App Annie now tracks Android apps in China

App Annie now tracks Android apps in China

Market researcher App Annie announced today that it will now be tracking over 5,000 Android apps in China. It reports that 10 percent of the top 1,000 apps in China are mobile games.

The Google Play Store is still noticeably absent in China, though it’s currently installed on about 3.6 percent of the phones according to a chart by market analyst Newzoo. Though Google has been rumored to be in talks with NetEase to bring the Play Store back to China, in the meantime, the country has a famously fragmented mobile marketplace for Android users. There is a myriad of different app stores to choose from. Newzoo reports that Tencent’s MyApp dominates, as it’s installed on over 25 percent of users’ phones. After that are 360 Mobile Assistant, Xiaomi App Store, and Baidu Mobile Assistant.

App Annie senior vice president of research Danielle Levitas says that they’ll be tracking Android usage across all the app stores that Chinese users peruse. This will give people a broad understanding of the market.

The mobile market is projected to reach $189 billion by 2020. In China, the amount of money people spend via the mobile ecosystem are huge. These new analytics could help app developers target a market that’s willing to spend a lot of money on mobile. App Annie found that consumers and marketers spent $790 billion in 2016 and estimates that mobile spend will grow to $2.59 trillion in 2021.

“This launch allows App Annie’s customers to understand how consumers are using apps on Android devices in China — building on our existing iOS App Store and iOS usage data for China,” said Levitas in an email. “Given the unique nature of app stores in China — 100-plus Android stores — at this time we are not selling app store estimates for these 100-plus Android stores.”

The new insights will gather data on statistics such as daily and monthly active users, as well as cross-app usage and data usage. The data will also contribute to apps’ global rankings.

“Something particularly interesting we have seen is that consumers in China on average have 40+ apps on their devices vs. 35 on average in U.S.,” said Levitas. “Given the dominance of WeChat and the fact that this one app allows its users to do so many things  — order food, pay someone, social or comms, get a ride, etc — it seems surprising that users in this country use more apps on average than those in U.S. or many Western countries.”

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Metacert to launch cryptocurrency wallet phishing protection for Slack

Metacert to launch cryptocurrency wallet phishing protection for Slack

Security bot Metacert, which protects against cryptocurrency phishing in chat apps like Slack, will soon be able to scan for, and flag, malicious cryptocurrency wallet addresses. The new feature will be available in early October, along with a web browser add-on for the same purpose. The ability to have a wallet to get a wallet verified as safe will be available by the end of the year, founder Paul Walsh told VentureBeat in an email today.

“While some will want to remain anonymous, others might want to be verified so they can increase user trust,” Walsh said.

Metacert security bots first became available last year for the detection of malware, fake news, and pornography for chat apps like Skype and HipChat. Cryptocurrency protection efforts for Slack began four weeks ago.

Since then, Walsh said, the bot has scanned 120 million messages for phishing scams aimed at sucking cryptocurrency out of wallets for currencies like Golem, Omise, Hello Gold, and Coin Fund.

Cryptocurrency phishing attacks on Slack typically come in the form of links imitating the websites of initial coin offerings or popular currencies in order to trick people into sharing access to their wallet.

According to research by blockchain security firm Chainalysis, cryptocurrency owners have lost $225 million in coins and tokens this year, more than half of which was the result of phishing through things like tweets, emails, and Slack messages. More than 30,000 people have fallen prey to attacks, losing $7,500 on average. Most recently, high-profile cases include attempts to steal cryptocurrency online by North Korean hackers.

Walsh first shared an interest in protecting initial coin offerings (ICOs) and addressing cryptocurrency scams in a Medium post in July.

“We haven’t pivoted,” Walsh told VentureBeat. “We actually started off with in-app security, then messaging two years ago, and within messaging cryptocurrency is the role we want to protect, because it’s a real problem.”

Phishing for cryptocurrency on Slack does not always follow traditional phishing strategy, Walsh said.

“We thought they would sent to public channels, but they’re using the Slackbot reminder and the Slack API to send malicious phishing attacks. We didn’t predict that, so we’ve actually had to overhaul our application,” he said.

Last fall the company raised $1.2 million for its security services. Metacert has eight employees and is based in Danville, California.

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3 things you need to know about augmented reality in China

3 things you need to know about augmented reality in China

The potential of AR is firmly into the spotlight for global technology companies. Keen not to miss out on what some say could be bigger than the smartphone itself, Chinese tech juggernauts Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and others are investing heavily in AR through mobile games and advertising experiences. In this piece, we’ll share three key things you should know about AR in China.

AR in China is mobile-first

China’s giant base of mobile users makes the smartphone the dominant platform through which AR is distributed. This mobile-first approach is similar to Apple’s approach with ARKit, Apple’s AR SDK for developers. This may be the fastest way to promote AR usage, as Chinese consumers are already engaged with companies such as Tencent through their smartphones; the company has 938 million monthly active users on its mobile messaging platform, WeChat.

Baidu, for example, has created AR experiences for its suite of apps that collectively reach more than 1 billion monthly active users. Its DuSee AR platform, launched last year, enables consumers to interact with 3D images overlaid onto the real world. Users of its Baidu Search engine can, for instance, view AR effects when they type in certain keywords. Baidu believes AR can be applied to other areas too, such as tourism. Last year it teamed up with the Hubei provincial government to create an interactive 3D map of the Shennongjia travel site, complete with directions to hotels and hiking routes.

Even foreign companies are getting in on the action. San Francisco’s Osterhout Design Group recently partnered with China Mobile to deploy its AR smart-glasses in China to China Mobile’s 800 million users. Because the Chinese mobile and internet markets — the rails on which AR run — are expanding at a rapid rate, we expect the Chinese AR market to ride on their coattails.

AR marketing is already viable in China

Chinese technology companies are already running marketing campaigns via AR experiences. These experiences provide incentives for consumers to come into retail stores by placing virtual coupons in shopping areas in China that can be found through AR apps. Take Baidu: The company joined forces with Yum! Brands last year to launch an AR smartphone game to 300 KFC outlets in Beijing. The game incentivized consumers with the offer of winning discounts on meals. They played by scanning stickers on tables in selected restaurants with their smartphones. Baidu said that the game was played 400,000 times within three days of going live.

Both Tencent and Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba have also launched AR smartphone games for China’s Lunar New Year holiday, which enabled consumers to try AR experiences using Alipay and Tencent’s QQ messenger app. Users of both games scanned physical objects with their smartphone cameras to find digital packages containing financial rewards.

Alibaba and Tencent reported that they invested $29 million and $43 million, respectively, on these mobile AR campaigns. While this may seem like an exorbitant sum of cash for a marketing initiative, Tencent was able to acquire 200 million new users for its WeChat communication app in 2014 as a result of a similar campaign.

The Great (augmented) Firewall of China

However, the Chinese government has banned Pokémon Go and similar AR games in the past, citing national security reasons and concerns over consumer safety. A similar ban on Baidu, Tencent or Alibaba’s smartphone games would be a setback to their efforts to speed up consumer adoption of AR in China – although it’s unclear to what extent Pokemon Go was banned due to its status as an app run by a foreign, non-Chinese entity.

One of the most unique features of the Chinese internet sector is that it is tightly controlled by China’s government, which has not shied away from restricting internet services in the past – most notably those owned by foreign companies. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other U.S.-based internet giants have been banned from, or had their services restricted in, China. Any foreign AR company interested in breaking into the domestic Chinese market may be treated in a similar way — that is, not very favorably.

The potential of the Chinese market, however, may prove too tempting to pass up. China’s huge mobile consumer base could entice US-based AR companies, despite regulatory concerns. They would do well, though, to study the struggles of those who came before them.

Michael Park is the CEO and founder of PostAR, a platform that enable you to build, explore, and share augmented realities.

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Oh, the irony: Crypto enables same Ponzi-like behavior it promised to fix | VentureBeat | Commerce

Oh, the irony: Crypto enables same Ponzi-like behavior it promised to fix | VentureBeat | Commerce

The creation and rise of cryptocurrencies can be tied directly to the 2008 financial crisis. Released in 2009, Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology was viewed, and marketed, as a way to stabilize the rampant culture of speculation that plagued Wall Street, particularly with derivative and bundled offerings. But what has taken hold in the cryptocurrency market place in recent years stands in stark contrast to these early utopian promises. Instead, a new batch of nefarious investors are hijacking the technology for their own interests.

The reason blockchain was an effective counter-narrative to the 2008 financial crisis is that the technology works on the presumption that no one can really trust anyone, and the only way to prevent fraud is to make all transactions universally available on a “public ledger.” This concept taps into a libertarian model of self-policing that works around the need for government regulators and major financial institutions.

Since the launch of Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have expanded at a feverish pace. To date, there are over 3,000 variations of blockchain technologies (into which billions of dollars have been invested).

The latest trend in the cryptocurrency market are the initial coin offerings (ICOs), also commonly referred to as “token sales.” ICOs raise funds through a crowdfunding process similar to stock purchasing, where instead of being issued a traditional security, investors purchase a new crypto-coin which is frequently tied, directly or indirectly, to a potential money-making venture. While a small subgroup of tokens, called “utility tokens,” do not possess the economic features of a security, and should not be treated as such by regulators, many other tokens sold in ICOs resemble traditional stock.

These stock-like tokens must be held accountable by a regulatory authority.

I’m bullish on the long-term view of ICOs. They can eliminate the need for companies to engage outside agents to handle financial transactions and money transfers. They also allow companies to avoid exchange rates and transaction fees, as all returns can be paid out through crypto-wallets. Cryptocurrency tokens are transmitted quickly between consumers and businesses. And, by lowering or eliminating extraneous overhead costs, businesses can offer lower initial share costs and open the option of investing to more individuals and at lower initial buy-ins. Most importantly, ICOs could completely revolutionize the existing way consumers and investors perceive basic concepts of company stock, ownership, and valuation.

But like the intrepid housing market presaging the 2008 financial crisis, below the surface of flashy dollar signs is a rather jaundiced reality.

A recent report from Chainalysis, a New York-based firm that analyzes transactions and provides anti-money laundering software, revealed that not only are one out of every 10 ICOs fraudulent, but some 30,000 investors have fallen prey to ICO cybercrime, with losses totaling over $225 million.

Many ICOs are similar to Ponzi schemes. They capitalize on hype and market frenzy, pulling in as many investors as possible to increase the value of the underlying cryptocurrency. Then, just as the value rockets upwards, the initial investors cash out or trade the tokens for other cryptocurrencies, all before the floor collapses beneath them. While the lucky few profit, the last ones out are left holding worthless digital code.

Worse still, there is a fundamental information asymmetry in the crypto-sphere. The major players – those who are plugged into various coin networks and the blockchain – are able to accurately speculate, in nanoseconds, on the ups and downs of an ICO, which leads to drastic price fluctuations, and allows some to function as de facto gatekeepers. This type of pumping and dumping, not unlike hyper day trading, may be a form of insider trading and illegal. But absent regulation enforcement, they can continue this practice unabated.

There is a cruel irony here: The short-sighted, profit-driven, Gordon Gekko-types of the world, now free of the reins of traditional intermediaries and at least temporarily out of reach of government regulators, can enrich themselves on the backs of the very people who turned to ICOs because of their distrust of Wall Street. Instead of addressing these pervasive issues, the gatekeepers will instead proselytize the disruptive potential of ICOs, all the while profiting from such lip service.

The lesson from 2008 is not that regulatory authorities are bad, it’s that they need to be enforced uniformly. Absent regulators, bad actors will penetrate markets and, out of their own self interest, ruin them for everyone else.

There are some signs of hope. The SEC recently issued clarifications. Still, this largely falls short of what is necessary to curtail bad actors. What a regulator like the SEC needs to do is bring stability and integrity to ICOs. This starts by eliminating the scams upfront and ensuring transparency in all transactions. Disclosure laws must be followed; adherence to their guidelines will help democratize investing. The result is that a broader, bespoke class will be able to participate in revenue sharing streams traditionally reserved for high-wealth individuals and institutional investors.

The regulations to achieve these goals are already in place. Perhaps, due to technical and design difficulties, they lack active enforcement at the moment. But the path forward for ICOs is clear. We need a regulator like the SEC to stabilize and mature the cryptocurrency market. This will ensure that investors are no longer being duped by self-aggrandizing gatekeepers and that the benefits of cryptocurrencies can finally be unleashed to the masses.

Justin Bailey is CEO and founder of Fig.

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Why Bitcoin ‘crashes’ twice a week | VentureBeat | Commerce

Why Bitcoin ‘crashes’ twice a week | VentureBeat | Commerce

Maybe it’s the halo effect, but bitcoin is making otherwise rational business journalists go bonkers.

Let’s review a few headlines from this past week:

On LinkedIn, an abundance of such headlines led to the summary:

  • “Bitcoin is tanking again: Here’s why”

With words like Crash! Tank! Dip! Dive! Slide!, you can be forgiven for thinking the bottom’s fallen out of bitcoin. Even articles with less sensationalist headlines, like this one from Bloomberg, still display frightening graphics:

And then you realize that the Y-axis begins at $4,100 and tops off at $4,400. And that the headlines and articles conveniently omit:

  • Normal volatility. Over the summer, there were 21 days when bitcoin either went up or went down by more than 5 percent. That’s almost twice a week! Was bitcoin “crashing” or “soaring” every time? Of course not.
  • Context. Bitcoin began the year at $600; it’s $4,000 today. In the context of this growth, what does “tanking” even mean? Bitcoin could lose 70 percent of its value and still show a 100 percent return on the year.
  • Bitcoin Cash. The price of bitcoin doesn’t factor in forks, like the free Bitcoin Cash distribution holders received last month. Bitcoin cash now trades for $500 per unit, so even if the price of bitcoin falls, holders may still see a gain.

Can you imagine the headlines if cryptocurrency actually imploded: “Bitcoin super-ultra-crashes, for real this time!”

Obsessively reporting on dips and gains, with exaggerated headlines, might have precedence in how stocks are covered, but for bitcoin it’s especially misleading.

Why this approach doesn’t work

The day-to-day price of bitcoin doesn’t matter. Invest in the blockchain if you think it will one day replace gold or power infrastructure. Don’t if you’re looking for stable, short-term gains. Bitcoin is a 0 to 1 bet, closer to a seed investment in a startup than a publicly-traded stock.

Jumpy headlines about price fluctuations help the bad guys. One strategy among bitcoin heavyweights is to wait until bad news hits (like the China ICO ban), then sell off just enough bitcoin to spark a consumer and media panic, then rebuy to inspire a rally. The biggest losers in this scheme are new investors who haven’t been properly educated.

Jumpy headlines also make life miserable for those working in the space. I’m chipping away at an esports blockchain project and, as you can imagine, friends forward me “bitcoin has finally crashed!” articles all the time. My heart skips with every ping.

Cause-and-effect attribution

A narrative pushed this week is that bitcoin lost value because the CEO of J.P. Morgan, Jamie Dimon, called it a “fraud.” You’ll see cause-and-effect attributions like this a lot in cryptocurrency coverage and they’re astonishingly naive. As an example, let’s scrutinize the Dimon claim:

  • Dimon has slammed bitcoin since 2014, so there was nothing new about his remarks.
  • There are many, many celebrity quotes about bitcoin, positive and negative, by people with more clout and fame than Dimon (Warren Buffet? Bill Gates? Al Gore? Mark Cuban? William Shatner?). Every day new ones surface and they might get press, but they don’t trigger mass sales from bitcoin holders.
  • Bitcoin is global. Investors in China and Russia don’t even know what J.P. Morgan is.
  • The crypto community is likelier to cheer Dimon’s naysaying than sell over it. That’s because the entire point of the blockchain is to disrupt financial companies like J.P. Morgan. To them, hearing Dimon rant against bitcoin is like hearing an oil executive badmouth Tesla. It’s validation that bitcoin is doing something right.
  • These attributions never include sources or convincing data analysis, just blind speculation. Why not find one major bitcoin holder who was swayed enough by Dimon’s interview to liquidate their ownership? With the blockchain, you can actually verify their 50,000 bitcoin sell-off. The reason why is because no such person exists.

It’s extremely difficult for the average journalist or observer to track down the causes of cryptocurrency fluctuation. A retired programmer finds an old hard drive containing $100 million in bitcoin. He anonymously cashes out, triggering a butterfly effect. That same week Jamie Dimon criticizes bitcoin. And there you go, a neatly-explained 7 percent “crash.”

The solution

Improving bitcoin media coverage requires nothing special, just common sense: Don’t go overboard on headlines. Don’t obsess over pricing fluctuations if they’re within normal volatility. Don’t blindly attribute causes to every jump or dip. Report on context; if in one week bitcoin rises 200 percent but then falls 20 percent, is that fall significant or just a few people cashing out gains? Visit bitcoin message boards and learn what actually drives movements. Most importantly, stop treating bitcoin like you would a normal stock; it’s fundamentally different (for example, bitcoin is a 24/7 market).

Bitcoin coverage doesn’t have to be positive, there’s a lot wrong with the space, but it doesn’t have to be a circus either.

Adam Ghahramani is a partner at, a cryptocurrency that invests in esports games, events, and teams. Find him at

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Blackmoon Crypto raises $30 million in ICO to ‘bridge crypto universe and traditional investment market’ | VentureBeat | Commerce

Blackmoon Crypto raises $30 million in ICO to ‘bridge crypto universe and traditional investment market’ | VentureBeat | Commerce

The Blackmoon Crypto platform, which touts itself as “a one-stop solution for asset managers to create and manage legally-compliant tokenized funds,” has raised more than $20 million in just one day through an ICO that launched on September 12.

The startup also raised $10 million through a pre-order campaign which started on August 5.

This brings the whole amount raised to some $30 million, secured in Bitcoin (1,147), Ethereum (73,093), and Litcoin (32,914).

Overall, 9,500 paid accounts contributed to the campaign, the company has indicated.

The holders of the Blackmoon Crypto tokens (BMC tokens) will be able to register as “continuous contributors” to the platform and receive a share of all the funds that will operate on the platform. “Continuous contributors” will also have the right to participate in members-only discussions regarding the platform’s strategy and development plan.

Blackmoon expects the total value of assets under management to exceed $1.8 billion by 2022. It is planning to start the token distribution of the first fund, a high-yield fixed income fund in alternative lending, in January 2018.

The company is headed by Oleg Seydak, a prominent figure in the Russian venture scene, and Ilya Perekopsky, former VP and COO of VKontakte, the leading Russian social network now owned by Mail.Ru Group.

How to tokenize investment funds

Operating on Ethereum-based smart contracts, the platform helps investment advisors structure, promote, and maintain tokenized investment funds for their clients.

From technology and infrastructure to legal framework and corporate structuring, Blackmoon Crypto takes care of everything, allowing “any experienced and approved investment manager to create a fund.”

Blackmoon Crypto, the holding company, is responsible for IT, compliance, licensing, and banks partnerships. It also issues the main tokens.

“Setting up the proper investment structure is a costly endeavor. Not all tokenized funds set up a proper structure, which leads to greater regulatory risks for investors,” Seydak explains.

While the majority of tokenized investment vehicles are either fully crypto-oriented or pegged to a tradable asset — like the U.S. dollar or gold — Blackmoon Crypto also provides access to fiat investment opportunities. Thus the platform claims to combine all the benefits of the crypto universe, including decentralization, transparency, and exchangeability with maximized diversification in terms of income sources.

Tokenized funds are supposed to provide investors with higher net returns: “They are more cost-efficient thanks to lower infrastructure and setup costs,” added Sergey Vasin, chief investment officer at Blackmoon.

Seydak believes that the platform can “introduce the industry standard for setting up tokenized investment vehicles,” which may attract individuals and institutional investors of all kinds.

“That’s what the Blackmoon Crypto platform does, paying due attention to regulatory risks and bridging the gap between the fiat and crypto worlds,” he noted.

Flexible regulation wanted

Asked about where and how Blackmoon intends to reach its targets, Seydak previously told East-West Digital News: “We are going to contact with professional asset managers in crypto friendly countries first. We intend to attract managers focusing on alternative investments as well as those looking for new investment tools to widen their addressable markets.”

The platform will abide by each country’s regulation. “But regulation affects our platform depending essentially on investors’ location. At first we’ll target investors from underserved markets with more flexible regulation, providing them with access to more advanced investment markets. Therefore we’ll look for more western managers and investors worldwide,” Seydak said.

Already a competitive market

As tokenized investment vehicles are springing up across the world, Blackmoon Crypto is not the only platform of its kind. Conomi and Melonport are its two closest competitor. Waves, another platform with Russian roots, has got notable traction recently, but is “far from our business model,” Seydak said.

The platform was launched last month by Blackmoon Financial Group, a financial technology and investment management company based in the US, but with Russian roots.

Founded in 2014, Blackmoon Financial Group secured $2.5 million in equity capital from three venture funds (Target Global, A&NN Group and Flint Capital) and several individual investors in October 2016.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2017

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Blockchain startup CrowdWiz puts a decentralized spin on fund management | VentureBeat | Business

Blockchain startup CrowdWiz puts a decentralized spin on fund management | VentureBeat | Business

Cryptocurrencies and ICOs have given hobby investors and speculators the opportunity to make quick gains unheard of in any other investment products. Although, if we’re being honest, more often than not, most people don’t know what they’re doing when buying into these projects. Because, let’s face it, when the due diligence consists of scrolling through a website, and in some cases reading a white paper, it’s really not enough to tell whether a project has strong fundamentals or is a pump and dump scheme.

This is where a startup called CrowdWiz comes in. The Estonia based project wants to use the public Ethereum blockchain to create a transparent suite of investment products based on the wisdom of the crowd.

I regularly read up on most of the ICOs coming out, and some trigger me to take a closer look. CrowdWiz is one that I think has a lot of promise. (Full disclosure: I am not associated with the project or any others I write about.)

CrowdWiz’s concept is that crowds often reach conclusions that are more accurate than those taken by an individual, even if that person is an expert in his or her field. Crowds are supposedly smarter because of their diverse range of views, open-mindedness, and culture of sharing. CrowdWiz’s mission, in the words of the founders, is to “completely democratise the investing process by eliminating intermediaries and placing the power and control where it belongs — entirely into the hands of investors.”

CrowdWiz’s first product will be WizFund, a self-governed crypto fund. Users can create their own funds and, through voting, members will decide how and where the fund should invest. With no central power of authority, there is no fund manager to make decisions on behalf of investors. The wisdom of the crowd determines what the fund’s next investment is going to be. Less experienced investors will be able to join smart investments without having to do the research!

While CrowdWiz isn’t the first project to use blockchain for transparent voting processes, I’m not aware of anyone else doing it with the goal of removing the intermediaries of investment funds.

At first look, Blackmoon Crypto could be seen as a competitor to CrowdWiz, however, Blackmoon isn’t based on crowd wisdom; instead it helps fund managers create and manage their portfolio on the blockchain. ICONOMI and Melonport let users create and manage their own funds, which others again can invest in. They aren’t based on crowd wisdom though.

AICOIN is a more direct competitor, combining AI fund management with crowd wisdom decisions. One difference though, AICOIN manages the fund, while the crowd decides where to invest.

The second stop on CrowdWiz’s roadmap is a decentralized exchange where the crowd decides through voting, which tokens should be listed or removed from the exchange. On the token trading aspect, CrowdWiz will be competing against centralized players like GDAX, Kraken, and Shapeshift, and decentralized exchanges like Etherdelta and OasisDEX; so CrowdWiz is entering a crowded arena. Common for all these exchanges, however, is that they have a long way to go in terms of design and user-friendliness. And since the nature of the blockchain makes it very easy to move your funds between different exchanges, the winner will be the one with the best design and user experience, as well as the most variety of tokens that can be traded.

Further down the roadmap, CrowdWiz’s fund and exchange platforms will be followed by lending, insurance, and real estate products. All of these will be powered by the WIZ token. In addition to giving token holders a share of the profit generated by the entire ecosystem, WIZ will give holders voting rights and access to invest in major crypto assets, ICOs, and other upcoming crypto investment products, which could be anything if we are to believe the promise that everything will be tokenized on the blockchain.

The company is also building an ecosystem that could eventually be home to many crowd wisdom-driven financial services. The team will offer a set of APIs to third party developers who want to build apps that can contribute to the network. These apps can be published in the ecosystem’s own app store and monetized. Facilitating developer collaboration like this is a great way of bootstrapping a network.

For its upcoming ICO in October, the team is asking for $20 million to develop all of this, with every dollar above that going directly into the main fund, i.e. staying in the hands of the investors.

CrowdWiz Ltd. is incorporated as a for-profit company in Estonia. The company’s revenue will come from consulting services to companies using the CrowdWiz platform and from its assets. The team behind CrowdWiz is essentially the team of Krypton Software, which is part of Krypton Capital Group, who, with an R&D team of around 60 people, is focused on delivering enterprise fintech solutions. The company has launched several platforms for trading and investment.

Trond Vidar Bjorøy is head of product development and implementation – Nordics at travel management company ATPI.

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China to create national cybersecurity database | VentureBeat | Security

China to create national cybersecurity database | VentureBeat | Security

(Reuters) — China said on Wednesday it will create a national data repository for information on cyber attacks and require telecom firms, internet companies and domain name providers to report threats to it.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said companies and telcos as well as government bodies must share information on incidents including Trojan malware, hardware vulnerabilities, and content linked to “malicious” IP addresses to the new platform.

An MIIT policy note also said that the ministry, which is creating the platform, will be liable for disposing of threats under the new rules, which will take effect on Jan. 1.

Companies and network providers that fail to follow the rules will be subject to “warnings, fines and other administrative penalties”, it said, without giving any details.

The law is the latest in a series of moves by Chinese authorities designed to guard core infrastructure and private enterprises against large-scale cyber attacks.

In June, China’s cyber watchdog formalized a nationwide cyber emergency response plan, which included the construction of a central response system and mandated punitive measures for government units that failed to safeguard the system.

Earlier this year, the same ministry introduced rules requiring state telecommunications firms to take a more active role in removing VPNs and other tools used to subvert China’s so-called Great Firewall.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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Cryptocurrency chaos as China cracks down on ICOs | VentureBeat | Commerce

Cryptocurrency chaos as China cracks down on ICOs | VentureBeat | Commerce

(Reuters) — China’s move last week to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs) has caused chaos among start-ups looking to raise money through the novel fund-raising scheme, prompting halts, about-turns and re-thinks.

China is cracking down on fundraising through launches of token-based digital currencies, targeting ICOs in a market that has ballooned this year in what has been a bonanza for digital currency entrepreneurs.

The boom has fueled a jump in the value of cryptocurrencies, but raised fears of a potential bubble.

“This is not unlike the dotcom bubble of 2000,” said a partner at a venture capital fund in Shanghai, who didn’t want to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity. “There are a lot of companies raising a lot of money for not very good ideas, and these will eventually be weeded out. But even from the big dotcom bust, you still have gems.”

“One of the reasons regulators stepped in was that the ICO fever extended beyond the traditional crypto community. The timing was an attempt to pre-empt this before it goes into a much broader mass market in China,” the partner said.

Investors in China contributed up to 2.6 billion yuan ($394 million) worth of cryptocurrencies through ICOs in January-June, according to a state-run media report citing National Committee of Experts on Internet Financial Security Technology data.

Pre-ICO roadshows featuring elaborate standing room-only presentations at 5-star hotels drew a diverse crowd, including grandmothers – a likely tipping point for regulators.

The hype and subsequent crackdown came as China focuses on economic and social stability ahead of next month’s congress of the Communist Party, a once-in-five-years event.

Beijing is also waging a broader campaign against fraudulent fundraising and speculative investment, which analysts attribute to China’s underdeveloped financial regulation and lack of legitimate investment options.

While several start-ups said the exuberance had got out of control and they had expected Beijing to act, they said last week’s move panicked investors and caused confusion.

Mi Huijin, for example, said he had just got off a train to Shanghai after closing a deal for his Singpay blockchain start-up when he switched on his phone to a flood of messages about the ban. He summoned the host of a popular live-stream channel to the railway station to calm his followers in a 40-minute broadcast.

“Everyone shouldn’t panic. If you’ve nothing to be guilty of what’s there to be scared of?” he told the roughly 800,000 viewers. “After reviewing the regulations, I feel it’s a good thing.”

Not everyone was convinced. While some comments below his video asked if Singpay would offer refunds, others warned that some users had reported the start-up to police.

China’s position – which differs from regulators elsewhere, who say ICOs may be securities and thus subject to regulation – remains open to interpretation.

Hu Bin, deputy director of the finance institute at the China Academy of Social Sciences, an institution directly under the State Council, or cabinet, has said this is a “stop on ICOs, not a ban. What are we stopping? Illegal ICOs.”

Hu said China recognized there is real demand for ICOs, but wants to prevent them being used for speculation.

“It’s entirely proper for the Chinese government to seek protection for consumers and prevent fraud, (but) confining capital raising to a specific established sector of finance … is to ignore the enormous societal value that blockchain technology can present,” said Alex Bessonov of BitClave, a Silicon Valley-based blockchain company, which, he said, is now discouraging Chinese investors.

Canceled ICOs, Returned Tokens

Li Yuan, CEO of Selfsell, a start-up hoping to build a platform for retail investors, said he had to cancel a planned ICO for last week, and return all pledged coins.

For those who already conducted their ICO, things are even more complicated.

Da Hongfei, founder of Neo, a public blockchain which raised 30 million yuan ($4.65 million) through an ICO last year, said it was extending to next month an offer for participants to return their Neo coins in exchange for bitcoin.

While the government announcement appeared to require all funds be returned to investors, Da said he can’t force people to exchange their tokens as they would lose out at bitcoin’s current rate. Bitcoin traded around $4,350 on Tuesday, according to Bitstamp, down from nearly $5,000 earlier this month.

“We offer the option, but we can’t point a gun at the user and ask them to refund,” Da said.

That said, nearly all the ICO organizers interviewed by Reuters agreed the ICO market was getting out of control and needed change.

More than 100,000 investors acquired new cryptocurrencies through 65 ICOs in January-June – a frenzy that attracted both investors seeking a quick trading profit and individuals and firms able to raise funds with little more than a plan and a website.

“Many people have not been very discerning on whether the project is actually good or bad,” said Daniel Wang, founder of blockchain start-up Loopring, adding he asked Chinese ICO investors to return their tokens, though it’s difficult to recall tokens already trading on the secondary market.

Platforms in limbo

Indeed, the ban has left around five dozen platforms in China – websites that promote and list the tokens, usually in return for money or a portion of the offering, so they can be traded – in limbo.

More than 40, including ICO365 and Bitbays, have shut down or suspended new ICO activity. Some also took their websites offline.

Binance, which said that over 80 percent of its users were based overseas, said it would restrict all Chinese IP addresses from trading.

For those companies serious about raising funds, there are other options.

Xiaoning Li, CEO of VCCoin, said he returned 2,000 bitcoins to investors and was figuring out what to do next. “We have angel investors. We will probably still do an ICO, but have to look at where and how to do it,” he told Reuters.

The co-founder of another platform said they were re-thinking their strategy outside China, and “will shift our focus to markets which are not banning ICOs, but rather trying to put in place higher standards and regulatory supervision” – such as the United States, Canada and Singapore.

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What Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’ tells us about the state of blockchain | VentureBeat | Business

What Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’ tells us about the state of blockchain | VentureBeat | Business

The proliferation of blockchain startups and their mammoth ICOs show there’s a lot of interest in decentralizing applications and services. And though it’s an oxymoron, we’re now seeing a few “centers” of “decentralization” emerging — a handful of cities engaged in serious jurisdictional competition to become the prime innovation hub for blockchain-based technologies.

Places like Dubai, Singapore, and Zug, Switzerland are making efforts to position themselves in the lead, but Zug, known in blockchain circles as “Crypto Valley,” is currently the perceived leader. It is the home for crypto-powerhouses Ethereum, ShapeShift, Xapo, Tezos, Melonport, and Monetas, among numerous others.

With currency so central to blockchain tech and regulation still up in the air, it makes sense that Switzerland would attract a lot of early movers in this space. And Zug has very low tax rates (the fifth lowest among Switzerland’s 26 cantons), a pro-business/growth outlook, and a regulatory environment that allows for the establishment of foundations that can be the designated recipient of ICO contributions. The fact that Switzerland is ranked first in the world for competitiveness and productivity and first in the world for attracting and retaining talent also serve as an advantage.

This combination has spawned an entire ecosystem of supporting entities such as MME, the law firm of choice for many ICOs, and Bitcoin Suisse, which has facilitated over $635 million in ICOs. The local government has even gotten into the act, making it possible for citizens to pay for some services in Bitcoin and recently announcing a Digital ID initiative running on the Ethereum blockchain.

To get a close-up look at how the ecosystem and regulatory environment in Zug is evolving, I took a trip there last month with a group of 34 other blockchain enthusiasts.

Here are some of the key lessons I came away with:

1. If you’re confused by what blockchain means for business, government, and society, you’re not alone. Even the most advanced jurisdiction in the world is still figuring it out. The government and business leaders in Zug are very transparent about the fact that they don’t have all the answers. They are just moving as fast as anyone to figure them out, leveraging the fact that Zug’s cantonal government is fully supportive of the initiatives and very pro-business. Though much was made about the citizens of Zug being able to pay for services with Bitcoin, the reality is that only 12 (that’s right, 12) have actually done so.

2. The Crypto Gold Rush is happening, but mainstreaming is far from a certainty. In Switzerland, business is regulated by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, (known as FINMA), but cryptocurrency companies do not require any specific approval or license. Under that law, cryptocurrencies are assets rather than securities. This makes Switzerland, in general, and Zug because of its established ecosystem, particularly attractive to startups.

At the same time, traditional Swiss banks are still leery. Many of them have felt the sting of foreign, particularly US, legal and regulatory impact in pursuit of “Know Your Customer” (KYC) and “Anti-Money Laundering” (AML) violators. From what we heard, there are approximately five Swiss banks that blockchain startups can consistently rely upon. One expert I spoke to advised somewhat jokingly, “Don’t mention bitcoin” when talking to banks.

3. You need an ecosystem. But that’s easier said than done. It will take an entire range of auxiliary services to support the more agile, more nimble, and flatter organizations of the the future. At the same time, ecosystem builders have to be aware of the constraints of the larger society in which they are located. Switzerland’s immigration policy and high cost of living make it a very challenging place to relocate to and to set up a large business in. Immigration policies are up to each canton, but the numbers are capped, and there’s a waiting list logjam. So, despite its status as a gravitational center for cryptocurrency-based startups, Zug doesn’t currently seem an ideal location for companies needing to onboard a huge workforce.

But that’s where the Crypto Valley Association has stepped in. Founded within the past year, this consortium of 16 founding members includes Thomson Reuters (which has a global innovation hub in Zug), iProtus, Hochschule Luzern, PWC, Inacta, and Consensys. It is led by the former CIO of UBS, Oliver Bussman, and has established working groups on startup onboarding, investments, regulatory policy, and more, all with the goal of simplifying the experience for people and companies looking to set up shop in Zug. At the same time, through their 4-5 events per month and their newsletter, they seek to educate government officials and the larger society about the benefits of becoming a world-class jurisdiction for blockchain technologies.

Why Zug is important to watch

It’s hard to predict how blockchain and decentralization technologies will impact our world. What Zug provides is a microcosm for how business, society, and government interact with each other as this technology makes landfall. Many of the lessons and experiments happening in Zug will be informative to the rest of the world as we begin to encounter the vast changes that crypto will bring.

For more on my recent trip to Zug, you can access the full report (PDF).

Jeremy Epstein is CEO of Never Stop Marketing and author of The CMO Primer for the Blockchain World. He currently works with startups in the blockchain and decentralization space, including OpenBazaar, IOTA, and Zcash.

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