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Signal Boost: Sizing up an incredible year for crypto

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Happy Holidays! End-of-year noise: crypto firms are stealing Silicon Valley talent, Bitmex launched a token and what exactly are DEXs doing to track their users? End-of-year signal: below. Mike Orcutt here.
Behind the Headlines
Are decentralized exchanges tracking your trades? DEXs are supposed to be an antidote to centralized exchanges, which by law must identify their users and report certain information to the government. That’s the theory, at least. In practice, the startups behind some of the top DEXs are deploying fairly sophisticated surveillance tools, reports Tim Copeland. Recently a Twitter user highlighted how Uniswap Labs, the company behind the most popular DEX on Ethereum, maintains a partnership with blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs. That inspired Tim to reach out to other DEXs and comb through their privacy policies to ascertain their data collection practices. Here’s what he came up with
Unveiling the crypto industry’s top donors to US political campaigns. Kollen Post has been digging through public datasets showing political donations to US campaigns, looking specifically for crypto connections. In fact, Washington DC has seen a large influx of new funding from the crypto industry in recent months, much of it stemming from the fight over the controversial broker clause in the recently-passed infrastructure bill. Kollen reports that crypto‘s top three largest individual donors to campaigns were leaders crypto exchange Bittrex, stablecoin operator Paxos and the DC-based Blockchain Association. 
End-of-year milestones. In 2021, the world’s stablecoin supply grew by nearly 400%, to more than $140 billion. Crypto companies raised just over $25 billion in venture funding. Crypto industry M&A activity surged 131%. Bitcoin miners generated more than $15 billion in revenue. Centralized crypto exchanges saw over $14 trillion in trading volume. And decentralized exchanges saw over $1 trillion in trading volume.  
ICYMI: Uniswap launched on Polygon. BitMex has plans to launch and airdrop a token. Longtime Bakkt executive Adam White is leaving the company. Staking firm Figment raised $110 million at a $1.4 billion valuation. Kraken acquired staking startup Staked. The floor price for Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs flipped that of CryptoPunks for the first time. Chinese news site Xinhua will mint NFTs on Tencent’s private blockchain. The UK’s ad watchdog reprimanded Arsenal Football Club over a social media post and website content that promotes so-called fan tokens. 
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Under the Microscope
In 2021, North America became the center of the crypto mining world. This past summer, China kicked out most of its cryptocurrency miners. Much of the industry then migrated to the US and Canada. Now North America is home to more than a third of the network’s hashing power — and the footprint on the continent is poised to get much bigger in 2022. As Wolfie Zhao explains (Research subscription required), if all goes as planned, 21 public companies and 5 companies that have applied to go public will collectively add billions of dollars worth of mining machines to the network. 
Face to face with Sam Bankman-Fried. Few characters in crypto are more compelling than Sam Bankman-Fried (widely known in crypto-land as SBF), the 29-year-old founder of FTX. But hardly anyone knew who he was three years ago. 
Frank Chaparro saved the year’s final episode of The Scoop for a sit-down with SBF. They talked for so long — and about such a wide range of topics, from the origins of FTX to the Biden Administration’s stance on stablecoins — that we decided to turn the conversation into two episodes. So after you finish Part 1 you should really check out Part 2
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Off the Block
The NYT calls crypto startups “the new get-rich-faster job in Silicon Valley.” According to reporters Mike Isaac and Daisuke Wakabayashi, “a wave” of executives and engineers has been leaving jobs at large Silicon Valley companies to join crypto firms. It’s about more than “speculative mania,” they write: “A growing contingent of the tech industry’s best and brightest see a transformational moment that comes along once every few decades and rewards those who spot the seismic shift before the rest of the world.” Read the whole article
The Money Quote
“Look, I want a currency called the dollar. I don’t want to have all these others — and that can be an explosion someday the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’ll make the big tech explosion look like baby stuff. I think that’s a very dangerous thing.”
—Former US President Donald Trump talking crypto during a recent interview with Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo.
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