Jul
23
2021
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Paystand banks $50M to make B2B payments cashless and with no fees

It’s pretty easy for individuals to send money back and forth, and there are lots of cash apps from which to choose. On the commercial side, however, one business trying to send $100,000 the same way is not as easy.

Paystand wants to change that. The Scotts Valley, California-based company is using cloud technology and the Ethereum blockchain as the engine for its Paystand Bank Network that enables business-to-business payments with zero fees.

The company raised $50 million Series C funding led by NewView Capital, with participation from SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund and King River Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to $85 million, Paystand co-founder and CEO Jeremy Almond told TechCrunch.

During the 2008 economic downturn, Almond’s family lost their home. He decided to go back to graduate school and did his thesis on how commercial banking could be better and how digital transformation would be the answer. Gleaning his company vision from the enterprise side, Almond said what Venmo does for consumers, Paystand does for commercial transactions between mid-market and enterprise customers.

“Revenue is the lifeblood of a business, and money has become software, yet everything is in the cloud except for revenue,” he added.

He estimates that almost half of enterprise payments still involve a paper check, while fintech bets heavily on cards that come with 2% to 3% transaction fees, which Almond said is untenable when a business is routinely sending $100,000 invoices. Paystand is charging a flat monthly rate rather than a fee per transaction.

Paystand’s platform. Image Credits: Paystand

On the consumer side, companies like Square and Stripe were among the first wave of companies predominantly focused on accounts payable and then building business process software on top of an existing infrastructure.

Paystand’s view of the world is that the accounts receivables side is harder and why there aren’t many competitors. This is why Paystand is surfing the next wave of fintech, driven by blockchain and decentralized finance, to transform the $125 trillion B2B payment industry by offering an autonomous, cashless and feeless payment network that will be an alternative to cards, Almond said.

Customers using Paystand over a three-year period are able to yield average benefits like 50% savings on the cost of receivables and $850,000 savings on transaction fees. The company is seeing a 200% increase in monthly network payment value and customers grew two-fold in the past year.

The company said it will use the new funding to continue to grow the business by investing in open infrastructure. Specifically, Almond would like to reboot digital finance, starting with B2B payments, and reimagine the entire CFO stack.

“I’ve wanted something like this to exist for 20 years,” Almond said. “Sometimes it is the unsexy areas that can have the biggest impacts.”

As part of the investment, Jazmin Medina, principal at NewView Capital, will join Paystand’s board. She told TechCrunch that while the venture firm is a generalist, it is rooted in fintech and fintech infrastructure.

She also agrees with Almond that the B2B payments space is lagging in terms of innovation and has “strong conviction” in what Almond is doing to help mid-market companies proactively manage their cash needs.

“There is a wide blue ocean of the payment industry, and all of these companies have to be entirely digital to stay competitive,” Medina added. “There is a glaring hole if your revenue is holding you back because you are not digital. That is why the time is now.”

 

Mar
02
2021
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Xage introduces Zero Trust remote access cloud solution for hard-to-secure environments

When a hacker broke into the computer systems of the Oldsmar Florida water supply last month, it sent up red flags across the operational tech world, whether that’s utilities or oil and gas pipelines. Xage, a security startup that has been building a solution to help protect these hard-to-secure operations, announced a Zero Trust remote access cloud solution today that could help prevent these kinds of attacks.

Duncan Greatwood, CEO at Xage, says flat out that if his company’s software was in place in Oldsmar, that hack wouldn’t have happened. Smaller operations like the one in Oldsmar tend to be one-person IT shops running older remote access software that’s vulnerable to hacking on a number of levels.

“It’s not difficult to compromise a virtual network computing (VNC) connection. It’s not difficult to compromise a stale account that’s been left on a jump box. What we started to do last year was deliver what we call a Zero Trust remote access solution to these kinds of customers,” Greatwood told me.

This involves controlling access device by device and person by person by determining who can do what based on them authenticating themselves and proving who they are. “It doesn’t rely on knowledge of a device password or a VPN zone password,” he explained.

The solution goes further with a secure traversal tunnel, which relies on a tamper proof certificate to prevent hackers from getting from the operations side of the house — whether that’s a utility grid, water supply or oil and gas pipeline — to the IT side where they could then begin to muck about with the operational technology.

Xage also uses a distributed ledger as a core part of its solution to help protect identity policies, logs and other key information across the platform. “Having a distributed ledger means that rather than an attacker having to compromise just a single node, it would have to compromise a majority of the nodes simultaneously, and that’s very difficult [if not impossible] to do,” he said.

What’s more, the ledgers operate independently across locations in a hierarchy with a global ledger that acts as the ultimate rules enforcer. That means even if a location goes offline, the rules will be enforced by the main system whenever it reconnects.

They introduced an on premise version of the Zero Trust remote access system last October, but with this kind of technology difficult to configure and maintain, some customers were looking for a managed solution like the one being introduced today. With the cloud solution, customers get a hosted solution accessible via a web browser with much faster deployment.

“What we’ve done with the cloud solution is made it really simple for people to adopt us by hosting the management software and the core Xage fabric nodes in this Xage cloud, and we’re really dramatically reducing that time to value for a remote access solution for OT,” Greatwood said.

You might be thinking that CISOs might not trust a cloud solution for these sensitive kinds of environments, and he admits that there is some caution in this market, even though they understand the benefits of moving to the cloud. To help ease these concerns, they can do a PoC in the cloud and there is a transfer tool to move back on prem easily if they are not comfortable with the cloud approach. So far he says that no early customers have chosen to do that, but the option is there.

Xage was founded in 2017 and has raised $16 million so far, according to Crunchbase data.


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Jul
01
2020
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Vendia raises $5.1M for its multicloud serverless platform

When the inventor of AWS Lambda, Tim Wagner, and the former head of blockchain at AWS, Shruthi Rao, co-found a startup, it’s probably worth paying attention. Vendia, as the new venture is called, combines the best of serverless and blockchain to help build a truly multicloud serverless platform for better data and code sharing.

Today, the Vendia team announced that it has raised a $5.1 million seed funding round, led by Neotribe’s Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri. Correlation Ventures, WestWave Capital, HWVP, Firebolt Ventures, Floodgate and Future\Perfect Ventures also participated in this oversubscribed round.

Image Credits: Vendia

Seeing Wagner at the helm of a blockchain-centric startup isn’t exactly a surprise. After building Lambda at AWS, he spent some time as VP of engineering at Coinbase, where he left about a year ago to build Vendia.

“One day, Coinbase approached me and said, ‘Hey, maybe we could do for the financial system what you’ve been doing over there for the cloud system,’” he told me. “And so I got interested in that. We had some conversations. I ended up going to Coinbase and spent a little over a year there as the VP of Engineering, helping them to set the stage for some of that platform work and tripling the size of the team.” He noted that Coinbase may be one of the few companies where distributed ledgers are actually mission-critical to their business, yet even Coinbase had a hard time scaling its Ethereum fleet, for example, and there was no cloud-based service available to help it do so.

Tim Wagner, Vendia co-founder and CEO. Image Credits: Vendia

“The thing that came to me as I was working there was why don’t we bring these two things together? Nobody’s thinking about how would you build a distributed ledger or blockchain as if it were a cloud service, with all the things that we’ve learned over the course of the last 10 years building out the public cloud and learning how to do it at scale,” he said.

Wagner then joined forces with Rao, who spent a lot of time in her role at AWS talking to blockchain customers. One thing she noticed was that while it makes a lot of sense to use blockchain to establish trust in a public setting, that’s really not an issue for enterprise.

“After the 500th customer, it started to make sense,” she said. “These customers had made quite a bit of investment in IoT and edge devices. They were gathering massive amounts of data. They also made investments on the other side, with AI and ML and analytics. And they said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of data and I want to push all of this data through these intelligent systems. I need a mechanism to get this data.’” But the majority of that data often comes from third-party services. At the same time, most blockchain proof of concepts weren’t moving into any real production usage because the process was often far too complex, especially enterprises that maybe wanted to connect their systems to those of their partners.

Shruthi Rao, Vendia co-founder and CBO. Image Credits: Vendia

“We are asking these partners to spin up Kubernetes clusters and install blockchain nodes. Why is that? That’s because for blockchain to bring trust into a system to ensure trust, you have to own your own data. And to own your own data, you need your own node. So we’re solving fundamentally the wrong problem,” she explained.

The first product Vendia is bringing to market is Vendia Share, a way for businesses to share data with partners (and across clouds) in real-time, all without giving up control over that data. As Wagner noted, businesses often want to share large data sets but they also want to ensure they can control who has access to that data. For those users, Vendia is essentially a virtual data lake with provenance tracking and tamper-proofing built in.

The company, which mostly raised this round after the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., is already working with a couple of design partners in multiple industries to test out its ideas, and plans to use the new funding to expand its engineering team to build out its tools.

“At Neotribe Ventures, we invest in breakthrough technologies that stretch the imagination and partner with companies that have category creation potential built upon a deep-tech platform,” said Neotribe founder and managing director Kolluri. “When we heard the Vendia story, it was a no-brainer for us. The size of the market for multiparty, multicloud data and code aggregation is enormous and only grows larger as companies capture every last bit of data. Vendia’s serverless-based technology offers benefits such as ease of experimentation, no operational heavy lifting and a pay-as-you-go pricing model, making it both very consumable and highly disruptive. Given both Tim and Shruthi’s backgrounds, we know we’ve found an ideal ‘Founder fit’ to solve this problem! We are very excited to be the lead investors and be a part of their journey.”

Mar
31
2020
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Xage adds full-stack data protection to blockchain security platform

Xage, a startup that has been taking an unusual path to secure legacy companies like oil and gas and utilities with help from the blockchain, announced a new data protection service today.

Xage CEO Duncan Greatwood, says that up until this point, the company has concentrated on protecting customers at the machine layer, but today’s announcement involves protecting data as it travels between parties, which is more of a classic blockchain security scenario.

“We are moving beyond the protection of machines with greater focus on the protection of data. And this announcement around Dynamic Data Security that we’re delivering today is really a data protection layer that spans multiple dimensions. So it spans from the physical machine layer right up to business transaction,” Greatwood explained.

He says that what separates his company from competitors is the ability to have that protection up and down the stack. “We can guarantee the authenticity, integrity and the confidentiality of data, as it’s produced at the machine, and we can maintain that all the way to [delivery to the various parties],” he said.

Greatwood says that this solution is designed to help protect data, even in highly complex data sharing scenarios, using the blockchain as the trust mechanism. Imagine a supply chain scenario in which the parties are sharing data, but each participant only needs to see the piece of data they need to complete their part of the transaction and no more. To do this, Xage has the concept of security fabric, which acts as a layer of protection across the platform.

“What Xage is doing is to use this kind of security outsource approach we bring to authenticity, integrity and confidentiality, and then using the fabric to replicate all of that security metadata across the extent of the fabric, which may very well cover multiple locations and multiple participants,” he said.

This approach enables customers to have confidence in the providence and integrity of the data they are seeing. “We’re able to allow all of the participants to define a set of security policies that gives them control of their own data, but it also allows them to share very flexibly with the rest of the participants in the ecosystem, and to have confidence in that data, up to and including the point where they’ll pay each other money, based on the integrity of the data.”

The new solution is available today. It has been in testing with three beta customers, which included an oil and gas customer, a utility and a smart city scenario.

Xage was founded in 2016 and has raised just over $16 million, according to PitchBook data.

Mar
01
2020
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Thought Machine nabs $83M for a cloud-based platform that powers banking services

The world of consumer banking has seen a massive shift in the last ten years. Gone are the days where you could open an account, take out a loan, or discuss changing the terms of your banking only by visiting a physical branch. Now, you can do all this and more with a few quick taps on your phone screen — a shift that has accelerated with customers expecting and demanding even faster and more responsive banking services.

As one mark of that switch, today a startup called Thought Machine, which has built cloud-based technology that powers this new generation of services on behalf of both old and new banks, is announcing some significant funding — $83 million — a Series B that the company plans to use to continue investing in its platform and growing its customer base.

To date, Thought Machine’s customers are primarily in Europe and Asia — they include large, legacy outfits like Standard Chartered, Lloyds Banking Group, and Sweden’s SEB through to “challenger” (AKA neo-) banks like Atom Bank. Some of this financing will go towards boosting the startup’s activities in the US, including opening an office in the country later this year and moving ahead with commercial deals.

The funding is being led by Draper Esprit, with participation also from existing investors Lloyds Banking Group, IQ Capital, Backed and Playfair.

Thought Machine, which started in 2014 and now employs 300, is not disclosing its valuation but Paul Taylor, the CEO and founder, noted that the market cap is currently “increasing healthily.” In its last round, according to PitchBook estimates, the company was valued at around $143 million, which, at this stage of funding, puts this latest round potentially in the range of between $220 million and $320 million.

Thought Machine is not yet profitable, mainly because it is in growth mode, said Taylor. Of note, the startup has been through one major bankruptcy restructuring, although it appears that this was mainly for organisational purposes: all assets, employees and customers from one business controlled by Taylor were acquired by another.

Thought Machine’s primary product and technology is called Vault, a platform that contains a range of banking services: checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, credit cards and mortgages. Thought Machine does not sell directly to consumers, but sells by way of a B2B2C model.

The services are provisioned by way of smart contracts, which allows Thought Machine and its banking customers to personalise, vary and segment the terms for each bank — and potentially for each customer of the bank.

Food for Thought (Machine)

It’s a little odd to think that there is an active market for banking services that are not built and owned by the banks themselves. After all, aren’t these the core of what banks are supposed to do?

But one way to think about it is in the context of eating out. Restaurants’ kitchens will often make in-house what they sell and serve. But in some cases, when it makes sense, even the best places will buy in (and subsequently sell) food that was crafted elsewhere. For example, a restaurant will re-sell cheese or charcuterie, and the wine is likely to come from somewhere else, too.

The same is the case for banks, whose “Crown Jewels” are in fact not the mechanics of their banking services, but their customer service, their customer lists, and their deposits. Better banking services (which may not have been built “in-house”) are key to growing these other three.

“There are all sorts of banks, and they are all trying to find niches,” said Taylor. Indeed, the startup is not the only one chasing that business. Others include Mambu, Temenos and Italy’s Edera.

In the case of the legacy banks that work with the startup, the idea is that these behemoths can migrate into the next generation of consumer banking services and banking infrastructure by cherry-picking services from the VaultOS platform.

“Banks have not kept up and are marooned on their own tech, and as each year goes by, it comes more problematic,” noted Taylor.

In the case of neobanks, Thought Machine’s pitch is that it has already built the rails to run a banking service, so a startup — “new challengers like Monzo and Revolut that are creating quite a lot of disruption in the market” (and are growing very quickly as a result) — can integrate into these to get off the ground more quickly and handle scaling with less complexity (and lower costs).

Money talks

Taylor was new to fintech when he founded Thought Machine, but he has a notable track record in the world of tech that you could argue played a big role in his subsequent foray into banking.

Formerly an academic specialising in linguistics and engineering, his first startup, Rhetorical Systems, commercialised some of his early speech-to-text research and was later sold to Nuance in 2004.

His second entrepreneurial effort, Phonetic Arts, was another speech startup, aimed at tech that could be used in gaming interactions. In 2010, Google approached the startup to see if it wanted to work on a new speech-to-text service it was building. It ended up acquiring Phonetic Arts, and Taylor took on the role of building and launching Google Now, with that voice tech eventually making its way to Google Maps, accessibility services, the Google Assistant and other places where you speech-based interaction makes an appearance in Google products.

While he was working for years in the field, the step changes that really accelerated voice recognition and speech technology, Taylor said, were the rapid increases in computing power and data networks that “took us over the edge” in terms of what a machine could do, specifically in the cloud.

And those are the same forces, in fact, that led to consumers being able to run our banking services from smartphone apps, and for us to want and expect more personalised services overall. Taylor’s move into building and offering a platform-based service to address the need for multiple third-party banking services follows from that, and also is the natural heir to the platform model you could argue Google and other tech companies have perfected over the years.

Draper Esprit has to date built up a strong portfolio of fintech startups that includes Revolut, N26, TransferWise and Freetrade. Thought Machine’s platform approach is an obvious complement to that list. (Taylor did not disclose if any of those companies are already customers of Thought Machine’s, but if they are not, this investment could be a good way of building inroads.)

“We are delighted to be partnering with Thought Machine in this phase of their growth,” said Vinoth Jayakumar, Investment Director, Draper Esprit, in a statement. “Our investments in Revolut and N26 demonstrate how banking is undergoing a once in a generation transformation in the technology it uses and the benefit it confers to the customers of the bank. We continue to invest in our thesis of the technology layer that forms the backbone of banking. Thought Machine stands out by way of the strength of its engineering capability, and is unique in being the only company in the banking technology space that has developed a platform capable of hosting and migrating international Tier 1 banks. This allows innovative banks to expand beyond digital retail propositions to being able to run every function and type of financial transaction in the cloud.”

“We first backed Thought Machine at seed stage in 2016 and have seen it grow from a startup to a 300-person strong global scale-up with a global customer base and potential to become one of the most valuable European fintech companies,” said Max Bautin, Founding Partner of IQ Capital, in a statement. “I am delighted to continue to support Paul and the team on this journey, with an additional £15 million investment from our £100 million Growth Fund, aimed at our venture portfolio outperformers.”

Feb
11
2020
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Tangle EE project joins Eclipse Foundation to bring distributed ledger apps to enterprise

As the number of IoT devices proliferate, and machines conduct transactions with machines without humans involved, it becomes increasingly necessary to have a permissionless system that facilitates this kind of communication in a secure way.

Enter the IOTA Foundation, a Berlin-based open-source distributed ledger technology (DLT) project, which has hooked up with the Eclipse Foundation to bring IOTA DLT to the enterprise via the Tangle EE project. For starters, this involves forming a working group.

The distributed ledger idea first emerged as a way to distribute digital currency on the blockchain. Since then, there have been multiple ideas, both open source and commercial, to bring this concept to the enterprise to provide a secure, immutable and frictionless way to share data.

One such open-source project is IOTA, which saw an issue with DLT as it was being implemented by other entities. “IOTA is the first distributed ledger technology that went beyond blockchain with a completely new architecture that resolves the bottleneck problems of blockchain that has prevented real-world adoption,” Dominik Schiener, co-founder of IOTA Foundation, told TechCrunch.

The broad vision is to provide a way for machines and devices to communicate securely. “We provide a protocol layer that enables both humans and machines to bulk transact value without fees, as well as ensure data integrity, which is, of course, increasingly important in the age of Internet of Things, where hundreds of billions of devices are being connected over the next decades,” Schiener said.

Tangle EE is the part of the project aimed at enterprise users — EE stands for Enterprise Edition — that can take this technology and enable larger organizations to build applications on top of the project. For starters the foundation is working with the Eclipse Foundation to bring corporate entities on board who can help better define the requirements of the large business user.

Dell Technologies and STMicroelectronics are the first major companies joining the project, but the hope is that through discussion and dialogue, Tangle EE will begin to gain traction. “The main reason why we created Tangle EE was because of the discussions that we’ve had with corporations. They really understood that we need to have a working group around IOTA to discuss the application layer, to discuss what kind of solutions we can develop broadly across industries, but also really start having more serious discussions about the protocol,” Schiener said.

Much like the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation will provide a governance framework for the project. “The Eclipse Foundation will provide a vendor-neutral governance framework for open collaboration, with IOTA’s scalable, feeless and permissionless DLT as a base,” Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, explained in a statement.

If it gains traction, more companies will join in the coming months and years, and begin building out Tangle EE, while developing applications based on the protocol.

Feb
05
2020
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Clear gets $13M Series A to build high-volume transaction system on the blockchain

Clear is an early-stage startup with a big ambition. It wants to build a blockchain for high-volume transaction systems like payments between telcos. Today it announced a $13 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Eight Roads with participation from Telefónica Innovation Ventures, Telekom Innovation Pool of Deutsche Telekom, HKT and Singtel Innov8.

That the strategic investors were telcos is not a coincidence. The early use case for Clear’s blockchain transaction network involves moving payments between worldwide telcos, a system that today is highly manual and prone to errors.

Clear co-founder Gal Hochberg says what his company does is to take commercial contracts and turn them into digital representations, often known in digital ledger terms as a smart contract.

“What that lets us do is create a trusted view of the true status of the relationship within the company’s business partners because they’re now looking at the same pricing and usage. They can find any issues in real time, either in commercial information or in service delivery, and they can even actually resolve those inside our platform,” Hochberg explained.

By putting these high-volume, cross-border transactions onto the blockchain with these smart contracts to act as automated enforcer of the terms, it means that instead of waiting until the end of the month to find errors and begin a resolution process, this can be done in real time, reducing time to payment and speeding up conflict resolution.

“We use blockchain technology to create those interactions in ways that it is auditable, cryptographically secure and ensures that both sides are synced and seeing the same information,” Hochberg said.

For starters, the company is working with worldwide telco companies because the number of transactions, and the way they cross borders make this a good test case, but Hochberg says this is only the starting point. They are not in full-blown production yet, but he says they have proven they can process hundreds of millions of billable events.

The money should help the company get into full carrier-grade production some time in the first half of this year, and then begin to expand into other verticals beyond telcos with the help of today’s investment.

Jan
30
2020
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Hyperledger Fabric, the open-source distributed ledger, reaches release 2.0

The open-source Hyperledger Foundation announced the release of Hyperledger Fabric 2.0 today, the first such project to reach a 2.0 release.

It’s a notable milestone. The blockchain as a business tool has certainly had a rocky road over the last few years, but there is still plenty to like about smart contracts that have automated compliance checks built-in. Hyperledger Fabric 2.0 has lots of new features with that in mind.

The biggest updates involve forcing agreement among the parties before any new data can be added to the ledger, known as decentralized governance of the smart contracts. In practice, it means that the system will prevent any entity from writing to the ledger until there is consensus among the parties involved in the transaction, a basic blockchain tenet.

This is a requirement because the beauty and the curse of the distributed ledger is that it is an immutable record. Once you have written something in the ledger, it becomes very difficult to change it without the agreement of all those involved in the contract. You want to make sure you get it right before you commit something to the ledger.

Along those same lines, developers can build in automated checks along the way. As they say, this ensures the parties can “validate additional information before endorsing a transaction proposal.”

Brian Behlendorf, executive director at Hyperledger and a big advocate of open-source distributed ledger technology, says this is a big milestone for the project and the organization as it looks to help organizations adopt distributed ledger technology.

“Fabric 2.0 is a new generation framework developed by and for the enterprises that are building distributed ledger capabilities into the core of their businesses. This new release reflects both the development and deployment experience of the Fabric community and confirms the arrival of the production era for enterprise blockchain,” Behlendorf said in a statement.

That remains to be seen. The rise of blockchain in business has moved at a slow pace, but this release shows that the open-source community is still committed to building enterprise-grade distributed ledger technology. Today’s announcement is another step in that direction.

Jan
15
2020
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Kadena fulfills hybrid blockchain vision with launch of public chain

For the last few years, blockchain startup Kadena has been working on a vision of bringing blockchain to the enterprise. Today it announced the final piece of that vision with the launch of the Kadena public blockchain.

In earlier releases, the company offered the ability to build private blockchains on AWS or Azure. Company co-founder and CEO Will Martino says the public network brings together for the first time public and private chains in a hybrid vision.

“The big exciting thing is that the public chain is out, smart contracts are about to turn on, and that allows us to then go and hit the market with what we’re calling these hybrid applications. These are applications that run both on a private blockchain, but have public smart contracts that allow people on the public side to interact with the private chain,” Martino explained.

The smart contracts are a set of rules that must be met and validated for the private and public chains to interact. Only valid actors and actions as defined in the smart contract and will be allowed to move between the two chains.

Overcoming scaling issues

One of the major challenges with building a chain like this has been scaling it to meet the needs of enterprise users. Martino says that his company has solved this problem and can scale from the 10 chains today to 10,000 or more in the future as the company grows. He further claims that his company is the only one with a tractable roadmap capable of achieving this.

Martino says this could help push companies who have been dabbling in blockchain technology in the last couple of years to take a bigger leap. “This is a watershed moment for enterprises. Up until now, they’ve never had a platform that they could go and use on a public blockchain platform and know that it’s going to have the throughput they need if the product they deployed on that blockchain has legs and starts to take off.” Martino says this blockchain has that.

Kadena public blockchain in action

Kadena has also developed an open-source smart contract language called Pact that Martino says allows a lawyer with Excel-level programming understanding to write these contracts and place them on the chain.

“There are a lot of lawyers who are good with Excel, so you can actually hand the smart contracts to a lawyer and have them review them for compliance. And that’s a crazy idea, but we think it’s fundamental because when you’re representing core business workflows that are sensitive, you need to be absolutely certain they are compliant.”

Show me the money

The company is making all of the basic pieces available for free. That includes the private chain development tools on AWS and Azure, the public chain released today, along with the Pact smart contract language.

Martino says there are a couple of ways for the business to make money. For starters, it’s building partnerships where it helps companies in various sectors, from financial services to insurance and healthcare, build viable hybrid applications on the Kadena blockchain. When they make money, so will Kadena.

Secondly, they control a bushel of tokens on their public network, which have value, and if the vision comes to fruition, will have much more over time. They will be able to sell some of these tokens on the public market and make money. Right now he says the tokens have a value of between 20 cents and a dollar, but he expects that to increase as the network becomes more viable.

The blockchain has lost some of its luster as it has moved through the enterprise hype cycle in recent years, but if Kadena can succeed in building a fully decentralized, scalable blockchain, it could help push the technology deeper into the enterprise.

Jan
15
2020
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The crypto rich find security in Anchorage

Not the city, the $57 million-funded cryptocurrency custodian startup. When someone wants to keep safe tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in Bitcoin, Ethereum or other coins, they put them in Anchorage’s vault. And now they can trade straight from custody so they never have to worry about getting robbed mid-transaction.

With backing from Visa, Andreessen Horowitz and Blockchain Capital, Anchorage has emerged as the darling of the cryptocurrency security startup scene. Today it’s flexing its muscle and war chest by announcing its first acquisition, crypto risk modeling company Merkle Data.

Anchorage Founders

Anchorage has already integrated Merkle’s technology and team to power today’s launch of its new trading feature. It eliminates the need for big crypto owners to manually move assets in and out of custody to buy or sell, or to set up their own in-house trading. Instead of grabbing some undisclosed spread between the spot price and the price Anchorage quotes its clients, it charges a transparent per transaction fee of a tenth of a percent.

It’s stressful enough trading around digital fortunes. Anchorage gives institutions and token moguls peace of mind throughout the process while letting them stake and vote while their riches are in custody. Anchorage CEO Nathan McCauley tells me, “Our clients want to be able to fund a bank account with USD and have it seamlessly converted into crypto, securely held in their custody accounts. Shockingly, that’s not yet the norm — but we’re changing that.”

Buy and sell safely

Founded in 2017 by leaders behind Docker and Square, Anchorage’s core business is its omnimetric security system that takes out of the equation passwords that can be lost or stolen. Instead, it uses humans and AI to review scans of your biometrics, nearby networks and other data for identity confirmation. Then it requires consensus approval for transactions from a set of trusted managers you’ve whitelisted.

With Anchorage Trading, the startup promises efficient order routing, transparent pricing and multi-venue liquidity from OTC desks, exchanges and market makers. “Because trading and custody are directly integrated, we’re able to buy and sell crypto from custody, without having to make risky external transfers or deal with multiple accounts from different providers,” says Bart Stephens, founder and managing partner of Blockchain Capital.

Trading isn’t Anchorage’s primary business, so it doesn’t have to squeeze clients on their transactions, and can instead try to keep them happy for the long-term. That also sets up Anchorage to be a foundational part of the cryptocurrency stack. It wouldn’t disclose the terms of the Merkle Data acquisition, but the Pantera Capital-backed company brings quantitative analysts to Anchorage to keep its trading safe and smart.

“Unlike most traditional financial assets, crypto assets are bearer assets: In order to do anything with them, you need to hold the underlying private keys. This means crypto custodians like Anchorage must play a much larger role than custodians do in traditional finance,” says McCauley. “Services like trading, settlement, posting collateral, lending and all other financial activities surrounding the assets rely on the custodian’s involvement, and in our view are best performed by the custodian directly.”

Anchorage will be competing with Coinbase, which offers integrated custody and institutional brokerage through its agency-only OTC desk. Fidelity Digital Assets combines trading and brokerage, but for Bitcoin only. BitGo offers brokerage from custody through a partnership with Genesis Global Trading. But Anchorage hopes its experience handling huge sums, clear pricing and credentials like membership in Facebook’s Libra Association will win it clients.

McCauley says the biggest threat to Anchorage isn’t competitors, though, but hazy regulation. Anchorage is building a core piece of the blockchain economy’s infrastructure. But for the biggest financial institutions to be comfortable getting involved, lawmakers need to make it clear what’s legal.

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