It’s safe to say that 2017 was the year for blockchain and cryptocurrency. Most likely only known by tech enthusiasts and libertarians before the start of the year, now everyone and their mother is talking about bitcoin, ethereum and whether or not cryptocurrency is in some kind of bubble.
Bitcoin has skyrocketed in value, rising over 1,600 per cent since the start of the year. If decentralized currency didn’t pique someone’s interest, the pure money behind the technology surely did.
Canada refused to sit on the sidelines during all of the blockchain hype this year. Some of the biggest companies, venture capitalists and tech luminaries made plays into the sector, resulting in Canada placing itself firmly in the middle of an industry that is looking like it will be a permanent addition to the country’s tech landscape.
Here are five of the most important blockchain and cryptocurrency stories in Canada this year.
Vancouver’s HIVE is Opening Two Cryptocurrency Mining Facilities in Sweden
HIVE Blockchain Technologies, a company meant to connect blockchain with more regulated markets, announced it was investing $22 million to open a bitcoin mining hub in Sweden. Since that first announcement, the company has disclosed it is looking to invest a total of $100 million ($66 million for one centre and $34 million for the other) to create two total mining centres in Sweden—one equipped with ASIC chips for bitcoin, and another for GPU-based cryptocurrencies like ethereum.
The new hubs would allow the company to increase its mining potential by a massive amount. HIVE enlisted the help of a company called Genesis to maintain and run the mines.
HIVE also went public this year, trading on the TSX. The company has been touted by many as a stock to watch over the next 12 months, as the blockchain group has seen share prices massively increase over the past few months. They are just one of a few big blockchain stocks available on the TSX and a reason many traders are both excited and apprehensive of the market.
Axiom Zen Creates a Cryptocurrency Game That Nearly Crashes the Ethereum Network
The internet seems to love both blockchain technology and cats, so when they were combined into a game it was nothing short of a miracle that the network kept up with the traffic.
Axiom Zen is the Vancouver company behind the online game CryptoKitties where players buy, sell and breed online cats using the cryptocurrency ether, built off ethereum. Some of the original kitties sold for six figures, and at one point the game commanded more than 15 per cent of all ethereum transactional traffic.
The traffic was so much that it caused lag problems for the network, causing all other smart contracts to slow down. The game was billed as a great way to introduce newcomers to cryptocurrency in a fun way, and a few savvy kitty-traders were able to make some money selling off their rare feline friends.
Kik Picks up Close to $100 Million USD Through Their ICO
Waterloo’s Kik Interactive, most known for their chat app of the same name, held an initial coin offering (ICO) in September, selling their token Kin. It turned out to be a huge success, becoming one of the bigger ICOs in history and netting the company close to nine figures in revenue.
Kin is designed to be the main currency accepted through the Kik app, helping drive transactions and experiences.
“We envision Kin as the foundation for a decentralized ecosystem of digital services, starting with Kik, and we couldn’t be more thrilled than to build this new future together with you,” said Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik, at the time.
Though Kik is a Canadian company, they did not make their token sale available in the country, as regulators cited the sale as a possible security risk. The communication between Kik and the Canadian government opened up discussions of how the country will respond and adapt to the new technology.
Hut 8 and Bitfury are Bringing Bitcoin Mining to Canada in a Big Way
Bitfury is one of the largest bitcoin miners in the world, so it was a bit of a surprise to see them team up with the small and recently-created Hut 8 in an attempt to bring bitcoin mining to North America and away from China. Right now, China is home to most of the bitcoin mining in the world, but the country has a less than favourable relationship with cryptocurrency, so there is a new push to relocate mines.
Canada’s cold weather and relatively cheap electricity are attracting bitcoin miners too. Bitfury picked up on this by investing in centres that will be located in Drumheller, Alberta. The financing will come through a controlled share sell and result in hundreds of megawatts worth of bitcoin mining power over the next few years. It’s a big step for blockchain understanding and tech in the country and will drive millions of revenue into Canada, while hopefully relaxing the hold China has on mining.
Cryptocurrency Could End Up as Part of Canada’s Pension Plan
The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) oversees more than $328 billion in assets, so it’s no wonder they want to look into any venture that may prove lucrative. The board currently invests in real estate, companies and more, but earlier this year the board’s head Mark Machin addressed the likelihood of adding cryptocurrency to that list.
“It’s worth paying serious attention to it,” he said.
Machin also noted that cryptocurrency is not quite investable right now, but if it continues to grow it could be soon. The biggest concern is the volatility of the market, as the pension board wants to steer clear of anything that can rise and tank hundreds of per cent in a single day. Still though, divested holdings of bitcoin may soon join the ranks of what a normal pension looks like in the future.
Honourable Mention: Buy the Rights to Drake’s Music with Blockchain
In a true indicator of “anything is possible,” Vezt coined the initial song offering and sold away some of the rights to Drake’s song “Jodeci Freestyle” when consumers bought into their token offering. The move might not have gained much traction but it was one of the more unique ways that a company integrated token sales into their platform.