious goals, will offer her insights on how she’s advising them through this difficult period.

— The always outspoken Paul Hastings, CEO of Nkarta, has been raising money and navigating troubled waters through the year. He’s got a lot of ideas on what CEOs should do now.

— And Faheem Hasnain, best known for selling Receptos to Celgene for $7.2 billion, rounds out the panel with his insights on pushing the envelope in 2022 — biotech style — as he runs his latest creation, Gossamer.

We’ll get it started with a fireside chat with Sebastian Guth, Bayer’s president of pharmaceuticals for the Americas region, with plenty of networking opportunities built into the breakfast.

And of course, I’ll be there, moderating the discussion, looking to you for some questions. I hope you’ll come and join us for this live event in San Diego. I’ll be staying on well past the end of the panel discussion to chat with the audience. I hope you come by to say hello. And let me know if there are any questions you would like me to ask this group.

It should be fun. This is our first live event in more than 2 years, and I am really looking forward to seeing a biotech crowd come together again.

  • Location: Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina
    • San Diego Ballroom
      333 W Harbor DrSan Diego, CA 92101

You can buy tickets for the event here.

You should also check out the full slate of virtual panels and firesides we’re planning for that week. Here’s the link.

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