Ashton Kutcher gave Ellen DeGeneres $4 million in cryptocurrency for her charity — here's what you need to know about Ripple's XRP

Ashton Kutcher
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Actor and noted tech investor Ashton Kutcher surprised Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday with a large donation to the talk show host's wildlife charity on behalf of cryptocurrency startup Ripple.

The twist? The $4 million that Kutcher and his business partner, Guy Oseary, presented to The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund comes in the form of Ripple's XRP coin — currently third most-valuable cryptocurrency on the market, behind Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Kutcher surprised DeGeneres with the donation, on behalf of Ripple, live on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" on NBC.

"You're always thinking about everyone else," Kutcher told DeGeneres. "We wanted to show you that people are thinking about you."

Kutcher joked that, typically, such a large donation might be accompanied by a "big, giant check," but the actor instead had DeGeneres push a button on his phone that transferred millions of dollars worth of the cryptocurrency to the charity instantly.

Kutcher and Oseary (a friend of DeGeneres' who is a talent manager for acts like Madonna and U2) are invested in Ripple through their tech investment fund, Sound Ventures. The fund has also invested in tech startups such as cloud-based business software company Zenefits, while Kutcher himself was also an early backer of major startups like Airbnb and Uber.

Here's what you need to know about Ripple and XRP.

"Ripple is basically a platform to allow people to transfer money from bank account to bank account, person to person, really securely, really simply, really quickly," said Kutcher, a noted fan of the blockchain technology that supports cryptocurrency, while describing what Ripple does on DeGeneres' show.

First released in 2012, San Francisco-based Ripple's XRP is a digital currency that users on the company's network use to perform global transactions. Ripple bills itself as a platform where banks and other global financial institutions can make fast and secure financial payments using XRP.

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Ripple's XRP coin is currently worth just over $23.3 billion on paper, compared to Bitcoin's valuation of $128 billion. Of course, like other cryptocurrencies, XRP has proven to be extremely volatile, having lost more than 80 percent of its value since hitting a high price of $3.84 per digital token in January 2018. Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen saw his personal XRP holdings lose more than $40 billion in value at one point in January, when cryptocurrency valuations fell off a cliff.

Ripple's XRP ended Wednesday trading at roughly 65 cents, according to Coinmarketcap.com.

On Ripple's platform, financial institutions serve as "gateways" or intermediaries that users access in order to transfer money from one person or entity to another faster and at a lower cost than most traditional forms of money transfer.

Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple's XRP tokens do not need to be mined. And Ripple's platform is also popular for the speed of its transactions, with Ripple being able to perform 1,500 transactions per second, compared to three per second for Bitcoin. XRP transactions go through in about four seconds, on average, versus more than an hour for Bitcoin, and several days for most traditional financial institutions.

The drawbacks for Ripple and XRP for some people include the criticism that the digital currency is not full decentralized, because Ripple controls the bulk of it. There have also been some concerns raised about how secure the network is against cyberattacks, while Ripple was also sued in early May for allegedly selling unregistered securities to investors.

Still, Ripple has found fans among some high-profile financial institutions, forming partnerships with the likes of American Express, money transfer company MoneyGram, as well as global banks such as Swiss-based UBS and Spain's Banco Santander, to provide their customers with blockchain-based digital payments.

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