Edited by Michael del Castillo and Matt Schifrin
Reported by Maria Abreu, Nina Bambysheva, Justin Birnbaum, Lauren Debter, Michael del Castillo, Steven Ehrlich, Chris Helman, Katie Jennings, Jeff Kauflin, Javier Paz, Jon Ponciano, Marie Schulte-Bockum
You’ve come a long way, blockchain! Since our inaugural roundup of the Blockchain 50, published in 2019, the billion-dollar companies (minimum, by sales or market value) on our annual list have moved beyond test projects and now rely on “distributed ledger” technology to do serious work. A lot of the action is in the back office, verifying insurance claims or facilitating real estate deals. It has also become vital to supply chains, whether checking the provenance of conflict minerals like cobalt or tracking auto parts for Renault. Nearly half of the Blockchain 50 are based outside the United States; 14% are Chinese. New this year: venture capital firms, which as a group invested more than $32 billion in the sector in 2021.
Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether grab all the headlines, especially after booming last year and then losing more than $1 trillion in value since November. But in many ways, speculative cryptocurrencies are the least intriguing blockchain application. The most lasting impact will come as more and more multinationals integrate blockchains into their daily operations, unleashing untold efficiencies.
In October 2021, the company that makes Photoshop and the keeper of the PDF format launched Content Attribution, which lets creators export their images directly to certain nonfungible-token (NFT) exchanges: KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare. The feature lets artists protect their work against fraudulent claims by irrefutably proving their provenance before “minting” them as NFTs ready for auction. The service will eventually be available to all of Adobe’s 20 million Creative Cloud subscribers.
The insurance giant ($164 billion, 12-month sales) uses blockchain to streamline cross-border auto insurance claims in Europe. Different teams and incompatible databases used to mean lots of back-and-forth emails. Claims could take months to settle. Now there’s a single source record of each claim. Processing time has been reduced to minutes, and costs have fallen 10%. So far it’s being used by 25 Allianz subsidiaries to settle 850,000 claims.
Arguably the largest crypto investor in the world, the venture capital shop also known as “a16z” has raised around $3.1 billion in three dedicated blockchain funds over the past three years. That includes the massive $2.2 billion Crypto Fund III, which launched in June 2021. In total, the blue-chip firm has funded at least 60 startups working with blockchain and was an early investor in Coinbase, now valued at $34 billion. a16z also hopes to shape crypto regulation, having hired former officials from the SEC, Treasury and the Department of Justice to lobby policymakers.
Since July 2020, this Alibaba affiliate has devoted 10,000 developers to blockchain. Already they’ve created 30 applications, generating over 100 million blockchain-tracked documents including patents, vouchers and warehouse receipts. The most mature AntChain application is Trusple (Trust Made Simple), which connects international buyers of products and components—beads in the apparel industry, say—to 6 million Chinese sellers. The app simplifies tax, customs and shipping, and enables banks to instantly complete payment, reducing auditing costs and default risk. Nearly 20 global banks including CitiBank, BNP Paribas, Singapore’s DBS and Japan’s Mizuho are providing financing via the platform.
The $137 billion (sales) Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee is testing the blockchain to try to speed up an arcane administrative process known as “coordination of benefits,” which determines one’s primary insurer. It usually requires a series of faxes (yes! faxes!) and phone calls and can take up to three months. Through a shared ledger with Chicago-based Health Care Service Corporation for certain Medicaid members in Texas, the companies now make this determination in minutes or hours. Anthem’s blockchain program processes around 3,000 to 5,000 verifications a month.
Unintended policy cancellations are a big problem for insurers and often occur when a customer underpays or forgets to pay a premium. In 2021, insurance broker Aon ($12 billion, 12-month sales) partnered with insurance carrier Zurich to move invoicing to an immutable blockchain ledger—already leading to a double-digit decrease in cancellation notices. The technology, known as Adept, was developed by a subsidiary of Acord, the Pearl River, New York–based body that sets standards for the global insurance industry. Aon hopes to bring 10 more counterparties onto its blockchain this year.
The world’s second-largest container shipper ($54.5 billion trailing 12 months) now counts 250 ports and 20 ocean carriers using its proprietary TradeLens blockchain, which cuts time and reams of paperwork out of tracking containers as they move through global seaports. Sportswear giant Puma, which ships out of northern Germany, can now track a specific container in seconds rather than hours, according to Maersk. TradeLens, which Maersk co-developed with IBM in 2018, has tracked more than 55 million container shipments and is now being used by other shipping giants such as Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd and Singapore’s Ocean Network Express.
China’s fourth-largest tech firm has 20,000 developers building (mostly) financial applications on its open-source blockchain. Last year they generated $47 million in revenue, a drop in the bucket for the $15.5 billion (sales) firm, but the future looks bright. In September Baidu won its largest contract to date, a $25 million deal with the government of Tongxiang, a city southwest of Shanghai, to build software to track the supply chain for the roughly $5 billion worth of synthetic fibers used to make clothes in the textile center. Efficiencies from moving its workflow to a shared ledger have already cut lending costs by 50 basis points. Baidu estimates that the blockchain has helped reduce the supply chain’s energy consumption by 17% and could remove 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the environment each year.
In 2020 BHP, the $61 billion (sales) Anglo-Australian multinational mining outfit, sold its first “paperless” shipment of Australian iron ore to China. That evolved in 2021 to trading cargoes of copper concentrate to China, with all documents, assays and emissions data enshrined on its MineHub blockchain platform. BHP has since adopted blockchain-based traceability to ensure there’s no “dilution” of the nickel it sells to Tesla’s Shanghai battery factory and to track the carbon emissions of the copper it sends from Chile to electric cable maker Southwire in Carrollton, Georgia. BHP is now in talks with suppliers to use blockchain to guarantee that the rubber in the 6,000 giant truck tires it uses each year was produced without slave labor or illegal deforestation.
Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey’s other company, formerly known as Square, generated $42 million in fees from its Cash App’s bitcoin brokerage in just the third quarter of 2021. It’s a safe and easy way for crypto newbies to get into the game: Block generated $9.8 billion in revenue from bitcoin sales in the 12 months ending September 2021. Dorsey left Twitter in November and is a vocal crypto booster, so expect Block to lean into its new name. In July, it created a business called TBD, which focuses on building a decentralized financial system and is looking to build an energy-efficient bitcoin mining system.
This 238-year-old bank is fully embracing the future: The institution that Alexander Hamilton started now wants to be king of back-office servicers for crypto ETFs. The firm already has 90% market share in Canada, meaning it provides tax and administrative services to most of the 17 crypto ETFs currently trading up north. In October it announced another big ETF applicant, Grayscale’s $23 billion Bitcoin Trust. New York–based Fireblocks, which provides crypto custody services, is a new BNY Mellon investment valued at $8 billion.
Boeing is partnering with Canada’s TrustFlight and developer RaceRocks to build a so-called digital aircraft record system that helps airlines keep up with required maintenance. This expands on Boeing’s earlier blockchain initiative with Honeywell’s GoDirect Trade platform, which in 2020 securely sold $1 billion in Boeing aircraft parts. In time they envision a global airworthiness records platform, which could save 25% in maintenance costs—worth billions annually across the industry.
The luxury watchmaker now tracks 320,000 timepieces on the blockchain, giving customers access to detailed product history and proof of authenticity. Breitling is also using it to move into the resale market. Want to sell an Avenger you were given a decade ago? You can get an instant appraisal via your digital wallet. Looking to buy? Like consulting Carfax before purchasing a Toyota, you can easily check out the number of previous owners and repair history. In February, Breitling will let European owners buy, sell or trade timepieces online; it already allows customers to trade in old watches for store credit. It’s running tests in Switzerland to let customers quickly alert police to stolen goods via their digital wallet and is experimenting with blockchain-based warranty claims for lost watches.
The world’s second-largest bank, with $4.7 trillion in assets, has so far processed $141 billion worth of transactions on private blockchains for everything from supply-chain financing to cross-border payments. Among its more recent products is EasyPay, designed to make it simpler for corporations to send large, paperwork-intensive transactions with fewer errors and less need for audits. If a company in Guangxi wants to buy palm oil from Labuan, Malaysia, the counterparties can load their trade contract, receipts and waybills into the shared ledger. Local CCB branches can then process both halves of the trade in parallel, instead of sequentially. The result: Total settlement time is reduced from two days to about ten minutes. The platform now connects 14,000 bank locations.
In October, the dollar value of Chicago Mercantile Exchange crypto futures reached $4.7 billion daily, temporarily making the CME the largest crypto derivatives exchange in the world. That same month the SEC approved the first U.S. bitcoin futures ETF, Proshares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), which now has $1 billion in assets. CME has launched crypto futures contracts for ethereum, as well as “micro” bitcoin and “micro” ethereum futures, tailored for those who want to invest $150,000 or less.
The largest crypto exchange in the U.S. went public in April 2021, and its market value soared as high as $94 billion before settling to a recent $40 billion. In the third quarter of 2021, Coinbase logged more revenue ($1.3 billion) and net profit ($406 million) than in all of 2020, while its customer base swelled from 43 million to 73 million in the first nine months of the year. Next: diversification. Its “Coinbase Cloud” software aims to help developers build crypto applications, and in October, it announced an NFT marketplace to compete with OpenSea. A month later, CEO Brian Armstrong told investors Coinbase NFT could become “as big or bigger” than its trading business.
The $5.1 billion (12-month sales) diamond producer has registered more than 400,000 stones, worth some $2 billion, on its Tracr blockchain, up 50% since January 2021. The platform records a diamond’s cut, color, clarity and karat, then tracks it along the supply chain. Users can instantly verify the rock’s origin and authenticity with a simple scan as it’s mined, cut, polished and sold—eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming mail-in verification. Tracr now has more than 30 industry participants, including Zales, Jared and Kay Jewelers.
If you bought or sold a security in the U.S. last year, odds are that the clearing and settlement services were provided by DTCC, far and away the largest post-services firm in the world. In September DTCC, which processed $2.3 quadrillion in 2020 trades (total face value of the securities; trailing 12-month sales $2 billion), successfully completed a six-month test on a blockchain project that will reduce errors and cut settlement times from two days to less than one. DTCC’s main business remains publicly listed securities, but its new Digital Securities Management application is targeting pre-IPO companies with privately traded shares.
Think of DCG as a crypto conglomerate. The firm owns five major crypto companies: trading platform Genesis, news site Coindesk, digital asset exchange and wallet Luno, bitcoin mining firm Foundry and Grayscale, the largest digital asset manager in the world, with more than 150 portfolio companies and $39.6 billion under management. In November, DCG raised $700 million in a private stock sale led by Softbank at a $10 billion valuation, bumping founder Barry Silbert’s net worth to $3.2 billion. DCG’s newest startup, Foundry, has taken advantage of crypto miners being banned from China in May to create the world’s largest bitcoin mining pool, providing 19% of the network’s total processing power.
Fidelity started mining bitcoin in 2015 when it was trading below $500, making the $11.1 trillion asset administrator one of the first traditional institutions to dabble in crypto. But true to its conservative nature, the 401(k) giant (2020: $21 billion sales) steered retail customers clear of owning crypto directly. Its main crypto niche today is not retail but providing custodial services and research to institutional clients through its Fidelity Digital Assets unit. The number of these big clients doubled to nearly 200 in 2021. Next: overseas expansion. Last year, Fidelity launched a Canadian bitcoin ETF and secured a permanent crypto license from the U.K. financial regulator.
Led by 29-year-old Sam Bankman-Fried, the world’s richest crypto billionaire (net worth: $26.5 billion), FTX dominates the hypercompetitive crypto exchange landscape. It handles some 10% of the $3.4 trillion face value of derivatives (mostly futures and options) traded by crypto investors each month. FTX pockets 0.02% of each of those trades on average, good for around $750 million in nearly risk-free revenue—and $350 million in profit. Additionally, the company hauled in a record $1.5 billion in private funding last year, rocketing its valuation from $1.2 billion to $25 billion. Eager to become a household name, FTX is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, signing up a slew of celebrity brand ambassadors including Tom Brady, David Ortiz and Kevin O’Leary.
The $32 billion (12-month sales) telecommunications and computer hardware company runs a blockchain innovation lab in Brussels with more than 40 clients— from a rice-trading startup to giant brewer Anheuser-Busch. The companies use the lab to test fresh ideas, backed by Fujitsu’s technical expertise. In November, for example, water purification firm Botanical Water Technologies started building a trading platform using Fujitsu’s in-house distributed ledger technology, which will allow sugar mills, distilleries and cola makers to sell or reuse the water they would normally discard during production. The platform, launching in April, will trace the water as it’s purified, sold and delivered, and give companies the option to donate a portion of their purified water to water-scarce communities.
The largest bank on the planet ($5.6 trillion in assets) has 40 blockchain applications, which last year handled a total of more than $48 billion worth of transactions for local governments and industries including construction and transportation. Among its most innovative apps is Icago, which rewards users for making use of energy-efficient vehicles, whether trains, buses or electric cars. The bank’s blockchain connects wallets owned by ICBC customers to government transportation data. Carbon credits issued by the transit commission as nonfungible tokens can be redeemed for China’s new central-bank digital currency. In the future, securitized carbon emissions will be sold as bonds to companies looking to meet carbon reduction requirements. In Qingdao, a city known for its beer, the program removed 99,000 kilograms of carbon in 2021. This year, the program will expand to Shenzhen, Shanghai, Chengdu and seven other cities.
JPMorgan’s Onyx Digital Assets network is making waves in the massive ($1.5 trillion a day, face value) repo market, the overnight government bond market that’s a steady source of profits for large financial institutions. By using smart contracts and JPM Coin, a digitized version of the U.S. dollar, Onyx repo trades settle in real time instead of overnight, reducing settlement risk and manual processing. The intraday repo application has so far facilitated the movement of $230 billion in trades, completing about $1 billion in transactions a day. In June, Goldman Sachs began using Onyx.
South Korea’s dominant mobile messenger application, KakaoTalk, is used by nearly 90 percent of the country’s 52 million people, and as of May 2021 it has a marketplace for trading NFTs. Called KrafterSpace, the exchange is fully integrated with OpenSea, the San Francisco–based NFT bazaar that recently raised money at a $13.3 billion valuation. On KrafterSpace users can purchase tokenized artwork directly through Kakao’s messenger app with the accompanying digital wallet, called Klip Drops. Both KrafterSpace and Klip Drops are built on Kakao’s own blockchain, Klaytn, which has more than 800,000 active users. Separately, in August, Kakao launched a $515 million Klaytn Growth Fund to support developers willing to contribute to its blockchain’s ecosystem.
Part of Z Holdings, the $36 billion (market cap) Japanese internet conglomerate that also owns Yahoo Japan and Japan’s PayPal competitor, LINE is the country’s largest messaging app, with 300 million users. The company has developed a proprietary blockchain, also called LINE, owned by Softbank Group and South Korean internet conglomerate NAVER Corporation. Its services include a cryptocurrency exchange, an NFT marketplace and a digital wallet with more than 254,000 registered accounts. The associated cryptocurrency, LINK, is a big hit, attracting nearly a million miners. As of late January it had a market cap of $669 million.
Five years ago, Marathon was mostly known as patent troll, filing a raft of lawsuits (most settled out of court) against corporate giants like Apple, Amazon, Dell, Yahoo, Pinterest and Twitter. In 2017 the operation had annual revenues of less than a $1 million and a market cap of less than $10 million. It aggressively pivoted toward bitcoin mining in 2017, and the Nasdaq-traded company now has a market cap of $2 billion on revenue of less than $100 million. A big beneficiary of China’s bitcoin-mining ban, Marathon currently holds at least 8,133 bitcoin worth $300 million. The company intends to put to work 70,000 more servers in early 2022, increasing its computers devoted to crypto mining to 199,000, good for approximately 1.2% of total global bitcoin mining activity.
PURCHASE, NEW YORK
Twenty-four crypto cards, including Gemini, Uphold, CoinJar and BitPay, have been launched by Mastercard, letting customers spend their digital assets at 80 million vendors around the world. In October, the credit card giant partnered with Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange (owner of the New York Stock Exchange), which will provide technology to allow even more Mastercard issuers the ability to accommodate cryptocurrency transactions. Mastercard also runs a blockchain incubator called “Start Path,” which has so far assisted 12 crypto startups, giving them direct access to the multinational company’s products, customers, workshops and mentoring.
Facebook’s decision to rebrand as Meta and go all in on the (mostly) theoretical “metaverse” could be a boon to blockchain as well as Facebook, with its 2.9 billion member global community. After all, an immersive, all-encompassing virtual world is a natural environment for cryptocurrencies, custom avatars, NFTs, blockchain gaming, digital wallets and more. Let’s hope Facebook has more success with the metaverse than it did with Libra, its much-hyped cryptocurrency that was announced in 2019, renamed “Diem” in 2020 and sold to California bank Silvergate Capital in January 2022 for $182 million. To date little is known about the technology underlying Facebook’s metaverse.
Enterprise software provider MicroStrategy and its crypto-Kool-Aid-guzzling CEO, Michael Saylor, are corporate America’s biggest bitcoin owners. The D.C.-area firm, which nominally makes boring back-office business software, has transformed itself during the pandemic into a crypto trading powerhouse. MicroStrategy now holds 124,391 coins worth $4.6 billion at today’s prices and has booked nearly $846 million in crypto trading profits since August 2020.
The NBA’s Top Shot platform has transformed the sports memorabilia business, bringing NFTs to the average fan. Powered by Vancouver, British Columbia–based Dapper Labs’ “Flow” blockchain, users can buy, sell and collect “moments,” akin to digital trading cards—such as a LeBron James dunk that recently sold for a record-setting $230,023. Its popularity isn’t slowing, either. Since November 2020, 1.3 million people created Top Shot accounts, and total sales have soared from $2.5 million to $992 million. Top Shot’s outsize success has generated broader curiosity about crypto within the league. The NBA formed a blockchain subcommittee to evaluate future opportunities, launched a WNBA version of Top Shot and entered a multiyear partnership with crypto exchange Coinbase.
The 141-year-old maker of cash registers and ATMs wants to create a massive global network of 1.5 million locations that will allow passersby to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In January it bought Boston-based LibertyX, a bitcoin ATM company that has 30,000 machines scattered across America. In June, NCR spent $2.5 billion to buy Cardtronics, a Houston company with 285,000 ATMs at Circle Ks, CVSs and Krogers in the U.S. and nine other countries. Bitcoin, ethereum and a few other cryptocurrencies should be available on these machines by the end of the summer.
Through its Swiss Global Palladium Fund, the world’s largest producer of palladium and refined nickel ($17.7 billion, 12-month sales) has issued $1.3 billion worth of tokenized contracts for its precious and base metals, including gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper and nickel. The contracts, stored on the Atomyze blockchain, help industrial firms like Umicore, Traxys and Glencore track the origin and environmental bona fides of their metals and make it easier to adjust inventory levels.
By 2030, some 40% of all new cars will be electric. Demand for cobalt, used in EV batteries, is soaring. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt supply is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war-torn country where child labor and other human rights abuses are common. Oracle and British startup Circulor, a raw-materials supply-chain tracking company, have built a blockchain-enabled platform to trace the provenance of high-risk, conflict-area raw materials such as cobalt. Many of the world’s largest EV manufacturers, including Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Polestar, have signed on for the service, which is built on Oracle’s blockchain.
Started in 2018 by Coinbase cofounder Fred Ehrsam and former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang, Paradigm has quickly become one of the most prominent crypto VC firms. Investments ranging from $1 million to over $100 million include FTX, Coinbase, Chainalysis, Uniswap and Sky Mavis. Sixteen are already valued at $1 billion or more. In November, Paradigm announced a new $2.5 billion fund, the largest crypto-centric venture capital fund ever.
In October 2020, PayPal launched a crypto brokerage service as part of its grand plan to become a one-stop financial super app. Crypto users engage with the app twice as much as regular clients, and its offering of crypto rewards through the Venmo credit card has been a big hit with younger users. Although the company now lets U.S. customers purchase up to $100,000 in crypto per week, most transactions are much smaller; daily trading volume is estimated to be under $50 million. Looking ahead, the company wants to expand its crypto offerings beyond the U.S. and U.K. and is exploring the launch of its own stablecoin.
Through its subsidiary OneConnect’s blockchain financing platform, the sixth-largest company in the world has made more than $12 billion in loans to a million small and medium-sized businesses in China’s Guangdong province since January 2020. OneConnect’s software uses government data to analyze a borrower’s risk profile for banks, cutting transaction processing to as little as 10 minutes—a massive money saver for its 788 client financial institutions, including $5.6 trillion powerhouse ICBC. In November, a OneConnect subsidiary partnered with the People’s Bank of China to use blockchain to track and process the financing of imports and exports from mainland China and Hong Kong.
In 2019, Providence, a not-for-profit Catholic health system, acquired Seattle health-tech startup Lumedic. The prize? Lumedic’s blockchain, which helps solve time-consuming administrative problems like “prior authorization”—when a doctor needs to check with a patient’s insurer to ensure certain surgeries or medications will be covered. In 2021, 16 of Providence’s hospitals and four clinics across Washington, Montana and Oregon were using its shared ledger to speed up prior authorization processing time from days to hours. Last year, more than 40,000 treatments were processed on Lumedic’s blockchain.
In response to European regulators’ ever-growing technical requirements, the French automaker ($53 billion 12-month sales) launched blockchain platform Xceed in April to track thousands of car parts going into every vehicle manufactured in 16 factories across Europe. If any characteristics—such as the size of a screw or a headrest’s positioning—aren’t up to standard, the manufacturer is automatically alerted and can then notify suppliers with the push of a button, saving weeks of time on audits. Partners include top suppliers like Faurecia, one of the world’s largest makers of automotive interiors, with $18 billion in annual revenue. By 2024, Renault hopes to enlist 3,500 suppliers in a bid to track every one of its 6,000-plus regulated car parts and features. Renault has also started 20 other in-house blockchain initiatives tackling everything from car-buying transactions to supply-chain traceability.
Most Americans know Samsung for TVs and other electronics, but those are just one aspect of the largest ($220 billion 12-month sales) chaebol (conglomerate) in South Korea. It also makes ships, runs theme parks, sells life insurance—and, since 2020, the conglomerate’s IT arm, Samsung SDS, has been using a blockchain-based loan platform to make it easier for small and midsize enterprises to request government loans. Previously, such a request required documents from three parties—the government, the credit guarantor and the bank—which would take three weeks on average to process. The platform reduces paperwork, cutting processing time to 12 days and saving about 13,000 working hours a year.
In 2015, Signature became one of the first banks to accept crypto customers. It was a prescient move: Total crypto deposits have surpassed $22 billion, and the bank has processed more than $200 billion worth of payments on its ethereum blockchain–based proprietary network, Signet. This year the company began offering bitcoin-backed loans. It has also partnered with stablecoin issuer TrueUSD to allow clients to mint and send instantaneous payments using the dollar-denominated asset. The market is a fan: Over the last 12 months, Signature’s stock has almost doubled.
Last year France’s third-largest bank released Cast Framework through its Forge subsidiary. The software lets both mainstream financial firms and crypto startups create regulatory-compliant digital securities on a blockchain. A recent application was helping Banque du France refinance $45 million in securities backed by some of the bank’s home-mortgage portfolio, tracked on a blockchain. Using the blockchain reduced transaction time and saved on auditing costs. SocGen is also developing a so-called “smart contract” library of reusable code specific to financial services and has applied for a French regulatory license that will allow them to manage digital assets for clients.
The 278-year-old art auctioneer, known for selling Picassos, van Goghs and Warhols, is now gleefully hawking cartoon primates and pixelated cyberpunks. In April 2021, Sotheby’s held its first NFT sale, moving a body of work by digital artist Pak for $16.8 million. That was only the start: In all Sotheby’s did more than $100 million in NFT sales last year, contributing to the auction house’s record-breaking gross sales of $7.3 billion. In September, cashing in on the craze for unique NFT profile pictures on social media, Sotheby’s sold 101 images of monkeys, part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of 10,000 animal avatars, for $24.4 million. The auction house now accepts bids in fiat currency and cryptocurrency.
In 2017, the financial firm that already owned a $13 billion asset manager, launched New York Digital Investment Group (NYDIG), a subsidiary aimed at helping institutional investors buy and hold crypto. Stone Ridge has since bought and held some 20,000 bitcoin (worth $740 million at current prices) and last December NYDIG raised $1 billion from nine VCs including WestCap and Bessemer Venture Partners at a $7 billion valuation. Institutional clients include JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley; last year it cemented partnerships with banking software giants FIS and Fiserv.
The technology arm of Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group (2021 revenue: $5.1 billion) has developed more than 60 blockchain-based products spanning telecom, media and entertainment, manufacturing, retail and energy. One of the most interesting: VaccineLedger, which was developed in collaboration with a startup funded by Unicef and Gavi, the vaccine alliance that oversees a worldwide Covid-19 vaccine database with the World Health Organization. The blockchain helps prevent counterfeiting and reduces the number of vaccines that go to waste by tracing the shots from manufacturer to recipient. It records data related to custody, temperature, location and purchase orders for each vial. VaccineLedger already operates in two states in India, with plans to expand globally.
Over the past decade, Tencent has built a Chinese “super app,” used by more than 1 billion people for everything from gaming and social media to messaging and shopping. Now it’s developing a one-stop blockchain platform, Tencent Cloud Blockchain. Ten provinces and cities including Hainan, Guangdong and Beijing already use it to issue electronic bills for things like health care and transportation. As August 2021, Tencent’s blockchain had processed more than 15 million transactions in one city alone.
Crypto’s town square, where Elon Musk shamelessly pumps canine coins and where millions of tiny traders try to send their latest purchases to the moon in 280 characters or less. There were 220 million tweets about NFTs in 2021 and an additional 60 million in January 2022 alone. And just because its crypto-obsessed CEO, Jack Dorsey, left in November to devote all his time to Block (see page 68) doesn’t mean corporate Twitter is forsaking its claim to the decentralized future. Twitter is doubling down on creator tools, like tipping other tweeters with bitcoin and letting users display their NFT collections as profile pictures—for a fee.
The credit card giant has partnered with more than 60 crypto platforms including FTX, BlockFi, Coinbase and Binance to make it easy for people to spend digital currency through crypto-linked cards. All 80 million of Visa’s merchants now effectively accept crypto as payment, with the funds automatically converted to fiat currency before they receive it. While crypto transactions can be expensive, Visa leaves that headache to its partners, which charge as much as 2.5% in Coinbase’s case. Consumers have spent more than $6 billion using Visa crypto cards since October 2020.
After hundreds of listeria, salmonella and E. coli infections last year, and millions of pounds of recalled food, the FDA finally seems to be getting serious about food safety. It announced in September 2020 that manufacturers and retailers will henceforth be responsible for tracking more than a dozen types of risky foods such as romaine lettuce, soft cheeses and fish at every point along the supply chain in order to identify and toss contaminated items more rapidly. The retailer is already tracking 1,500 items on the blockchain, triple that of a year ago. Its food safety initiatives are becoming more visible to shoppers: A recent Sam’s Club pilot in China let shoppers scan a QR code to gain information about where the produce was grown and when it was harvested.
One of WeBank’s latest blockchain apps encourages sustainable living by rewarding users for doing things like walking, taking the bus or recycling clothing. The Chinese digital bank, which is 30% owned by Tencent, creates Green Bud Points via a mini-app on WeChat that can later be exchanged for vouchers and gifts. All records are stored on its blockchain to ensure transparency and traceability. The platform already has 1 million daily active users and reports that it recorded a reduction of more than 2,500 tons of carbon emissions over 2021. Overall, WeBank has more than 70,000 coders working on its proprietary “FISCO BCOS” blockchain.