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Around the world, blind innovators are slowly dismantling some of those barriers. The chemist Mona Minkara ianonymous virtual credit card bitcoins designing an inclusive STEM curriculum, the computer scientist Chieko Asakawa is developing accessible artificial intelligence, and the astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced is using sound to study space, to name just some.

To further prevent either from happening, you need trust. In this case, the accustomed solution with traditional currency would be to transact through a central, neutral arbiter such as a bank. Bitcoin has made that unnecessary, however. (It is probably no coincidence that Nakamoto's original description was published in October 2008, when trust in banks was at a multigenerational low. This is a recurring theme in today's climate of the coronavirus pandemic and growing government debt.) Rather than having a reliable authority keep the ledger and preside over the network, the Bitcoin network is decentralized. Everyone keeps an eye on everyone else.tron currency price inrNo one needs to know or trust anyone in particular in order for the system to operate correctly. Assuming everything is working as intended, the cryptographic protocols ensure that each block of transactions is bolted onto the last in a long, transparent, and immutable chain.

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MiningThe process that maintains this trustless public ledger is known as mining. Undergirding the network of Bitcoin users who trade the cryptocurrency among themselves is a network of miners, who record these transactions on the blockchain.Recording a string of transactions is trivial for a modern computer, but mining is difficult because Bitcoin's software makes the process artificially time-consuming. Without the added difficulty, people could spoof transactions to enrich themselves or bankrupt other people. They could log a fraudulent transaction in the blockchain and pile so many trivial transactions on top of it that untangling the fraud would become impossible.By the same token, it would be easy to insert fraudulent transactions into past blocks. The network would become a sprawling, spammy mess of competing ledgers, and Bitcoin would be worthless.Combining "proof of work" with other cryptographic techniques was Nakamoto's breakthrough. Bitcoin's software adjusts the difficulty miners face in order to limit the network to a new 1-megabyte block of transactions every 10 minutes. That way, the volume of transactions is digestible. The network has time to vet the new block and the ledger that precedes it, and everyone can reach a consensus about the status quo. Miners do not work to verify transactions by adding blocks to the distributed ledger purely out of a desire to see the Bitcoin network run smoothly; they are compensated for their work as well. We'll take a closer look at mining compensation below.

HalvingAs previously mentioned, miners are rewarded with Bitcoin for verifying blocks of transactions. This reward is cut in half every 210,000 blocks mined, or, about every four years. This event is called the halving or "the halvening." The system is built in as a deflationary one for the rate at which new Bitcoin is released into circulation.In 2021, Ethereum transitioned its consensus algorithm from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS).5 This move is intended to allow Ethereum’s network to run itself with far less energy and improved transaction speed as well as to make for a more deflationary economic environment. Proof-of-stake allows network participants to “stake” their ether to the network. This process helps to secure the network and process the transactions that occur. Those who do this are rewarded ether, similar to an interest account. This is an alternative to Bitcoin’s proof-of-work mechanism, where miners are rewarded more Bitcoin for processing transactions.

2. Litecoin (LTC)Litecoin, launched in 2011, was among the first cryptocurrencies to follow in the footsteps of Bitcoin and has often been referred to as “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.”6 It was created by Charlie Lee, an MIT graduate, and former Google engineer.Litecoin is based on an open-source global payment network that is not controlled by any central authority and uses “scrypt” as a proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of consumer-grade CPUs. Although Litecoin is like Bitcoin in many ways, it has a faster block generation rate and hence offers a faster transaction confirmation time. Other than developers, there are a growing number of merchants that accept Litecoin. As of September 2021, Litecoin has a market capitalization of $4 billion and a per-token value of around $190, making it the sixteenth-largest cryptocurrency in the world.73. Cardano (ADA)

Cardano is an “Ouroboros proof-of-stake” cryptocurrency that was created with a research-based approach by engineers, mathematicians, and cryptography experts.8 The project was co-founded by Charles Hoskinson, one of the five initial founding members of Ethereum. After having some disagreements with the direction Ethereum was taking, he left and later helped to create Cardano.The team behind Cardano created its blockchain through extensive experimentation and peer-reviewed research. The researchers behind the project have written over 90 papers on blockchain technology across a range of topics.9 This research is the backbone of Cardano.

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Due to this rigorous process, Cardano seems to stand out among its proof-of-stake peers as well as other large cryptocurrencies. Cardano has also been dubbed the “Ethereum killer,” as its blockchain is said to be capable of more.10 That said, Cardano is still in its early stages. While it has beaten Ethereum to the proof-of-stake consensus model, it still has a long way to go in terms of decentralized financial applications.Cardano aims to be the world’s financial operating system by establishing decentralized financial products similar to Ethereum as well as providing solutions for chain interoperability, voter fraud, and legal contract tracing, among other things. As of September 2021, Cardano has the third-largest market capitalization oat $71 billion and one ADA trades for around $2.50.114. Polkadot (DOT)Polkadot is a unique proof-of-stake cryptocurrency that is aimed at delivering interoperability among other blockchains. Its protocol is designed to connect permissioned and permission-less blockchains, as well as oracles, to allow systems to work together under one roof. Polkadot’s core component is its relay chain that allows the interoperability of varying networks. It also allows for “parachains,” or parallel blockchains with their own native tokens for specific-use cases.12

Where Polkadot differs from Ethereum is that rather than creating just decentralized applications on Polkadot, developers can create their own blockchain while also using the security that Polkadot’s chain already has. With Ethereum, developers can create new blockchains but need to create their own security measures, which can leave new and smaller projects open to attack, as the larger a blockchain, the more security it has. This concept in Polkadot is known as shared security.Polkadot was created by Gavin Wood, another member of the core founders of the Ethereum project who had differing opinions on the project’s future. As of September 2021, Polkadot has a market capitalization of roughly $35 billion and one DOT trades for $35.25.135. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)Bitcoin Cash (BCH) holds an important place in the history of altcoins because it is one of the earliest and most successful hard forks of the original Bitcoin. In the cryptocurrency world, a fork takes place as the result of debates and arguments between developers and miners. Due to the decentralized nature of digital currencies, wholesale changes to the code underlying the token or coin at hand must be made due to general consensus; the mechanism for this process varies according to the particular cryptocurrency.

When different factions can’t agree, sometimes the digital currency is split, with the original chain remaining true to its original code and the new chain beginning life as a new version of the prior coin, complete with changes to its code.BCH began its life in August 2017 as a result of one of these splits. The debate that led to the creation of BCH had to do with the issue of scalability; the Bitcoin network has a limit on the size of blocks: one megabyte (MB). BCH increases the block size from one MB to eight MBs, with the idea being that larger blocks can hold more transactions within them, and the transaction speed would therefore be increased.14 It also makes other changes, including the removal of the Segregated Witness protocol that impacts block space. As of September 2021, BCH has a market capitalization of around $12 billion and a value per token of $640.15

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6. Stellar (XLM)Stellar is an open blockchain network designed to provide enterprise solutions by connecting financial institutions for the purpose of large transactions. Huge transactions between banks and investment firms—typically taking several days, involving a number of intermediaries, and costing a good deal of money—can now be done nearly instantaneously with no intermediaries and cost little to nothing for those making the transaction.

While Stellar has positioned itself as an enterprise blockchain for institutional transactions, it is still an open blockchain that can be used by anyone. The system allows for cross-border transactions among any currencies. Stellar’s native currency is Lumens (XLM).16 The network requires users to hold Lumens to be able to transact on the network.Stellar was founded by Jed McCaleb, a founding member of Ripple Labs and developer of the Ripple protocol. He eventually left his role with Ripple and went on to co-found the Stellar Development Foundation.17 Stellar Lumens have a market capitalization of $565 million and are valued at $0.33 as of September 2021.187. Chainlink (LINK)Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that bridges the gap between smart contracts, like the ones on Ethereum, and data outside of it. Blockchains themselves do not have the ability to connect to outside applications in a trusted manner. Chainlink’s decentralized oracles allow smart contracts to communicate with outside data so that the contracts can be executed based on data that Ethereum itself cannot connect to.Chainlink’s blog details a number of use cases for its system. One of the many use cases that are explained would be to monitor water supplies for pollution or illegal siphoning going on in certain cities. Sensors could be set up to monitor corporate consumption, water tables, and the levels of local bodies of water.19 A Chainlink oracle could track this data and feed it directly into a smart contract. The smart contract could be set up to execute fines, release flood warnings to cities, or invoice companies using too much of a city’s water with the incoming data from the oracle.Chainlink was developed by Sergey Nazarov along with Steve Ellis. As of September 2021, Chainlink’s market capitalization is $13.5 billion and one LINK is valued at $30.50.20

8. Binance Coin (BNB)Binance Coin is a utility cryptocurrency that operates as a payment method for the fees associated with trading on the Binance Exchange. Those who use the token as a means of payment for the exchange can trade at a discount. Binance Coin’s blockchain is also the platform that Binance’s decentralized exchange operates on. The Binance exchange was founded by Changpeng Zhao and is one of the most widely used exchanges in the world based on trading volumes.

Binance Coin was initially an ERC-20 token that operated on the Ethereum blockchain. It eventually had its own mainnet launch. The network uses a proof-of-stake consensus model. As of September 2021, Binance Coin has a $71 billion market capitalization with one BNB having a value of $426.219. Tether (USDT)

Tether was one of the first and most popular of a group of so-called stablecoins, cryptocurrencies that aim to peg their market value to a currency or other external reference point to reduce volatility. Because most digital currencies, even major ones like Bitcoin, have experienced frequent periods of dramatic volatility, Tether and other stablecoins attempt to smooth out price fluctuations to attract users who may otherwise be cautious. Tether’s price is tied directly to the price of the U.S. dollar. The system allows users to more easily make transfers from other cryptocurrencies back to U.S. dollars in a more timely manner than actually converting to normal currency.Launched in 2014, Tether describes itself as “a blockchain-enabled platform designed to facilitate the use of fiat currencies in a digital manner.”22 Effectively, this cryptocurrency allows individuals to utilize a blockchain network and related technologies to transact in traditional currencies while minimizing the volatility and complexity often associated with digital currencies. As of September 2021, Tether is the fifth-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, with a total market cap of $68.3 billion and a per-token value of (you guessed it!) $1.23

10. Monero (XMR)Monero is a secure, private, and untraceable currency. This open-source cryptocurrency was launched in April 2014 and soon garnered great interest among the cryptography community and enthusiasts. The development of this cryptocurrency is completely donation-based and community-driven.24 Monero has been launched with a strong focus on decentralization and scalability, and it enables complete privacy by using a special technique called “ring signatures.”25With this technique, a group of cryptographic signatures appears, including at least one real participant, but the real one cannot be isolated since they all appear valid. Because of exceptional security mechanisms like this, Monero has developed something of an unsavory reputation—it has been linked to criminal operations around the world.26 While this is a prime candidate for making criminal transactions anonymously, the privacy inherent in Monero is also helpful to dissidents of oppressive regimes around the world. As of September 2021, Monero has a market capitalization of $245 million and a per-token value of $265.27Why are cryptocurrencies important?

As decentralized platforms, blockchain-based cryptocurrencies allow individuals to engage in peer-to-peer financial transactions or enter into contracts. In either case, there is no need for some trusted third-party intermediary such as a bank, monetary authority, court, or judge. This has the potential to disrupt the existing financial order and democratize finance. The size of the cryptocurrency space has grown exponentially in the past decade, with new innovations and a collective market cap of nearly $2 trillion.1Why are there so many cryptocurrencies?

The majority of cryptocurrencies today are derived in some form or another from Bitcoin, which uses open-source code and a censorship-resistant architecture. This means that anybody can copy and tweak the code and create their own new coin. It also means that anybody is free to join its network or transact in it.What are some other important cryptocurrencies?

Aside from the ten listed above, several other cryptocurrencies have gained importance or hold the promise to do so. Dogecoin, for instance, a meme-based joke coin reached fame when Tesla CEO Elon Musk promoted the token on social media. Other bitcoin forks also exist such as Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin SV. Other important coins include Ripple (XRP), Solana, USD Coin, and Tezos.Why is Bitcoin still the most important cryptocurrency?

Despite thousands of competitors that have sprung up, Bitcoin - the original cryptocurrency - remains the dominant player in terms of usage and economic value. Each coin is worth roughly $50,000 as of September 2021, with a market cap of nearly $1 trillion.How exactly to categorize Bitcoin is a matter of controversy. Is it a type of currency, a store of value, a payment network, or an asset class?Fortunately, it's easier to define what Bitcoin actually is. It's software. Don't be fooled by stock images of shiny coins emblazoned with modified Thai baht symbols. Bitcoin is a purely digital phenomenon, a set of protocols and processes.It is also the most successful of hundreds of attempts to create virtual money through the use of cryptography, the science of making and breaking codes. Bitcoin has inspired hundreds of imitators, but it remains the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, a distinction it has held throughout its decade-plus history.

(A general note: According to the Bitcoin Foundation, the word "Bitcoin" is capitalized when it refers to the cryptocurrency as an entity, and it is given as "bitcoin" when it refers to a quantity of the currency or the units themselves. Bitcoin is also abbreviated as BTC. Throughout this article, we will alternate between these usages.)KEY TAKEAWAYS

Bitcoin is a digital currency, a decentralized system that records transactions in a distributed ledger called a blockchain.Bitcoin miners run complex computer rigs to solve complicated puzzles in an effort to confirm groups of transactions called blocks; upon success, these blocks are added to the blockchain record and the miners are rewarded with a small number of bitcoins.

Other participants in the Bitcoin market can buy or sell tokens through cryptocurrency exchanges or peer-to-peer.The Bitcoin ledger is protected against fraud via a trustless system; Bitcoin exchanges also work to defend themselves against potential theft, though high-profile thefts have occurred.

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Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster