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Protocol | Fintech
The people, power and politics of fintech, every Tuesday and Friday.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bitcoin battle: Elizabeth Warren vs. Jack Dorsey

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Hello and welcome to Protocol | Fintech! This Friday: why Jack Dorsey unfollowed Elizabeth Warren, Greenlight's CEO on teaching kids about money, and Lindsay Lohan on NFTs.

Also! We have an exciting online event coming up. "Trading Exploded: Can Financial Education Catch Up?" will explore the rise of retail investing with Morrison & Foerster partner Jina Choi, EverFi founder Ray Martinez, Commonstock founder David McDonough and Inspired Capital founder Alexa von Tobel.

Please join us on June 22 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. Click here to save your spot today.

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The Big Story

Bitcoin battle

One spoke in the Capitol. The other just clicked a button on Twitter. But there was no mistaking either's message.

Just as Jack Dorsey is raising his profile as one of bitcoin's biggest boosters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is emerging as one of the cryptocurrency's loudest skeptics. Things came to a head Wednesday, when the Democrat from Massachusetts blasted bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at a hearing.

Dorsey? He unfollowed her on Twitter. Warren's social media presence will survive the loss, but the creator of the service deciding to drop her is an unmistakable diss.

Warren and Dorsey represent two extremes of the crypto conversation. Is there any way for crypto critics and bitcoin HODLers to get along?

  • Dorsey, who has said he believes he can use his perch as CEO of both Twitter and Square to advance the bitcoin cause, made a number of moves to position the cryptocurrency as a means to promote renewable energy and economic empowerment.
  • Warren isn't buying it. "Cryptocurrency has created opportunities to scam investors, assist criminals and worsen the climate crisis," Warren said at Wednesday's Senate banking subcommittee hearing. "It's time to confront these issues head-on."
  • She followed up by telling Bloomberg TV that these assets were "not a good way to buy and sell things and not a good investment, and an environmental disaster."

Actions speak louder than words, and Dorsey's Square has been acting. Bitcoin has been very good to Square, which accounts for most of Dorsey's fortune. He's been using the company's assets to advance the argument that bitcoin can be good for the environment and the economy.

  • On the same day Warren spoke out against crypto, Square announced it was allocating $5 million for a Bitcoin Endowment, which funds organizations working on bitcoin education and adoption in "historically under-resourced" communities.
  • Square awarded the first grant to Black Bitcoin Billionaire, a group introducing bitcoin investing and education to the Black community.
  • That same day, Dorsey retweeted a post from Nayib Bukele, president of El Salvador, who recently said he wants to make bitcoin a legal tender in the Central American nation. Bukele described a plan to use geothermal energy to power a bitcoin mine. "Bitcoin incentivizes renewable energy," Dorsey said in his retweet.
  • Was the timing just coincidence? Square could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dorsey seems less interested in making friends in Washington these days. When he was making his comeback after being ousted as Twitter's CEO, he wooed the White House, hosting a Twitter Town Hall with President Barack Obama in 2011.

  • But at a March hearing on social media's responsibility for the Capitol riots, Dorsey actively multitasked and trolled members of Congress with tweets.
  • Dorsey and Warren have jousted publicly in the past. In 2019, Twitter moved to ban political ads, which Warren denounced as a flawed policy that favored powerful business groups.

It's a shame. Dorsey and Warren could find common ground, if they tried.

  • Neither is a big fan of the Wall Street establishment. Using cryptocurrencies to cut costs and eliminate fees in ways that benefit consumers seems like something both would sign up for.
  • Both favor renewable energy. Dorsey said bitcoin miners have an incentive to seek out low-cost energy and could make renewal projects pencil out.
  • And Warren isn't entirely anti-crypto. She did speak in favor of a digital currency backed by the Federal Reserve at the hearing, saying it showed "great promise."

Nothing good comes out of this kind of impasse. Dorsey's unfollow was a crowd-pleaser for his crypto-loving fans, but it didn't advance the cause.

  • Bill McCue, a PR veteran, said unfollowing Warren "in a huff" wasn't productive and called it a "missed opportunity to engage in a dialogue."
  • Warren isn't winning fans, either. Zachary Weiner, the founder of blockchain developer VXPass, dismissed Warren's crypto criticisms as "noise, all noise" in an email.

Then there's Lawrence Newhook, president of crypto investment manager DigitalArray, who told Protocol: "At least Dorsey doesn't manipulate the price of Bitcoin with fickle, flippant tweets like [Elon] Musk."

— Ben Pimentel

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

From Protocol | Fintech

Affirm and Shopify's big "buy now, pay later" deal. The BNPL pioneer and the ecommerce giant are taking aim at credit-card fees in a major partnership.

Stacey Abrams, fintech entrepreneur. The respected Georgia political leader helped launch a small business invoice financing startup.

Meet Galileo's new CEO. The banking tech provider's new leader recalls how he saw banking go online and get disrupted by fintech.

SoFi is belatedly embracing dogecoin. The personal finance company said customers can now invest in the cryptocurrency it once rejected on its platform.

Marqeta shares rallied in its IPO. The banking tech provider's stock rose 13% on its first day as a publicly-traded company.

Coinbase cautioned against crypto bragging. The crypto marketplace urged customers not to brag about their crypto wealth.

Klarna is now worth $46 billion. The "buy now, pay later" company raised $639 million in a deal led by SoftBank, and came just months after it raised $1 billion at a $31 billion valuation.

Overheard

  • "What makes a great NFT is creating something that tells a story through a new medium. By using technology, I can now elevate my life stories and tell them in ways that are more authentic to me."Lindsay Lohan on how to get rich on NFTs.
  • "It's a pretty small amount, but to be honest I'm surprised to see it in there so soon."Athanasios Psarofagis, ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, on how the Federal Reserve unwittingly became an early investor in the first bitcoin-linked junk bond.
  • "Registering your vaccination status allows us to plan for a safer return to the office for all of our people." Goldman Sachs memo telling employees they must report their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Need to Know

  • Plaid struck a partnership with Capital One. The fintech company said customers of the credit card and financial services giant will be able to link their accounts securely to other apps and services on its network.
  • Gemini acquired Shard X. The crypto exchange founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss said it plans to integrate Shard X's technology to boost the speed of transactions and support of its customers.
  • The Basel Committee said bitcoin is risky. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the influential international banking forum that includes the U.S. China, Japan and European nations, proposed the toughest capital requirements for banks holding bitcoin and other risky and volatile crypto assets.
  • Mastercard has a new program for minority fintech founders. The payments network giant said its Start Path initiative is geared to "traditionally underrepresented fintech founders."
  • Amazon is looking for a blockchain leader. The tech giant is looking to hire a head of product for its Amazon Managed Blockchain service, which aims to give customers access to blockchain tools for different business needs, including finance and supply chain management.

Deal Flow

3 Questions With...

Tim Sheehan, CEO, Greenlight

What fintech trend are you most excited about?

This is totally going to be self-serving, so feel free to put a winky icon next to it. If you look at my background, because I did E-Trade, I did Yahoo Finance, for me to see investing start to be adopted and used by kids is super exciting. Investing transformed my life, and I've seen it transform other people's lives as well. I just love this whole idea of all these young people learning how to invest the right way and how powerful that could be in the long term.

What fintech trend are you most worried about?

You could almost say it's related. You want to make sure [investing is] done in the right way. And there's lots of examples of it not being done in the right way. It's okay if you hear about an idea on social media or something like that. But you need to have a way to do the research to find out if it's true. Is this company that my friend told me about, is the business actually a great business or not? You need to know how to actually do your own research to make up your own mind to become a good investor. I am a little bit worried about people just jumping on Robinhood and speculating without doing research.

What's been your biggest professional blunder, and what did you learn from it?

I think it was when I went to a big company where the compensation was high, but I wasn't super passionate about what they did. I was very unhappy. I then took a job where I was actually really passionate about [the work] but it was much lower compensation. I was so much happier. It wasn't long after that that I started Greenlight. That was a good learning experience. I should have already known that it was really important that I cared about what I was doing, that it meant a lot to me.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

Data Point

$11 million

That's the ransom paid in bitcoin by meat-processing company JBS to cybercriminals after its network was disrupted by a ransomware gang called "REvil," forcing it to suspend cattle-slaughtering operations.

Thanks for reading — see you Tuesday!

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