NetworkNewsWire Editorial Coverage: The meteoric rise in the price of bitcoin in 2017, from just under $1,000 to above $15,000 at year-end, has attracted the attention of investors around the world. Powered by the blockchain, the distributed ledger technology which verifies transactions without the need for third-party validation, the cryptocurrency made great strides during the past year in achieving acceptance by businesses willing to accept it as a means of payment. Investors looking beyond bitcoin itself to find companies that stand to benefit from the growing usage of bitcoin for commercial transactions have a number of options to choose from, including SinglePoint, Inc. (SING) (SING Profile) and Square, Inc. (SQ). Even industry behemoths like Discover Financial Services (DFS), International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Mastercard, Inc. (MA) are getting on board to one degree or another, poised to take advantage of the disruptive potential of cryptocurrencies to facilitate the payment process.
SinglePoint, Inc. (SING) has established itself in the burgeoning market for cryptocurrency transaction platforms. Through diversification into horizontal markets, SinglePoint has developed from a full-service mobile technology provider into a holding company focused on building its portfolio by acquiring interests in undervalued subsidiaries. The company has developed, through its SingleSeed subsidiary, a proprietary bitcoin payments solution designed to allow cannabis merchants and customers to use bitcoin-enabled debit and credit cards to conduct transactions. SinglePoint’s solution is in full compliance with KYC-AML and is eligible for deployment in all types of businesses, giving it potential beyond the cannabis market.
A cryptocurrency like bitcoin has the potential to help serve the needs of under-banked markets such as the cannabis industry. The classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act prevents most industry merchants from using traditional banking services. This makes such businesses virtually unbankable, forcing them to deal in cash with all the inconvenience that can bring.
With its SingleSeed Payments platform, SinglePoint has taken the lead in the U.S. in payment solutions for the industry. This platform provides customers in any state where marijuana is legal the convenience of transacting bitcoin-enabled purchases with their debit and credit cards, similar to how they would use these cards to purchase any other item. SingleSeed Payments also allow cannabis dispensaries to digitally keep track of product inventories and to upload product data like photos and descriptions. When products are purchased the system automatically accounts for the reduction in inventory in the merchant’s product listings.
This proprietary bitcoin exchange (app.singlessed.com) underwent a soft launch on November 15, 2017, with an official launch planned for the first quarter of 2018. Even if cannabis is legalized at the federal level at some future time, the SingleSeed app is poised to expand its use as an effective tool for handling retail cannabis payments using cryptocurrency. Ultimately, the company hopes to provide a completely integrated solution that can be used by all types of businesses for end-to-end management of their day-to-day business operations.
After achieving significant growth in 2017, SinglePoint is well prepared to continue this trajectory in 2018. The company has formalized a joint-venture agreement that it had previously announced with AppSwarm (SWRM) to begin development on an application that will make it possible for licensed cannabis delivery services and dispensaries to safely make in home deliveries. Through this and other agreements and partnerships and product offerings, SinglePoint has positioned itself in the forefront of both the cannabis and cryptocurrency markets.
The company has entered into an agreement to advance and streamline the process involving the delivery of payment applications with Global Payout (GOHE), a provider of customized financial technology solutions. SinglePoint hopes to leverage its expertise in mobile payments and associated mobile offerings to work with Global Payment’s MoneyTrac (“MTRAC”) subsidiary, which is developing payment solutions for the cannabis industry, to further the optimization of its technology platform and add value to the services it offers.
SinglePoint President Wil Ralston recently stated: “Through strategic joint ventures and inside development of applications we are pushing hard on providing a compliant solution to the cannabis industry. Our team and others have worked well in collaboration, and believe we are not far away from an official launch of this solution in the first quarter of 2018.”
SinglePoint has also formed another strategic joint venture, in this case with Smart Cannabis Corp (SCNA). Smart Cannabis provides automated greenhouse systems as well as its unique SMART APP, which offers seed-to-sale monitoring and automation for cannabis growers. The firm is one of the few companies in the cannabis sector which is profitable. The SMART APP enables cultivators to control their operations from a mobile device. The two companies plan to collaborate to integrate the app with SinglePoint’s bitcoin payment solution, enabling cultivators to accept payment for their product through the payment application, improving the safety and security of such transactions.
“Cultivators need a solution to secure their payments. We are looking to provide a solution that can be used from seed to sale, the entire life cycle. The transaction from a cultivator to a processor or dispensary can be huge, over $150,000 per transaction, and it is simply not safe or efficient to carry that kind of cash to a transaction,” Ralston stated. With California legalizing recreational marijuana sales in 2018, this partnership helps position SinglePoint to serve the expected increase in business in the state. The company has taken other steps to position itself to benefit from the legalization of cannabis in California, including acquiring California-based Discount Indoor Garden Supply and investing in Convectium, a cannabis equipment supplier located in the state.
Legal marijuana sales are currently experiencing robust growth. Sales are slated to amount to approximately $9.7 billion in North America in 2017, 33 percent higher than in 2016, with industry observers forecasting the market to rise to upward of $24.5 billion in sales by 2021, according to an article in Business Insider (http://nnw.fm/G6fKK). With the cannabis industry ideally suited to pioneer the practice of fully blending cryptocurrencies into its day-to-day operating practices, SinglePoint has positioned itself to offer industry participants a solution that helps them efficiently integrate bitcoin-based payments into their operations. As a result, the company is well placed to take advantage of the tremendous growth expected in the sector.
Building on the company’s success in 2017, SinglePoint’s management team plans to undertake an aggressive expansion strategy. Management believes the multiple joint ventures and agreements the company has signed will provide fruitful results going forward, and plans to continue the strategy of making acquisitions, which has been a powerful catalyst for corporate growth, in 2018. SinglePoint’s management remains bullish on the use of bitcoin and blockchain technologies to solve key issues in the cannabis markets, and will seek out companies to acquire and partner with to bring solutions to this growing market throughout the year.
Another company which has taken steps to offer consumers the ability to participate in the cryptocurrency revolution is Square, Inc. (SQ), which provides credit card payment processing solutions. The company also offers point-of-sale services, financial services, and marketing services. The company has released a beta trial enabling users to buy and sell bitcoin on its cash app. The move was welcomed by investors who bid the company’s stock up more than 100 percent in 2017, as it rose from the approximately $15 in January to end the year at $34.67.
A major financial services firm which is closely watching the cryptocurrency space and the development of blockchain technology is Discover Financial Services (DFS), a direct banking and payment services company that is one of the largest U.S.-based card issuers. The company issues the Discover card and offers a variety of loans and other services through its direct banking network. In an article on the Discover Global Network, bitcoin and other types of payments driven by blockchain technology were described as being even more like cash than a debit transaction would be, meaning that industries beyond payment technology may want to consider how blockchain technology could be used to help add efficiency to the management of data and information.
A well-known name in computer technology for decades, IBM (IBM) has wasted no time in taking steps to capitalize on the power of the blockchain. The company recently started processing payments between banks in the South Pacific using a proprietary blockchain platform it developed. Another notable example of IBM’s use of the blockchain is its partnership with mega retailer Walmart to utilize a combination of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors along with the blockchain to track produce from farm to fork, allowing for the rapid removal of any product which experiences quality issues. Traditionally, paper tracking systems have been used for this purpose, which can allow for inaccuracies and slow down the process of tracing food products. Using the blockchain, tracking information on a product can be called up in as little as 2.2 seconds rather than the multiple days it might have taken previously.
Global payments technology giant Mastercard (MA) is another major corporation making a move to utilize the blockchain technology underlying cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin for payment processing. The company is now allowing some customers to send money via a blockchain instead of swiping a credit card. Mastercard has developed its own blockchain which it has announced is now available to certain banks and merchants to use to send payments for goods and services. Mastercard joins its fellow fortune 500 company IBM in allowing payments to be made over a proprietary blockchain system.
Mastercard’s blockchain is different from IBM’s in that, while the IBM blockchain utilizes Lumens, a virtual currency developed by the non-profit Stellar, the Mastercard blockchain doesn’t use a cryptocurrency to operate, instead accepting payments only in traditional local money. In addition to payments, Mastercard also envisions the use of the blockchain for applications such as tracking the movement of goods such as pharmaceuticals or luxury goods, providing authenticity data for these goods and thereby reducing fraud.
The stunning ascent in bitcoin’s price in 2017 has helped pave the way for the use of the cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology on which it is based for a number of business purposes, among the most promising being the processing of payments where the transparency and efficiency of the technology improves existing practices. Given the hurdles to conducting cannabis transactions through traditional banking networks, this industry is among the most prominent targets for the use of bitcoin in this manner. The companies mentioned above are all positioned to play a major role in the developing trend of blockchain and cryptocurrency-based payment solutions, making them worthy of further investigation by investors looking to capitalize on the disruptive power of cryptocurrencies and the technology behind them.
For more information on SinglePoint, visit: SinglePoint, Inc. (SING)
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