In light of the QuadrigaCX incident, an organization, the Crypto Action Task Force (CATF), is coming together in an effort to build a ‘code of conduct’ for businesses operating in the blockchain industry.
“We want to aggregate the common practices we use every day as the largest organizations & people that have been here the longest.”
The CATF plans to build a framework outlining structure, standardization, and common practices crypto exchanges should be following. The organization is looking to gather input from businesses, leaders, and experts in the cryptocurrency space in Canada, as well as around the world. Canada does not currently have an existing regulatory framework surrounding cryptocurrency exchanges.
Shyft Network, a Canadian company operating in Barbados, is one of the companies leading the task force. Founded in 2017, Shyft is developing a blockchain-based platform that allows users to share private data in a secure manner.
“It’s not about creating regulations that everyone else in the space has to abide by, because the word ‘regulation’ is a very strong one,” said Joseph Weinberg, chairman of Shyft and lead of CATF. “We want to aggregate the common practices that we use every day as the largest organizations and people that have been here the longest.”
The Quadriga incident left a “big, unfortunate stain” on the industry, Weinberg said, also pointing to the Mt. Gox scandal from 2014, where a hacker stole approximately 850,000 bitcoins, (then valued at $450 million USD) from the platform’s hot wallet.
Weinberg said that what the cryptocurrency industry needs to do is lead by example, and prove to the world that it is mature enough to communicate, collaborate, and build standards over the mid-to-long term. He warns that if the industry doesn’t write its own rules, then people who don’t understand the space will write it for them.
“One thing I’ve learned is that if we aren’t the ones involved in the conversation, the conversation is being had without us and it means that what they’re trying to do is not based on experience.”
A proposed code of conduct
The CATF said the code of conduct is still in the works, and that it is currently working towards recruiting global cryptocurrency exchanges and industry leaders to be involved in the project.
“It’s less for the industry on how we operate,” Weinberg explained. “It’s more so about how we better project the message of what the proper way of doing things is to consumers and to incoming people involved in mass adoption.”
Weinberg mentioned that since the crypto space is complex, leaving this to regulators unfamiliar with the industry, could end up with over regulating or regulating areas that don’t need attention.
“[It’s] about how we better project the message of the proper way of doing things.”
Whether the CATF chooses to work with government bodies in establishing a framework or code of conduct is up for discussion. Weinberg said that a universal framework is needed now, before regulations are written differently in every country, “and then you have a huge mess.”
“The intent is to say ‘we are here to help.’ We can’t tell governments what to do,” Weinberg said. “It ultimately comes up to their willingness to come up to the ecosystem to ask for help.”
Over the next month, the CATF will be focused on building an action plan regarding how the framework will work. Weinberg said the goal is to bring in business leaders that are close to Canada, but more importantly, dedicated to the cryptocurrency space, to help build standards and address problems that are affecting consumers.
More education could have prevented Quadriga
QuadrigaCX, based in Vancouver, had formerly been one of Canada’s largest crypto exchanges. The exchange faced ruin when the CEO, Gerald Cotten, died and the company lost access to $250 million in cash and cryptocurrency.
Weinberg said that Quadriga, while tragic, should have been completely avoidable. He maintains that if businesses in the crypto space communicated the correct way exchanges should have been behaving, the Quadriga disaster might have been prevented.
“We never held any money on [Quadriga’s] exchange,” he said. “Ever. And I would have never done that on Quadriga because I could see, the whole time, that those transactions were nefarious. There are no cold wallets. There never was,” he argued.
BetaKit has previously reported on the ever-evolving Quadriga debacle. In the past, it was revealed that Quadriga was storing about $190 million in cryptocurrencies in cold wallets, however, auditors at Ernst & Young found that these wallets have remained empty since April 2018.
“If you knew what Quadriga was doing, how they were operating, you would have never put money into it.”
Last month, crypto and blockchain lawyer, Michael Stephens, spoke to BetaKit about what regulations could have prevented Quadriga. He noted that lack of federal regulations made it easier for a company like Quadriga, which was registered in BC, to get away with some things, especially since it wasn’t considered a securities marketplace.
Stephens said, “It has always surprised me that there really isn’t any sort of governing body for [crypto] exchanges.” He noted that “because there are no standards, or codes of conduct, or regulatory framework for these types of companies to fit into, companies like Quadriga are capable of being run poorly.”
RELATED: QuadrigaCX CEO’s Widow Asks Court to Appoint Chief Restructuring Office
Weinberg expressed his belief that organizations like CATF need to step up to address these issues.
“If I’ve learned anything about building regulations in other countries the last year and a half, it’s that if we don’t stand up now, the government is going to act because they have to, it’s their job,” he said.
Blockchains and open public networks are built to be transparent. Weinberg emphasizes the importance of having a framework that can be easily understood and helps the public to better understand blockchain and cryptocurrency platforms so they can then, in turn, hold companies accountable. He adds that it’s not supposed to be about insider information, people just need to understand what to they are looking at.
“If you knew what Quadriga was doing and how they were operating, you would have never put your money into it,” said Weinberg. “I think that is largely a responsibility for us, as early adopters and business leaders to at least come together and say ‘these are the common practices and these are what consumers and regulators need to understand how we operate.’”
Featured image via Pixabay.
A new Toronto-based enterprise software company, CryptoNumerics, announced today that it has raised a $3.3 million CAD seed funding round, and is launching a free, downloadable version of its AI-powered data privacy analytics tool, CN-Protect.
“Consumers expect better and contextual experiences, but they do not want their privacy to be compromised.”
The funding round was led by 11.2 Capital, an early stage VC firm based in San Francisco focused on investing in enterprise software security, virtual and augmented reality, and healthtech. The round also saw participation from fellow California-based VCs, Lux Capital and Silicon Valley Data Capital. As part of the funding 11.2 Capital’s founder and managing partner, Shelley Zhuang, will be joining CryptoNumerics’ board of directors.
CyrptoNumerics was founded in 2018 by a group of five entrepreneurs, with the goal of ensuring that data is useful and relevant to businesses, while also ensuring consumer privacy is not compromised.
In 2017, Monica Holboke, the company’s CEO, came up with the idea when she was involved with Creative Destruction Lab (CDL). She wanted to help protect the quality of businesses’ data and it was at CDL that she met and drew the attention of her four fellow co-founders, who felt she was trying to solve a really important problem.
Along with Holboke, CryptoNumerics lists among its founders, Ash Munshi former CTO at Yahoo, and current fellow at CDL, Jimmy Fan, a former engineer with Nvidia and BlackBerry, Roberto Cervantes, a founder with a background in businesses analytics, as well as Hassan Bhatti, an entrepreneur having founded a number of companies, who also helped to launch CDL’s quantum machine learning incubator.
The group of five began working together early last year and started developing the idea and business through the University of Toronto lab. They incorporated CryptoNumerics in May 2018.
CryptoNumerics was created with the goal of helping enterprises effectively harness data sets, while still complying with privacy regulations such as HIPAA, the GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in its two products CN-Protect and CN-Insights, which it states help companies comply with regulations “while maintaining data quality for analytics.” The company’s software is geared towards healthcare organizations, and financial service institutions dealing with large, privacy-sensitive datasets.
From left Jimmy Fan, Roberto Cervantes, Hassan Bhatti, and other members of the CryptoNumerics team.
“Today there are few things happening in the world, on one side consumers expect better and contextual experiences, but they do not want their privacy to be compromised as businesses try to provide them better products,” Bhatti told BetaKit.
In an increasingly data-driven economy, businesses often rely heavily on data and understanding and analyzing those datasets. With growing concerns over how that data is being used, government’s are putting in place privacy regulations, like the GDPR and CCPA. And while these regulations are in place to do the important work of de-identifying and protecting personal data, CryptoNumerics argues they also restrict a company’s ability to use data effectively.
RELATED: Facebook Live panel argues GDPR changes how tech companies will approach data
Bhatti argued that, in light of regulations, current de-identification techniques are good at protecting data, but end up reducing data utility or data quality to “completely zero.”
“Current approaches to de-identify data such as masking, tokenization, and aggregation can leave data unprotected or without analytical value,” said Holboke a civil engineer and mathematical modeler with a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College. She noted that the CryptoNumerics’ products use the most advanced anonymization techniques, such as optimal k-Anonymity and Differential Privacy, to protect data, while maintaining data utility.
CryptoNumerics’ product comes at a time when data is becoming more important to business operations, alongside growing concerns over privacy. Bhatti emphasized that this is a growing, billion dollar market, and CryptoNumerics is trying to solve one of its biggest problems.
“Data drives AI capabilities and access to data is crucial for companies to succeed.”
“Data drives AI capabilities and access to data is crucial for companies to succeed and stay competitive, especially in regulated industries. But this need for building better AI should not compromise people’s privacy, which is why CryptoNumerics software is so timely,” Zhuang stated.
CN-Insights, which allows companies to build statistical and machine learning models, is already being used by early enterprise customers, including German-based insurance company Munich Re. Today’s announcement makes available a free downloadable version of the company’s second product, CN-Protect, an AI-powered tool that creates privacy protected datasets.
RELATED: Ontario government seeking consultation on new data strategy, with focus on data privacy
Bhatti explained the company’s decision to make the product freely available stemmed from the desire to give data scientists, privacy officers, and legal teams “the ability to easily ensure privacy while preserving the analytical value of data,” as well as to create overall education about its offerings.
“Our biggest focus is how can we move the industry forward, while making sure that people are thinking about privacy.”
CyrptoNumerics is using the seed funding to grow its engineering team, which it has been expanding over the last six months. It plans to continue hiring engineers and focusing on building outs its R&D team. Bhatti noted that if the company wants to win the market it needs to “continue to equip [the] team with more capabilities on the technical side, because it’s a very competitive market.”
The company also plans to use the funding to grow its marketing strategy and sales pipeline as it brings its software to market. The $3.3 million marks the company’s total funding to date.
“Our biggest focus is how can we move the industry forward, while making sure that people are thinking about privacy, not as a second thought, but as front of mind,” Bhatti said. “A lot of people think privacy is an obstacle, which I don’t think that’s the case anymore. It’s something which is really important to do, but that should not be preventing you from achieving your business goals.”
Images courtesy CryptoNumerics
The Brookfield Institute is announcing a new research project, Employment in 2030, that aims to forecast employment skills that are in demand by the year 2030.
Brookfield said the research will assist Canadians with future-proofing themselves against job disruption and an economy affected by automation and technological change.
“Forecast[ing] which skills will be in demand ten years from now is such an advantage to Canada.”
“Increasingly, Canada requires a more holistic, detailed forecast of in-demand skills, and a distribution of these skills across geographies, industries, and demographic groups in order to navigate the innovation-driven economy,” said Sean Mullin, executive director of Brookfield Institute.
The research’s key objectives include providing a skill set forecast that involves skills and occupations predicted to be in demand in 10 to 15 years. The institute also aims to outline risks and opportunities faced by Canadians across all skill sets, locations, ages, and incomes. Additionally, the research will be used to inform the design of Brookfield’s education and training policies.
“The world of work is changing and so are the skills Canadians need to succeed,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour. “The ability to forecast which skills will be in demand ten years from now is such an advantage to Canada.”
Employment in 2030 will be conducted using a mixed method approach, combining research, insights from experts, and machine learning algorithms to map out how Canada’s skills and employment landscape will change 10 to 15 years from now.
The project is funded by a $1 million investment from the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiative Program and the Max Bell Foundation. The Brookfield Institute is also partnering with Nesta, a UK innovation foundation that piloted a similar study in the UK and the US in 2017.
The institute said this additional research will build on its previous report on the impact of automation, titled, The Talented Mr. Robot: The impact of automation on Canada’s workforce, as well as its Digital Literacy Series, which includes Levelling Up: The Quest for Digital Literacy. In April, the institute launched a digital literacy pilot program to help youth prepare for a digital economy. Last year, Brookfield also released a report surrounding the risks and rewards of automation for Ontario’s workforce.
The insights gleaned from Employment in 2030 will also go towards the work of the Future Skills Centre, a research institution that specializes in how to prepare Canadians for the workforce.
Featured image courtesy Brookfield Institute.
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QuadrigaCX CEO’s widow asks court to appoint chief restructuring office
“In my opinion, direction of these issues can best be provided by a CRO who has access to cryptocurrency expertise,” said Jennifer Robertson, the widow of QuadrigaCX’s deceased CEO.
US mobile bank Chime raises $200 million, valuing its business at $1.5 billion
Wealthsimple today announced its newest product, a mobile app allowing users to buy, sell, and track stocks.
The app is now available across Canada and users are able to buy and sell thousands of Canadian and US-listed stocks and EFTs on the platform. Wealthsimple noted that the app does take commission, a first of its kind for Canada.
“Stock trading can be confusing and unapproachable, so we wanted to build a more accessible experience using the simple.”
“Stock trading can be confusing and unapproachable, so we wanted to build a more accessible experience using the simple, beautifully designed technology we’re known for,” said Mike Katchen, CEO and co-founder of Wealthsimple. “Our approach to investing hasn’t changed, a diversified, low fee portfolio that tracks the market is the best way to grow wealth over the long term. But there is a place for trading stocks too, and we’re excited to offer Canadians a better way to do that.”
Wealthsimple Trade was first announced in August, it stated at the time that more than 8,000 publicly-traded stocks and ETFs listed in Canadian and US exchanges would be available on the app and users could start trading at $1.
“The options for stock trading in Canada aren’t great. Traditional brokerages have high fees, the technology is dated and clunky, and the experience isn’t exactly user-friendly,” Katchen said at the time. “We saw an opportunity to take the simple, human approach we’re known for and apply it to the trading experience.”
Since that announcement, the company states that 130,000 Canadians signed up to trial a pre-launch version of the app and more than 7,000 people tested and provided feedback on the app.
The app itself is being offered by Canadian ShareOwner Investments, a subsidiary of Wealthsimple. Its platform offers unlimited, commission-free trades, no account minimums, a watchlist feature to monitor stocks, and market and limit orders. The app is available on iOS and Android
Wealthsimple noted that ShareOwner is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, and customer accounts are protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund within specified limits.
Earlier this year, the Toronto-based FinTech company launched Wealthsimple Generation, a service specifically for clients who deposit $500,000 or more in their portfolio. It also recently joined forces with online tax filing service, TurboTax, announcing a partnership in preparation for tax season, making it possible to open RRSPs with the online investment platform.
Toronto-based Wattpad, an online community for readers and writers, has announced a partnership and strategic investment with Times Bridge, the global investments and partnerships arm of Indian media conglomerate, Times Group.
Wattpad is not disclosing the amount of the investment, but a spokesperson for the company told BetaKit the partnership will enable Wattpad to receive operational support from Times Group, India’s largest media conglomerate, and expand Wattpad’s presence in India.
“We’re thrilled to work with Times Bridge expand our footprint in the region and create more opportunities for India’s rich literary community to tell their stories, reaching new audiences in India and around the world,” said Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of Wattpad.
“Millions of Indian readers and writers have already found a home Wattpad. We’re excited to create new opportunities for Indian storytellers.”
The partnership is part of Wattpad’s recent efforts to expand its operations in India. Working with Times Bridge, Wattpad plans to grow its local community of readers and writers, establish new strategic partnerships, and create opportunities for Wattpad Studios to work with local partners to turn Wattpad stories into books, TV shows, films, and digital projects. Times Bridge also lists among its investments, Uber, Airbnb, Coursera, Houzz, MUBI, and Smule.
With over 70 million users, Wattpad has offices in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. The company uses machine learning technology to discover and promote some of the 565 million stories on the platform, which are then transformed into books, TV shows, films, and digital projects. Some of Wattpad’s international entertainment partners include iflix, Sony, and Huayi Brothers Korea.
Related: Wattpad lays off 10% of staff as it shifts focus to machine learning capabilities
India is an important market for Wattpad, as the company has seen continued growth in the region. Over 2.6 million monthly users have shared more than four million story uploads. Wattpad already supports 10 languages in India, including Hindi, Tamil, and Urdu.
The deal follows Wattpad’s announcement that Devashish Sharma joined the company as its first country manager for India. Sharma will lead the company’s efforts to expand all aspects of Wattpad in the region, operating out of the city of Mumbai. Last April, the company appointed Dexter Ong as head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, the company’s arm dedicated to developing Wattpad stories into TV shows, movies, books, and digital projects.
“The market in India is really going digital, so we see a great opportunity to increase our community of writers and readers,” Sharma told BetaKit. “Millions of Indian readers and writers have already found a home Wattpad. Times Bridge and The Times Group have an unmatched media and entertainment portfolio, and connections with some of India’s most respected authors and cultural figures. We’re excited to work together to create new opportunities for Indian storytellers.”
In August, Wattpad announced a content partnership with Malaysia-based streaming service iflix to co-produce Wattpad stories for iflix users in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In March, Lau told BetaKit about Wattpad’s push into Asia by leveraging the expertise of Tencent, the largest tech company in Asia that participated in Wattpad’s $61.25 million round in January.
“Wattpad is a bold, proven idea that has changed how audiences around the world create and experience stories,” said Rishi Jaitly, CEO of Times Bridge. “Our investment will advance Wattpad’s mission, and original storytelling, across the Indian subcontinent, unlocking the creativity of many millions along the way. We are delighted to be working with a partner who sees growing creativity, diversity and value across the Indian market.”
The company said along with the recent hire of Sharma, it is expecting to expand its headcount across India. A Wattpad spokesperson said, with a population of 1.3 billion, and over four million story uploads from India alone, the country is well poised to accelerate the company’s penetration into the region.
Image courtesy Wattpad.
The following research provides an overview of how companies are leveraging new and unusual forms of data to deliver more tailored, personalized and predictive services. From facial recognition and biometric sensors to computer vision and machine learning, this report provides innovative examples that showcase how companies are using more affective and cognitive data, collected by tracking and analyzing customers’ emotions, behaviors and preferences, to design high-touch product and service experiences that meet today’s elevated consumer expectations.
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