What a Fantastic way to kick off the start to this event with thanks to the great energy and insights from our all Women Panel Moderated by Karen Cohen, which will undoubtldly make it possible for the event to be a great success!
This “Crypto City” guide looks at Melbourne’s crypto culture, the city’s most notable projects and people, its financial infrastructure, which retailers accept crypto and where you can find blockchain education courses — and there’s even a short history with all the juicy details of famous controversies and collapses.
Australia’s second-largest city may lack Sydney’s amazing harbor views, but it makes up for it with a focus on art, sports and culture. There are more live music venues here per capita than any other city in the world, and the city has produced heaps of notable acts, including Nick Cave, Men at Work, The Avalanches and Kylie Minogue.
Located on the southern coast of Australia, Melbourne wasn’t founded until almost 50 years after Sydney, but it quickly became the wealthiest place in the world during the Gold Rush, from the 1850s to 1880s. It’s a very multicultural city, with the 10th-largest immigrant population globally. The city also ranks at number 27 on the Global Financial Centers Index and is home to the Australian Rules football code, the Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Open. It was the filming location for the first Mad Max film alongside Chopper and Animal Kingdom. Politically, Melbourne is more left-wing than any other city in the country and is home to the union movement.
Melbourne embraced cryptocurrencies early on, and a thriving community was built up through regular meetups including Blockchain Melbourne, Women in Blockchain, Web3 Melbourne and futureAUS. Karen Cohen, deputy chairperson of Blockchain Australia, recalls there being a huge influx of newcomers during the ICO boom in 2017.
“The meetup culture was really exciting. We couldn’t get enough space, so people were watching our meetups on Facebook Live because they couldn’t get into the room because it was so busy.”
Talk & Trade meetups were held every Wednesday from 2015 to 2019 at the Blockchain Centre. Located at the Victorian Innovation Hub in the docklands, the Blockchain Centre was the heart of the community in real life, at least until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Melbourne has been home to numerous crypto exchanges since 2013, and a plethora of ICOs were also founded in the city in 2017 and 2018, including CanYa, which operates freelancer platform CanWork, and blockchain voting company Horizon State.
While the pandemic has moved most things online for the past 18 months, Blockchain Australia hosted a series of events at YBF Ventures in the Melbourne central business district (CBD) for the national Blockchain Week earlier this year, and Talk & Trade is now held at RMIT, in between lockdowns.
With live events beginning to reemerge as vaccine rates slowly grind up, YBF Ventures will relaunch its blockchain community meetups, supported by Cohen as the expert in residence for blockchain. “2020, sadly, has been hard with COVID, so it’s had to move online,” she says. “But I think if we were able to meet in real life, it would still have very much a meetup culture.”
Projects and companies
Melbournites appear very interested in solving the problem of interblockchain communication, with at least three major cross-chain projects having strong ties to the city. CanYa founder JP Thor helped found the cross-chain decentralized liquidity protocol THORChain, and some of the anonymous local devs from THORChain went on to work on a similar project called Sifchain. Melbourne’s Simon Harman founded another cross-chain automated market maker, Chainflip, along with the privacy project Loki, which is now known as Oxen.
Web 3.0 developer studios Flex Dapps and TypeHuman are located here, as is the white-label blockchain services provider Pellar, whose infrastructure processes 10 million requests a day from around the world. Researchers from the government-run Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Monash University invented the MatRiCT technology (licensed to Hcash), which protects crypto from being cracked by quantum computers. NFT digital racehorse game Zed Run just raised $20 million from investors including TCG and Andreessen Horowitz. Algorand also has a noticeable presence in Melbourne, including through the Meld gold platform and Algomint.
Crypto exchanges headquartered in Melbourne include BTC Markets, Cointree, CoinSpot, CoinJar, noncustodial exchange Elbaite and OTC service Caleb and Brown. Major global fiat-to-crypto on-ramp Banxa is also based in the city.
Up-and-coming projects include insurance platform Day By Day, onboarding and fraud protection platform FrankieOne and accounting software AEM. DeFi-focused crypto fund Apollo Capital — which is a big investor in Synthetix and Internet Computer, among others — is also based in Melbourne. Apollo’s chief investment officer, Henrik Andersson, co-founded the decentralized pool trading platform dHEDGE and yield platform mStable (and helped out with a few ideas for this guide).
The first Bitcoin ATM was installed at the Emporium in 2014, but there are only 13 Bitcoin ATMs dotted around Melbourne, mostly in big shopping centers. Australian banks have a slightly wary approach to crypto — while many banks are happy to allow users to send funds to exchanges, plenty of users have reported being suddenly debanked, especially those running crypto-related businesses. “They close accounts at will based on crypto use, and we’ve seen that happen, so they’re still not supportive as an industry,” says Cohen.
The New Payments Platform in Australia is something of a competitor to crypto (at least in terms of payments), allowing instant, 24/7 bank transfers using a phone number or email address. Often referred to as PayID, it was cited by the Reserve Bank of Australia as a reason that a central bank digital currency is not needed in Australia just yet. There are hundreds of retailers here in the Blueshyft network (Synthetix founder Kain Warwick’s other project) that accept cash payments over the counter for crypto exchanges.
Where can I spend crypto?
According to Coinmap, you’ll struggle to spend cryptocurrency directly in Melbourne at present, with fewer than 40 retail outlets accepting Bitcoin. (By way of comparison, Ljubljana in Slovenia has half the population but 554 crypto-accepting merchants.) It wasn’t always like this, with swathes of Melbourne cafes and businesses accepting crypto a few years ago, but then removing the option after it failed to take off.
Many retailers used the crypto payment service from TravelbyBit; however, it was dropped after the company merged with Travala in mid-2020. Australia’s oldest, biggest board game retailer in the CBD, Mind Games, gladly accepts Bitcoin via the Lightning Network. You can also learn rock climbing at Melbourne Climbing School, get fit at the women’s-only Fernwood Gym in Bulleen, get your computer fixed at Another World Computer Centre in Coburg or grab some raver gear from Ministry of Style in Collingwood.
If you’re relying on Coinmap’s data, note that some retailers featured have since gone out of business (most likely due to the pandemic), including cult book store Polyester Books, gift shop Vera Chan and various cafes.
Approximately 20 small businesses accept Bitcoin Cash, according to Bitcoin.com, including Japanese wellness clinic Sensu Spa and ties and cufflinks merchant Jay Kirby Ties in the CBD.
Despite the lack of merchants accepting direct crypto payments, you can pay for pretty much everything in Melbourne using crypto via intermediary services that transform it into cash. Living Room of Satoshi lets you pay any Bpay biller or bank account using 18 different cryptocurrencies.
RMIT University’s Blockchain Innovation Hub studies the social and business implications of blockchain, while Monash University’s Blockchain Technology Centre provides training and conducts research. There’s a Blockchain Innovation Lab at Swinburne University and Deakin University, both of which conduct research.
Controversies and collapses
Auscoin was perhaps the most controversial project to emerge from the city. Founded by Lambo-driving souvlaki chain-store owner Sam Karagiozis, the token was created to fund the rollout of 1,200 Bitcoin ATMs. The Aussie version of 60 Minutes dubbed it an “$80 million scam” that was built on nothing more than “grandiose promises,” although the ICO only raised $2 million. Auscoin was ordered by AUSTRAC to cease operations after Karagiozis was charged with trafficking 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of drugs via the dark web.
Elsewhere, up to 200 investors lost about $10 million between them when Melbourne-based crypto exchange ACX mysteriously collapsed at the end of 2019. It was operated by Blockchain Global, whose founder Sam Lee was instrumental in setting up the Blockchain Centre.
Another local exchange that mysteriously folded was MyCryptoWallet. Founded in 2017, National Australia Bank froze its accounts in early 2019. The exchange found alternate banking services and recovered temporarily, but later that year, users found they had lost access to their funds. As of April, they had yet to recover their funds, and Australia’s corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, was said to be looking into it. Huobi Australia launched in Melbourne in 2018 but quickly shuttered due to a lack of business during crypto winter. Horizon State, a promising blockchain-based voting platform, launched in Melbourne and then moved to New Zealand where it was on the verge of doing great things when a mysterious court case back in Melbourne scuppered the entire project. In a happy ending, the community is resurrecting it from the ashes with a crowd equity raise.
Ethereum influencer Anthony Sassano; BTC Markets CEO Caroline Bowler; Apollo Capital chief investment officer Henrik Andersson; A. J. Milne of Meld Ventures and Algomint; Blockchain Australia CEO Steve Vallas; Tom Nash and Alex Ramsey of Flex Dapps; Women in Blockchain International manager Akasha Indream; Algorand Foundation chief operating officer Jason Lee; CanYa and THORChain founder JP Thor; “Satoshi’s sister” Lisa Edwards; Blockchain Centre founder Sam Lee (also of the now-defunct ACX); RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub professor Jason Potts; Joseph Liu, director of the Monash Blockchain Technology Centre and inventor of the tech behind Monero; Oxen chief technology officer Kee Jefferys; Emerging Tech Talent founder Karen Cohen; Ethitech head of education Anouk Pinchetti; TypeHuman director Nick Byrne; Auscoin founder Sam Karagiozis; and blockchain law specialists Joni Pirovich of Mills Oakley and John Bassilios of Hall & Wilcox. Cointelegraph team members and contributors based in Melbourne: Andrew Fenton, Brian Quarmby, Kelsie Nabben.
Magazine by Cointelegraph
Wednesday August 4th 2021
Tech experts say governments and health authorities must seize the chance to use blockchain technology for Covid-19 vaccine passports.
Blockchain – an electronic ledger or database – has typically been used to trade crypto currencies. But Lachlan Feeney, CEO of blockchain consultancy Sabres, said the platform could be used together with an app or QR code to deliver transparent and incorruptible Covid-19 vaccine passports.
“Blockchain for a number of reasons would be at least a technology that should be considered,” he said, adding that it would enable proof of vaccination to be standardised and simplified.
“You would want the simplest solution as possible… a QR code… sent to your phone once you get your vaccination.”
The QR code could be link to data including when and where someone was vaccinated and even which brand of jab they received – all stored on a secure blockchain ledger, Mr Feeney said.
‘This would be a wonderful test case as a globally secured way of sharing health data’
‘What you really want is… standardisation and simple user interface so that whoever needs to check the certifications can do so in a standardised and seamless way,’ he said.
VetDB chief and Steve Joslyn has already developed a blockchain-based passport for animal vaccines to tackle Hendra viruus – which can read from bats to hoses to humans – and a prototype for a Covid-19 vaccine certificate.
“We adopted our system and made a proof of concept that uses smart chips in ID cards or passports,” Dr Joslyn said.
“We leveraged our existing technology that basically records all aspects of a vaccination event, including the (vaccine) vile, the GPS location, image, the administrator, and proof of attendance for the patient there.
“We basically timestamp all of that data with a blockchain method, which essentially proves that it happened at that time and at that place.”
All of the data could be stored on a passport with a smart chip, Mr Josyln said. Use of blockchain in healthcare was “Inevitable” but governments were still “warming up” to its potential, he said.
Emerging Tech Talent director and Blockchain Australia deputy chair Karen Cohen said no technology was 100 per cent hack proof, but blockchain was safe because data could not be altered.
“The idea of blockchain is that it is fast, secure and scalable. It’s a verified record of the vaccine and I can share that record if I want.” Ms Cohen said.
“This would be a really wonderful test case as a globally secured way of sharing health data. It is almost a race for digital identification.”
Journalist / reporter at The Australian.
While cryptocurrency, blockchain and NFTs seem to be the talk of the town, many of us still have no idea what all of this even means?! 🤯 Luckily, we’ve got just what you’re looking for!
Michael Cotton, cofounder of Meld Ventures, Tristan Frizza, currently on the journey of founding his own DeFi startup and Karen Cohen, the deputy chair of Blockchain Australia, recently spoke to us about all things crypto, the future of decentralising finance, trends in the current market, their advice and recommendations for beginners and so much more!
You can watch the highlights of our event here: https://buff.ly/3wIUTHS and catch a recap summary on our blog below
She has a strong background in HRM and Operations in a Blockchain environment and also runs her own consultancy BlockConsulting Group, and has worked closely with the start up community in her previous role as General Manager of the Blockchain Centre, which included running Australia’s first Blockchain Incubator.
Her illustrious career extends further as she is also the Co-organiser for Women in Blockchain in Melbourne, and the head of HR for Nem Foundation, she is currently running the Women in Fintech program for Stone & Chalk Melbourne.
Check out her views on women in tech and advice for women that want to get started in Tech
Tonight I was honoured to receive an award for Diversity and Inclusion Tech Leader of the year 2021 at the Liftoff Awards hosted by YBF Ventures.
It made me reflect on the last 4 years of my life and why I have dedicated my time to building opportunities for Women to access Emerging Tech through meetups with Women in Blockchain and Women in Emerging Tech.
- Barriers to entry include using technical language that exclude newbies- if we simplify the language and don’t use acronyms, we can create a safe and welcoming space, women will feel welcome to join meetups to learn and talk about Technology without imposter syndrome and maybe explore careers in tech too.
I am delighted to announce that I have been awarded the 2021 YBG Lift Off Awards in the category for Diversity & Inclusion Leader of the year.
The Lift Off Awards are produced by YBF Ventures, Australia’s top startup hub for tech and innovation, based in Sydney and Melbourne.
You can watch the 2021 Lift Off Awards below.
YBF Lift Off Awards – 2021 Finalists
I am delighted to announce that I have made the cut for finalists in the 2021 Lift Off Awards by YBF Ventures in the category Diversity & Inclusion Leader of the Year.
These awards celebrate culturaly diverse and female led companies and are important for supporting the many types of tech leaders in our ecosystem.
Thank you YBF Ventures, sponsors and congratualtions to all the finalists. I look forward to the formal announcement on 22nd July 2021 on the awards night.
Diversity & Inclusion Tech Leader of the Year
– Jill Berry, CEO & Co-founder of Adatree
– Karen Cohen, Founder & Director, Women in Blockchain, Women in Emerging Tech
– Lynda Coker, Director / Investor, created the Support for Female Tech Founders map
– Dr Omaru Maruatona, CEO & Founder, Aiculus