Monday, 22 January 2018

Jump-Start The New Year With The Help of These Apps

It's the beginning of the new 2018 and as every year at this time people are occupied with their New Year’s Resolutions. They are thinking how to accomplish all of their yearly goals in just twelve-month period. In order to deliver on their big and ambitious goals, people will first need to clear their thoughts, get rid of unnecessary busywork and simplify their days.

All of that can be accomplished with the help of various mobile apps. They can help you in organizing your daily life, clearing up your mailboxes, converting your documents, keeping all your documents updated and always accessible and the list goes on.

However, more and more new apps are popping up every day so keeping up with the changes and finding the right ones can be stressful and time-consuming. We decided to create a list of the best and most useful productivity apps so you wouldn't have to experience that stressful never-ending scrawling scenario.

Boomerang Mail App

If you are a huge inbox zero fan, but your job requires subscribing to a lot of blogs, newsletters, and publications or you just buy a ton of unnecessary stuff online, you must be annoyed with the clutter you have in your inbox. Boomerang can help you with that. It seamlessly integrates with your Gmail or Outlook and it simply works better than your default mailbox. It has all the necessary features and a few extra useful ones. You can write an email and then schedule the time you want it to be sent, you can get notifications if no one replied to your emails and you can even use their built-in AI assistant to find important emails, files, check your calendar and reschedule your meetings.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS and Android

PDF Converter Ultimate

This one is a no-brainer. Dealing with a lot of documents, especially PDF file format can be frustrating as they are not easily editable, which is particularly important when you are on the move and nowhere near your desktop computer. With the PDF Converter Ultimate app, you can easily and with great accuracy convert all your documents in a matter of seconds for straightforward editing later. It can convert PDFs to more than 20 most commonly used file formats and vice versa. The app uses industry-leading OCR engine so converting scanned documents shouldn't be a problem. Documents can be converted directly from your phone, from Gmail attachments or supported cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and more.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS and Android

Evernote

No productivity list is complete without Evernote. It will change the way you organize your life. The app lets you write, store and share memos, documents, notes, sketches, pictures and the list goes on.  All your notes and documents are automatically synced to the cloud and instantly accessible across all your devices. You can even use your device's camera to scan, digitize, and organize your paper documents, business cards, handwritten notes, and drawings.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS and Android

Buffer

A lot of people have huge dislikes for any social media automation tools because they think that these tools end up being more of a waste of time and money. They are usually right, but with Buffer things are different. The app is pretty simple to use and there are not so many choices that can get you confused over time. It offers tracking feature which suggests the best time of the day to reach your audience, and the integrated image editing and sharing feature make your posts pop. Further, you can schedule sharing of multiple posts and the free plan offers connecting up to 3 social media accounts.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS and Android

1Password

Remember that feeling when you forgot your password? And don’t you want to kick yourself whenever you use up all your attempts and have to wait some time for a timer to restart? 1Password has you covered. The app stores all your passwords in one centralized place and remembers the right one for each site. 1Password uses end-to-end encryption, so your data is very safe and protected by one master password you will have to remember. You can store logins, credit cards, addresses, notes, bank accounts, driver’s licenses, passports, and other important information. You can unlock the app quickly with password, Touch ID and even with Face ID on the newest iPhone X.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS and Android

Your Choice

We would love to hear from you, so please let us know in the comments below what productivity app do you frequently use? Maybe it could fill up the sixth place on our list.

Something doesn’t ad up about America’s advertising market

economist.com
Stockmarket investors are wrong to expect an enormous surge in advertising revenues
IMAGINE a world in which you are manipulated by intelligent advertisements from dusk until dawn. Your phone and TV screens flash constantly with commercials that know your desires before you imagine them. Driverless cars bombard you with personalised ads once their doors lock and if you try to escape by putting on a virtual-reality headset, all you see are synthetic billboards. Your digital assistant chirps away non-stop, systematically distorting the information it gives you in order to direct you towards products that advertisers have paid it to promote.
Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley thinker who was an adviser on “Minority Report”, a bleak sci-fi film, worries that this could be the future. He calls it a world of ubiquitous “digital spying”. A few platform firms, he fears, will control what consumers see and hear and other companies will have to bid away their profits (by buying ads) to gain access to them. Advertising will be a tax that strangles the rest of the economy, like medieval levies on land.
It may sound outlandish, but this dystopia is increasingly what stockmarket investors are banking on. The total market value of a basket of a dozen American firms that depend on ad revenue, or are devising their strategies around it, has risen by 126% to $2.1trn over the past five years. The part of America’s economy that is ad-centric has become systemically important, with a market value that is larger than the banking industry.
The biggest firms are Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent), which rely on advertising for, respectively, 97% and 88% of their sales. But the chunky valuations of America’s giant TV broadcasters imply that their ad revenues will fall very slowly, or not at all. Startups that rely on advertising, such Snap, are floating their shares at prices that suggest huge growth. Large deals, too, are being justified by potential ad revenues. Microsoft’s $26bn acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 was partly premised on “monetising” its user base through adverts. The main reason AT&T says it wants to buy Time Warner for $109bn is to create a digital ad platform linking AT&T’s data to Time Warner’s TV content.
The immense sums being bet on advertising raise a question: how much of it can America take? A back-of-the-envelope calculation by Schumpeter suggests that stock prices currently imply that American advertising revenues will rise from 1% of GDP today, to as much as 1.8% of GDP by 2027—a massive jump. Since 1980 the average has been 1.3%, according to Jonathan Barnard of Zenith, a media agency, and in the past few years the advertising market relative to GDP has been shrinking.
There are reasons why it might go on a tear, points out Rob Norman of GroupM, another media agency. In the old days adverts in Time magazine or on billboards in Times Square were big-ticket items that only giant firms could afford. But tech platforms have done a brilliant job of persuading smaller companies to spend money targeting customers. Facebook has 6m advertisers, equivalent to a fifth of all American small firms.
Adverts could become even more effective at identifying customers and enticing them to spend money, using troves of data that have been gathered to anticipate their needs. As commerce shifts online, firms will cut back on conventional marketing (for example, the fees that consumer goods and food firms pay to Walmart to ensure products are displayed prominently on its shelves), freeing up budgets to spend more on digital ads.
Yet there are two logical limits to the size of the advertising market. First, the irritation factor, or how much consumers can absorb without being put off. In the analogue era the rule of thumb was that ads could comprise no more than 33-50% of TV or radio programming, or of a magazine’s pages, says Rishad Tobaccowala, of Publicis, an advertising firm. The digital world is already showing signs of saturation.
More people are using ad-blocking software. Tech brands that eschew bombarding customers with ads, such as Apple and Netflix, are wildly popular. The drive to lift user “engagement” on social-media platforms by showing sensational content, in turn boosting the number of ads that can be sold, has prompted a backlash. On January 11th Facebook said it would show users fewer posts from “businesses, brands and media”. Time spent online by the typical American is growing at about 10% a year, less than the 15-20% ad-sales growth that many digital firms expect.
The second limit on the size of the advertising market is how much cash all other firms, in aggregate, have at their disposal to spend on ads. In theory they could spend more and more until their overall returns on capital drop below the cost of capital, compromising their financial viability. Remarkably, expectations for ad revenues are now so bullish that they imply that this boundary will indeed be tested.
Commercial breaking-point
Imagine if advertising spending really did rise to 1.8% of GDP in America by 2027. Most firms’ costs would have to rise, cutting total corporate profits (excluding those of ad platforms) from about 6.5% to 5.7% of GDP, the kind of drop normally associated with a recession. Alternatively, imagine if the firms in the S&P 500 index (excluding ad platforms) bore all the additional cost of the advertising boom. Their combined return on capital would drop from the present 10% to 8%, at or just below their cost of capital. America Inc would go from being the world’s greatest profit machine to flirting with Japanese-style financial-zombie status.
That does not seem realistic. More probably, hopes for a new age of advertising nirvana are too optimistic. Perhaps the ad sales of conventional media firms (which are about half of the total, with TV dominating) will drop fast rather than merely stagnate. Or perhaps digital firms will struggle to increase ad sales at compound annual rates of 15-20% or a decade, as their valuations imply. Expectations for both groups are surely too high. In the advertising world, and on Wall Street, something does not ad up.

Why diversifying your business doesn’t always bring success

europeanceo.com

While diversification has brought huge success for some businesses, for others it has been a costly error. When entering any new industry, strategy should come before size

Feature image
James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at British technology company Dyson, speaks at the Wired Business Conference in 2012
Change may be difficult, but inertia can prove truly damaging, particularly from a business point of view. In the corporate world, standing still is the same as going backwards. However, once a market has become saturated, businesses have little choice but to enter new verticals if they want to pursue further growth.
Fortunately, if businesses do choose to diversify, there are plenty of positive examples to follow. Not so long ago, Xerox was so synonymous with its core industry that it became common office parlance to ask for ‘a Xerox’ of a document, rather than a photocopy. Today, however, Xerox is a $10bn (€8.5bn) global company that is just as likely to offer consultation and training services as it is office technology. Similarly, the UK-based Virgin Group has successfully ventured into a host of different industries, from transport to entertainment.
However, many less successful examples of diversification have quickly faded from memory: Coco-Cola began an ill-fated wine business in 1977; Kodak’s foray into pharmaceuticals lasted just six years; and the less said about Cosmopolitan’s range of yoghurts, the better. It is easy to understand why a new industry, with its potential new customers, might prove attractive to a business, but diversification should never be viewed as a quick or easy way to further growth.

It’s all relative

In September, within the space of just 48 hours, two high-profile firms both announced unexpected pivots. First, Dyson declared it would be entering the electric vehicle market, stating it would have a car that was “radically different” from its competitors ready by 2020. Then, Swedish furniture firm IKEA revealed its intention to enter the gig economy through its acquisition of the on-demand services platform TaskRabbit. These two different diversification efforts have provoked two very different reactions from industry experts.
With no chassis or production plant, it’s been argued that Dyson’s timeframe simply isn’t viable, particularly when safety regulations across various markets are also considered. The electric vehicle space is also highly competitive, with established car firms like Volkswagen (VW) and Silicon Valley tech companies like Tesla all having a head start on the UK firm. Dyson will be diversifying into a potential growth area, but one that it will not have all to itself.
The difficulty of diversifying lies in predicting which industries can add value to your business and which ones will simply exacerbate your problems
IKEA, on the other hand, was largely praised for its acquisition, with many believing its decision to enter the services trade was a natural extension of its furniture selling business. As Andrew Shipilov, Professor of Strategy at the INSEAD business school, explained, the differing reaction to Dyson and IKEA’s respective moves stems from a subtle, but important, distinction.
“There are actually two kinds of diversification: related and unrelated,” Shipilov said. “The latter involves businesses entering markets in which they have no related resources. However, the more that businesses move away from their core competencies, the greater the chance of problems emerging.”
In the case of IKEA and Dyson, the former has simply chosen to broaden its existing ecosystem. TaskRabbit’s technology and knowledge will allow IKEA to offer furniture-building as a service alongside the products it sells in its physical stores. For Dyson, however, its diversification is much more of a leap in the dark.
It is also worth keeping in mind that as diversification extends further away from a company’s core offering, it is easy for costs to swell. Tesla has received investment of $10bn (€8.5bn) since 2012, while VW has earmarked $84bn (€71.7bn) to spend on its own electric vehicle technology over the next 12 years. Currently, Dyson’s proposal has set aside just $2.7bn (€2.3bn). In the past, the company has successfully broadened its product range from vacuum cleaners to hand dryers and beyond, but building a car could prove a stretch too far.
A survival strategy 
Although in many cases diversification can simply act as a way of building on existing success, at other times it has proven imperative to a company’s survival. Consumer trends can change drastically; new technologies can spring out of nowhere to overhaul entire industries. The most resilient firms are those that can foresee these changes and embrace them before their core offering becomes obsolete.
Finnish firm Nokia began life in the 1860s as a paper manufacturer, for example. But, upon seeing the growth of various new technologies, the company eventually entered the telecoms space, becoming the world’s best-selling mobile phone brand by the late 1990s. However, as the industry developed, Nokia was unable to shift its focus to software, eventually falling behind smartphone developers like Apple as a result. Ironically, Nokia was able to successfully diversify into unrelated industries throughout the 20th century, but the rapid growth of the app economy caught the company by surprise.
Industries naturally go through peaks and troughs, while some simply become outdated as new technologies appear and markets shift. Diversification, therefore, can provide organisations with a way of moving from a failing core industry to one of emerging growth. The difficulty lies in predicting which industries can add value to your business and which ones will simply exacerbate your problems.
Despite its popularity, Nokia’s 3310 mobile phone was unable to keep up in the app economy
Size isn’t everything
Although the success stories of huge global conglomerates may make diversification a tempting growth proposition, it is not the only way for businesses to enter untapped markets. Shipilov argues collaborating with firms that are already present in your prospective industry is a less risky approach: “Diversification for its own sake is dangerous, but if you specialise and partner then you can get pretty much the same benefits and be much more flexible than you otherwise could have been.”
For many organisations, even those with huge financial and technological scale, partnerships represent the go-to method of entering new verticals. MasterCard, for example, has partnered with Parkeon to turn traditional parking meters into connected devices. Despite global revenues in excess of $10bn (€8.5bn), MasterCard didn’t enter the smart city sector on its own. Instead, the company combined its payments processing technology with Parkeon’s resources in the parking and transportation space to deliver a solution that makes the most of both organisations’ assets.
What’s more, it’s important for business leaders and investors to not get lured in by size alone. Revenue growth for Europe’s 10 largest conglomerates averages approximately 1.5 percent when viewed across 2016/17, far below that of the continent’s fastest-growing firms. Of course, it’s easier to grow a start-up than an industry behemoth, but even factoring in size differences, the economic benefits of conglomerates have looked shaky for some time.
More focused companies are often easier to manage and possess a clear, strategic goal – something that can be lacking with diversified firms. “One of the main reasons that diversification fails is because businesses do not have the right strategy in place,” Shipilov said. “They must think carefully about what distinct resources or capabilities they can move between different markets to give them a competitive advantage. Too often, businesses think that financial clout will be enough, but money is not a unique resource.”
From an investment point of view, diversified firms also have their issues. A McKinsey & Company report, for example, found that median total returns to shareholders across an eight-year period were just 7.5 percent for conglomerates, compared with 11.8 percent for focused companies.
There have, of course, been many diversification strategies that have failed and many that have succeeded. Although it may be tempting to seek growth outside a company’s core business, this decision should not be taken lightly. The knowledge and skill required to manage business activities across multiple unrelated industries is hard to find, even among the most experienced and successful corporate individuals.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Apple's App Store set to eclipse Hollywood: Revenue will 'overtake global box office revenues this year'

dailymail.co.uk
  • - Asymco also says people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018
  • - iOS economy will achieve the half trillion revenue rate in 2019 it claim

  • Apple's revenue from its app Store is set to overtake overtake Global Box Office revenues this year, it has been predicted.
    The prediction, from Asymco, says people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018.
    And is set the 'app economy' is still growing - with growth rates suggesting the iOS economy will achieve the half trillion revenue rate in 2019.
    Asymco analyst Horace Dediu predicts people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018, and Apple's App Store alone will overtake Global Box Office revenues this year.
    Asymco analyst Horace Dediu predicts people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018, and Apple's App Store alone will overtake Global Box Office revenues this year.
    Apple said earlier this year customers around the world spent $300 million in purchases made on New Year's Day 2018. 
    During the week starting on Christmas Eve, a record number of customers made purchases or downloaded apps from the App Store, spending over $890 million in that seven-day period.
    'We are thrilled with the reaction to the new App Store and to see so many customers discovering and enjoying new apps and games,' said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. 
    'We want to thank all of the creative app developers who have made these great apps and helped to change people's lives. 
    'In 2017 alone, iOS developers earned $26.5 billion — more than a 30 percent increase over 2016.'
    Asymco analyst Horace Dediu predicts people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018, and Apple's App Store alone will overtake Global Box Office revenues this year.
    Asymco analyst Horace Dediu predicts people will spend $100m a day on apps by the end of 2018, and Apple's App Store alone will overtake Global Box Office revenues this year.
    The latest research, by Asymco's Horace Dediu, suggest the figures are only the tip of the iceberg for Apple.
    'I've made comparisons before with the app business being bigger than the film industry, and much bigger than the music industry, he wrote. 
    'This was considering Android revenues and iOS combined as 'app revenues'.
    'As of this year the App Store alone will overtake Global Box Office revenues.' 
    'The App Store, and Apple services overall, is becoming one of the largest enterprises in the world.'
    Asymco also said that the economic impact of the app store goes far beyond app revenue. 
    'There are not only free apps but also many apps which are front-ends to complex services which are monetized in various indirect ways,' Dediu wrote.
    'Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tencent, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, Google, Baidu, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, JD.com, Alibaba, Expedia, Tripadvisor, Salesforce, Uber, AirBnB and hundreds of others are all 'free' apps enabling hundreds of billions of dollars of interaction none of which are captured in the App Store revenue data. 
    'By weight of users and their propensity to engage, iOS enables about 50% to 60% of mobile economic activity.'
    Based on assumptions of revenue rates for mobile services and iOS share of engagement, Deidu said his estimate of the economic activity on iOS for 2017 is about $180 billion, and including hardware sales, the iOS economy cleared about $380 billion in revenues over the year. 


    Netflix usurps Spotify as leader for app revenues

    telecoms.com
    Mobile video content apps edge
    It might be hording a ridiculous amount of debt, but Netflix is ranking in the cash as it tops the tables for non-game app revenues.
    Estimates from Sensor Tower, puts the content giant above the likes of Line and Tinder in the list, with revenues of $510 million, a 138% year on year increase, while last year’s leader Spotify drops out of the top ten completely. In fact, it has been a good year for video apps as Tecent Video and HBO Now also populate the list, hammering home the mobile video revolution.
    While some might turn their nose up at the idea of the app economy, if Sensor Tower’s estimates are anywhere near accurate, the money is starting to stack up. Over the last 12 months, the team believe the app economy grew by 35% taking the total up to $58.6 billion, with mobile games continuing to dominate, accounting for roughly 82% of the total revenues.
    And while Android might be the dominant operating system worldwide, Google’s inability to navigate the choppy waters of Chinese regulation is seemingly hurting. The Apple App Store collected $38.5 billion of the pot, almost double that of Google Play. China is one of the lucrative markets when it comes to mobile gaming fortunes, though it’ll be interesting to see how quickly this split evens out over the coming years.
    It would be fair to assume mobile gaming’s dominance over the revenues will start to decline as the connected economy starts to take shape. Spending money through apps is becoming normalised as the variety of ways you can burn cash starts to increase. The App store is collecting the lion’s share of revenues thanks to its presence in China, but as money starts to increase in non-gaming apps, you should see the Android global market share dominance take a strangle hold of the revenues.
    Video apps are of course an easy place to point to as an area which will erode the mobile gaming dominance over revenues, though other non-gaming areas such as transportation (Uber), takeaways (Just Eat), retail (Asos), entertainment (Odeon) and travel (Booking.com), will also take a bigger share. The smartphone is controlling more of our daily life and the paranoia around spending money through apps is starting to disappear.
    That said, for the moment mobile gaming does continue to rule. Sitting at the top of the pile is Mixi’s Monster Strike, while Honor of Kings take second place. Candy Crush Saga is another which features in the top 10, an impressive feat considering the game has now been around for five years.
    If you nail an idea, there certainly can be longevity in the app economy as many of the games in the top 10 predate 2017, though 2016’s biggest fad, Pokémon Go, failed to register a presence on the list. Niantec Labs might have been trying to reignite the flames throughout 2017, but the Sensor Tower estimates put Pokémon Go in the same bracket Los Del Rio, Leicester City Football Club and William Shatner.

    Tuesday, 16 January 2018

    Investing in Cryptocurrencies: The Ultimate Guide

    www.toptal.com

    BY RAPHAEL ROTTGEN, CFA - FINANCE EXPERT @ TOPTAL

    Executive Summary



    Active Investing
    • Buying via exchanges. The most popular way to trade cryptocurrencies is via cryptocurrency exchanges, websites where individuals can buy, sell, or exchange cryptocurrencies for other digital currency or traditional currency. Some of the largest exchanges include Poloniex and Kraken, which trade over $100 million (equivalent) per day.
    • Buying via cryptocurrency ATMs. There are now cryptocurrency ATMs for cryptocurrencies like BTC, Litecoin, Ether, Dash, and more. Currently, these ATMs are most abundant in the US (1,188), Canada (314), and the UK (104), as set up by around 20 manufacturers.
    • Buying directly via a private bank. As of August 2017, Falcon Private Bank, in collaboration with broker Bitcoin Suisse AG, will enable customers to trade Ether, Litecoin, BTC, and Bitcoin Cash. Online bank Swissquote released an exchange-traded, actively managed BTC certificate. This certificate was built to manage price volatility by switching investor holdings between BTC via an algorithm.
    • Buying via outsourcing to a fund. Funds range from hedge funds such as Metastable Capital and Q2Q Capital to BTC mining funds like Logos Fund. In 2017, the number of cryptocurrency funds reached 175 with an estimated $3 to 4 billion in assets under management.
    • Selling. To sell cryptocurrencies, the same avenues you used for purchasing are available. That is, you can sell on an exchange, directly to another person, or even at an ATM.

    Passive Investing
    • Vehicles tracking one currency. Since Bitcoin has long dominated the space, the few passive products in existence today track BTC. These include Grayscale Investment's Bitcoin Investment Trust, which launched in May 2015, has $2.6 billion in total assets and is the largest and most actively traded fund in the crypto space, and whose value has increased 4300% since inception.
    • Vehicles tracking multiple currencies. Various products are being developed for tracking multiple currencies, likely the top 5-20 cryptocurrencies measured by liquidity and/or market cap. I expect that a few will be launched in 2018, such as the Crypto Market Index Fund by Crypto Finance AG. The fund is aiming to raise $113 million of AUM in the first year, with the eventual goal of $3.4 billion within three years. Fees are expected to be 1-2% per annum.
    • Bitcoin futures. Bitcoin futures are meant to help manage price volatility and allow investors to speculate on the price of BTC without having to directly own it. BTC future trading started on CBOE and CME in December 2017 and will start on NASDAQ in 2018. Margin requirements are relatively high, at over 40% on the long side and over 100% on the short side!

    Cryptocurrency Storage and Monitoring
    • Storage. Security is of utmost importance with cryptocurrencies, especially considering the Mt. Gox theft, when $4 billion of BTC was laundered. There's a trade-off between liquidity and security because you may need hours to get your coins out of storage, which can be an eternity in crypto trading time.
    • Monitoring. Social media like Twitter, Reddit, and Medium are indispensable for staying up to date in a rapidly evolving industry. On Reddit, you should join the appropriate boards, while on Twitter, you can search for the appropriate hashtags and follow frequent, knowledgeable commentators on the subject. There are also other sites that provide more technical data.

    Introduction

    So, you’ve decided to get exposure to cryptocurrencies. Perhaps you are seeking a geopolitical hedge against political and economic uncertainty, or perhaps you’re excited by the buzz and want in. What now? In this newer space, a personal financial advisor may not be of great help. Neither will be your banker, unless you are a customer of progressive Swiss private banks like Falcon or Swissquote, which facilitate crypto trading. This article provides practical information and resources around passive vs. active cryptocurrency investing, how to buy, sell, store, and monitor cryptocurrencies, as well as tax regulations in the space. As a private investor in cryptocurrencies, partner of cryptocurrency hedge fund Q2Q Capital, and overall cryptocurrency enthusiast, I’m excited to see how the space progresses and how acquisition will become ever-easier.
    A quick caveat: This article will not cover deciding whether to invest in cryptocurrencies and how large the portfolio allocation should be. However, in deliberation, you should consider everything from your age, wealth, risk tolerance, and exposure to other asset classes to your level of conviction in various cryptocurrencies. You’ll need to read white papers as well as browse relevant materials on online forums and social media like Twitter, Reddit, Medium, and cryptocurrencies’ GitHub accounts. You’ll also need to determine the type of exposure you want. After all, virtually everyone is familiar with Bitcoin (BTC), but most do not know that there are well over a thousand cryptocurrencies—1384 as I write this.

    Top 10 Cryptocurrencies by Full Supply Market CapitalizationTop 10 Cryptocurrencies by Full Supply Market Capitalization
    Source: coinmarketcap.com

    Passive vs. Active Investing in Cryptocurrencies
    I find it useful to think of cryptocurrencies as a new asset class, which allows us to compare their investment approaches to more established asset classes, such as equity investments. For example, one of the biggest topics of discussion in the equity investment space involves the merits of passive vs. active investing. The debate between the two approaches and their relative merits and risks is enough to create a dissertation and is beyond the scope of this article. However, generally speaking, passive investing is aimed at the longer term, requiring a “buy-and-hold” mentality, while active investing is more hands-on.
    For example, in the context of equity investing, you’d need to decide whether to buy a broadly-exposed fund like an S&P 500 index fund or an actively managed fund where the fund manager engages in stockpicking. Alternatively, you could actively manage the portfolio yourself by doing your own stockpicking and monitoring. The same approaches exist in the cryptocurrency space, though many products are more nascent and in development.
    Active Investing

    Buying and Selling Cryptocurrencies Yourself

    Buying
    Exchanges
    By far the most popular way to trade cryptocurrencies is via a cryptocurrency exchange. Cryptocurrency exchanges are websites where individuals can buy, sell, or exchange cryptocurrencies for other digital currency or traditional paper (“fiat”) currency. Most exchanges convert cryptocurrencies into other cryptocurrencies; that is, you can use one cryptocurrency to buy another, but you cannot use your fiat money (like US Dollars). Some of the largest exchanges include PoloniexBitfinexKraken, and GDAX, which trade more than $100 million (equivalent) per day.
    Still, some exchanges accept fiat money, where you would fund your account by wire transfer. Some exchanges even allow credit card purchasing of crypto, although usually in limited amounts and at high fees (e.g., 3.99% at Coinbase, the largest US-based exchange). The exchanges that accept fiat are typically limited to only a few prominent cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, and Litecoin), which you can then in turn use to purchase other, lesser-known cryptocurrencies. You can refer to this site to research which exchanges are accessible from a specific country or accepts specific payment methods.
    Exchanges also differ in important aspects. For one, the Know-Your-Client (KYC) guidelines whereby exchanges require certain information about the user may be more or less extensive. However, most exchanges nowadays—and certainly the ones dealing with fiat money—require user identification and proof of residence. Additionally, fees differ by exchange, but often range of 0 – 0.5%. Some exchanges also offer value-added features, such as Coinbase’s Vault, which stores coins you are not trading in the short-term in what they claim to be a more secure manner. Lastly, some user interfaces are “cleaner” while others are “busier,” though this is a matter of personal preference.
    Screenshot of the Coinbase User Interface
    Screenshot of the Coinbase User Interface
    Source: Coinbase
    Let’s use a practical example. Say that you’ve bought BTC for fiat money on Coinbase and now want to buy NEO, which is not traded on Coinbase. You’ll first need to find an exchange where NEO is traded, like Binance, and open an account there. Binance will provide you with an address (a “public key”) that you can use to transfer BTC from Coinbase to your Binance account. Once the BTC shows up in your Binance account, you can then use it to purchase NEO on Binance.
    A Screenshot from the Binance User Interface
    A Screenshot from the Binance User Interface
    Source: Binance
    One final note: It is not uncommon to see significant price differences between exchanges, so it’s important to compare. And, if you live in a country with special circumstances such as foreign exchange controls and/or a peculiar political situation, you might find that the local BTC price is at a significant premium to the global average.
    Finding a Counterparty
    Another “traditional” way is finding a counterparty (buyer or seller) yourself. You will need a wallet to either send or receive the cryptocurrency. Say you want to buy some BTC for fiat: you would provide the seller with the public key of your wallet and would pay the fiat money once the BTC has hit your wallet. A well-known method of facilitating these peer-to-peer transactions is via localbitcoins.com. Needless to say, you will want to conduct such transactions in a safe, public environment—perhaps in the context of a meetup of a local cryptocurrency group (which you can find via sites like meetup.com).
    Crytocurrency ATMs
    There are now a number of companies setting up cryptocurrency ATMs for cryptocurrencies like BTC, Litecoin, Ether, Dash, and more. Currently, these ATMs are most abundant in the US (1,188), Canada (314), and the UK (104), as set up by around 20 manufacturers. You can use this site to find an ATM near you.
    Figure 1: Bitcoin ATMs by Country
    You usually feed fiat money into the ATM and it will provide you with the private key you need to access the cryptocurrency acquired. Though they look like traditional ATMs, BTC ATMs connect to a BTC exchange and not a bank account. Once acquired, you can transfer the cryptocurrency elsewhere, like to a crypto-to-crypto exchange. The disadvantage is that fees are typically high, sometimes reaching up to 7% of the transaction. You will also either need an existing virtual crypto wallet, which you can set up online, or an ATM that provides a temporary wallet. Cryptocurrency wallets allow users to send and receive digital currency and monitor their balance. They can be either hardware or software, though hardware wallets are considered more secure.
    Directly via Private Bank Account
    As noted previously, Swiss banks Falcon and Swissquote are currently offering cryptocurrency trading to their clients. As of August 2017, Falcon Private Bank, in collaboration with broker Bitcoin Suisse AG, will enable customers to trade Ether, Litecoin, BTC, and Bitcoin Cash—though the implications for preserving anonymity are unclear. Online bank Swissquote offers trading with these same four cryptocurrencies plus Ripple, and also released an exchange-traded, actively managed BTC certificate. This certificate was built to manage price volatility by switching investor holdings between BTC. For example, it might increase the amount of cash during downturns or periods of uncertainty. The product claims to use an advanced algorithm to determine the shifts between BTC and cash.
    The advantages of going through a bank include not having to deal with a new bank (for some), open up a separate exchange account, or set up secure storage for your cryptocurrencies. I expect more banks to follow suit over time.
    Selling
    Once you are ready to sell some or all of your cryptocurrencies, the same avenues you used for purchasing are available. That is, you can sell on an exchange, directly to another person, or even at an ATM.
    As with buying, you will be able to trade cryptocurrencies directly for fiat money on certain exchanges. But in other cases with smaller cryptocurrencies, to gain fiat money, you will need to take the intermediate step of selling your cryptocurrencies for a “mainstream” cryptocurrency such as BTC or Ether, which you can then sell for fiat money. This will obviously involve two transactions, double the fees, and a longer period of market risk exposure. It’s important to note that in this very young market, liquidity may not exist at the exact moment when you want it—including situations when crypto exchanges are down—and especially during times of rapid market movement.
    An additional method of “selling” is via debit cards where you can spend cryptocurrency directly from your virtual wallet, such as those provided by TenX (for BTC, Ether, and soon ERC-20 tokens and Dash) or Xapo (for BTC only). These debit cards reflect the balance of cryptocurrencies you own. When you use them with vendors, your cryptocurrencies are automatically converted to fiat currency; for the merchant, the payment will look the same as a prepaid or regular bank card. Considering that many cryptocurrency owners are holding for investment, with over half of BTC’s 10 million holders holding purely for investment purposes, these debit cards represent an effort to further mainstream adoption and integrate cryptocurrencies into everyday transactions.
    cryptocurrency debit card
    Source: CoinDesk

    A Quick Word on ICOs

    Initial coin offerings, known as ICOs, are a rising phenomenon within the crypto world. In essence, they help firms raise cash for the development of new blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies. And, instead of (or sometimes in addition to) issuing shares, they offer digital tokens, otherwise known as “coins.” To demonstrate the popularity of ICOs, consider that celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather and Paris Hilton are now aggressively investing in and promoting them. Or, the fact that in 2017, former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich raised $35 million from an ICO in under 30 seconds.
    You can typically participate in ICOs by sending cryptocurrencies to a wallet specified by the ICO issuer. However, it’s important to note that scams have frequently occurred at this step, with many buyers directed by impostor websites to wallets not belonging to the issuer. You may well hardly be able to sell until the newly issued cryptocurrency is accepted for listing on an exchange. Though popular, ICOs carry a lot of risk, are not suitable for crypto beginners, and require a multitude of additional considerations.

    Outsourcing Active Investing

    Alternatively, if you prefer to outsource your active investing, there is an ever-growing number of funds you can leverage. They range from hedge funds such as Metastable CapitalBlockTower Capital and Q2Q Capital, where I am a partner, to BTC mining funds like Logos Fund and blockchain investment firms such as Polychain Capital. The number of cryptocurrency funds has exploded in recent years, reaching around 175 funds with an estimated $3 to 4 billion in assets under management in 2017.
    Figure 2: Crypto Funds by Inception Year and Strategy
    Investment strategies differ but the raison d’être of these funds is to produce risk-adjusted returns that exceed those of passive crypto investing. That is, active investing focuses on the alpha, the amount by which the return of your cryptocurrency portfolio is in excess of the return that can be explained purely by your investment portfolio’s correlation (adjusted for differences in volatility) with the broader cryptocurrency market (“beta”). Many of the active funds will achieve this by picking the right cryptocurrencies at the right time. This is a straight analogue to “stockpicking” in the equity space, though in the crypto space the distribution of returns is much wider, providing the potential for significant alpha. Consider that the range of performance for the top 10 cryptocurrencies over the last 24 hours was -12% to +50% while the equivalent range for the Dow stocks (on the last trading day) was -2 to +2%. While this may mean higher absolute returns, it also means that somebody is managing your risk. This can prove significant in the high-volatility world of crypto: Double-digit percentage price swings within 24 hours are not uncommon. After all, in late December, Cardano, a top 10 cryptocurrency, surged almost 90% in 24 hours and 200% over the course of the week.
    A disadvantage of these funds is that their fees are higher than those for passive products. Comparable to hedge funds in other asset classes, they often charge a 2% annual management fee and 20% performance fee, though it depends on the specific fund. The funds are also typically limited to qualified investors and have a minimum investment amount between $250,000 to $1 million—though this also differs by fund.
    Another option is to construct the exposure yourself—something that virtually nobody would do in the equity space given the multitude and low cost of passive products. However, in the crypto space, it is more appealing given the current dearth of products.

    Passive Investing

    Below are a few available products for creating passive cryptocurrency investment exposure.

    Vehicles Tracking One Currency

    One approach is to buy a vehicle that tracks one very liquid cryptocurrency. Since Bitcoin (BTC) is the original cryptocurrency and has long dominated the space, the few passive products in existence today track BTC. These include Grayscale Investment’s Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), Bitcoin Tracker One ETN, or the Bitcoin certificate issued by Swiss private bank Vontobel. For example, GBTC was launched in May 2015 and has traded on the US over-the-counter market. It has $2.6 billion in total assets at the time of writing, is the largest and most actively traded fund in the crypto space, and its value has increased 4,300% since the fund’s inception. However, while it resembles an exchange-traded fund (ETF) in that it is passively managed and seeks to replicate BTC’s movement, its application for ETF status has yet to be approved by the SEC. Several other parties have also filed to launch ETFs, including the CBOE and the NYSE.
    One advantage of these products is that they are listed on “regular” exchanges such as Nasdaq Nordic for the Bitcoin Tracker One, so you may be able to buy them via your existing brokerage account. Furthermore, you do not have to worry about logistical issues like how to buy, sell, or store your cryptocurrencies. However, one disadvantage is that they may be trading at a premium to underlying net asset value. For example, because GBTC is the only BTC trust of its kind, the price of GTBC has been driven far above the value of the underlying BTC, at times close to 100%! Another downside is that there are few passive investment options for cryptocurrencies other than BTC, aside from the Ethereum Tracker One ETN, as well as Grayscale’s Ethereum Classic Investment Trust and Zcash Investment Trust.

    Vehicles Tracking Multiple Currencies

    Going one step further is an investment product that tracks several cryptocurrencies. Currently, various products are being developed for this purpose. I expect that a few will be launched in 2018, such as the Crypto Market Index Fund by Swiss company Crypto Finance AG. The fund is aiming to raise $113 million of AUM in the first year, with the eventual goal of $3.4 billion within three years. As of mid-2017, the fund’s investors dedicated $11.3 million, with an additional $11.3 million in transition. According to Jan Brzezek, CEO of Crypto Fund AG, “The fund will be highly diversified.” He explained that this diversification will lead to lower volatility while still garnering the “high growth” benefits of new cryptocurrencies.
    Though we do not have solid information on these products yet, it’s probable they will include the top 5-20 cryptocurrencies, as measured by liquidity and/or market capitalization. As always in investing, this diversification will likely provide better risk-adjusted returns, such as a higher Sharpe Ratio. That is, although you will not match the returns of the single best-performing cryptocurrency, your risk should drop more than enough to compensate for this. It is not yet clear how such products will allocate between the various cryptocurrencies, but the obvious options are either equal weighting or market capitalization-based weighting. In any event, your fund manager will handle this weighting for you. Fees are expected to be around 1-2% fees per annum.

    Futures

    There is now another, well-publicized way to get exposure to BTC: Bitcoin futures. Bitcoin future contracts oblige buyers or sellers to purchase or sell BTC based on prices that speculators “bet” BTC will reach in the future. These futures are meant to help manage price volatility and allow investors to speculate on the price of BTC without having to directly own it. There are two major consequences: For one, while BTC is largely unregulated, BTC futures can be traded on regulated exchanges, which can alleviate some investors’ concerns around industry regulation. Second, in geographic regions where BTC trading is prohibited, such as Bolivia and Bangladesh, these futures would allow investors to participate.
    BTC future trading started on CBOE and CME in December 2017 and will start on NASDAQ in 2018. Note that margin requirements are relatively high, at over 40% on the long side and over 100% on the short side! For those who want to use crypto as a hedge against a meltdown of the existing fiat paper currency system, note that cash-settled futures and exchange-traded notes (ETNs) will not help you since they don’t grant you direct ownership of the underlying cryptocurrency. Needless to say that futures are advanced financial products, so you should procure adequate information and advice before using them.

    Cryptocurrency Storage and Monitoring

    Storage

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, security is of utmost importance when it comes to cryptocurrencies. You’ve likely heard of cryptocurrency thefts, such as the one at crypto exchange Mt. Gox, where $4 billion of BTC was laundered. If you are trading a lot, you may have to run the risk and leave your cryptocurrencies “on exchange,” where they are more vulnerable. However, if you are even a slightly longer-term holder, the safer way to store cryptocurrencies is “cold storage” where the all-important private keys, which provide control of the cryptocurrency, are stored in some offline way. This includes writing down private keys on a piece of paper, storing them on a hardware device such as Trezor or Ledger, or using a cold storage company such as Xapo or Swiss Crypto Vault (which store your BTC private keys in Swiss bunkers). For either type of storage, you typically simply send your coins to the public address of your storage. Once you need your coins, you can send them to wherever you need them, like an exchange account.
    The trade-off here is between liquidity and security because you may need hours (check exact time with your cold storage provider) to get your coins out of more secure storage, which can be an eternity in crypto trading time. So, the decision around how much of your crypto portfolio goes into what kind of storage depends in part on your propensity to trade and your view of imminent market movements. Still, security and storage should be key items on your crypto to-do list.

    Monitoring

    Just as investing in another asset class, you should monitor your investment, even if you are a long-term holder. This includes tracking price information on sites such as coinmarketcap.com. Personally, I also like the mobile app Blockfolio, which allows you to input your crypto portfolio and track its value in real time.
    To stay up to date with the newsflow in a rapidly evolving industry, social media are indispensable for cryptocurrencies, including Twitter, Reddit, and Medium. On Reddit, you should join the appropriate boards, while on Twitter, you can search for the appropriate hashtags (such as #BTC and #bitcoin for BTC, or #LTC or #Litecoin for Litecoin) and follow frequent, knowledgeable commentators on the subject. There are also other sites that provide more technical data (for example, number of transactions or hash rate). These sites often differ by the specific cryptocurrency you are looking at, but for BTC, valuable resources include bitinfocharts.com and fork.lol.

    Tax Treatment and Regulations

    Few would argue that tax regulations have fully caught up to the rapid development of the cryptocurrency space. In the US, the accounting treatment of cryptocurrencies still seems uncertain since there hasn’t been official guidance from The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) or the International Finance Reporting Standards (IFRS). In 2014, the IRS Revenue Ruling 2014-21 dictated that cryptocurrencies should be treated as personal property, with gains or losses on purchases or sales. Therefore, capital gains or losses should be recorded as if it were an exchange involving property, and if utilized as payment, it should be treated as currency but must first be converted to its fair market value. Still, the ruling left many questions unanswered. And, even within the US, states are treating cryptocurrencies differently. Consider New York State, which remains wary and has created the BitLicense system, which imposes guidelines on crypto companies conducting business with New York residents. In contrast, Vermont and Arizona have both recognized smart contracts and have assigned legal standing to records tied to blockchain, the underlying technology of all cryptocurrencies.
    Given the evolving nature of the industry, it’s prudent to take a conservative approach by keeping all relevant documents, proactively discussing the subject with your tax advisor, and possibly even proactively approaching the authorities. After all, cryptocurrencies are garnering increasing attention from the SEC and the IRS. In November 2017, a court ruled that Coinbase must supply the IRS with identifying information on users conducting more than $20,000 in annual transactions.

    Go Forth and Discover

    This is undeniably a lot to digest. However, if you are an equity investor, there surely was a time when you hardly knew anything about the markets. Perhaps you timidly opened your first brokerage account, bought your first mutual fund, then your first individual stocks, international stocks, and perhaps eventually graduated to options and futures.
    Is it worth it? I am a biased person to ask. And I admit that there is a steeper learning curve, but you are also entering a new asset class at an early stage, possibly providing you with opportunities harder to find in the relatively efficient world of established asset classes. For the record, I do not advocate substituting all other asset classes with crypto—merely that crypto should also be considered, though you should remain aware of its risk. If you are curious and decide to move forward with crypto investing, then you may want to start slowly and simply. I personally started by putting an amount of money that I was comfortable losing completely into one of the established exchanges, bought a little of the mainstream cryptocurrencies, and soon started to get a feel of whether this was for me. The best way forward for you will depend, of course, on your specific circumstances and preferences and may well include not investing in crypto at all. Just do not simply ignore the space and discard it out of hand without doing a little research for yourself. Good luck.

    UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

    How do you buy cryptocurrency?

    You can buy cryptocurrencies via exchanges, finding a counterparty, cryptocurrency ATMs, or directly via a private bank since some banks are now offering cryptocurrency trading services and related products.