Sunday, 5 March 2017

Beyond Bitcoin – Cryptocurrencies and Altcoins to Watch in 2017


It’s telling that one of the most popular colloquial terms for a cryptocurrency is “altcoin”, a portmanteau of “alternative” and “bitcoin”. Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has become so ubiquitous that it is the definition of its own category. But the future of Bitcoin is currently in question and, because of this uncertainty, many traders are switching to other cryptocurrencies.

On March 10, Bitcoin hit an all-time high trading value of $1,325 as investors banked on a US proposal for a bitcoin-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF). However, the proposal was rejected by US authorities, which happened to coincide with a crackdown on bitcoin exchanges by Chinese regulators. Together, these two events caused Bitcoin’s value to drop by over $300.

The root of the problem putting the future of Bitcoin in question is scaling: Bitcoin is becoming too popular for its own infrastructure. The number of Bitcoin transactions that can take place at any given time is limited, which is causing a backlog of transactions in queue for processing, slowing down the whole system. This is because of the limited computing power of the blockchain, a distributed database that records all transactions and serves as a public ledger. In some cases, the backlog becomes so great that some Bitcoin transactions are not confirmed for hours or even days, and in some cases, the bitcoins being sent never reach their intended destination.

The Rise of Cryptocurrencies

Blockchains, invented in 2009 by the anonymous developer of Bitcoin, would prove to be a core technology of all cryptocurrencies. Blockchains are the key software that allows digital currencies to break the double spending problem by timestamping transactions into a public ledger on a peer-to-peer network. Without this solution, double spending represented a flaw in which the same digital token can be spent twice, rendering it useless as a currency. This technology allowed bitcoin and other digital currencies to be decentralized.

Cryptocurrencies are a subset of digital currencies, distinct in that they are decentralized: they are not tied to any real-world assets, not backed by any government or central bank, and no one is required to accept them as valid forms of payment or exchange them for any real-world currencies. Nonetheless, Bitcoin became so successful that it is now accepted by major companies such as Microsoft and Dell. You can even use Bitcoin at some brick-and-mortar stores and coffee shops around the world. In fact, there’s a coffee shop in Prague that only accepts payment by Bitcoin!

Naturally, Bitcoin’s success inspired imitation. Many copycat coins failed, but those that refined and built upon Bitcoin’s model attracted investors looking to capitalize on the technological innovation promised by these new altcoins. While some digital currencies like Litecoin and Dogecoin may have already hit their high water mark, there are still lots of intriguing cryptocurrencies that have something new to offer.

Here are the up-and-coming Bitcoin alternatives to keep an eye on in 2017.

Today’s Top Altcoins

Ether (founded 2015)

Shortly after Bitcoin’s crash in mid-March, Ether, the cryptocurrency that powers the Ethereum network, reached an all-time high trading value, surpassing $55 on March 16. Ethereum is an interesting case, as 2016 saw its value rise and fall erratically due to the same scaling problem Bitcoin is currently facing. To solve it, Ethereum split their blockchain into two parallel streams, a solution bitcoin has sought to avoid.

Known as Ethereum and Etherium Classic, these two cryptocurrencies both trade in Ethers, but they can have two different values depending on which stream they belong to, which can rise and fall independently of each other. Microsoft, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and J.P. Morgan Chase are all investing in proprietary software built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, lending credence to Ether’s reputation as a preferred network for digital software applications.

Zcash (founded 2016)
Zcash is one of the highest-valued cryprocurrencies today, currently trading around the $65 mark. The success of Zcash in what is now a very competitive landscape is due to its revolutionary, totally anonymous blockchain. The public ledger reveals no information about the parties involved or the amounts transacted; no other cryptocurrency provides complete privacy and anonymity.

Dash (founded 2014)
The third most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization behind Bitcoin and Ethereum, Dash hit an all-time high of $108.32 on March 20. This is a huge leap in value from its 2016 peak of $14.42.
After two different name changes, it appears Dash has finally taken off, driven by its proprietary InstantSend technology that allows transactions to be verified without the longer confirmation times of Bitcoin and other altcoins.

Monero (founded 2014)
From the beginning, Monero set itself apart from other cryptocurrencies in a way that is proving very important: scalability. Unlike Bitcoin and most altcoins, Monero has no hard-coded limit on its block size, meaning that it will never face the slowdowns that provoked Ether to split its blockchain and that are causing Bitcoin’s current existential crisis.

This scalability is key because the popularity of cryptocurrencies has now reached epic proportions. Bitcoin’s inability to handle its own popularity has led one of its key developers, Mike Hearn, to state that bitcoin is a failure as more altcoins rush in to take its place.

Nothing is certain in this crowded, complex market, and cryptocurrencies should still be seen as experimental and high risk in terms of an investment, but their potential power within the digital economy cannot be understated. More and more people are investing their real-world money in Bitcoin and altcoins, while businesses of all sizes have begun to accept cryptocurrencies in exchange for goods and services both online and in-store. If you’re curious about digital currency, now might be the time to start trading, and it’s still possible to find coins that have not reached their full potential yet and still have room to rise in value.

We’ve only skimmed the surface of the history, complexity, and capability of cryprocurrencies, but this is a subject we at Payza will be following closely in 2017. Subscribe to the Payza Blog to get email notifications about more in-depth articles about this and other FinTech disruptors, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for even more e-commerce news from around the web.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Payza Wins Best Online Payment Method at the MPE 2017 Awards


2017 has only just begun and it’s already an exciting year for Payza. Wednesday night at the Merchant Payments Ecosystem Conference in Berlin, Payza was announced as the winner of the MPE 2017 Online Payment Method Award.

“2016 was a banner year for Payza,” said Firoz Patel, global executive vice president of Payza, who accepted the award on the company’s behalf. “The United Kingdom, for instance, saw over 150% year-over-year growth in terms of new merchant accounts. Overall, Payza saw 50% YOY growth in business signups and 225% growth in merchant payment volume. To be recognized as the best online payment method from among Europe’s leading providers is a credit to Payza’s continuing effort of providing local payment options to our users in Europe and across the globe.”

The MPE Awards, which celebrate and honor the achievements of companies and personalities across the European merchant payments ecosystem, selected Payza as the Online Payment Method Award winner based on its built-in fraud protection and state-of-the-art unique account security features, such as tokenized dynamic payment buttons, custom avatars and greeting messages, and Password and PIN protection; its flexible payment options, such as recurring subscription and split payments for marketplaces; and its hassle free integration that provides European merchants the choice to set their payment preferences based on the countries to which they are selling.

In addition to winning the Online Payment Method Award, Payza was also shortlisted for the Data Information Award, which recognizes achievements in using big data to improve the customer experience, decrease fraud, and increase profitability.

“Winning this award wouldn’t have been possible without the combined contributions of each and every Payza employee,” continued Patel. “From our amazing customer support staff, and our dedicated IT team and software engineers, to our merchant account managers, and our banking, fraud prevention, and account security teams, this achievement was the culmination of a full company effort.”

Payza’s staff has been growing rapidly to keep up with the increasing demand for the company’s services. That demand is a testament to the company’s focus on providing specialized local payment solutions for unique markets while offering an online platform where consumers and businesses in both developed and developing economies can participate.
With new offerings targeted at some of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world, including India, Brazil, and Bangladesh, Payza is poised for yet another breakout year.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You?

In most industries today, small business owners will find that e-commerce is the only true route to success. If you’ve already built your online business and are now struggling to turn a small but devoted customer base into a large and vocal fandom, maybe it’s time to recruit your customers to sell your product for you. If you’ve already come this far, maybe it’s time to look into affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is often confused with multi-level marketing (MLM). In light of the recent Herbalife settlement, people are once again thinking of MLM as a bad word – just Google “MLM” and you’ll see that one of the first results is “Is multi-level marketing a pyramid scheme?” But that’s missing the point of the settlement, which we believe is actually a good thing for the industry.

In 2012 Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund, began a campaign against Herbalife, accusing the 35-year-old dieting supplement company of being a pyramid scheme. After a lengthy investigation, the company agreed to establish a $200M fund to reimburse distributors for lost wages and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that Herbalife was operating legally.

This settlement is meaningful because, despite the fine, it reinforces that MLM is a fair and legitimate business model. In the words of Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson: “The settlements are an acknowledgement that our business model is sound and underscores our confidence in our ability to more forward successfully.”

While it shares superficial similarities with MLM, affiliate marketing is itself a distinct business model from both multi-level marketers and illegal pyramid schemes:

Pyramid schemes require that people pay to participate in the scheme and only profit when they recruit others to participate. The “product” is only redistribution of money pumped into the scheme: the business is built on recruitment. It’s a closed system and the money flows overwhelmingly toward the top. With no incentive to actually sell a product, those at the bottom of the pyramid eventually run out of new recruits and the pyramid collapses.

Multi-level marketing companies rely on the sale of real products for their cash flow. New recruits are brought on board and the company incentivises recruiters, but the profits at all levels still come from actual sales. Rather than profiting off fees charged to recruits, the company rewards recruiters with a percentage of profits based on sales. In other words, the product is everything.

Affiliate marketing is a single-tier system which rewards affiliates for each visitor or customer the affiliate directs to the business. The affiliate is not selling the product but is instead marketing the business and directing traffic to the company’s website.

Affiliate marketing is often overlooked by digital marketers. Though the methods are more or less identical – SEO, SEM, PPC, email campaigns, etc. – instead of coming from the business directly, the content is actually being promoted by a third-party “publisher” (the affiliate). This is a powerful tool for building trust in a brand; when somebody else speaks up for your product, it makes a greater impression on consumers than hearing it directly from the merchant.

The product is still everything, however. Some people get into affiliate marketing or MLMs because they seem like a solid, profitable business model, and then figure out what the “product” is later. But the medium is not the message. There is no product that is a poor fit for affiliate marketing as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Get your product right first – the best time to introduce affiliate marketing to your business is once you have a small but growing customer base, a group of potential brand ambassadors who can prove to you and others that you have a great product.

Affiliate marketing is not a “get-rich-quick scheme” and it’s certainly not a scam. It’s good business. If you know you have a great product and a great online business, affiliate marketing is right for you.

From the start, our mission has always been to provide freelancers, self-employed professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners with convenient and affordable tools for growing their business. We believe in small business and want to do what we can to help improve the lives of your customers – check back often with the Payza blog for the latest tips and tricks on growing your online business, and be sure to follow us on: Facebook and Twitter