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New Startup Pushes Personal Finance Into the Hands of Indian Women

New Startup Pushes Personal Finance Into the Hands of Indian Women

Basis, a Bengaluru-based fintech startup, is hoping to change the look of personal finance for Indian women.

In the USA and other developed countries, up to 50% of adults make investments, and half of these are women. In India, this is not the case, with a mere 3% of Indians investing in the stock market, with figures showing that almost none of these are women. A graduate from the Wharton School in the US has decided to do something about the sorry statistics.

Hena Mehta worked on Wall Street before moving back to India to work at enterprise universal payments solutions Ezetap in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India’s third most populated city and hi-tech hub. Her new project is Basis, an online women-focused personal finance startup. Mehta explained:

“The idea was born out of my own pain point: I realized I wasn’t owning my personal finance and investing decisions, even though I have a prestigious MBA and worked in financial services.”

Her new company has recently benefited from an undisclosed amount of seed funding from India/US-based investors Nitin Saigal, Daniel Jacobs and Dahm Choi, having been successful in receiving a SEBI Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) license recently on 25 February.

Mehta wants to transform financial education and financial decision-making for Indian women in the country empowering them to take more control of their financial futures. She commented:

“In the next few years, we expect to be a full-service personal finance platform serving the financial needs of first-time investors, particularly the Indian women.”

Last year, it was reported that Indian women were investing more in cryptocurrency than men.


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Crypto360 Exclusive: Inheritance, Custody – Crypto Deserves Same Protection as Traditional Assets

Crypto360 Exclusive: Inheritance, Custody – Crypto Deserves Same Protection as Traditional Assets

As the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries mature, firms are beginning to use the technologies to create increasingly sophisticated alternatives to mainstream financial services. Beyond cryptocurrency exchanges, startups have created solutions for cryptocurrency loan services and futures trading, with many expected to see a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in action later this year.

Based in Italy, Crypto360 is one such company offering an innovative finance solution as a digital currency custody provider. The project has two main selling points: 1) it offers a legally compliant platform to administer digital currency inheritance and 2) it provides a custody solution suitable for institutional and retail traders alike.

Ivan Rossi, who works at the company’s front desk, told Bitcoin News:

”We want to give to cryptocurrencies the same protection that traditional assets have on the hereditary front, and we do it in a different way from the competitors without taking possession of the asset.”

Crypto360’s founders claim they were ”not amazed” by other custody solution providers in the market but appreciated that these alternatives confirmed that custody is valid if integrated with the possibility for assets to be handed down in the face of decisive events.

Contractual and conditional custody on the go

The firm provides an ”ad hoc solution” for institutional investors, offering them different contractual conditions from that of other investors. 

A major group of users is expected to be those looking for a way to manage their cryptocurrency for inheritance with full legal compliance. Rossi explained, ”It is compatible with local tax laws because cryptocurrencies are not yet included as goods in the hereditary asset. The Crypto360 service has been conceived as an encrypted custody of private keys and the aspect of succession is an integrative character that makes its sphere of application complete.”

As well as inheritance, clients can assign a designated beneficiary to assume funds in the event of a particular incident that is contractually identified. 

The platform does save a copy of clients passwords but this is protected by a double level of encryption and stored in protected archives. If somehow the account was accessed fraudulently, any request to redeem funds in the account would be met with a request to verify the individual’s identity.

Rossi told Bitcoin News that the security process on Crypto 360 means the usual storage precautions needed to protect your private key does not apply. ”Clients can pin their password up on the wall or store it freely on multiple clouds. He could adopt any duplication and storage solution without countermeasures for the secret protection of the data, all in order to prevent its loss and without the fear that someone can use it,” he explained.

Because Crypto360 securely stores an encrypted copy of clients’ security details, if you lose your password through your own negligence you have not lost access to your account. As the company’s white paper cites, in 2017, as much as 23% of mined Bitcoins had been lost forever due to human error, so this is a way to help prevent client holdings from joining that statistic.

Security is, however, still a huge issue for cryptocurrency traders as compromised exchanges continue to make the headlines. Most recently it was revealed QuadrigaCX was given another 45-day extension for creditor protection, meaning any clients who lost money when the exchange lost control of USD 134 million in cryptocurrency will be unable to begin legal proceedings against the exchange during this time period. The exchange claims it lost control of the funds when its founder, who had sole control of the funds, died suddenly without passing on the private keys.

Rossi stated that Crypto 360 offers a different service to that of cryptocurrency exchanges, also operating with a unique security protocol which means incidents such as that experienced by QuadrigaCX would not happen on their platform. He added, ”It is important for users in the crypto world to understand that it is not safe to hold cryptocurrencies within exchanges. They are at risk of hacking and in the absence of countermeasures aimed at protecting the loss of access to funds, customers will lose their cryptocurrencies.”

How popular will crypto custodial services be?

It is no secret that cryptocurrency prices are not having their best moment. The success of projects such as Crypto360 is dependent on a large enough demand for its services, something directly correlated to the popularity of cryptocurrency and largely market prices also.

As the firm sees it, as the market matures there is a natural selection of projects as there was last year, but it is unlikely that performance similar to that of 2018 are repeated. ”Our vision on the market remains optimistic and we assume that it is a trend that is constantly growing, but in a more natural way that allows it to be consolidated,’ Rossi told Bitcoin News. 

Crypto360 also faces the potential problem of competition as more blockchain firms emerge to offer similar cryptocurrency solutions. Being one of the very first players, however, they are confident they will stay at the top of the game.

”We pride ourselves on being the first to think of a custody solution that keeps the clients’ funds private. It is very likely that the next competitors will be the banks, which as they currently do with the other assets, will keep the cryptocurrencies coming directly into possession,” Rossi affirmed. 

The prediction that 2019 will be the year of the cryptocurrency institutional investor had perhaps the largest consensus of all the year’s forecasts. In Rossi’s view, the time has already arrived: “[Custody soloutions] are a need very felt by the market and there are already large institutions ready to enter this business.”


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Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

The Boston Globe has reported on startup Arwen as one of a growing number of firms seeking to make cryptocurrency exchanges more secure by adding a layer of technology that would enable users to convert one currency to another with more safety.

Two Boston companies, Highland and Underscore, helped startup Arwen get started. The new firm was founded by a Boston University computer science professor and her doctoral student. Their plan is to create an extra layer of tech to protect transactions, based on an “atomic swap”.

This would allow users to swap cryptocurrency from different blockchains, without ever needing to hand over their tokens to an exchange as the mediator, as is the case with most traditional centralized exchanges. Effectively, the exchange matches orders but is non-custodial in the sense that users still retain control over their private keys and funds.

A group venture of capital firms and startups in Boston have identified cryptocurrencies as needing further safety standards to make them more safer. One of these firms, Castle Island Ventures, raised USD 30 million to work on the projects. Castle Island has already invested in six startup companies, other local firms like General Catalyst, First Star Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and Underscore VC.

“The reason we launched the fund is we think a lot of these cryptocurrencies will be investible assets,” Castle Island Ventures founder Matthew Wash commented. “It’s bordering on a joke how immature the infrastructure is — and how dangerous it is… Every time I see one of these exchanges get hacked, or the founder take off with money in some kind of scam, it’s another reminder of how immature this industry is.”

““We’re in the early days,” says Arwen CEO Sharon Goldberg. “But let’s go back to 1999 and using credit cards on the Internet. Nobody wanted to put their credit card number into a website. But you do today, because you trust the encryption. You see that little lock in your browser.”

Goldberg points out the irony of using centralized exchanges to trade decentralized currency; adding that trusting software code is one thing, but trusting a centralized exchange is something quite different.

Arwen launched a sandbox environment for demonstrating the technology last month, and the company is now talking with prospective customers, mostly outside of the US, such as in Japan where exchanges are looking to improve current crypto technology.


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Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

It has been reported that Google is now blacklisting keywords mentioning Ethereum on its Google Ads advertising platform. The first indication of this would-be policy buster by the internet search giant appeared in a Tweet by smart contract auditing startup Decenter before the weekend.

We are seeing a hard stop on Google Ads containing “Ethereum” as the keyword in the last two days. Is anyone else noticing the same change? Where there any new policy changes introduced @GoogleAds? #ethereum

— Decenter (@DecenterTeam) January 10, 2019

The current situation following Google’s initial ban on all cryptocurrency-related advertising last June was revised and updated in September 2018, allowing some businesses to advertise on its platform providing that any ads for cryptocurrency exchanges must be limited to targeting the US and Japan.

Google’s response to Decenter’s Tweet was that clearly, the ad must have been targeting countries other than the US and Japan, thereby resulting in the rejection of the Ethereum Google Ads keywords. When the startup pointed out that they were simply doing smart contract security audits and seeing errors when keying in “Ethereum development services” and “Ethereum security audits”, Google responded:

“Although we wouldn’t be able to preemptively confirm if your keyword is eligible to trigger ads, we’d recommend that you refer to the ‘Cryptocurrencies’ section of our policy on Financial products and services.”

Decenter’s Reddit post explained that the team had tested keywords such as “ethereum smart contract audits” and “eos smart contract audits” and only the EOS keyword yielded advertising as a result of the keyword search.

Reddit’s Ethereum community team came back with their response: “Any of the keywords that contain “ethereum” in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th…”.

A Reddit user put his own case, clearly bemused by Google’s double standards: “Google has various political and economic agendas, and they are quite willing to use their various services to promote their preferences. AdSense and Youtube are notorious for this, but there have been some incidents regarding the play store as well.”


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South Korea Startup, New York Hospital Adopt Blockchain for Data Collection

South Korea Startup, New York Hospital Adopt Blockchain for Data Collection

Data collection using available new technologies continues to benefit from the application of DLT, a fact that a Manhattan hospital is discovering for itself through a new collaboration with blockchain startup Medibloc.

The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), one of the United States’ top five hospitals, cites its project as being one of the first attempts by a major healthcare institution in the country to connect with a blockchain startup in order to create a system of decentralized patient data.

Using blockchain platforms means that only authorized medical professionals can use the patient data, itself secured by sophisticated cryptography and possibly smart contract technology. This also makes it easier for data sharing among health care specialists, assisting with the digitization of healthcare data across networks.

Currently, the MGH gathers its information independently through different bodies such as insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies with no guarantee this information can be transferred securely. This could change if MGH can utilize DLT in the way that it wants to. Synho Do, director of the Laboratory of Medical Imaging and Computation, a joint venture of MGH and Harvard Medical School, commented:

“In collaboration with Medibloc, we aim to explore potentials of blockchain technology to provide secure solutions for health information exchange, integrate healthcare AI applications into the day-to-day clinical workflow, and support [a] data sharing and labeling platform for machine learning model development.”

Medibloc itself was born out of the healthcare industry with both of its founders previously working as industry professionals. As doctors, Kho and Eunsol Lee, brought notoriety to their company from industry players, and also from government officials in South Korea, giving Medibloc added credibility. The main asset the startup brings to MGH is the functionality of decentralized information, which hospitals of this size have not explored to date, still preferring to use multiple databases to store and develop data.

Medibloc had formed several Asian partnerships before its latest American project, with eight medical institutions and 14 tech giants now using their services. Plans to begin operating at MGH in the second quarter of 2019 are underway.


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Swiss Stock Exchange to List World’s First Multi-Crypto Based ETP

Swiss stock exchange SIX, the fourth largest stock exchange in Europe with a market capitalization of $1.6 trillion, has followed up on its commitment made back in June of this year to open its doors to cryptocurrencies. With this announcement, it is about to list the world’s first crypto-based exchange-traded product (ETP).

Exchange-traded products (ETP) are a type of security that is derivatively priced and trades intra-day on a national securities exchange. ETPs are priced so the value is derived from other investment instruments, such as a commodity, a currency, a share price or an interest rate. Generally, ETPs are benchmarked to stocks, commodities or indices. They can also be actively managed funds. ETPs include exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded vehicles (ETVs), exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and certificates. The ETP that is the most popular is the ETF,  securities that track an index, commodity or basket of assets.

SIX, backed by Swiss startup Amun AG, will track Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum. Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin with Bitcoin representing about a half of the ETP’s assets. The break down is XRP 25.4 at percent 16.7 percent in Ethereum, with Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin acquiring 5.2 and 3 percent of the market.

Amun’s co-founder and chief executive Hany Rashwan is certain that as an ETF, the security complies with the same rigorous requirements of traditional ETPs.

Amun AG’s ETP is a branch of the UK based fintech company Amun Technologies who hinted at a crypto ETP last month. Thomas Zeeb, head of securities and exchanges at SIX, sees blockchain-based digital exchanges becoming the status quo within a decade citing cost-effectiveness as a game changer within brokerage, banks, and insurance.

In the US, ETFs have hit a brick wall after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected at least eight proposals in August of this year. The hope is that at least one successful approval on ETF by the SEC would bring a tidal wave of institutional buyers to the market, picking up prices and moving Bitcoin in a long-awaited upward trajectory. For the hopefuls in the market, the track record so far isn’t good.

In August, XBT Provider AB, a subsidiary of CoinShares Holdings Ltd released an exchange-traded note (ETN) called Bitcoin Tracker One in Sweden. Ryan Radloff, CEO of CoinShares Holdings commented at the time:

“Everyone that’s investing in dollars can now get exposure to these products, whereas before now, they were only available in Euros or Swedish Krona. Given the current climate on the regulatory front in the U.S., this is a big win for Bitcoin.”

Experts are now suggesting that Bitcoin ETFs will be a “way bigger deal” than cash settlement Bitcoin futures contracts and a boon to the Bitcoin market moving forward. This move out of Switzerland’s “crypto valley” is seen as another step forward towards this end.


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Islamic Certification for Swiss Firm Opens Middle East Market

A Swiss-based fintech firm has successfully been certified by Islamic scholars, enabling it to trade digital currency in the Middle East.

Sharia law prohibits Muslims from lending money to anybody with the expectation of receiving interest on this amount. It regards fractional reserve lending that the majority of fiat currencies operate with as usury. Cryptocurrencies differ in this respect as they are underpinned by logistics of scarcity, appreciated by those practicing Sharia as it acts similarly to commodity trading such as gold that they adhere to.

With the news earlier this year that cryptocurrencies wouldn’t, in most circumstances, conflict with Sharia Law, the number of fintech companies moving into Sharia-compliant finance has notably increased. The Middle East, with its large Muslim population, has also become a potential hotspot for blockchain development.

The Swiss company X8 AG claims that its Ethereum-based cryptocurrency will address concerns of some Islamic scholars who are often concerned about the religious validity of cryptocurrency’s price volatility and the types of assets behind them. X8 Director Francesca Greco maintains that the fact that their cryptocurrency is backed by a basket of eight fiat currencies and gold should be a convincing enough guarantee. Greco maintains, “The Gulf region is a really good place for financial technology companies because they all want to become hubs for fintech.”

The Zug-based company which has now gained its certification from the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB), an Islamic advisory firm licensed by Bahrain’s central bank, hopes to launch a crypto-exchange that would include a Sharia-compliant component. It has recently had meetings with other exchanges in the region.

This follows an announcement last week that another Islamic financial center, Dubai, was about to get its first cryptocurrency exchange after local media Al Zarooni Group and the Crypto Bulls announced the launch of the Crypto Bulls Exchange. Chairman of the Al Zarooni Foundation, Suhail Al Zaroon, stated:

“This will be the milestone for getting global investments opportunity from all over the globe in UAE, as all financial techs and investors are looking forward in crypto and blockchain industry.”


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Swissquote Bank Adds ICOs to Its Crypto Trading Facility

Innovative online Alpine bank Swissquote, which offers financial and trading services, is now offering ICO-related client services.

Last year Swissquote announced that it had become the first bank to “offer five cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Litecoin, and Ripple,” with BTC available from last July. The new announcement means that clients can participate in initial coin offerings (ICOs). The firm also claims to be, “the first bank worldwide to offer its clients the opportunity to participate in initial coin offerings (ICOs).”  It further stated:

“Clients can purchase coins (also named ‘tokens’) issued by a company directly against Swiss francs, using their trading account. Swissquote takes care of the execution as well as of the custody of the tokens.”

Swissquote’s first listed ICO is Lakediamond, although currently, the option to sell tokens is not yet available. The company, first established in 2015, claims that it is “developing reactors capable of growing ultra-pure diamonds, and exploring potential high-tech industrial applications.”

Swissquote is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and is also a member of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA). It is licenced by the Swiss Federal Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). Other financial institutions based in the Alpine region have been taking an interest in crypto trading services over the past year. Hypothekarbank claims to be the first in the country to provide business accounts to blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. Another financial institution, Zurich’s Falcon Private Bank, had offered crypto asset management services to its clients since last year, but Hypothekarbank became the first to open a company in the fintech sphere.

Recently, with more innovative Swiss banks showing an interest in cryptocurrency trading, the (SBA) has stepped in with an attempt to curb banks from rejecting financial services to cryptocurrency-related companies which have brought complaints of bias suggesting that banks are shutting them out.

The SBA has released a new set of guidelines to banks to create a more cooperative environment in view of many banks’ reluctance to do business in the crypto sector. Earlier this year, the financial director of Zug called for the SBA to make it easier for blockchain companies to meet their banking needs.


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Fake News Site Promotes Crypto Startup with New Zealand PM’s Images

The image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been used as a tool for promoting a crypto start-up via a fake news site.

A local media source reported that sponsored stories had been posted on Facebook using the New Zealand PM’s image with article titles such as “This is where the future lies”, and “New Investment plan for Kiwis”. The former title related to a fake article claiming that the NZ treasury had purchased Bitcoin Revolution, a supposed Bitcoin firm.

It is not an unusual occurrence to have fake news sites use Ardern for promotions, according to a government spokeswoman at the Prime Minister’s office, claiming that the numbers of such occurrences are so frequent they’ve become almost impossible to track. She said:

“We aren’t able to manually or digitally monitor the increasing volume of fake news that fraudulently uses images of the Prime Minister.”

In August, an MP attacked the Prime Minister using a well-known fake news website to make her point, Tweeting an article challenging Ardern to denounce French child abuse laws. The PM showed her dismay at the time that politicians in positions of responsibility were using such sites to air their concerns publicly, arguing:

“We need politicians to make sure that we maintain a standard, that we don’t disseminate misinformation.”

This kind of fake media spin, which uses celebrities to supposedly endorse startups or investment opportunities has also been used to promote a number of cryptocurrency scams in the UK in 2018. British Billionaire and TV personality Alan Sugar recently joined an ever-expanding list of wealthy entrepreneurs whose names have been used in the promotion of cryptocurrency scams.

The New Zealand PM joins a growing list of those being targeted including Bill Gates, Richard Branston, Deborah Meaden and money saving expert Martin Lewis, who is currently pursuing his battle with Facebook in the High Court.

Ardern’s office has reportedly contacted Facebook and asked for the posts removed. The PM said earlier this year that she would expect any of her ministers using fake news sites to post stories to take them down.


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Norwegian Startup Offers Crypto Rewards for Ocean Cleanup

A Norwegian startup has come up with a way of using blockchain to clean beaches via token rewards for recycling.

Wilhelm Myer started by working on a blockchain-based alternative to banking, trying to convince friends that decentralized methods of banking could not only be cheaper but actually safer.

It was when Myer met Simen Knudsen, Nordic Ocean Watch CEO, that he began to formulate an idea which eventually blossomed into his current business. Knudsen broached the subject of cleaning beaches using blockchain and the rest, as Myer would say, is history.

Myer’s company, Empower, has become a unique way of recycling using blockchain. The public, by removing plastic waste to any certified recycling station, is rewarded with waste tokens. The idea draws on a system that has been in operation for some time throughout Norway where plastic bottles can be returned to shops for between 15 and 30 cents a bottle. There are also other incentives through the system for both users and manufacturers, the latter with an environmental tax exemption based on waste quotas.

Myer’s plan is to expand on this, making plastic recycling global phenomena with his first overseas collection point stationed on the Indonesian island of Bali in time for October’s Our Ocean Conference 2018 on 29 and 30 October.

The conference will convene participants from countries across the globe to ensure diverse perspectives from various stakeholders, including governments, commercial sectors, financing entities, scientific communities, civil society organizations, and young leaders. Heads of states, ministers and advocates from various backgrounds will also be invited to influence concrete and actionable commitments to preserve the ocean’s health.

Myer maintains it is just a matter of making picking up plastic an everyday activity, which simply means changing people’s mindsets when it comes to dealing with waste:

“The reason we have a high recycling rate in Norway is that you learn from being a kid that plastic has a value, you can pick it up and buy some candy with it… If we can do something like that in Indonesia, where people just drop plastic, we can give the value back to them.”

Empower wants to “bank the unbanked”, paying an equivalent of USD 1 a kilo for waste in blockchain, enabling those in developing counties to also discover new decentralized ways of banking that they can have control through a wallet:

“Within the plastic that’s part of what we are doing… Because we’ll give collectors a wallet where they can do peer-to-peer trading and hopefully this will bank them at the same time as giving them an opportunity to make revenue.”

Myer, who has had an eclectic career from graduating as a lawyer to buying an oil field and owning a solar company, eventually moved into blockchain last year. He is clearly motivated towards removing power from financial institutions and using blockchain to empower individuals as the company name suggests:

“I liked the disruptive impact it might have on banks,” he says of the technology. “So I came up with this idea of a platform where everyone can get a decent price on an account outside of the banks.”


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