Vitalik Buterin donates $1 billion worth of ‘meme coins’ to India COVID Relief Fund

Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, on Wednesday donated Ethereum and “meme coins” worth $1.5 billion in one of the largest-ever individual philanthropy efforts.

Buterin transferred 500 ETH and over 50 trillion SHIB (Shiba Inu), a meme coin, worth around $1.14 billion at the time of transaction, to the India COVID-Crypto Relief Fund. The transaction sparked panic among some investors, contributing to over 35% drop in SHIB’s price in the past 24 hours.

The meme coin, which has courted retail investors in China and elsewhere following recent surges in the Dogecoin cryptocurrency, managed to garner billions (USD) worth of investment in recent days before today’s crash.

Buterin’s offloading of several dog-themed meme coins — which were sent to him without his consent in the first place — comes at a time when India is grappling with a surge in the coronavirus infections.

Sandeep Nailwal, who put together the Indian relief fund and co-founded crypto organization Polygon, said in a tweet that he won’t do anything that hurts “any community specially the retail community involved with SHIB.”

Buterin, who became the youngest crypto billionaire at the age of 27 earlier this month, also transferred Ethereum and Dogelon Mars (ELON) — another meme coin — worth $336 million to Methuselah Foundation, a nonprofit that supports efforts in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine therapies; and over 13,000 ETH to Givewell, a nonprofit organization that works to curate the best charities around the world. Buterin also donated to Gitcoin Community, MIRI and Charter Cities Institute.

India has been reporting over 350,000 daily infections and over 3,500 fatalities for the last two weeks. The second wave of the coronavirus has overwhelmed the South Asian nation’s healthcare system, leaving countless people to scramble for hospital beds, medical oxygen and other supplies.

A number of entrepreneurs including Balaji Srinivasan have donated to the India Crypto Relief Fund, which maintains a log of all the donations. Buterin himself had donated about $600,000 in ether and maker tokens to the fund last month.

Scores of startup founders, investors and technology giants have stepped up to help India navigate the pandemic in recent weeks.

CryptoPunks NFT bundle goes for $17 million in Christie’s auction

A lot of 9 CryptoPunks portraits ended up selling for just under $17 million in a Christie’s auction Tuesday evening, marking another substantial moment for NFT art sales. The lot of pixelated portraits were from the collection of the NFT platform’s co-creators Matt Hall and John Watkinson.

The CryptoPunks platform is one of the first NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain. Back in 2017, ten thousand of the procedurally generated characters were given away for free. In the years since, a vibrant NFT community has developed around the ‘Punks. In recent months, on the back of a broader NFT boom, prices exploded.

Last month, TechCrunch profiled the community and some of its buyers who have paid tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars each to join the exclusive club of CryptoPunks owners.

Tuesday’s sale marks a substantial payday for the creators of the project, but comes just days after a much more substantial one: the release of their new project called Meebits which garnered nearly $80 million in sales in just a few hours.

The final Christie’s bid was for $14.5 million, $16.96 million after fees.

Many inside the crypto community had expected the sale to reach an even higher premium in recent weeks, something that had led to a substantial run-up in prices of CryptoPunks in the weeks ahead of the auction. Though the lot sold for a significantly higher dollar amount, when priced in denominations of the surging Ethereum cryptocurrency, the entire bundle sold for slightly less than the sale price of the last alien figure, which sold in March for 4,200 Eth (some $7.2M USD at the time).

Could NFT auctions be moving away from Ethereum? One new group is betting they will

NFTs were arguably already taking off when Beeple sold his NFT artwork for $69m. But another crypto project attracted attention when it bought an original Banksy artwork for $95,000.

The group literally burnt the artwork and sold its NFT on the OpenSea platform for $400,000. Although the stunt was covered by CBS News, BBC News, The Guardian, and others, it did actually make a significant point.

By removing the physical piece, the group – calling itself “Burnt Banksy” – proved that the value of the piece wasn’t affected by being destroyed, given that the NFT went up so much in value.

Now that project is turning that stunt into an actual blockchain platform for art auctions.

Burnt Finance says it has raised $3 Million for a decentralized auction protocol built on the Solana blockchain.

The project is being incubated by Injective Protocol (which recently raised $10 from investors and Mark Cuban, as well as Multicoin, DeFiance, Alameda, Mechanism, Vessel Capital, Hashkey, Spartan, Do Kwon (CEO of Terra), Sandeep (COO of Polygon), and others.

The reason why it’s worth mentioning all this is that in trying to auction the painting, the Burnt Banksy group stumbled on an increasing problem in the world of NFTs: the rising congestion on the Ethereum network is leading to larger and larger gas fees. This is making both the creation and bidding on NFTs increasingly expensive, just from a baseline.

As a result, team decided to build the Burnt Finance NFT auction platform away from Etherum and hit upon the Solana blockchain, which has comparatively good speed, performance, and lower transaction costs. It will use ‘Solana Wormhole’ which connects ETH and ERC20 tokens to SPL Tokens.

A spokesperson for Burnt Finance, ‘Burnt Banksy’ told me: “Most auctions are Ethereum based, and currently the Ethereum gas fees are extremely high. It can cost you up to $70 to make an artwork, which doesn’t work if you’re selling an NFT for $50. We chose Solana mainly because of the ecosystem. It’s fast-growing, in addition to the technical aspect of it.”

There’s another reason why we may see other Crypto projects move away from Ethereum as ETH rises in price and as gas fees increase: the potential for bad faith actors in NFT auctions.

If a bad actor tries to leverage the congestion on Ethereum and manipulate the transaction fee, they might sway the results of an auction. This would be quite something, if the auction was for, say, $69 million…