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The Biden administration can change the world with new crypto regulations

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The U.S. government is failing us with regard to fintech and blockchain regulation.

Devoid of any regulatory framework in the past four years we’ve been operating in limbo when it comes to the development and advancement of crypto products. Innovators in the fintech and blockchain industries have the ability and vision to build products that solve real problems for everyone from individuals to large banks to governments, but without a clear path forward, these products are unable to grow and scale to their full potential.

Regulation shouldn’t be a guessing game. Since 2019, when the Securities and Exchange Commission declared that neither Bitcoin (BTC) nor Ethereum (ETH) are securities, the industry’s been at a standstill. Without clarity, blockchain innovation will be limited to just two coins — the industry is much larger than this. A lack of regulation stifles the immense potential that crypto and blockchain provide.

If we know the rules of the game we’re playing, we can keep doing what we do best: innovating.

A new administration presents a new opportunity for elected officials across the political spectrum to develop clear policies and regulations enabling banks, fintechs and corporations to custody and use crypto to improve efficiencies and to provide a better customer experience.

We can learn a lesson from recent history here. In 1991, we saw the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act (HPCCA), a bipartisan effort led by Senator Al Gore and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

This legislation paved the way for companies like Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Google and others to boom and made the U.S. an early internet leader. By 1993 we saw the introduction of web browsers, and shortly after, the start of the dot-com era in 1994 that cemented the U.S. as a symbol of innovation.

The browser changed everything. It’s created new jobs, new economic opportunities and new categories in technology that we couldn’t have predicted 30 years ago. In looking at the top 100 Fortune 500 companies in 1991, technology was barely a blip on the radar with IBM standing as the lone tech company. By 2020, it’s a drastically different picture, with the list completely dominated by technology giants like Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Salesforce.

Technology companies in the top 100 have contributed close to three million jobs, with many leading in market value. Despite an unconventional year, we’ve continued to see successful technology IPOs like DoorDash, Snowflake, Asana and Palantir.

Products and services that we take for granted now like Google, the iPhone, Uber, Salesforce, Spotify, Postmates and more were made possible by the HPCCA. We now have another chance to create a bipartisan effort focused on crypto innovation, one with public and private sector support to ensure clear regulatory frameworks. Regulation will make it easier for innovators to create new products that keep the United States competitive with other countries and attract more investment.

There’s no disputing that the adoption of crypto and blockchain is on the rise. Major companies including PayPal, Square and Robinhood are leaning in to crypto and pushing it to the mainstream. With the validation from these brands, interest in the utility of cryptocurrencies and the ability of crypto to better serve businesses and their customers, continues to grow.

Leading crypto companies such as Ripple, Coinbase, Gemini, DCG and Chainalysis are currently based in the United States. However, unclear regulation will keep new entrepreneurs from innovating in the United States. While other countries move forward with defined regulatory frameworks, it’s possible that we will see new entrepreneurs and companies forgo setting up shop in the U.S. in favor of jurisdictions where the rules are clear.

If we know the rules of the game we’re playing, we can keep doing what we do best: innovating. We are only at the beginning — developers can build on open-source technologies, entrepreneurs can launch new companies and develop new products, and investors can invest in those companies.

We want the most innovative crypto and blockchain companies to be built and to grow here in the U.S., where they can create value and opportunities for U.S. citizens. Similar to the early days of the internet, we don’t know what the industry will look like in 5-10 years, but with flexible frameworks the opportunity is massive.

There’s a big opportunity for the Biden administration to influence new policies and new legislation and provide clear guidance that will accelerate innovation in fintech and crypto for many generations to come. The administration can:

  • Create a national digital banking licensing charter (similar to Singapore’s Digital Banking Charter), to streamline the process for fintechs to apply for crypto, lending and payments licensing. Today companies in the U.S. are left to apply state-by-state for licensing, which costs millions of dollars in legal fees and years to accomplish.
  • Define clear classifications for digital assets, derivatives (created via smart contracts) and stablecoins.
  • Create a bipartisan public and private sector group led by tech-savvy thought leaders such as Andrew Yang, to collaborate on landmark legislation that will do for fintech what the HPCCA did for internet companies.
  • Appoint an SEC chair that understands how to truly advance innovation while protecting consumers and the markets. The pro-innovation lip service we have been getting from this SEC is just that — lip service. Every crypto project this SEC has touched has ended up fleeing the U.S., in bankruptcy or left holding worthless tokens.

Regardless of how policymakers and regulators decide to approach the issues that our industry faces, we need to continue to work alongside the government to ensure that the rapidly growing number of people who use fintech and blockchain products continue to get the best-in-class solutions with appropriate consumer and market protections in place.

It’s clear that this technology is here to stay, and I hope that elected leaders will recognize the power that it has to effect massive financial industry progress. Similar to the HPCAA, smart regulation can both protect our consumers and markets while allowing proud U.S. companies to create life-changing innovations.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

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Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

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Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

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Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development.

In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014.

Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities.

Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises.

The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector.

a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.

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Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

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Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.

Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.

“We are proceeding well in the Japanese market, and we’ve already contracted missions from Japanese companies, but we haven’t expanded to the U.S. market yet,” explained Gitai founder and CEO Sho Nakanose in an interview. So we would like to get missions from U.S. commercial space companies, as a subcontractor first. We’re especially interested in on-orbit servicing, and we would like to provide general-purpose robotic solutions for an orbital service provider in the U.S.”

Nakanose told me that Gitai has plenty of experience under its belt developing robots which are specifically able to install hardware on satellites on-orbit, which could potentially be useful for upgrading existing satellites and constellations with new capabilities, for changing out batteries to keep satellites operational beyond their service life, or for repairing satellites if they should malfunction.

Gitai’s focus isn’t exclusively on extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space, however. It’s also performing a demonstration mission of its technical capabilities in partnership with Nanoracks using the Bishop Airlock, which is the first permanent commercial addition to the International Space Station. Gitai’s robot, codenamed S1, is an arm–style robot not unlike industrial robots here on Earth, and it’ll be showing off a number of its capabilities, including operating a control panel and changing out cables.

Long-term, Gitai’s goal is to create a robotic workforce that can assist with establishing bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as in orbit. With NASA’s plans to build a more permanent research presence on orbit at the Moon, as well as on the surface, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin looking ahead to more permanent colonies on Mars, as well as large in-space habitats hosting humans as well as commercial activity, Nakanose suggests that there’s going to be ample need for low-cost, efficient robotic labor – particularly in environments that are inhospitable to human life.

Nakanose told me that he actually got started with Gitai after the loss of his mother – an unfortunate passing he said he firmly believes could have been avoided with the aid of robotic intervention. He began developing robots that could expand and augment human capability, and then researched what was likely the most useful and needed application of this technology from a commercial perspective. That research led Nakanose to conclude that space was the best long-term opportunity for a new robotics startup, and Gitai was born.

This funding was led by SPARX Innovation for the Future Co. Ltd, and includes funding form DcI Venture Growth Fund, the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and EP-GB (Epson’s venture investment arm).

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