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September 21, 2018
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Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable

in blockchain/blockchain architecture/Cloud/Delhi/Distributed Ledger/Enterprise/Hyperledger Fabric/IBM/India/Politics/Startups/TC by

In the 1990s when the web was young, companies like Yahoo, created directories of web pages to help make them more discoverable. Hacera wants to bring that same idea to blockchain, and today it announced the launch of the Hacera Network Registry.

CEO Jonathan Levi says that blockchains being established today risk being isolated because people simply can’t find them. If you have a project like the IBM -Maersk supply chain blockchain announced last month, how does an interested party like a supplier or customs authority find it and ask to participate? Up until the creation of this registry, there was no easy way to search for projects.

Early participants include heavy hitters like Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, SAP and Oracle, who are linking to projects being created on their platforms. The registry supports projects based on major digital ledger communities including Hyperledger, Quorum, Cosmos, Ethereum and Corda. The Hacera Network Registry is built on Hyperledger Fabric, and the code is open source. (Levi was Risk Manager for Hyperledger Fabric 1.0.)

Hacera Network Registry page

While early sponsors of the project include IBM and Hyperledger Fabric, Levi stressed the network is open to all. Blockchain projects can create information pages, not unlike a personal LinkedIn page, and Hacera verifies the data before adding it to the registry. There are currently more than 20 permissioned networks in the registry, and Hacera is hoping this is just the beginning.

Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technologies at IBM, says for blockchain to grow it will require a way to register, lookup, join and transact across a variety of blockchain solutions. “As the number of blockchain consortiums, networks and applications continues to grow we need a means to list them and make them known to the world, in order to unleash the power of blockchain,” Cuomo told TechCrunch. Hacera is solving that problem.

This is exactly the kind of underlying infrastructure that the blockchain requires to expand as a technology. Cuomo certainly recognizes this.”We realized from the start that you cannot do blockchain on your own; you need a vibrant community and ecosystem of like-minded innovators who share the vision of helping to transform the way companies conduct business in the global economy,” he said.

Hacera understands that every cloud vendor wants people using their blockchain service. Yet they also see that to move the technology forward, there need to be some standard ways of conducting business, and they want to provide that layer. Levi has a broader vision for the network beyond pure discoverability. He hopes eventually to provide the means to share data through the registry.

News Source = techcrunch.com

ICOs are increasingly just for venture capitalists

in Bitcoin/blockchain/brian armstrong/ceo/China/civil/Co-founder/coinbase/cryptocurrencies/cryptocurrency/Delhi/Economy/Finance/Huobi/ICOs/India/initial coin offering/investor/mco/money/Politics/TC/U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission/United States/Venture Capital by

The rollercoaster-get-rich ICOs of 2017 are over — crypto companies are waking up to the idea that VC investors aren’t so bad after all.

Companies used initial coin offerings (ICOs) to raise some $5.5 billion in cryptocurrency-based funding last year. As an emerging investment system with no regulation, nearly anyone was allowed in. The knock-on effect was that many who rode the wave made huge profits, often into the millions of U.S. dollars, as a 10X return seemed to become the minimum standard among those getting crypto-rich.

The trend went into overdrive in 2018, when the price of Bitcoin hit a peak of nearly $20,000 and Ethereum notched $1,200. ICO funding hit $6.3 billion in only the first three months of the year, as noted by Coindesk, but, fast forward six months and a new trend has emerged. Public ICOs, which allow anyone to invest, are increasingly replaced by a new approach of limited, private sales that consist only of accredited investors and close connections. Many ICOs today include no public sale component, with retail investors forced to wait until a token is listed on an exchange.

Private sale only

Telegram’s huge $1.7 billion ICO best exemplifies the change.

ICOs in 2017 began to include a private pre-sale before the ‘open’ public sale stage, the idea being to attract big bucks and in some cases give incentives like discounts. But Telegram opted to keep its entire sale public. It also stuck to accepting money from accredited investors in the U.S. — those who are legally certified to make investments — rather than opening its doors to anyone wanting to own a piece of its token sale.

That’s a trend that has been repeated in other ICOs, including the recent $32 million “seed” round for Terra and its stable coin project. Terra co-founder Daniel Shin explained to TechCrunch that it will hold a second round of private sale investment, but that’ll be reserved for investment professionals and others in the network.

Legally, of course, this makes absolute sense.

The SEC is steadily increasing its crackdown on ICOs, and it has long been standard for companies planning ICOs to overlook citizens of the U.S, China and often other countries where the legalities are unclear from taking part in the sales. But, actually, the rationale of private sales goes beyond legalities.

Professional investor benefits

The crypto industry has woken up to the reality that getting your capital from a handful of professional investors can be more advantageous than a bunch of regular people.

For one thing, dealing with a dozen investors is far easier than a Telegram group that numbers tens of thousands. Professional investors are more accustomed to giving a company money and letting it use it independently, but retail investors in the crypto space tend to be more demanding and unrealistic as they seek a quick return on their money. While liquidity is a major appeal for all in an ICO, VCs tend to hold a longer-term approach than retail investors who look to flip and move to the next money-making opportunity. Or, in times of downturn such as right now, investors have deeper pockets to ride out recessions.

There’s a popular refrain that ICOs mean not having to deal with “Evil Venture Capitalists”, but a community of retail investors is demanding in its own way. Plenty of ICO projects waste time and precious resources putting out mundane press releases that are devoid of news just to produce something that they hope will placate their thirsty community of retail investors, and miraculously give their token a price jump. For example, inking a “strategic partnership” with the American Chamber of Commerce Korea isn’t news — getting actual sales is.

This kind of distraction and allocation of resources makes no sense when you are setting out building a company or a product, which ultimately the founders of these projects are doing. As any experienced founder or investor will say, retaining focus is key in those early times.

Added to that, professional investors can actually help with the building by leveraging their network. Whether that is assisting on hiring in the competitive blockchain industry, introducing potential customers — American Chamber of Commerce Korea eat your heart out — bringing on other investors, etc.

That’s why in the aforementioned case, Terra opted to bring four crypto exchanges into its private sale — no doubt their influence will be key in building what remains a hugely ambitious project. Other companies that raised large ICOs, including TenX and MCO, have publicly expressed interest in holding new investment rounds to bring in professional VCs. That’s because money alone won’t open doors, but often connections can.

To recap: professional VCs can be more trusting, less of a distraction and more useful, but there are some instances in which a more open public approach should be a part of an ICO. That’s when it comes to building a community.

The exception: Community

The term “community” has been thoroughly bastardized by ICOs, but there are some projects that — at least on paper — can benefit by allowing specific types of people, people that will use the product, to get involved early.

Huobi, the exchange, developed a token for its users earlier this year, while chat app Line is also minting a token that it hopes will be used as part of its messaging platform. In both cases, neither company held an ICO, but they did use a crypto token to build a community.

Civil, the startup hoping to ‘fix’ media using the blockchain, is holding an ICO that’s open to members of the public. That’s also a community play, as the CVL token will be required to create newsrooms on its platform, and also to interact with them, such as challenging stories written by reporters.

Other technical projects out there are doing the same — focusing squarely on the community they are building for and adopting lower target figures for their ICO fundraising.

The technology space is so vast that there are exceptions, but it is certainly notable that there are relatively few credible projects planning ICOs that include retail investor participation. A report co-authored by PwC shows that the general pace of ICO investing settled in Q2 2018. If you ignore outliers such as Huobi, Telegram and EOS — the $6 billion project that fundraised for a year — then activity has certainly settled down after an explosive 12-months of growth.

Increased stability is likely to mean that the trend of private sales continues. Traditional VCs are launching dedicated crypto funds and those in the crypto space are formalizing investment vehicles of their own, all while the SEC and other regulators across the world intensify their gaze on ICOs. VC capital is likely to play a more pronounced role in funding ICOs than ever before.

That’s not to say that the retail investment phase is over. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt last week, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong sketched out his vision of the future in which all company cap tables are “tokenized.”

He foresees retail investors across the world being free to invest in security tokens that operate as a more accessible offshoot to traditional investment systems like the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ etc. Whether that extends to participation in ICOs themselves remains to be seen.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong believes retail investors have a big future in the crypto market

Disclosure: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Atrium raises $65M from A16z to replace lawyers with machine learning

in Andreessen Horowitz/Apps/Artificial Intelligence/Atrium LTS/blockchain/Delhi/Developer/eCommerce/funding/Fundings & Exits/India/Justin Kan/legal services/Marc Andreessen/Politics/Recent Funding/Startups/TC by

Let the computers do the legal busy work so attorneys can focus on complex problem solving for their clients. That’s the lucrative idea behind Atrium LTS, Twitch co-founder Justin Kan’s machine learning startup that digitizes legal documents and builds applications on top to speed up fundraising, commercial contracts, equity distribution, and employment issues. For example, one of its apps automatically turns startup funding documents into Excel cap tables.

Automating expensive legal labor has led to a rapid rise to 110 employees and 250 clients for Atrium, including startups like Bird and MessageBird. Atrium only came of stealth a year ago with a $10.5 million party round before going into Y Combinator last winter. Today it announces it’s raised a $65 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

In characteristic dude fashion, Kan tells me “I’m pretty stoked about that because of having more resources for Atrium.” The venture firm’s partner Andrew Chen is taking a board seat and famed co-founder Marc Andreessen is joining as a board observer. “I wanted a visionary who’s always going to be pushing us to build something really big” Kan says. YC’s Continuity Fund and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures are also joining the round

With the massive influx of cash, Atrium will be able to develop more internal tools it can use to crank out client work faster than its traditional competitors. “We can ultimately be this platform on top of which you’re building these legal business and eventually other professional services and software services” Kan explains,”They’re all sitting on top of the platform that understands legal documents.”

In more Atrium news, Y Combinator’s leading partner Michael Seibel will join the startup’s board too. And it’s acquired Tetra, a YC artificial intelligence startup that had raised $1.5 million to analyze voice, “to help us build our platform that understands and structures data” Kan tells me.

What Kan didn’t initially mention is that two of Atrium’s co-founders, CTO Chris Smoak and legal partner BeBe Chueh. have left. He later admitted they had transitioned out of the company several months before the new funding. “BeBe wanted to spend time working on family (she just got engaged); Chris and I disagreed on his job role” regarding the definition of the CTO position, Kan tells me. He’ll now be running Atrium with remaining co-founder Augie Rakow, formerly of mega-law firm Orrick, and Kan’s long-term business partner and former McKinsey analyst Nick Cortes.

Justin Kan (Atrium) at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

The law firm business model has left the door open for disruption by technology companies like Atrium. “Law firms generate revenue from hourly billing, and lack an incentive to vastly improve efficiency” Chen writes. “Many law firms dividend out all their profits at the end of each year, making it hard to invest in the expensive investment of building software. Software is hard to build inside a software company, much less a law firm”.

But Atrium is an engineering company with a legal clientele. It takes the most common and time-consuming activities — often related to ingesting mountains of documents — and builds machine learning workarounds. Atrium’s lawyers can focus on advising their clients on what to do, rather than burning the midnight oil doing it as they look for tiny quirks in the paperwork. The legal services get faster, cheaper, and more predictable so Atrium can offer upfront pricing.

For now, Atrium’s tech is limited to a narrow band of use cases. But “over $300 billion is spent per year in the enterprise legal market” Chen writes, so there’s plenty of room to grow now that Atrium is well capitalized. It will have to convince big corporations to ditch the old way and let computers lend a hand. Luckily, Atrium isn’t a SAAS company forcing clients to use the tech themselves. Done right, they shouldn’t even know that it’s machine vision software, not junior associates, pouring over their docs. It will have to out-match fellow legal tech startups like Ravel, CaseText, Judicata, Premonition, and more, though they’re often just tools rather than software-equipped law firms.

Kan also cops to his lack of experience in legal. “I think for any full stack vertical startup started by a non subject matter expert (ie. me who is not a lawyer), there is a risk that you come in and are very prescriptive on how things work. Then you build software that says ‘the providers must do it this way!’” Kan tells me. “But the practical reality is that it doesn’t work with the nuanced, non-linear workflows that providers already have. So the technology doesn’t get adopted and fails to provide value. That to me is the biggest upcoming risk.”

Justin Kan, from lifevlogger to legal giant

Yet if Atrium can ease clients into this new world service by service, it could generate network effects that fuel the whole business. It’s just a matter of prioritization. “One of the things I always need to be focused on is…focusing. That’s sometimes a blindspot.” From Justin.tv to Twitch to its acquisition by Amazon to his role as YC partner, Kan delivers but can be frenetic. “As an entrepreneur, I have a tendency to take on too much.”

But after leaving YC because “I had felt like I’d stopped learning”, Kan has found the legal space so full of knowledge and opportunity that it can hold his attention. “Part of why I like this business is because it was so different. I didn’t think it was something that would be as easily competed with” Kan recalls. “I had this calendar company and Google came out with something similar. I told [Twitch co-founder] Emmett ‘We have to do something no one can compete with. At least Google will never do this’. Then they did.”

But unlike with that game streaming startup, Atrium doesn’t have to worry about beating or getting bought by some legal tech giant. Instead, it wants to become one.

News Source = techcrunch.com

The US is losing out to the rest of the world on blockchain, warn crypto figures

in blockchain/cryptocurrency/Delhi/India/Politics by

America’s reluctance to regulate crypto is costing the country on startups and potentially the future of technology.

That’s the view of two major names in the crypto space, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse — whose company created cryptocurrency XRP — and Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch who runs a dedicated crypto fund, who shared their thoughts at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco today.

While there’s been no breakout blockchain company so far — excluding those that service the industry through crypto exchanges or mining — nearly every major tech company has a stance on blockchain, and is actively looking into how it can work with it. While big companies as diverse as Facebook, IBM and Google are looking hard at what’s possible, most startups — which also bring innovation — are being developed elsewhere in the world.

“We have a few good U.S. investments,” Arrington said of his $100 million ‘Arrington XRP’ fund. “But 80-90 percent of our investments are in Asia, Europe and Israel right now because they are actually countries where there’s enough regulatory certainty that entrepreneurs feel safe starting token or blockchain companies there.

“Here [in the U.S.] they don’t. There’s so much regulatory uncertainty, add to that the tax burden and the visa burden of coming here and then our current federal government’s stance on immigration in general, they’re just saying ‘Fuck it’ and they’re staying in Singapore or Israel or Europe instead of coming here and starting companies,” he added.

In more stronger terms, Arrington said the lack of clarity is “single-handedly fucking the next stage of technology development.”

“The SEC needs to get their act together,” he added. “If they had done that with the internet in 1994-1995, TechCrunch/none of us would be here, we’d all be living in Shanghai or somewhere else, wherever had managed to get their act together.”

Garlinghouse echoed those statements, whilst adding that there is certainly a need for intervention from a regulator.

“There are unequivocally bad actors in the ICO ecosystem,” he said. “There have been frauds and massive scams — hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, have been heisted — if anything I’m surprised the SEC hasn’t been more aggressive.

“The clarity [around regulation] would be very helpful, there’s a risk that a lot of this developments ends up not being in the U.S,” Garlinghouse explained. “The impact on the United States economy for having the internet that we think of today being very US-centric in many ways has been very, very positive for the United States.”

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said he’s confident that XRP isn’t a security

While there’s been plenty of speculation around what tokens that the SEC might deem to be securities, Garlinghouse said that he isn’t concerned about a clampdown on XRP.

“We joked at an all-hands meeting recently — and some people didn’t find it funny — that if Ripple shutdown tomorrow, the XRP ledger would continue to operate. So if XRP is a security, it is a security of what?” he said.

“The facts are pretty clear: XRP is not a security… I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that.”

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Stealthy wants to become the WeChat of blockchain apps

in Apps/Battlefield/blockchain/Delhi/disrupt sf 2018/India/messaging/mobile/Politics/Social/Startups/Stealthy by

Meet Stealthy a new messaging app that leverages Blockstack’s decentralized application platform to build a messaging app. The company is participating in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF and launching its app on iOS and Android today.

On the surface, Stealthy works like many messaging apps out there. But it gets interesting once you start digging to understand the protocol behind it. Stealthy is a decentralized platform with privacy in mind. It could become the glue that makes various decentralized applications stick together.

“We started Stealthy because Blockstack had a global hackathon in December of last year,” co-founder Prabhaav Bhardwaj told me. “We won that hackathon in February.” After that, the #deletefacebook movement combined with the overall decentralization trend motivated Bhardwaj and Alex Carreira to ship the app.

Blockstack manages your identity. You get an ID and a 12-word passphrase to recover your account. Blockstack creates a blockchain record for each new user. You use your Blockstack ID to connect to Stealthy.

Stealthy users then choose how they want to store their messages. You can connect your account with Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, etc.

Every time you message someone, the message is first encrypted on your device and sent to your recipient’s cloud provider. Your recipient can then open the Stealthy app and decrypt the message from their storage system.

All of this is seamless for the end user. It works like an iMessage conversation, which means that Microsoft or Amazon can’t open and read your messages without your private key. You remain in control of your data. Stealthy plans to open source their protocol and mobile product so that anybody can audit their code.

Some features require a certain level of centralization. For instance, Stealthy relies on Firebase for push notifications. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you can disable that feature.

The company also wants to become your central hub for all sorts of decentralized apps (or dapps for short). For instance, you can launch Graphite Docs or Blockusign from Stealty. Those dapps are built on top of Blockstack as well, but Stealthy plans to integrate with other dapps that don’t work on Blockstack.

“We have dapp integrations in place right now and we want to make it easier to add dapp integrations. If somebody wants to come in and start selling messaging stickers, you could do that. If you want to come in and implement a payment system to pay bloggers, you could do that,” Bhardwaj said. “Eventually, what we want to be is to make it as easy as submitting an app in the App Store.”

When you build a digital product, chances are you’ll end up adding a messaging feature at some point. You can chat in Google Docs, Airbnb, Venmo, YouTube… And the same is likely to be true with dapps. Stealthy believes that many developers could benefit from a solid communication infrastructure — this way, other companies can focus on their core products and let Stealthy handle the communication layer.

Stealthy is an ambitious company. In many ways, the startup is trying to build a decentralized WeChat with the encryption features of Signal. It’s a messaging app, but it’s also a platform for many other use cases.

A handful of messaging apps have become so powerful that they’ve become a weakness. Governments can block them or leverage them to create a social ranking. Authorities can get a warrant to ask tech companies to hand them data. And of course, the top tech companies have become too powerful. More decentralization is always a good thing.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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