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Top Headlines for 11 March, 2022

Softbank Subsidiary to Launch NFT Marketplace

Z Holdings, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Softbank is reportedly launching an NFT marketplace.

The NFT project is part of its latest strategy to meet its mid-term revenue target.Z Holdings NFT Mall is expected to attract collectors from over 180 countries. A recent Bloomberg report informed that the company also plans to increase the user base of its payment app PayPay to 90 million. Z Holdings co-CEO Kentaro Kawabe claims that the company can’t afford to miss out on the emerging web 3.0 opportunities such as NFTs, decentralized finance, and the metaverse.

Its latest initiative is also poised to put the company face to face with other leading players from the region, such as Animoca Brands and Rakuten. Animoca reportedly has plans to launch an NFT marketplace in Japan by the second quarter of 2022, and Rakuten recently released a music and anime-centric NFT platform in the country.

The Z Holdings NFT project is another avenue for Softbank to diversify its investments in the burgeoning Web 3.0 industry.l Softbank previously led a $90 million funding round for blockchain gaming platform The Sandbox while also investing $150 million in Zepeto, a South Korean metaverse platform.

Credit Suisse Vet Starts Crypto Hedge Fund

A former Head of Risk Evaluation at Credit Suisse, C.K. Zheng, is reportedly raising $200 million to launch a cryptocurrency -centric hedge fund.

Zheng claims that his new venture called “ZXSquared Capital” will make calculated bets on crypto options that deliver better returns, despite the implied volatility inherent to the market.

The crypto options business has expanded by nearly 10 times since 2020. The BTC options market alone has already recorded $7 billion in trading volume since the beginning of 2022.

After 17 years with the investment bank Zheng believes he can give investors superior returns with cryptocurrency derivatives. The entrance of traditional finance veterans like Zheng into the crypto market suggests that the sector may have matured as an asset class.

Stripe Support for Crypto, NFTs

U.S.-based payments giant Stripe will make another foray into the crypto industry.

On 10 March 2022 the company announced that its new cryptocurrency services will allow businesses to use Stripe as a payment method for crypto and non-fungible token transactions. Stripe’s crypto application programming interface (API) will allow businesses to accept fiat payments for crypto assets and to make fiat payments directly to users. It will also provide digital wallet functionality as well as identity detection services including Know Your Customer (KYC) processing.

Initially, the payments company will only provide crypto services in the United States, the European Union and the U.K. The plumbing for Stripe’s new crypto features will be provided by its new partners which include crypto native companies like FTX, Nifty Gateway, FTX.US, and Blockchain.com.

Stripe has also released its very own NFT collection called the Cube Thingies to commemorate its re-entrance into the sector. Stripe had previously allowed users to make payments in Bitcoin, but removed the feature in 2018 due to difficult market conditions. The company believes that the narrative around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has completely shifted despite the market downturn in 2022.

Jamaican Central Bank to Airdrop CBDC

The Central Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has announced that it will airdrop $16 worth of Jamaica Digital Exchange (JAM-DEX), its newly issued digital currency, to early adopters.

The airdrop is part of the bank’s adoption strategy, which will reward the first 100,000 Jamaican citizens for spreading awareness about the new CBDC. Central bank digital currencies are an institutional response to the rise of Bitcoin.

Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, announced the move on Facebook to mixed reactions from his followers. Some praised Holness for embracing a digital future, while others expressed their concerns about the government’s intention to lure the public into a closed economic system.

A local news outlet, The Jamaican Observer, reported that nearly 17% of the country’s population is currently unbanked. The news agency noted that remaining unbanked is time-consuming and costly for poverty-stricken citizens. It is hoped that the novel payment mechanism would encourage these residents to join the national banking system.

The BOJ completed an 8-month long pilot program for the CBDC on 31 December 2022 and expects to conduct a country-wide rollout by summer 2022: all citizens with a Jamaican bank account would be automatically eligible for a CBDC wallet. Even before its release, JAM-DEX confused the crypto community due to its misleading name. Those familiar with crypto p arlance will know that DEX is an acronym for a decentralized exchange in the industry.

Stacks Launch $165M Program to Accelerate Bitcoin Adoption

Crypto exchange OkCoin will work with Stacks Accelerator and Stacks Foundation to launch a $165 million grant program called Bitcoin Odyssey.

The initiative will support teams that create decentralized apps on Bitcoin using Stacks. Stacks is an open-source blockchain that supports smart contracts. Its consensus mechanism makes use of Bitcoin transactions for increased security and energy efficiency. The Bitcoin Odyssey program will offer grants for development of projects that involve DeFi products, NFTs and metaverse projects, DAOs, CityCoins and other GovTech initiatives, and play-to-earn and other blockchain-based games.

Bitcoin Odyssey is backed by some of the most prominent investors in the sector, including Digital Currency Group, WhiteStar Capital, and GSR Ventures.