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Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes. If you like this newsletter, please invite others to sign up.
This week I wanted to devote some time to something that has been much in the news of late: bitcoin. Namely, WTF is it, and why should you care?
What I Wrote in The Wall Street Journal
— Is Uber’s Grip on Southeast Asia Up for Grab?. The story begins:
When Uber Technologies Inc. retreated from China last year after conceding a costly battle with a local rival, the ride-hailing giant vowed to devote new resources to winning other lucrative markets in Asia.
Since then, Uber has suffered setbacks in Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million people, where it has been outflanked by another local player, Grab Inc., which is gobbling up market share. Grab has expanded more rapidly, been more nimble in meeting local preferences, analysts say, and has forged better relations with regulators.
With Uber set to receive a massive investment from Japanese titan SoftBank — also a big Grab investor — some Uber investors told me they think Uber could face consolidation in Southeast Asia (i.e. merge with Grab or otherwise withdraw from the region, like it did in China and Russia). That would be a big deal for the ride hailing sector in Southeast Asia, and could have global implications.
5 Resources for Understanding Bitcoin
Okay: So you must have seen the headlines over the last week or two. Bitcoin is up a whopping 900% this year, last week breaking the $11,000 mark. It was worth less than $1000 at the start of 2017.
Tulip mania? Dotcom bubble? A once-in-a-lifetime digital revolution you’d better get in on? All of the above? Read on.
First, some definitions:
Bitcoin is one kind of cryptocurrency. A cryptocurrency is a form of digital money powered by networked computers, and existing apart from central banks. It’s akin to digital gold.
You can use cryptocurrencies to buy and sell some goods, just like traditional money. Another such currency you may have heard of is Ethereum.
Cryptocurrencies are built using blockchain technology, in which a distributed, public list contains all Bitcoin transactions.
You may also have have heard, recently, the term ICO. That stands for initial coin offering. Its when a company raises money by issuing cryptocurrencies that can be redeemed for that firm’s products or services in the future.
1. A good, basic Q&A is “Bitcoin: Everything You Need to Know,” a piece out last week by The WSJ‘s Paul Vigna, author of a book on cryptocurrencies (more on that below). And Vox has a more detailed piece called “Bitcoin Explained,” though it’s from a few years back.
2. For a TED Talk on Bitcoin, if you have 16 minutes to spare, check out “The Future of Money.” It’s a lecture by Neha Narula, director of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, in which she makes a case for the revolutionary potential of cryptocurrencies. If you fancy a longer look in visual form focusing on broader societal issues, there’s a documentary on Netflix called “Banking On Bitcoin.” Here’s the trailer.
3. How about a Bitcoin #longread? Here’s “The Bitcoin Boom,” Maria Bustillos’s New Yorker piece from 2013.
4. And a podcast? An excellent resource, in audio form, is portfolio manager Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s three-part audio series “Hash Power,” in which he speaks with various cryptocurrency experts.
5. Dig even deeper: an acclaimed book on cryptocurrencies. As I mentioned above, Paul Vigna, along with Michael Casey, wrote an exhaustive, compelling 2015 book called “The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order.”
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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,