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.
When you get offered a new job or contract you feel amazing, someone is willing to pay you for what you do and it is personal. And yet, when we terminate the employment relationships we are expected not to take things personally? It’s always personal and it always hurts. The only thing we can do is treat people with dignity and empathy when we end an employment relationship.
I have worked for over 20 years in HR and I have had multiple termination conversations. In this trying time, many people are being terminated from their roles and contracts. I wanted to share the best way to terminate employment with diginity.
- The initial meeting- The most important part of this conversation is understanding that this is a shock, the employee is now thinking what they have done wrong and how will they put food on the table. Showing empathy is the best thing you can do. I often say “ I understand this is a shock and you must be feeling terrible, go home now and lets talk tomorrow when you have had time to digest and we will make an exit plan and a communication plan. We can talk in the office or on the phone I will call you and you can tell me what is more comfortable for you.”
- Have the letter ready for them with all of their benefits listed and when they will be paid, ensure they can take these home with them and digest.
- Don’t walk people offsite and cancel their access card and email on the spot. You have trusted this person for a long time so why stop now? Unless they have done something awful or unlawful, you would hope they are mature enough not to cause damage as they would want a reference later.
- Involve them in the exit, handover, notice and communication plan. Ask how long they need to handover their tasks, anything longer than a couple of weeks can be hard for all parties involved. If you feel they should handover quickly and pay out the rest of the notice, tell them they will be paid for the remainder of the notice period.
- To avoid being sued, you can often add a couple of weeks paid noticeand ask them to sign a legal waiver in order to receive this extra payment. Be generous with your notice payments if you can, this can help with avoiding court cases ( assuming you have followed all the correct procedures).
- Try and be honest about references if they want to put you down as a referee and you are not going to be helpful to them, then say “I am not the best person perhaps you could ask someone else?” I know alot of companies dont give references which is difficult for someone when they leave, I am personally not a fan of this type of policy.
- Offer someone for them to talk to once they have left, a contact in hr or outsourced counselling is very important.
Remember it always feels personal and we all deserve to leave a place of employment with our dignity intact.
Karen is a freelance HR Manager with a focus on medium size businesses and emerging tech companies. For more HR advice on how to manage terminations contact email@example.com
Karen Cohen, CEO Blockconsulting Group
Blockchain technology is revolutionising the IT industry with its trusted and permissioned approach to data verification and storage. However, the industry is still perceived not to be attractive for women.
Perhaps the answer comes from the industry’s origins, Bitcoin. Ten years ago, when Bitcoin was created, it was put forward as a solution to remove intermediaries such as banks and government from financial transactions.
Bitcoin is famed for ‘banking the unbanked’, by allowing people to download an app to their smart phones enabling instant crypto trading
By 2017 there were over 11.5 million active crypto wallets[i]. However,the technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, while brilliant, is still not user-friendly and until it becomes safer and simpler, we’re not going to see mainstream adoption.
Last year female cryptocurrency buyers accounted for only 8% of the total market. Although this was an increase 5% the year before, it is an indication that women will continue to shy away from things that are hard-to-use. We’re a minority at Crypto Meetups as the movement is still dominated by male techno geeks that love to talk about buying, selling and using cryptocurrency.
Rosa Thompson, co-founder of Women in Blockchain Melbourne talks about why the movement started “Walking into a Cryptocurrency Meetup can be daunting, for both men and women, it’s like speaking a whole new language, which is why we created Women in Blockchain (WIB) meetups. A place for women to learn about the technology and not feel afraid to ask questions.”
Blockchain start-ups create new opportunities for more traditional jobs such as finance, operations, and marketing. But in general, the start up community is still male dominated, with male founders currently representing 77% of Australian Start ups.
As Blockchain is one of the fastest growing emerging technologies it is imperative to even the playing field for women. We must focus on including women advisors at all levels from the Board, right throughout the organisation.
Over the last two years, we’ve seen the rise of some prominent female founders in Blockchain technology here in Australia such as Dr Jemma Green from Powerledger, Katrina Donaghy from Civic Ledger, Ruth Hatherley from Moneycatcha, Emma Weston from Agridigital and Leanne Kemp from Everledger. Sophie Gilder from CBA has also led the charge on some largescale global blockchain projects.
Women in Blockchain meetings give us an opportunity to speak with some of these leaders and to demystify technology for women who would otherwise not hear about these projects.
In her Forbes Magazine article, Dr Jemma Green stated “In crypto and blockchain less than nine percent of the current community are female and the number of female programmers in this space is even less.
Having more women in leadership positions in technology companies gives other women something more relatable to strive for. When women feel supported, and are willing to help one another, incredible things can happen.”
For women to get involved in a Blockchain Career, a quick search on SEEK.com shows that there are currently opportunities in technical development and programming, legal, project management and account management.
To upgrade your skills the Blockchain Collective have recently started the first Advanced Diploma in Applied Blockchain which can help you gain formal business qualifications. You can enrol at http://bccollective.io
If you want to volunteer your time, there are some great start ups looking for female talent and advisors. You can go along to a start up pitch night or Women in Blockchain event and offer your services, it is a warm and welcoming community.
Women in Blockchain operates in Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane however we’re part of a global network of “Women on the Block”. Created in NYC by Alexandra Levin and Cissy Ma to promote empowerment of women to ensure diversity and inclusion in blockchain technology.
“Globally events like Women on the Block (WOB) continue to lead the way. Women are elevated, educated and encouraged to be involved in the emerging and disruptive blockchain industry.” Katrina Donaghy, Co- Founder and Co-CEO of Civic Ledger .
“It’s vitally important that women, and by communication default, their children, families and networks, are included in learning conversations around Blockchain technology, as its implications in and impact on our planet’s future, are phenomenal.’ Abheeti Kathryn Pass, Women in Blockchain Perth organiser and co-founder of Crypto Clothesline Podcast.https://www.cryptoclothesline.com
9 March 2021
What barriers to entry are there for female cryptocurrency investors?
- We’re already seeing increasingly more women joining our exchange. Using Google Analytics data, the ratio between men and women is closing, moreover, women are converting at a higher rate than men.
- It’s still early days for the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, in our opinion. So, if we continue to progress through the lifecycle of technology adoption the closing of the gender gap will likely occur.
- The face of the crypto community, be it online or offline is changing. We’re seeing more women heading companies and community initiatives in the crypto space. This will inevitably encourage more women into the space.
What actions can the community take to encourage more female investors?