Bombshell lawsuit reveals drama at Magic Leap, the secretive multibillion-dollar startup backed by Google


Image: Thomson Reuters. Abovitz, CEO of augmented reality startup Magic Leap, waves during the first day of the annual Allen and Co. media conference in Sun Valley


Multi-billion dollar startup Magic Leap, which is building a cutting-edge augmented reality headset, is currently in a legal battle with the engineer who started its first Silicon Valley office.

Court filings reveal new secrets about the company, including a west coast software team in disarray, insufficient hardware for testing, and a secret skunkworks team devoted to getting patents and designing new prototypes – before its first product has even hit the market.

The company believes that Adrian Kaehler and Gary Bradski, two VPs at Magic Leap, tried to rip off its technology and talent to start a new robotics startup.

Kaehler and Bradski, who sued the company for wrongful termination earlier this year,say that Magic Leap unfairly robbed them of their shares in Magic Leap and broke their employment contracts.

Magic Leap countered by suing the pair for misappropriation of trade secrets in Northern California District Court.

While the suit could soon be settled – a settlement conference is scheduled for Friday – documents and emails filed in the case reveal a major disconnect between the Florida-based Magic Leap and its satellite offices in Silicon Valley.


A $4.5 billion startup


magic leapImage: sourceMagic Leap

Magic Leap is one of the most mysterious and hyped startups in tech.

The company has raised a massive amount of venture money – $1.39 billion – from nearly every top technology investor, including Google, Alibaba, KPCB, and Andreessen Horowitz. It has not yet shipped a product, and people who have tried the prototypes are required to sign legal documents that prevent them from discussing them.

Magic Leap’s still unrevealed product will be a set of AR glasses, according to testimony in the lawsuit. The glasses will be attached to a smartphone-sized computer, according to a source with knowledge of Magic Leap’s product.

The highly anticipated augmented reality glasses will superimpose computer images into the real world. (As opposed to virtual reality, which immerses the viewer in a computer-generated world.)

The company was reportedly valued at $4.5 billion in February.

Magic Leap declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Kaehler declined to comment through his attorney. Bradski could not be immediately reached.


Disgruntled employees


Earlier this year, Bradski told Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz that he wanted to form a new startup focusing on cutting-edge robotics with his friend Kaehler, and planned to try to hire Magic Leap employees from its West Coast office. Then in May, the pair found they were no longer Magic Leap employees – or even advisors – and their access to email was cut off.

Then came the dueling lawsuits.

Magic Leap paints Bradski and Kaehler, who worked on software for Magic Leap, as disgruntled employees, even producing an email that Bradski sent to Kaehler in August 2015 from his Magic Leap work email address:

“Like Jobs, R has a reality distortion field. Unlike Jobs, R’s is more like a bad high, just leaves you feeling tired with a vague headache in the morning and is not productive.”

In this note, R likely refers to Rony Abovitz, the CEO of Magic Leap, and compares him unfavorably to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was known for being difficult to work with.

Abovitz says that Bradski and Kaehler were planning to start their startup for a year before they quit. “Dr. Bradski did not tell me what his future plans were going to be, and led me to believe that he was excited about being at Magic Leap,” Abovitz wrote.

Magic Leap’s lawyer, David Lundmark, implies that Bradski wanted more power in the company, and was primarily worried about his personal income, even though he personally chose the location for the company’s Mountain View and Sunnyvale offices.

“Dr. Bradski told me more than once that he did not have confidence in the leadership or processes of Magic Leap,” Lundmark wrote. “Dr. Bradski expressed to me a lack of confidence in the proposition that certain compensation-related milestones, such as a secondary offering and bonus program, were going to happen in a timely manner.”


Jobs reality distortion field

Image: source Public documents

He notes that when Kaehler received his bonuses and liquidated stock in a secondary offering, he put a sticky note on his monitor that said “gone for two weeks.”


Sunshine state of mind


Magic Leap is unusual among high-value tech startups because it’s based in Plantation, Florida, where its CEO, Rony Abovitz, grew up and lives. Most tech startups are concentrated in Silicon Valley, New York, or a handful of other tech hubs like Boston, Seattle, or Austin, Texas.

Bradski had a good reputation before joining Magic Leap – he founded OpenCV, an open-source computer vision library in wide use, and previously founded a robotics startup that was bought by Google. He founded the West Coast office for Magic Leap in 2013, growing it to over 100 employees.

According to Bradski’s testimony, as well as other sources close to the company, the Florida location has made it hard to recruit and retain software talent, especially in artificial intelligence. Bradski claims he had to promise hires not to move them to Florida.

“It was difficult to recruit top people in the deep net field to Magic Leap, since everyone external wanted to live in New York or Silicon Valley, but Magic Leap’s base of operations is in Florida,” Bradski testified in writing. “We lost several deep net hires that I thought would be key leaders because of this.” One of those hires ended up at Google Brain, Google’s artificial intelligence research group, according to the court documents.

Once the Silicon Valley office was established, there was plenty of friction between it and headquarters.

“What is not recognized … is just how many hours I spent in ‘worker therapy’ with so many employees who expressed deep dissatisfaction with the ‘us v. them’ mentality that existed in the way the Florida executives tried to absentee manage the California talent,” Kaehler wrote in testimony.

“From my familiarity with the spectrum of engineering work being done in the company, the majority of the best work was being done on the West Coast,” he continued.

“I spent a lot of time dealing with convincing disgruntled and frustrated employees to stay,” Bradski wrote. One carrot that he used was a Magic Leap-scheduled secondary market stock buy, which would allow employees to turn their options into cash.

In an private email to an investor uncovered by Magic Leap, Bradski explains that he will try to help hire and retain employees at the Mountain View office, but “hell, many are leaving anyhow.”

Sources also tell Business Insider that Abovitz’s attention is primarily focused on Florida operations.

So why is Magic Leap based in Florida instead of Silicon Valley?

One theory, posited by Kaehler: “It seemed to me and was expressed to me by many employees in various language that the East Coast operation existed for the pleasure of senior people who preferred to live in that [income] tax-free state,” he wrote in testimony seen by Business Insider.


Not enough glasses


Magic Leap

Image: A drawing from a Magic Leap patent. Not necessarily what the glasses will look like. source Magic Leap

Access to Magic Leap’s glasses is closely controlled, and testers must sign a legal non-disclosure agreement promising not to talk about them before they can get a demo of how they work.

Magic Leap employees in California don’t have enough prototypes to do their work, according to the suit.

“Through Summer 2014, Magic Leap’s actual hardware team based in Florida seemed to be having difficulties making AR headsets for use by Magic Leap personnel,” Bradski wrote.

He says his personal project could not get started until the company “built enough of its AR glasses for most employees to regularly use them day-to-day.”

“We were hardware starved in Magic Leap West until the day I left,” he writes, and says that at one point he asked Florida for “30-50 more headsets” to get “common headset usage started” at Magic Leap’s West Coast office.

“This hardware has still not arrived as far as I know,” he wrote. In a legal filing, Abovitz says that Magic Leap is completing its manufacturing plant.


A secret skunkworks team



Image: Rony Abovitz emails about the N+1 programsourcePublic documents

Last fall, Magic Leap assigned Bradski to a new skunkworks team.

Other leaders of the “N+1” team include Brian Schowengerdt, founder and Chief Science Officer, and Neal Stephenson, famous sci-fi author and chief futurist at Magic Leap.

We previously reported that Stephenson and Schowengerdt are not located at the company’s Florida headquarters, and work out of a satellite office in Seattle.

“Magic Leap’s N+1 projects look to ‘invent the future,’ by developing the future applications of Magic Leap’s technology,” Abovitz wrote.

According to an email sent by Abovitz, the N+1 team was focused on filing patents, creating prototypes, and potentially publishing scientific papers.

However, Bradski saw the new assignment as something of a demotion, and he complains in the suit that he did not have enough staff underneath him to do these special projects.

Before he left, Bradski focused on building a deep learning team as well as working on embedded hardware for computer vision.

A settlement conference between the two former Magic Leap VPs and the company is scheduled for later this week.


October 26, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
How Blockchain Startups Are Revolutionizing Venture Capital



The decentralization effects of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are hitting the venture capital industry in more ways than one. Whereas the traditional venture capital industry is boring, the crypto-tech industry has become more exciting.

Actually, I see the two models as diametrically opposed: one is a closed market, dominated by command-and-control practices, led by a few rich people on Sand Hill Road. The other is a widely open global market where anyone can play, and where the gains and risks are more evenly distributed.

This has led to a re-thinking of how startups who are operating in the blockchain space can raise money, and it has potential implications that will revamp the relationships that venture capital firms can hope to strike with these startups.

As an investor, advisor or board member, I have been closely associated with a variety of early stage companies that are tackling the innovation explosion around cryptocurrency and blockchain-based models, and have had the fortunate insights of seeing where we might be headed.

The upcoming shifts are encapsulated in the following table, covering nine variables.


VC table

What is new?

Return horizon: Whereas the return horizon for traditional VC funds is squarely in the 7-10 year horizon, we are currently at the beginning of an inflection point in cryptocurrency-led valuations, resulting in much shorter liquidity options for early investors, in the 1-5 year range.

Ownership model: Traditionally, VCs receive preferred shares by buying private equity. With the new models, they can acquire shares and/or tokens/cryptocurrency that have been issued by the startup.

Entry phases: Angel, Seed, Early to Late Stages (A-F) are the known trajectories for conventional startup investments. The new continuum has another progression lingo with it: pre-mine, genesis, initial cryptocurrency offering (ICO), listing on an exchange, or private sale of crypto-tokens directly from the company.

Business model: A traditional startup is typically focused on developing and marketing a tangible product or service. A blockchain-based startup could have a product/service as part of what they are developing, but their stride is best hit when they are also creating a self-sustaining circular economy that is supported by their own currency or tokens, and where there is a transactional loop between earning and spending these tokens within their ecosystem.

Legal structure: Startups typically incorporate as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or any other traditional way according to the corporate laws in their given jurisdiction. In the new environment, the LLC could be creating a base open source technology/protocol, but they will run a proprietary separate business on top of it or adjacent to it (e.g. IPFS and Filecoin), or they could create a valuable ecosystem around it (e.g. Ethereum). In extreme cases, the organization is non-registered and operates as a distributed autonomous organization on the blockchain (e.g. BitNation).

Limited partners mix: The same traditional mix of institutional, high net worth individuals, family offices and funds of funds that typically invest in venture capital funds will be attracted to this emerging segment, only if they are progressive, innovative and forward-thinking, with the ability to allocate discretionary funds under strategic considerations pretexts. In addition, given the more relaxed crowdfunding rules that exist in several jurisdictions around the world, a new venture fund could also get a mix of participation from a publicly crowdsourced segment of investors.

Fund currency: In addition to fiat currency, a new VC fund could also accept cryptocurrency (especially from the crowdsourced segment), because of the frictionless capabilities that exist for accepting cryptocurrencies online. However, it would be prudent to immediately convert these funds into fiat as the initial reference currency for investment vehicles, in order to avoid being caught in cryptocurrency value downturns, and to remove any perceived intent of currency speculation which is outside the mandate of a venture capital fund.

Market approach: The best candidates for this new model will be blockchain startups that are purposely creating new business models, and not supporting existing ones. The reason is that these new business models are more fertile grounds for innovative circular economies, new ecosystems, and new value creation, which are important conditions for success.

The nature of blockchain startups is changing, and this change should be accompanied by an evolution on how they are funded.

A new VC fund with the above characteristics has the luxury of having no baggage within an existing Limited Partners Agreement (LPA) where changes may be hard fought. Instead, these elements would be baked as part of the initial LPA, while properly addressing the legal and compliance considerations.


October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
The future of mobile payments is here, it’s just not evenly distributed


A consumer uses Apple Pay on the Apple Watch at a McDonald’s in Beijing, China.VCG / Getty  


If you’re anything like me, and you’ve made a payment at retail with your smartphone, you’ll feel this is the future of payments. But as the famous quote from William Gibson says, “the future is here. It is just not evenly distributed.” After conducting some research in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, it would be hard to find a more appropriate phrase for mobile contactless payments.

Last fall, the U.S. went through a drastic disturbance in consumer retail stores thanks to the EMV shift, which moved us from swiping our credit cards to inserting them into a terminal and waiting for the transaction to complete. With the average transaction time still taking between five and 10 seconds — down from 15 seconds six to eight months ago, U.S. consumers have had friction added to their checkout process.

It is with this retail experience in mind that we were hopeful, last fall, that mobile contactless payments would take off. Toward the end of 2015, roughly 17 percent of iPhone owners had used Apple Pay, and 7 percent of Android owners had used Android Pay. Part of this had to do with less than 50 percent of the iPhone installed base in these markets having devices that are Apple Pay-capable. An even smaller number of Android-based devices in use are NFC-capable. Here we are a year later, with exponentially more smartphones in the market NFC-capable and, interestingly, not a lot has changed.

When it comes to tap-to-pay terminals, the U.S. is well behind markets like the U.K. and Australia. While we are still in early days with consumers paying with their smartphone in those markets, as well, a majority of consumers there are already using tap-to-pay on a regular basis, using their bank-issued card with an NFC chip in it. We decided it would be interesting to study consumers in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. in order to see the contrast between mature contactless (tap-to-pay) payment markets and one like the U.S. where it is all brand-new.

We asked consumers in the U.S., U.K. and Australia if they have ever used a form of contactless payment, defined as tapping to pay with your bank-issued card or mobile phone.




As you can see, when it comes to contactless tapping to pay behaviors, markets like the U.K. and Australia, with bank-issued cards that have tap-to-pay functionality and the vast majority of merchants accepting tap-to-pay, it paints a very different picture than the U.S. market. Where ~80 precent of consumers in the U.K. and Australia have used a tap-to-pay method, 80 percent of consumers in the U.S. had not. Part of this has to do with minimal acceptance of contactless methods at U.S. retail, compared to many merchants accepting it in the U.K. and Australia.

To further highlight the stark differences of the U.S. market compared to the U.K. and Australia, where a form of contactless payment is a normal transaction behavior, 61 percent of U.S. consumers said they are not that familiar or not familiar at all with any kind of contactless payment method. One solid conclusion from our research is that we still have a lot of educating to do on the U.S. market.

Room to grow for mobile payments

After studying all three markets, what I found most interesting was, first, the disparity between consumers using contactless in the U.K .and Australia and those not using it in the U.S. as outlined above. The second thing that stood out was how all three markets were remarkably similar when it came to usage of mobile contactless payments —meaning using something like Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay.



The chart shows the types of contactless transactions consumers have tried in all three markets. Interestingly, while tapping to pay with your credit/debit card is an established behavior in the U.K. and Australia (more than 50 percent of the market uses this method on a weekly basis), consumers in those markets have yet to fully transition their contactless payment behaviors from their credit/debit card to their smartphone, even though it is accepted almost universally in their country.

When it came to which mobile contactless payment was most popular among those who said they have used their mobile phone to tap and pay, Apple Pay is the most common form of mobile payment, with 62 percent usage share of mobile contactless methods, compared to less than 30 percent for Android Pay and Samsung Pay respectively.

While we are still new to paying for goods and services with our smartphones, the future seems bright. Our research found that consumers who have used Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay had high satisfaction levels with the experience, with speed and convenience the biggest factors in their satisfaction, and a high propensity to use it more often in the future.

Security is still the largest barrier for non-users

The sleeper story for consumers is security. While this happens to be one of the single most important reasons to adopt contactless payments, it is also the one that is least understood by consumers. In all three markets, 40 percent of consumers listed security concerns of adding their credit/debit card to their smartphone as the main reason they have yet to try it, while 29 percent said not trusting the transaction was secure as their main reason.

In an era of heightened awareness of identity fraud, merchant breaches of credit card data and more, it is not surprising security concerns came up time and time again in our study. Yet, a data point that stood out was that 45 percent of consumers stated an increase in willingness to use mobile contactless payments if retailers and banks helped them understand the security benefits of using something like Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay. This was listed as the single biggest thing retailers and banks could do to get them to use mobile contactless payments.

As I analyzed the data of more than 50 questions between all three markets, and the responses of 1,761 consumers, I’m convinced as ever mobile payments are the future. As more banks support it, merchants accept it and consumers understand the security benefits, I’m convinced we will get to an era where paying with our smartphones is the normal and most common behavior. However, our research strongly suggests that it is not consumers standing in the way of adoption. It is retailers and banks that need to make the appropriate moves to bring this safer and more secure way to pay to their customers.


October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Blockchain: what it is, how it really can change the world



Blockchain – the technology behind the bitcoin digital currency – is a decentralized public ledger of transactions that no one person or company owns or controls. Instead, every user can access the entire blockchain, and every transfer of funds from one account to another is recorded in a secure and verifiable form by using mathematical techniques borrowed from cryptography. With copies of the blockchain scattered all over the planet, it is considered to be effectively tamper-proof.

The challenges that bitcoin poses to law enforcement and international currency controls have been widely discussed. But the blockchain ledger has uses far beyond simple monetary transactions.

Like the Internet, the blockchain is an open, global infrastructure upon which other technologies and applications can be built. And like the Internet, it allows people to bypass traditional intermediaries in their dealings with each other, thereby lowering or even eliminating transaction costs.


By using the blockchain, individuals can exchange money or purchase insurance securely without a bank account, even across national borders—a feature that could be transformative for the two billion people in the world currently underserved by financial institutions. Blockchain technology lets strangers record simple, enforceable contracts without a lawyer. It makes it possible to sell real estate, event tickets, stocks, and almost any other kind of property or right without a broker.

The long-term consequences for professional intermediaries, such as banks, attorneys and brokers, could be profound—and not necessarily in negative ways, because these industries themselves pay huge amounts of transaction fees as a cost of doing business. Analysts at Santander InnoVentures, for example, have estimated that by 2022, blockchain technology could save banks more $20 billion annually in costs.

Some 50 big-name banks have announced blockchain initiatives. Investors have poured more than $1 billion in the past year into start-ups formed to exploit the blockchain for a wide range of businesses. Tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM and Google all have blockchain projects underway. Many of these companies are attracted by the potential to use the blockchain to address the privacy and security problems that continue to plague Internet commerce.

Because blockchain transactions are recorded using public and private keys—long strings of characters that are unreadable by humans—people can choose to remain anonymous while enabling third parties to verify that they shook, digitally, on an agreement. And not just people: an institution can use the blockchain to store public records and binding promises. Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., for example, have shown how drug companies could be required to add detailed descriptions of their upcoming clinical drug trials to the blockchain. This would prevent the companies from later moving the goalposts if the trial did not pan out as anticipated, an all-too-common tactic. In London, mayoral candidate George Galloway has proposed putting the city’s annual budget on the blockchain ledger to foster collective auditing by citizens.

Perhaps the most encouraging benefit of blockchain technology is the incentive it creates for participants to work honestly where rules apply equally to all. Bitcoin did lead to some famous abuses in trading of contraband, and some nefarious applications of blockchain technology are probably inevitable. The technology doesn’t make theft impossible, just harder. But as an infrastructure that improves society’s public records repository and reinforces representative and participatory legal and governance systems, blockchain technology has the potential to enhance privacy, security and freedom of conveyance of data—which surely ranks up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

[World Economic Forum]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
Blockchain Can Disrupt the Disruptors in Uber and AirBnb



A blockchain is precisely designed to solve the problem that arises when the sharing economy attempts to expand its  system for recording and enforcing who owns what when the thing being owned is granular and fast-moving, a programmer, blockchain expert and widely known economics blogger, has told The Guardian.

Steve Randy Waldman says blockchain is a different way of keeping track of a normative set of information, making the storage of information in multiple copies and distributed across all the nodes of a network instead of in one central location – the county records office, say, or Airbnb’s database.




Uber and Airbnb are two of the few “sharing” startups that have hit it big. They represent the sharing economy which made it possible for smartphones to give consumers seeking new ways to save and workers looking for new ways to earn new ways to transact. They disrupted the slow ownership system under capitalism’s core requirements in a stable property regime. Ownership of real estate is recorded by a county records office; owned cars recorded by a state agency. These involve a lot of paperwork and labor on its own. Enforcing ownership requires more paperwork and labor.

Yet, the high fixed costs of the traditional property regime presents the sharing economy with certain challenges. As a result, sharing companies end up keeping necessary information themselves: a database at Airbnb or Zipcar holds the record of rentals instead of the government. These databases require plenty of labor of their own to build and maintain.

There comes the smart contract which gives blockchain the power to not only record property rights but enforce them. Once deployed, a dozen lines of computer code can fulfill the same role as the county records office, the courts and the police. Waldman explains: You can have “the function of a trusted bureaucracy without the expense of putting together a trusted bureaucracy.” You can also cut out the middleman who extracts a fee for coordinating the transaction: theoretically, your home rental could now involve only the homeowner and the renter, bypassing Airbnb.

Blockchain is viewed as capable of helping to democratize the sharing economy by making it cheaper to create and operate a platform. It could enable what a company such as Uber does to coordinate a transaction be performed by self-executing smart contracts while others could be performed at lower cost by a variety of small competing providers.

This might make it easier for workers to form cooperatives that have the capacity to compete against the VC-backed behemoths that dominate the sharing economy which could result in something resembling the “socialized Uber” proposed by economist Mike Konzcal: a viable worker-owned alternative, run for the benefit of the people who actually perform the work and not for a handful of rich investors. [Cryptocoinsnews]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , ,
Top US Banks That Experiment With Blockchain To Release Money Transfer App in 2017



Zelle, a money transfer app that is built on a bank-owned payments network to compete with PayPal, Venmo and Square Cash, will be released next year.

The app’s network connects 19 U.S. financial firms including the country’s biggest banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., and Citi. It will enable users to send money via their phones to recipients who will gain access to the funds immediately.

Cyber attacks

The announcement comes few days after cyber attacks, which occurred on the Internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders, disrupted PayPal, Twitter, Spotify, some businesses hosted by Amazon Inc and other sites. They are all customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

PayPal said it experienced some service disruptions due to the cyber attack which prevented some of its customers from being able to pay with PayPal in certain regions, though PayPal was not attacked directly.

Early Warning

The new Zelle person-to-person payment service is expected to rival Venmo, a payments app run by PayPal Holdings Inc. which has become popular with young adults making payments to one another for shared expenses, such as rent and lunch tabs.

The 19-bank consortium is known as Early Warning Services. Early Warning Services operates clearXchange, which earlier this year began connecting banks to allow individuals to send money by email and text message to people with accounts at other banks for their immediate use.

According to Bloomberg, Early Warning says Zelle will be available next year and expected to be accessible to more than 76 million mobile banking customers when it starts.

Banks that are part of clearXchange include Bank of America Corp, Capital One Financial Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co. Some of them have been experimenting with the Blockchain technology which underlies all Bitcoin digital currency transactions.

[The CoinTelegraph]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , ,
ConsenSys, Synechron and BlockApps collaborate on financial services blockchain applications
BlockApps and ConsenSys will be collaborating with SynchronBlockApps
Financial services and technology consultancy Synechron has announced a blockchain collaboration with Ethereum production studio ConsenSys and the BlockApps blockchain.

The collaboration will focus on privacy in permissioned chains, interoperability and scalability issues, via a team of blockchain architects and financial services specialists. Through the collaboration, ConsenSys and BlockApps will gain access to Synechron’s 6,000-person global team of specialised financial services consultants, blockchain developers for hire, and front-end UX and CX design experts. This will allow clients to develop and rapidly scale production-ready blockchain applications, said a statement.

This collaboration follows the launch of Synechron’s blockchain accelerator programme which includes its first six modular applications for trade finance, KYC utilities, payments, smart margins, mortgage finance and processing and insurance claims processing. The accelerators deliver working code that financial institutions can plug into directly in order to accelerate their blockchain development initiatives and be up and running in weeks.

Synechron’s collaboration with ConsenSys and BlockApps provides an opportunity for development which could include accelerators related to total return swaps, call spreads, syndicated loans, bond issuance, tokenised securities and tokenised fiat currencies.

Additionally, ConsenSys will provide Synechron with access to its blockchain application development toolkits and Ethereum ecosystem to achieve unparalleled technical depth in development initiatives. BlockApps will offer its STRATO blockchain infrastructure product, adding further depth to Synechron’s already robust consulting and blockchain application development capabilities.

Faisal Husain, co-founder and CEO of Synechron, said: “While blockchain has the potential to be a transformative technology, financial institutions need highly-customized applications that take into consideration their business operations and unique technical requirements. We’re delighted to be working with ConsenSys and BlockApps.

“To collaborate with them on the next generation of blockchain infrastructure financial institutions will need to progress blockchain adoption. As those changes are made, Synechron will be the first to implement them and make them ready for financial services to accelerate adoption across banks.”

Joseph Lubin, founder and CEO of ConsenSys, said: “ConsenSys is advising providers and financial services firms on how to evolve the technologies to address evolutionary issues like scalability, interoperability and data privacy.

“Synechron will allow us to amplify the speed of adoption of these new technology capabilities as they are introduced to blockchain infrastructures so that their clients are working on the absolute latest blockchain infrastructures. In addition to this bandwidth extension, Synechron’s specialized financial services knowledge has already been a valuable feedback loop so that we are setting our agenda to prioritize how to evolve the technology to the unique needs of the financial services industry.”

Victor Wong, co-founder and CEO of BlockApps, said: “BlockApps continues to deploy within enterprises throughout the world, and we’ve found Synechron to be an ideal partner to help scale and further increase education and adoption of our customisable product. Synechron is a driving force in the financial services technology space, and their understanding of and commitment to Ethereum blockchain solutions continue to show their commitment to bleeding-edge technology.”

[International Business Times]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Cryptocurrency Industry Funding Hits an All Time Low



Cryptocurrency industry has seen a reduction in funding in the recent days.


Bitcoin and Blockchain technology based startups may soon find their fundraising avenues drying up. A recent analysis into the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry has shown a significant dip in the inflow of investments.

The analysis conducted by CB Insights has shown a 16% shortfall in the capital flow into the cryptocurrency industry for the first time since 2012. According to the report, the amount of seed funding received by cryptocurrency based startups has reduced by 60%. The huge fall in seed funding is however compensated by over 100% increase in the total series A funds raised since 2012.

While this report looks a bit shocking at first, it may not be as bad as it looks. The reason for a drop in the amount of seed funding received by cryptocurrency companies may be attributed to the growth of the industry itself. The companies which were in the seed funding stage until now have grown to raise Series A and B investments. This explains the doubling of series A funds this year. It also means that the number of startups emerging in the sector has drastically reduced as well. The fall in a number of new companies entering the cryptocurrency domain will lead to a reduction in the competition, which will allow incumbents to take the technology further at their own pace. This may not be a healthy situation for the digital currency and blockchain technology industry at the moment.

With more mainstream banking, financial and technology companies entering the blockchain domain, the venture capital requirements have gone down in the segment. These companies already have the much-required capital and in-house development teams. The global banking consortium led by R3, Hyperledger project and other individual initiatives by banks and financial institutions are good examples of the changing landscape.

In the current situation, we can expect a continued growth in the development of new cryptocurrency based technologies, which will come from well-established companies and not from startups as it used to until now. [InvestorsEurope]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , ,
We just entered an alarming ‘new era’ of global warming



The Earth permanently passed a global warming threshold last year that alarms climate scientists and has profound consequences for everyone alive today — particularly young people looking forward to the future.According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), observatories around the world found that in 2015 and 2016, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossed the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm), and that this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

This is the highest level ever seen in all of human history and is 144 percent higher than the pre-industrial average. Such a high level is also very likely the highest on record going back to between 800,000 and 15 million years ago, based on various studies.For perspective, scientists have found that previous periods with similar carbon dioxide levels — all of which occurred before modern humans evolved — had far higher global average temperatures and sea levels than today. In some cases, such periods had global average sea levels of 100 feet higher than today.


800,000-year history of carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere, showing the recent spike.

800,000-year history of carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere, showing the recent spike.

Image: Scripps institution of oceanography/mashable



Many scientists think that avoiding dangerous climate change will require getting carbon dioxide concentrations down to 350 parts per million, which will require massive emissions cuts and new technologies to push annual emissions into negative numbers.

While the planet was flirting with the 400 ppm mark on a month-to-month basis at some observatories, it had not yet breached the line worldwide for an entire year until 2015, the WMO found in a report released Monday.

The rate at which greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are accumulating in the air guarantees that growing impacts from climate change, ranging from rising sea levels to hotter heat waves and ocean acidification, will continue to occur and in fact worsen in coming decades.


Carbon dioxide levels in 2016, with various emissions scenarios projected through 2100.

Carbon dioxide levels in 2016, with various emissions scenarios projected through 2100.

Image: Climate Central




This is in part because carbon dioxide can last in the air for thousands of years, which is why environmental advocates and policymakers say we only have one to two decades at most to act before an unsafe amount of climate change is essentially baked into the climate system.

The WMO report found there was a nearly 40 percent increase in the warming effect on our climate (technically known as “radiative forcing”) between 1990 and 2015, due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the air.

Scientists at the greenhouse gas monitoring station high atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii have said that carbon dioxide levels will not dip below 400 ppm for many generations, according to a WMO press release on Monday.


“The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement.

In fact, last year saw the largest annual spike in greenhouse gas concentrations on record.

Part of this sharp annual uptick is due to the strong 2015-16 El Niño event, which caused droughts in tropical areas that normally absorb carbon as so-called “sinks.”

Drier than average weather in such areas, including Indonesia, reduced the ability of tropical forests to suck up as much carbon dioxide as they usually do, and increased the occurrence of forest fires that release carbon dioxide into the air.

“The El Niño event has disappeared,”  Taalas said. “Climate change has not.”


October 25, 2016 / by / in , , ,
How to Tell If Your Business Will Be the Next $1 Billion Company

getty_502817416_115852 CREDIT: Getty Images


Learning what it takes to build a $1 billion company.


In the world of business, unicorns are a venture capitalist’s dream. Startups that are worth $1 billion or more were once exceedingly rare, but have seemingly been popping up everywhere now.

While many entrepreneurs act like unicorns are as random and impossible to predict as going viral, investors are looking for clear signs that a business has the potential to rise to the highest ranks of business valuation.

In 2015, the researchers at Shasta Ventures looked closely at the most well-known unicorn companies, unpacking the patterns they were seeing on the leadership teams, and in the companies overall.

By learning what teams have successfully created unicorns in the past, entrepreneurs can better understand what skills are necessary to create the next $1 billion company.

Here are four things I’ve learned:

1. Know how to work on a team

The vast majority of unicorn companies that Shasta Ventures looked at were not solo ventures. Only 16 percent of the companies reviewed had one founder. The vast majority had two, and slightly less than half had either three or four.

What we can see from this information is that one person alone is unlikely to do all the necessary work to create a business which has the scope and appeal to be worth a billion dollars.

Having a partner is ideal, but more than two partners may muddy the waters. A smaller percentage of unicorn companies had four founders than just one.

The takeaway: If you want to create a $1 billion company, make sure you have a business partner who shares your vision and complements your skills. But keep the initial team small, passionate, and committed.

2. Business school may not be necessary

In certain circles, it is something of a truism that if you expect to be successful in business, you need to have an MBA. Shasta Ventures found that not to be borne out by the numbers.

Just under half of the founders they studied had a BA, slightly more than a quarter had a BS, and only 16 percent had pursued an MBA.

The takeaway: Pursuing a business degree may give you connections and access to incubators that might help your business survive the early years. You might meet up with a business partner or learn more about the ins and outs of the business world there.

But if you’re waiting your brilliant idea on your MBA, don’t. Make your move now.

3. Work experience means more than degree

The vast majority of the founders surveyed had work experience in the field of IT and software before they created their companies. Other popular fields were venture capital, management consulting, and consumer electronics.

While school can be important and can teach you a lot of theory, for most people, there is no substitute for actual lived experience.

While some successful companies are started while founders are in school–Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are all classic examples–many more companies are started when people have left school, spent some time in their industry, and have the expertise necessary to identify a niche that isn’t being served.

The takeaway: Don’t feel like you have to start a company when you’re 18 years old in order to be successful. Learn about the world around you, and how to serve it, so that you can move forward with expertise and experience.

Those connections you might get in business school can also be acquired by participating in your field, blogging, being active on social media, and attending cons and events.

4. You’re in it for the long haul

If your goal for your business idea is to make a billion dollars and then flee the scene, you might want to take a moment to reconsider. As Fortune notes, some 85 percent of unicorn companies cross the mark with their founder still in place as the CEO.

It used to be that the “ideas guy” would drop out once the company became profitable, and go on to their next venture. This is no longer the case for the most profitable companies.

This shift started with Mark Zuckerberg, who managed to retain control of the board at Facebook long after the company went public, no small feat. Since he made this happen, it has become the norm for exciting businesses.

The takeaway: Turning your business idea into a billion dollar company is going to take many years of work, and a lot of time and effort. It is not for the faint of heart, and not for someone who is looking to get rich quick.

But if you have the drive to stay with your company through all the ins and outs of scaling up, you just might be able to make it happen. [Inc]

October 25, 2016 / by / in , , , , ,
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