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Protocol | Fintech

Dogecoin's surge prompts online brokers to support trading

For firms like Robinhood and Webull, the coin born from jokey internet memes is serious business.

​A collectible souvenir represents the dogecoin cryptocurrency.

A collectible souvenir represents the dogecoin cryptocurrency.

Photo: Liu Junfeng/Visual China Group via Getty Images

The hottest cryptocurrency right now is a joke.

The coin, inspired by a meme about the inner dialogue of an easily astonished shiba inu, has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to Elon Musk and other celebrities promoting the token. Musk, who has frequently tweeted about dogecoin, is set to host "Saturday Night Live" this weekend and has suggested he'll feature the currency on air.

The impending pop-culture moment has only added to the cryptocurrency's momentum. The price of the token has soared more than a hundredfold this year. The rapid rise has attracted some of the same traders who swarmed meme stocks this year — and some of the same online brokerages they use, including Robinhood, Webull and eToro, are also trying to profit from the dogecoin phenomenon.

The dogecoin in circulation is now worth more than $70 billion, making it the fourth most-valuable crypto after bitcoin, ether and Binance coin, according to CoinMarketCap. On Tuesday alone, Dogecoin spiked nearly 50% in price.

Musk tweeted in December: "One word: Doge." The price of one dogecoin was $0.0045 then. It's now worth a hundred times that.

In January, dogecoin's price jumped further after chatter on the r/SatoshiStreetBets group on Reddit sought to turn it into the next GameStop. Other celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Gene Simmons also jumped in with support.

Trading memes

Some of the same dynamics that drove GameStop and other stocks have driven dogecoin: a social media-inspired rally that's not necessarily based on any underlying investment thesis. Dogecoin has been around for seven years, after all.

One reason dogecoin is taking off now, though, may be the increased ease of trading in the cryptocurrency. Robinhood added support for dogecoin trading in 2018. Webull started trading on April 20. EToro, which is in the process of going public through a SPAC deal, added dogecoin on Monday.

Coinbase allows users to hold dogecoin in their crypto wallets, but it doesn't support trading.

The surge of dogecoin interest was so strong that in April it crashed Robinhood's ability to handle crypto trades. Robinhood also had a "partial outage" in crypto trading Tuesday amid a dogecoin spike.

The coin, originally called Bells, was based on the Animal Crossing game. It later changed its name to dogecoin to ride the shiba inu dog meme, where a canine delivers side eye along with ungrammatical interjections like "much wow."

Even co-creator Billy Markus said the current surge "doesn't make sense," telling the Wall Street Journal that dogecoin's "design was absurd and it was meant to be absurd."

Dogecoin was based on the litecoin token. Joking aside, it's a real cryptocurrency that can be traded for other digital currencies, exchanged for dollars or other fiat currencies, or used for payment. Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks and the Oakland Athletics baseball team have announced that they accept dogecoin.

"Dogecoin is the loudest reminder of how people are investing today — a real mix of investing for returns and utility, versus investing as consumption and identity," said Monica Desai, a partner at Kleiner Perkins. "Crypto is in many ways an investment meme category, and dogecoin is the ultimate crypto meme."

"I think this is just an extension of the movements around [r/WallStreetBets] and alternatives like collectibles — like those there will be winners and losers but they represent a lasting cultural change," Desai said.

Gemini, a crypto exchange, started taking dogecoin deposits Tuesday and said it would add trading soon.

"Dogecoin continues bitcoin's tradition of giving the control of money back to the people," CEO Tyler Winklevoss wrote in a blog post about Gemini's embrace of dogecoin. "Yes, it's a meme coin, but all money is a meme."

Protocol | China

China’s edtech crackdown isn’t what you think. Here’s why.

It's part of an attempt to fix education inequality and address a looming demographic crisis.

In the past decade, China's private tutoring market has expanded rapidly as it's been digitized and bolstered by capital.

Photo: Getty Images

Beijing's strike against the private tutoring and ed tech industry has rattled the market and led observers to try to answer one big question: What is Beijing trying to achieve?

Sweeping policy guidelines issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on July 24 and the State Council now mandate that existing private tutoring companies register as nonprofit organizations. Extracurricular tutoring companies will be banned from going public. Online tutoring agencies will be subject to regulatory approval.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.

It’s soul-destroying and it uses DRM, therefore Peloton is tech

"I mean, the pedals go around if you turn off all the tech, but Peloton isn't selling a pedaling product."

Is this tech? Or is it just a bike with a screen?

Image: Peloton and Protocol

One of the breakout hits from the pandemic, besides Taylor Swift's "Folklore," has been Peloton. With upwards of 5.4 million members as of March and nearly $1.3 billion in revenue that quarter, a lot of people are turning in their gym memberships for a bike or a treadmill and a slick-looking app.

But here at Protocol, it's that slick-looking app, plus all the tech that goes into it, that matters. And that's where things got really heated during our chat this week. Is Peloton tech? Or is it just a bike with a giant tablet on it? Can all bikes be tech with a little elbow grease?

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Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
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