This week in cryptocurrency and blockchain news, we saw some major developments. Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy announced he will be stepping down to focus on Bitcoin acquisition. FLOW surged 50% amid Instagram NFT integrations, and Monash University was given a boost by the Algorand Foundation to drive eco-friendly blockchain technology. Amidst all this, the US Treasury has sanctioned Tornado Cash, which may impact holders of the coin. Interestingly, one of the most prestigious jewellers in the world, Tiffany and Co, have released a limited edition ‘CryptoPunk’ pendant.

BTC and ETH Rally as US Inflation Shrinks

Crypto markets have responded favourably following news of US inflation shrinking from 9.1% in June to 8.5% in July as per the most recently published Consumer Price Index (CPI).

In June, US inflation hit a 40-year high, which had a huge impact on all markets, particularly the crypto market. However, the most recent inflation data revealed the worst is behind us. Bitcoin and Ethereum as well as the majority of altcoins have responded positively to the news in the past 7 days.

Michael Saylor steps down as MicroStrategy CEO

Tech billionaire, Michael Saylor, has taken a step back from his role as CEO of MicroStrategy to take an executive chairman position and focus more of his energy on Bitcoin.

For those unfamiliar with Michael Saylor, he is a Bitcoin enthusiast and his company, MicroStrategy, is the second biggest institutional holder of Bitcoin behind Grayscale. The majority of the company’s Primary Treasury Reserve Asset is, in fact, Bitcoin. So, it comes as no surprise that Saylor is stepping down as CEO of MicroStrategy to focus on Bitcoin acquisition full time.

While some have criticised Saylor for the decision, both MicroStrategy and Saylor himself have been quick to point out that he will remain an executive chairman and continue to be involved in the company’s strategic decisions. In fact, Saylor stated splitting and creating a more balanced role for the chairman and CEO would allow the firm to better pursue its two corporate strategies: purchasing and holding bitcoin, as well as developing its business analytics software.

Saylor is not the first tech billionaire to take a step back from their role to focus on crypto and blockchain. Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter, also stepped down from his role and more recently left the Twitter Board. Since leaving, much of Dorsey’s focus has been on his digital payments company, Block, which was recently rebranded from Square. 

As you might expect, the Twittersphere is abuzz with excitement and predictions are running wild for another bull run of Bitcoin.

FLOW surges 50% amid Instagram NFT integrations

This week, FLOW surged 50% in value after it was announced that the Flow blockchain would be integrated with Instagram’s new ‘NFT Marketplace’.

Earlier in the year, Instagram users in the US were able to upload NFTs to the social media platform that were minted on the Ethereum and Polygon blockchains. The latest announcement from Instagram will see the feature roll out in over 100 countries, including Australia.

While the feature is still in its early stages, it is a sign that mainstream platforms are beginning to embrace blockchain technology.

Flow is a lightning-fast, decentralized, and developer-friendly blockchain created by Dapper Labs. It is meant to serve as the basis for a new generation of games, applications, and digital assets that will power them. If the name Dapper Labs sounds familiar you may know them as the company behind popular NFT collections such as CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot. The FLOW token powers the Flow network and is used for payments within its ecosystem.

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The news of Flow’s integration sent the coin’s price soaring and at one point it was up 50% on the day. The integration with Instagram will allow Flow users and developers to post their NFTs on the platform and share them with their followers. It is a big step forward for blockchain adoption, as NFTs will be front and centre on Instagram, garnering mainstream exposure.

Monash University given Algorand funding to drive blockchain technology

Monash University has been one of ten global universities to receive a grant from Algorand as part of its Centres of Excellence program. They will receive a share of the $50 million funding to develop eco-friendly blockchain technology.

Monash University’s Blockchain Technology Centre has partnered with the Singapore-based Algorand Foundation to develop two applications that will help drive eco-friendly blockchain technology. The first app will be focused on academic credentialing, using blockchain-as-a-service. The partnership is also focusing on an application prototype that will use blockchain technology as a supply chain provider for pharmaceuticals.

The partnership is part of a larger effort by the Algorand Foundation to promote sustainable blockchain technology. Monash University was one of ten global recipients of funding.

This is a very positive story coming out of Australia, and it is great to see a university working on developing eco-friendly blockchain technology. With the growing concerns about the environmental impact of cryptocurrency, it is good to see projects like this that are working towards a solution.

US Treasury sanctions Tornado Cash

This week, the US Department of Treasury announced sanctions against the popular cryptocurrency mixer known as Tornado Cash. This means Americans are now banned from using the service. While still legal in Australia, any users of the platform and holders of its coin, TORN, should practice due diligence.

The sanctions were imposed due to the fact that Tornado Cash has been purportedly used to launder money and facilitate crime.

For those unfamiliar, a cryptocurrency mixing service allows users to mix their coins with other users in order to obfuscate the trail of where the coins came from. This makes it more difficult for authorities to track and trace activity, illegal or otherwise.

While cryptocurrency mixing services are not illegal, they have been used for illicit purposes in the past. Tornado Cash has been linked to certain notorious cryptocurrency crimes, including the theft of $615 million in Ronin tokens, which is closely linked with the Axie Infinity play-to-earn crypto game.  

Though the platform itself is not directly responsible for these crimes, the US Treasury has decided that its ability to facilitate laundering is troublesome. Though many use it as a legitimate way to protect their privacy, one statement has read, “Tornado Cash has repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis and without basic measures to address its risks.”

Tiffany & Co. releases limited edition CryptoPunk pendants

Jewellery brand, Tiffany & Co. has released a line of limited edition cryptocurrency-themed jewellery, exclusively available to CryptoPunk holders.

Once relegated to only the most tech-savvy among us or viewed with a certain degree of scepticism, this latest partnership well and truly proves blockchain technology has arrived to the mainstream population.

Tiffany & Co. are one of the most iconic jewellery brands in the world, and its entry into the cryptocurrency space is a big deal. The CryptoPunks are a series of limited edition digital artworks, otherwise known as NFTs, that were created back in 2017.

The new Tiffany & Co pendants are each designed to resemble a different CryptoPunk. They are made from either 18-karat yellow or rose gold, and they come with a certificate of authenticity. The pendants are currently only available to those who already own a CryptoPunk, but it is possible that Tiffany & Co will release them to the general public at some point in the future.

CryptoPunk NFT holders were each able to purchase up to three of the ultra-exclusive diamond necklaces each. The necklaces retailed at 30 ETH, or approximately $50,000 USD.

The announcement of the partnership also saw renewed interest in CryptoPunks and a 248% increase in trade volume.

Tiffany & Co. are not the first major company to adopt the CryptoPunks NFTs. in 2021, Visa purchased a CryptoPunk for roughly $150,000 USD.

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