Aug
17
2018
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Incentivai launches to simulate how hackers break blockchains

Cryptocurrency projects can crash and burn if developers don’t predict how humans will abuse their blockchains. Once a decentralized digital economy is released into the wild and the coins start to fly, it’s tough to implement fixes to the smart contracts that govern them. That’s why Incentivai is coming out of stealth today with its artificial intelligence simulations that test not just for security holes, but for how greedy or illogical humans can crater a blockchain community. Crypto developers can use Incentivai’s service to fix their systems before they go live.

“There are many ways to check the code of a smart contract, but there’s no way to make sure the economy you’ve created works as expected,” says Incentivai’s solo founder Piotr Grudzie?. “I came up with the idea to build a simulation with machine learning agents that behave like humans so you can look into the future and see what your system is likely to behave like.”

Incentivai will graduate from Y Combinator next week and already has a few customers. They can either pay Incentivai to audit their project and produce a report, or they can host the AI simulation tool like a software-as-a-service. The first deployments of blockchains it’s checked will go out in a few months, and the startup has released some case studies to prove its worth.

“People do theoretical work or logic to prove that under certain conditions, this is the optimal strategy for the user. But users are not rational. There’s lots of unpredictable behavior that’s difficult to model,” Grudzie? explains. Incentivai explores those illogical trading strategies so developers don’t have to tear out their hair trying to imagine them.

Protecting crypto from the human x-factor

There’s no rewind button in the blockchain world. The immutable and irreversible qualities of this decentralized technology prevent inventors from meddling with it once in use, for better or worse. If developers don’t foresee how users could make false claims and bribe others to approve them, or take other actions to screw over the system, they might not be able to thwart the attack. But given the right open-ended incentives (hence the startup’s name), AI agents will try everything they can to earn the most money, exposing the conceptual flaws in the project’s architecture.

“The strategy is the same as what DeepMind does with AlphaGo, testing different strategies,” Grudzie? explains. He developed his AI chops earning a masters at Cambridge before working on natural language processing research for Microsoft.

Here’s how Incentivai works. First a developer writes the smart contracts they want to test for a product like selling insurance on the blockchain. Incentivai tells its AI agents what to optimize for and lays out all the possible actions they could take. The agents can have different identities, like a hacker trying to grab as much money as they can, a faker filing false claims or a speculator that cares about maximizing coin price while ignoring its functionality.

Incentivai then tweaks these agents to make them more or less risk averse, or care more or less about whether they disrupt the blockchain system in its totality. The startup monitors the agents and pulls out insights about how to change the system.

For example, Incentivai might learn that uneven token distribution leads to pump and dump schemes, so the developer should more evenly divide tokens and give fewer to early users. Or it might find that an insurance product where users vote on what claims should be approved needs to increase its bond price that voters pay for verifying a false claim so that it’s not profitable for voters to take bribes from fraudsters.

Grudzie? has done some predictions about his own startup too. He thinks that if the use of decentralized apps rises, there will be a lot of startups trying to copy his approach to security services. He says there are already some doing token engineering audits, incentive design and consultancy, but he hasn’t seen anyone else with a functional simulation product that’s produced case studies. “As the industry matures, I think we’ll see more and more complex economic systems that need this.”

May
30
2018
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Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report

Want to understand all the most important tech stats and trends? Legendary venture capitalist Mary Meeker has just released the 2018 version of her famous Internet Trends report. It covers everything from mobile to commerce to the competition between tech giants. Check out the full report below, and we’ll add some highlights soon. Then come back for our slide-by-slide analysis of the most important parts of the 294 page report.

  • Internet adoption: As of 2018, half the world population, or about 3.6 billion people, will be on the internet. That’s thanks in large part to cheaper Android phones and Wifi becoming more available, though individual services will have a tougher time adding new users as the web hits saturation.
  • Mobile usage: While smartphone shipments are flat and internet user growth is slowing, U.S. adults are spending more time online thanks to mobile, clocking 5.9 hours per day in 2017 versus 5.6 hours in 2016.
  • Mobile ads: People are shifting their time to mobile faster than ad dollars are following, creating a $7 billion mobile ad opportunity, though platforms are increasingly responsible for providing safe content to host those ads.
  • Crypto: Interest in cryptocurrency is exploding as Coinbase’s user count has nearly quadrupled since January 2017
  • Voice: Voice technology is at an inflection point due to speech recognition hitting 95% accuracy and the sales explosion for Amazon Echo which went from over 10 million to over 30 million sold in total by the end of 2017.
  • Daily usage – Revenue gains for services like Facebook are tightly coupled with daily user growth, showing how profitable it is to become a regular habit.
  • Tech investment: We’re at an all-time high for public and private investment in technology, while the top six public R&D + capex spenders are all technology companies.

Mary Meeker, analyst with Morgan Stanley, speaks during the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010. This year’s conference, which runs through Nov. 17, is titled “Points of Control: The Battle for the Network Economy.” Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Ecommerce vs Brick & Mortar: Ecommerce growth quickens as now 13% of all retail purchases happen online and parcel shipments are rising swiftly, signaling big opportunities for new shopping apps.
  • Amazon: More people start product searches on Amazon than search engines now, but Jeff Bezos still relies on other surfaces like Facebook and YouTube to inspire people to want things.
  • Subscription services: They’re seeing massive adoption, with Netflix up 25%, The New York Times up 43%, and Spotify up 48% year-over-year in 2017. A free tier accelerates conversion rates.
  • Education: Employees seek retraining and education from YouTube and online courses to keep up with new job requirements and pay off skyrocketing student loan debt.
  • Freelancing: Employees crave scheduling and work-from-home flexibility, and internet discovery of freelance work led it to grow 3X faster than total workforce growth. The on-demand workforce grew 23% in 2017 driven by Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, Upwork, and Doordash.
  • Transportation: People are buying fewer cars, keeping them longer, and shifting transportation spend to rideshare, which saw rides double in 2017.
  • Enterprise: Consumerization of the enterprise through better interfaces is spurring growth for companies like Dropbox and Slack.
  • China: Alibaba is expanding beyond China with strong gross merchandise volume, though Amazon still rules in revenue.
  • Privacy: China has a big opportunity as users there are much more willing to trade their personal data for product benefits than U.S. users, and China is claiming more spots on the top 20 internet company list while making big investments in AI.
  • Immigration: It is critical to a strong economy, as 56% of top U.S. companies were founded by a first- or second-generation immigrant.

May
23
2018
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Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

May
15
2018
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Veridium Labs teams with IBM and Stellar on carbon credit blockchain

Veridium Labs has been trying to solve a hard problem about how to trade carbon offset credits in an open market. The trouble is that more complex credits don’t have a simple value like a stock, and there hasn’t been a formula to determine their individual value. That has made accounting for them and selling them on open exchanges difficult or impossible. It’s a problem Veridium believes they can finally solve with tokens and the blockchain.

This week the company announced a partnership with IBM to sell carbon offset tokens on the Stellar blockchain. Each company has a role here with Veridium setting up the structure and determining the value formula. Stellar acts as the digital ledger for the transactions and IBM will handle the nuts and bolts of the trade activity of buying, selling and managing the tokens.

Todd Lemons, CEO and cofounder of Veridium Labs, which is part of a larger environmental company called EnVision Corporation, says that even companies with the best of intentions have struggled with how to account for the complex carbon credits. There are simpler offset credits that are sold on exchanges, but ones that seek to measure the impact of a product through the entire supply chain are much more difficult to determine.  As one example, how does a company making a candy bar source its cocoa and sugar. It’s not always easy to determine through a web of suppliers and sellers.

Moving forward

To partly solve this problem, another Envision company, InfiniteEARTH developed a way to account for them called the Redd+ forest carbon accounting methodology. It is widely accepted to the point that it has been incorporated in the Paris Climate Agreement, but it doesn’t provide a way to turn the credits into what are called fungible assets, that is an easily tradable one. The problem is the value of a given credit shifts according to the overall environmental impact of producing a good and getting it to market. That value can change according to the product.

Jared Klee, blockchain manager for token initiatives at IBM, says that buying and accounting for Redd+ credits on the company balance sheet has been a huge challenge for organizations. “It’s a major pain point. Today Redd+ credits are over the counter assets and there is no central exchange,” he said. That means they are essentially one-off transactions and the company is forced to hold these assets on the books with no easy way to account for their actual value. That often results in a big loss, he says, and companies are looking for ways to comply in a more cost-efficient way.

Putting it together

The three companies — Veridium, IBM and Stellar — have come together to solve this problem by creating a digital token that acts as a layer on top of the carbon credit to give it a value and make it easier to account for. In addition, the tokens can be bought and sold on the blockchain.

The blockchain provides all the usual advantages of a decentralized record keeping system, immutable records and encrypted transactions.

Veridium is working on the underlying formula for token valuation that measures “carbon density per dollar times product group,” Lemons explained. “That can be coded into a token and carried out automatically,” he added. They are working with various world bodies like the United Nations and The World Resource Institute to help figure out the values for each product group.

All of the details are still being worked out as the idea works its way through the various regulatory bodies, but the companies hope to be making the tokens available for sale some time later this year.

Ultimately this is about finding ways to help businesses comply with environmental initiatives and remove some of the complexity inherent in that process today. “We hope the tokens will provide less friction and a much higher adoption rate,” Lemons said.

Apr
25
2018
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Aion launches first public blockchain network

If you believe blockchains will proliferate in the coming years, it stands to reason that you will need some sort of mechanism to move information between them — a network of blockchains with bridges and processes for sharing information between entities. That is exactly what The Aion Network is providing with a new blockchain network released today.

The company wants to be the underlying infrastructure for a network of blockchains in a similar way that TCP/IP drove the proliferation of the internet. To that end, the company, which originally began as a for-profit startup called Nuco, has decided to become a not-for-profit organization with the goal of setting up protocols for a set of interconnected blockchains. They now see their role as something akin to the Linux Foundation, helping third-party companies build products and creating an ecosystem around their base technology.

Graphic: Aion Networks

“The core design of network we have been building is to connect various networks, and route data and transactions through a public network. We are launching that network today. It allows you to build bridges to other blockchain networks. That public network acts as relayer between blockchains,” Matthew Spoke, CEO and co-founder at Aion Networks told TechCrunch.

While there clearly could be security concerns with a public by-way for blockchain data moving between systems, Spoke says that can be minimized. Instead of transmitting a medical record between a hospital and insurance company, you send a proof that the person had an operation, which the insurance company can check against the coverage rules it has created for that individual and vice versa.

The idea behind this venture is to provide the underlying plumbing to encourage more highly scalable blockchain use cases. Spoke and his team once ran the blockchain practice at Deloitte before starting this venture, and they saw roadblocks to scaling first-hand. “When we were doing enterprise projects, our biggest realization was that the plumbing wasn’t sophisticated enough. The scaling wasn’t meeting specs that enterprise companies would need long-term. Because of that, we were not seeing anyone moving beyond proof of concept projects. What we are doing is trying to mature the possible use cases,” he said.

In order to drive adoption, the company is introducing a token or cryptocurrency to be used to move data across the network and build in a level of trust. Spoke believes if the users have skin in the game in the form of tokens, that could create a higher level of trust on the system.

“Instead of paying for infrastructure, you are going to pay to be part of a common trusted protocol. It comes down to the mechanism of consensus and being incentivized to do business in an honest way,” Spoke said

This is probably not something that will get adopted widely overnight. Just because they have built it, they still require a level of utilization for it to really take off, and that will require more blockchain projects. “We still need a few years of pure focus on infrastructure to make sure we are getting these layers right. Every time you move data of any kind there are security vulnerabilities, and we need to make sure there are good specs and comfort in using it,” he said.

Apr
03
2018
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JPMorgan’s blockchain head is leaving to start her own business

JPMorgan’s key blockchain executive is departing the bank for the world of startups, it has emerged.

Amber Baldet heads up JPMorgan’s Blockchain Center of Excellence, which explores the development of distributed ledger technology and use cases of blockchain technology across the firm’s business. A high-profile figure in the blockchain space in her own right, she is leaving to start her venture, according to Reuters.

Baldet set up JPMorgan’s blockchain strategy and headed up its enterprise-focused Quorum blockchain, which is reportedly being considered for a spinout. As Baldet’s six-year tenure at the bank ends, she will be replaced by Christine Moy, who led blockchain services across the bank’s Investor Services and Capital Markets segments, according to Fortune.

The exit is an example of a talent drain that is beginning to take shape in banking and financial services with engineers and business execs moving over to blockchain and crypto projects that are seen to have serious growth potential.

That’s despite a rocky year to date for crypto, at least in terms of valuations.

Bitcoin reached nearly $20,000 per coin in December but it spent much of March below $10,000. As of today, one bitcoin is worth $7,387, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Top tokens like Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple are also down significantly on their record January-December prices.

There’s a strong case to be made that a more stable crypto market is for the best, even if there is a loss in value. High prices led to high transaction fees, which made life difficult for developers whilst also adding uncertainty for market speculators and token collectors.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life. (That’s definitely the case lately.)

Mar
15
2018
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Strix Leviathan raises $1.625M for its enterprise crypto trading platform

Seattle-based Strix Leviathan, an enterprise trading and management platform for crypto assets founded by startup vet Jesse Proudman, today announced that it has raised a $1.625 million seed round led by Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures (yes, that Joe Montana). Other investors include Founders’ Co-op, Future\Perfect Ventures and 9Mile Labs, as well as angel investors like Chris McCoy, Doug Baldwin Jr., Kirby Winfield and Steve Hall.

Prior to founding Strix Leviathan, Proudman was the founder and CEO of Blue Box, a cloud computing startup that was acquired by IBM in 2015. With this new startup, Proudman’s moving into a somewhat different space, but as he told me when the company first launched, he believes the state of crypto is similar to the state of the Internet when he launched his first startup in 1997.

Given his experience in the enterprise world, it’s maybe no surprise that Proudman opted to take an enterprise approach to crypto, too. “Many Institutional investors have struggled to figure out the best path of entry into cryptocurrency markets due to the inherent complexities of the space,” he said. “We’re squarely focused on solving trading and management of cryptocurrencies for these institutions and enterprises. Considering the thousands of individual trading pairs, the plethora of exchanges and the immaturity of cryptocurrency markets, these investors desperately need a platform to simplify their trading initiatives. The markets are ready for an offering like ours and we’re excited to bring it to them.”

To do this, the Strix Leviathan team is building three core features: a data ingestion engine for pulling in relevant data across a variety of sources, algorithmic trading strategies based on this data that others can license, and an order gateway that allows the service to execute trades across many of the popular crypto exchanges.

“I’ve seen the birth of PCs, the internet and mobile,” said Liquid 2 Ventures’ Joe Montana in a statement today. “It’s early, but I think crypto may be the next revolution. Unfortunately, it’s also full of scams. Right now the key is to find the right team that is doing something new and to trust them. We’ve known Jesse for years. He’s proven himself to be trustworthy and adaptive in fast paced markets. Strix should be huge.”

Jan
26
2018
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Strix Leviathan wants to build a better enterprise platform for crypto trading

 We are still in the early days of cryptocurrency — or at least that’s what all of the startups that are jumping into this space NOW hope. And when there’s a gold rush, there’s plenty of money to be made by selling shovels (or ASIC rigs) to miners. It’s no surprise, then, that we are now seeing the emergence of a new class of B2B startups in crypto, too. Read More

Jan
23
2018
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Tradeshift Frontiers innovation lab hopes to drive blockchain adoption in the global supply chain

Today, Tradeshift, a procure-to-pay supply chain management platform for SMBs and enterprise, announced Tradeshift Frontiers.  Frontiers is an innovation lab and incubator that will focus on transforming supply chains through emerging technologies such as distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things. “The use cases we’re working through Frontiers cover… Read More

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