Along the Davos Promenade in 2023 there were fewer crypto companies than in previous years after the market crash. Circle, the company behind the stablecoin USDC, was one the few present.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC
DAVOS, Switzerland — Over the past few years at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the number of cryptocurrency industry attendees has boomed.
But after a near $1.4 trillion wipeout in 2022, the crypto industry is being a bit more reserved with how it splashes the cash and several companies spotted last year are not in attendance. 2022 was marked by failed crypto projects, liquidity issues and bankruptcies, topped off by the collapse of major exchange FTX.
When the World Economic Forum was held last May, bitcoin was hovering around $30,000, after having already fallen more than 50% from its all-time high hit in November 2021. More pain followed with bitcoin dipping as low as $15,480.
The Promenade is the main street in Davos where companies and governments take over shops and cafes for the week. Last year, crypto firms from all walks of life took over the place. But since the market slide, there are far fewer crypto firms with flashy store fronts at Davos.
One shop selling non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, has disappeared. Prices of NFTs, which are digital collectibles, also plunged last year. What’s left are companies that survived the bear market and that are looking to expand their businesses.
“It’s very clear that the speculation period is drawing to a close and every company that you see featured … is really focused on real-world use cases,” said Teana Baker-Taylor, vice-president of policy and regulatory strategy at Circle, the company behind the USDC stablecoin.
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A stablecoin is a type of digital currency that is supposed to be pegged one-to-one with a fiat currency. USDC is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Circle says it is backed with real-world assets such as U.S. Treasurys so that one USDC can be redeemed for $1.
Casper Labs, a company that has built a blockchain designed to be used by businesses, is running a space on the Promenade called the Blockchain Lab. Casper Labs was also present last year in Davos.
Cliff Sarkin, chief of strategic relations at Casper Labs, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the crypto market has bottomed.
“So we’re over a year into the bear market, so I think the shock of that is settled in and for those of us that have been in the space for years … we feel like this is the time to build,” Sarkin told CNBC.
He added that the crypto firms that have remained at Davos are “substantiative projects” and “the real deals” versus things like NFTs.
There were also those in traditional finance who welcomed fewer crypto firms.
Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, was asked during an event hosted by the Swiss bank what he would like to see in Davos this year. He said he had seen it already: “It’s less crypto on the main street.”
The mysterious case of the orange bitcoin car
On Monday, a flashy bright orange Mercedes-Benz car was parked outside of the Blockchain Hub on the Promenade.
The orange Mercedes was parked along the Promenade in Davos. Nobody in the vicinity saw who parked it there. The license plate says “Kuna” on it, which is the name of a Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchange. Michael Chobanian, the founder of Kuna, confirmed that the car belongs to him.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC
A coin that represented a bitcoin was placed where the Mercedes-Benz logo would usually be. On the tires and the licenses plate, the words “in crypto we trust” were printed. The license plate had the Ukrainian flag on it and the name Kuna, which is the company behind a cryptocurrency exchange of the same name.
Kuna also set up the “reserve fund of Ukraine” after the war with Russia began where people could donate crypto to Ukraine.
People in the vicinity that CNBC spoke to could not verify who parked the car there.
However, two crypto executives who spoke to CNBC did not welcome the orange car, particularly after the market crash and the excesses of the industry were exposed. One remarked that the presence of such a car was not helpful for the industry’s reputation which took a hit last year.
CNBC reached out to Semen Kaploushenko, CEO of the Kuna exchange, via LinkedIn, but is yet to receive a response.
CNBC also reached out to the Blockchain Association of Ukraine which Kuna founder Michael Chobanian is the president of, but is yet to receive a response.
The license plate and tyres had the words “in crypto we trust” printed on them.
WhatsApp is now an inch closer to becoming like Instagram. The Meta-owned chat app — which has over 2.24 billion active users globally — introduced five new features that have been in testing for a long time. One of them is the ability to post voice notes as WhatsApp Status — an Instagram Story-like feature that was introduced back in 2017. Also Read – WhatsApp may soon let users schedule calls within group chats
Voice notes are an important way to communicate through chat apps, especially for people who do not prefer typing messages. According to WhatsApp, an average of 7 billion voice messages are exchanged on the platform daily. The WhatsApp Status feature is used by over half a billion people every day, according to the dropshipping app Oberlo’s data. The newly-announced WhatsApp voice status feature would let users record and share voice messages of up to 30 seconds as their status updates. A microphone will appear on the status screen. Also Read – WhatsApp might soon let you schedule calls within group chats
— Open WhatsApp and swipe left to navigate to the Status screen on Android. On iOS, tap the Status tab on the top left corner at the bottom of the WhatsApp app.
— Tap the pencil icon appearing on the bottom, right above the camera icon on Android. On iOS, tap the pencil icon next to the Camera icon in the My Status bar at the top of the section.
— You will see a microphone icon on the screen, in addition to a blank field where you can type what you want to post as your Status.
— Tap and hold the microphone icon to record your voice. The functions of the recording work similarly to its counterpart available for WhatsApp chats. That means swiping left while recording will trash your recording.
— Record your message while holding the icon. Remember your voice note cannot be longer than 30 seconds.
— After you have recorded your voice message, it will be displayed in the form of waves with the option to play and delete the recording. If you think the message is good to go, tap the paper plane icon that represents sending.
Alphabet Inc lost $100 billion in market value on Wednesday after its new chatbot shared inaccurate information in a promotional video and a company event failed to dazzle, feeding worries that the Google parent is losing ground to rival Microsoft Corp. Also Read – Google’s VP of labs, Salesforce’s former co-CEO to form AI company
Google has been on its heels after OpenAI, a startup Microsoft is backing with around $10 billion, introduced software in November that has wowed consumers and become a fixation in Silicon Valley circles for its surprisingly accurate and well-written answers to simple prompts.
Google’s live-streamed presentation on Wednesday morning did not include details about how and when it would integrate Bard into its core search function. A day earlier, Microsoft held an event touting that it had already released to the public a version of its Bing search with ChatGPT functions integrated.
Bard’s error was discovered just before the presentation by Google, based in Mountain View, California.
“While Google has been a leader in AI innovation over the last several years, they seemed to have fallen asleep on implementing this technology into their search product,” said Gil Luria, senior software analyst at D.A. Davidson. “Google has been scrambling over the last few weeks to catch up on Search and that caused the announcement yesterday (Tuesday) to be rushed and the embarrassing mess up of posting a wrong answer during their demo.”
Microsoft shares rose around 3 percent on Wednesday and were flat in post-market trading.
Alphabet posted a short GIF video of Bard in action via Twitter, promising it would help simplify complex topics, but it instead delivered an inaccurate answer.
In the advertisement, Bard is given the prompt: “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my 9-year-old about?” Bard responds with a number of answers, including one suggesting the JWST was used to take the very first pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system, or exoplanets. The first pictures of exoplanets were, however, taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2004, as confirmed by NASA.
Bard is an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA. Built using our large language models and drawing on information from the web, it’s a launchpad for curiosity and can help simplify complex topics → https://t.co/fSp531xKy3pic.twitter.com/JecHXVmt8l
“This highlights the importance of a rigorous testing process, something that we’re kicking off this week with our Trusted Tester program,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ll combine external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information.”
Alphabet is coming off a disappointing fourth quarter as advertisers cut spending.
The search and advertising giant is moving quickly to keep pace with OpenAI and rivals, reportedly bringing in founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to accelerate its efforts.
“People are starting to question is Microsoft going to be a formidable competitor now against Google’s really bread-and-butter business,” said King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Wealth Management, which owns Alphabet and Microsoft shares.
Lip cautioned, though, that concerns about Alphabet may be overblown, saying: “I think still Bing is a far, far cry away from Google’s search capabilities.”
The new ChatGPT software has injected excitement into technology firms after tens of thousands of job cuts in recent weeks and executive pledges to pare back on so-called moonshot projects. AI has become a fixation for tech executives who have mentioned it as much as six times more often on recent earnings calls than in prior quarters, Reuters found.
The appeal of AI-driven search is that it could spit out results in plain language, rather than in a list of links, which could make browsing faster and more efficient. It remains unclear what impact that might have on targeted advertising, the backbone of search engines like Google.
Chatbot AI systems also carry risks for corporations because of inherent biases in their algorithms that can skew results, sexualize images or even plagiarise, as consumers testing the service have discovered. Microsoft, for instance, released a chatbot on Twitter in 2016 that quickly began generating racist content before being shut down. And an AI used by the news site CNET was found to produce factually incorrect or plagiarized stories.
At the time of writing, the Bard ad had been viewed on Twitter more than a million times.