If you think the stock market has been unstoppable since equity markets bottomed out during the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, check out the cryptocurrency space. Whereas the broad-based S&P 500 is up more than 100% in a little over 20 months, the aggregate value of cryptocurrencies has jumped more than 1,500% to $2.36 trillion in the same period.
Although the fear of missing out (FOMO) and investor sentiment have been big drivers of these gains, crypto investors have also been impressed with the number of partnerships being struck.
As you can imagine, the bigger names in the crypto space have forged quite a few meaningful partnerships or merchant wins. For example, Bitcoin (BTC 0.69%) is the most widely accepted digital token on the planet by retailers. Meanwhile, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which is focused on promoting the use of the Ethereum (ETH 2.12%) blockchain, has more than 100 members. Even meme coin Shiba Inu has snagged a few well-known merchants in recent weeks.
But what you might not realize is that under-the-radar cryptocurrencies are landing major partnerships, too. Here are three lesser-known cryptocurrencies with some eyebrow-raising partners.
Qtum: Amazon and Google (a subsidiary of Alphabet)
Let's begin with the smallest digital token on this list, as ranked by market value, Qtum (QTUM -2.01%). According to CoinMarketCap.com, Qtum is the 87th largest crypto, with a market value of $1.11 billion, as of Dec. 7.
Although it's relatively small, Qtum is a blockchain project I've previously highlighted as very intriguing. That's because Qtum has developed their blockchain utilizing the best qualities from Bitcoin and Ethereum. It incorporates the transactional security of Bitcoin's UTXO model with the Ethereum Virtual Machine. In other words, it's a UTXO-based platform that can support smart contracts -- protocols that verify, enforce, and facilitate an agreed upon transaction between two or more parties. Smart contracts are the foundation from which decentralized applications (dApps) and decentralized finance (DeFi) are being built.
Qtum is also differentiated by its Account Abstraction Layer (AAL). The AAL is Qtum's ticket to deploying smart contract upgrades while always remaining backward compatible to Bitcoin's UTXO transaction model.
But the real surprise might be that Qtum was a chosen partner for both Amazon (AMZN 2.97%) and Alphabet (GOOGL 3.65%) (GOOG 3.84%). Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud services arm of Amazon, first partnered with Qtum in October 2018. At the time, it was described as a way for AWS to allow developers to build on its cloud platform using Qtum, as well as expand Amazon's offerings to enterprise customers.
In May 2019, Qtum partnered with Google Cloud to give developers and folks without much technical know-how a cost-effective way of launching nodes on the Qtum blockchain. It's not every day a relatively unknown crypto project lands Amazon and Alphabet's Google as a partner.
Zcash: JPMorgan Chase
Another under-the-radar cryptocurrency that's landed a major partnership is privacy-focused payment coin Zcash (ZEC 3.91%).
In a traditional crypto payment transaction, money moves from Point A to B with only partial obscurity. This is to say that while names and identities aren't revealed on public blockchain, blockchain forensics can be used to trace the public addresses of a sender and receiver. Zcash deploys zk-SNARK- zero-knowledge cryptography that helps to obfuscate these addresses. This is why Zcash is known as a privacy coin.
Although obfuscation of sender and receiver addresses is the primary lure of Zcash, it should be noted that users have an option of revealing this data for auditing purposes, or to maintain regulatory compliance.
The interesting thing about Zcash is that is landed bank stock JPMorgan Chase (JPM 2.68%) as a partner back in May 2017. I say interesting given CEO Jamie Dimon's distaste for cryptocurrency and his belief that Bitcoin is "worthless," in his own words.
Nevertheless, this didn't stop JPMorgan Chase from implementing Zcash's zero-knowledge security layer atop its Ethereum-based Quorum Project to boost blockchain security. With Zcash's zero-knowledge security solution designed to work with multiple blockchain networks, the hope is this could be the first of many financial institutions to adopt or test its technology.
IOTA: Dell Technologies
A final under-the-radar cryptocurrency that's snagged a major partner is IOTA (MIOTA). With a market value of $3.26 billion, IOTA slots in as the 50th-largest digital currency.
Keeping with the theme of this list, IOTA and its developers bring a degree of differentiation to the table that simply isn't seen with the vast majority of cryptocurrency projects.
A unique aspect of IOTA is that it's not utilizing blockchain technology to handle payment and data transfers. Rather, IOTA's developers rely on the "Tangle." The Tangle is a direct acyclic graph (DAG) that requires new transactions to confirm two or more previous transactions. Since blockchain can be slowed by the need to generate and validate new blocks, IOTA's DAG solution provides a fast way to execute fee-less transactions that are connected to each other like a tangled web. This means the network should be quickly scalable without impacting performance.
Earlier this year, IOTA made waves when it announced a partnership with information technology giant Dell Technologies (DELL 1.56%). Known as Project Alvarium, this partnership will focus on measuring the confidence and trust of data before it's used by an application.
According to the release from IOTA on Feb. 9, Dell first introduced its Data Confidence Fabric (DCF) in 2019. IOTA subsequently reengineered the DCF to improve its scalability and security. The journey data takes from an internet of things device sensor or edge network till it reaches the cloud will be given a trust rating and logged on IOTA's Tangle to establish an immutable score.
This partnership could play a role in improving predictive analytics for edge networking -- this is precisely what Dell and Intel are partnering to test -- and could even be useful in assessing data trustworthiness during the pandemic, such as determining which manufacturing facility a vaccine originated, or recording how many people have received a vaccine.
Long story short, don't overlook that there's a world of intriguing projects not named Bitcoin and Ethereum.