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Prediction Startup Numerai Raises $11 Million in ICO

U.S. prediction market startup and hedge fund Numerai raised $11 million in an ICO to launch its Erasure project.

American prediction market startup and hedge fund Numerai (NMR) has raised $11 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) to launch its project Erasure, Numerai tweeted on March 21.

Introduced in late 2016, Numeraire network provides a blockchain and cryptographic token-based ecosystem for incentivizing anonymous data scientists to create predictive models. Based on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, Numeraire tokens are used in trading market predictions on the startup’s platform.

Numerai founder Richard Craib said that the funds from the recent ICO will be mostly spent on hiring engineers for Erasure, the decentralized unit of Numerai’s marketplace, Coindesk reports.

Announced in October 2018,Erasure is reportedly scheduled to launch later in 2019. Once launched, Erasure will allow users to sell their predictions to any investment fund in the public network via the peer-to-peer InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), and directly connect their crypto wallets to the Ethereum-based marketplace, Craib told Coindesk.

While Numerai-based prediction models are mostly focused on traditional assets at the current stage, the launch of Erasure will enable predictions on any asset, Craib added.

The ICO round was reportedly led by VC and private equity firm Placeholder, and crypto investment company Paradigm, founded by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam.

Following the news, the price of the Nomeraire token jumped almost 19 percent, trading at $5.77 at press time, according to data from CoinMarketCap. The token is exposed to traders on five crypto markets: Bittrex, UPbit, Poloniex, DDEX, and IDEX, and has a market capitalization of $7.7 million.

Recently, Binance Launchpad, the token platform of major global crypto exchange Binance, completed a $4 million sale of Celer Network (CELR) tokens in under 20 minutes.

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Report: Number of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Lobbies Tripled in 2018

Lobbying on blockchain and crypto has reportedly grown on K Street, having tripled over the past year.

The number of lobbies working on blockchain technology issues in Washington D.C. tripled in 2018, politics-oriented news outlet Politico reported on March 18.

The number of entities lobbying on digital currencies and blockchain reportedly grew almost thrice in the course of the past year, reaching 33 projects in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to 12 in the same period of 2017.

Jerry Brito — executive director at the non-profit organization Coin Center that works with Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.), both known for their cryptocurrency-friendly attitude — reportedly suggested that the growth is driven by securities regulation.

In January, Soto stated that most cryptocurrencies should not be regulated under the country’s securities regulator. According to Soto, crypto should be overseen by the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission and Federal Trade Commission — rather than classed as securities under the Securities and Exchange Commission’s charge.

Blockchain companies purportedly face more difficulties when it comes to the technology’s deployment outside digital currencies. According to lobbyist Dina Ellis Rochkind, blockchain firms are still in the early stages of winning allies in Congress. Izzy Klein from Ripple-backed Klein/Johnson Group, which lobbies for the Securing America’s Internet of Value Coalition, said:

“I think that when you have a new technology and new platforms in older and heavily regulated spaces, you need as many legitimate voices and boots on the ground that you can get.”

Last year, major industry leaders such crypto exchange Coinbase, technology startup Protocol Labs, as well as the Digital Currency Group and Polychain Capital, formed the “first” lobbying group representing the blockchain industry in Washington D.C. The Blockchain Association will purportedly represent entrepreneurs and investors who are engaged in blockchain-based projects.

Recently, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican Minority Leader in the United States House of Representatives, said that blockchain can make the Congress a more efficient and transparent place. McCarthy stated:

“Blockchain is changing and revolutionizing the security of the financial industry. Why would we wait around and why wouldn’t we institute blockchain on our own, to be able to check the technology but also the transparency of our own legislative process?”

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Insurance Giant AXA XL Launches Security Token and Crowdfunding Insurance Service

Insurance Giant AXA XL partnered with insurance technology startup Assurely to jointly launch a new insurance product covering equity crowdfunding and security token offerings.

Insurance giant AXA XL and insurance technology startup Assurely have jointly launched a new insurance product covering equity crowdfunding and Security Token Offerings (STOs), according to a press release published on March 6.

The new product dubbed CrowdProtector is designed for issuers and investors, and purportedly protects new online capital formation strategies like equity crowdfunding and STOs. The product also aims increase trust, confidence and safety to potential investors guaranteeing that the issuer is insured. According to Ty Sagalow, CEO of Assurely, the parties have managed to increase underwriting. The releases states:

“CrowdProtector provides Issuers protection against investor complaints and lawsuits as well as serve as a communication to investors that they may get their principal investment returned should the issuer misuse the funds, purposefully misrepresent information in their offering documents, or steal the money.”

In the release, it is noted that until recently, investing in private companies has been available to accredited investors, —  having a net worth of higher than $1 million, or earned income exceeding $200,000 — leaving a large amount of potential investors on the sidelines.

AXA XL is reportedly the second largest insurer in Europe, also providing risk management and reinsurance services to insurance companies globally. In 2018, the company’s net profit was reportedly 2.14 billion euro ($2.42 billion), having fallen by 66 percent from a year earlier. At the same time, the company’s earnings in 2018 rose by three percent, with dividends up by six percent to 1.34 euro ($1.52) per share.

Back in 2015, AXA XL revealed its plans to use Bitcoin (BTC) for remittances in order to streamline payments around the world. At the time, the company stated that many use cases related to Bitcoin had not yet been explored.

As Cointelegraph reported in February, blockchain security firm and crypto wallet service BitGo announced plans to offer crypto insurance through Lloyd’s of London. BitGo Business Wallet clients will purportedly be able to acquire insurance for their digital assets held on BitGo’s Business Wallet service and Custodial offering.

Additional reporting by Adrian Zmudzinski

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Former HSBC & Barclays Hacker to Demo Crypto Security Flaws at SXSW ‘19

A former “ethical hacker” with a number of high-profile institutions plans to host a blockchain security demonstration live at South By South West (SXSW) 2019. According to a press release, Rob Pope, currently of Dogtown Media and formerly a security specialist with HSBC and Barclays, will present on the weaknesses of various encrypted systems associated with crypto.

Along with a live hacking demonstration, the presentation will aim to give the average crypto user tips on how to adequately secure their own digital asset holdings.

Crypto is Secure but Can’t Account for Human Error

The presentation will be titled, “Crypto Crime: How to Steal Cryptocurrency.” It will take place at South By South West (SXSW) 2019, one of the planet’s largest conferences and festivals of film, music, and tech. The event is being held in Austin, Texas between March 8 and 17.

Presenting the demonstration will be Rob Pope, the co-founder of Dogtown Media, a mobile technology company based in Venice Beach, California and boasting an impressive roster of clients – Google, YouTube, Lexus, RedBull, and Citi Bank, to name but a few. Previously, Pope has worked as an “ethical hacker” for Barclays, HSBC, and the London Metropolitan Police Department.

According to the press release, Pope will demonstrate:

“… why cryptocurrency is not as secure as the general public believes.”

Much of the rest of the release details various high-profile exchange hacks. It also highlights the total cost of such cyber criminal acts in recent years.

Although the precise content of the presentation remains to be seen, the wording of the press release implies that the $1.7 billion in stolen cryptocurrency reported last year was down to flaws in the blockchains and encryption methods used when building the cryptocurrencies themselves. Whilst it is true that certain cryptocurrencies have indeed been maliciously comprised previously, there has never been a reported incident of a private key being “hacked” in the purest sense.

Hackers reportedly stole $1.7 billion in crypto during 2018.

Cryptocurrencies are incredibly secure. Unfortunately, humans are often not. If the kind of security vulnerabilities hinted at in the SXSW press release were associated with any of the leading cryptos, there would be no conversation to be had about their security since the entire premise of crypto would have already failed. Hackers prey on human vulnerabilities much more successfully than they do on flaws in now-seriously-battled-tested code, as is the case with Bitcoin.

To illustrate this argue with an incredibly basic example: if you locked your car and left the keys on its roof overnight, can you really blame its security system when you wake up without a car?

Based on these facts, it seems more likely that Pope’s demonstration will be much more about how more traditional hacking tools like key loggers, as well as more modern attacks such as those used in the recent CookieMiner effort to compromise Mac users’ exchange accounts, are being used against crypto holders.

As mentioned, Pope’s presentation will also highlight ways in which users can improve their own security when using digital assets. Such education is crucial if the kind of universal monetary sovereignty promoted by Bitcoin is to one day be achieved.

If you’re at SXSW this week, you can check out Pope’s session at 5pm in the Hilton Austin Downtown’s Salon K on March 15.

Related Reading: Google Security Expert: Crypto is Like Catnip for Cyber Criminals

Featured Images from Shutterstock.

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Major UK Energy Company Acquires Stake in Blockchain Firm Electron

U.K. energy supplier OVO has announced a strategic investment in blockchain energy technology company Electron.

Major United Kingdom energy company OVO has invested in blockchain firm Electron through its recently launched technology division, Kaluza. The development was announced in an OVO blog post published on March 12.

Kaluza —  an intelligent grid technology company that provides software and hardware products to the energy sector — has reportedly made an investment in Electron, a London-based energy tech company that uses blockchain technology. The move aims to facilitate Electron’s deployment of distributed energy trading platforms.

Electron will purportedly use the proceeds of the investment to develop its energy platforms and systems, or its distributed flexibility marketplace. “The development of Electron’s shared asset register will be crucial to supporting the growth of Kaluza and deliver on its mission to securely connect all devices to an intelligent zero-carbon grid,” the post explains.

The new investment from OVO is reportedly the first since Mitsubishi acquired a 20 percent stake in the firm. OVO is reportedly the seventh largest energy supplier in the U.K.

Blockchain has seen multiple applications in the energy sector globally. Earlier in March, Thai petroleum refining firm Bangchak Corporation Public Co. Limited (BCP) began testing a blockchain-based energy trading platform and commercial microgrid. The platform will support the basic electricity needs of an average BCP fuel station in addition to generating, distributing and storing energy for neighboring shopping mall tenants.

Last month, Japan’s solar power supplier Kyocera partnered with LO3 Energy to test blockchain-based virtual power plants (VPP) for improved energy distribution. The test will allow the companies to evaluate the the feasibility of VPPs that promote low-carbon use without fuels or carbon emissions based on peer-to-peer distributed consensus network.

According to recent research from Infoholic Research LLP, the global blockchain in energy utilities market is expected to grow by 60 percent by 2024. The market was assessed to be $210.4 million in 2018, and is expected to reach $3.4 billion by 2024. Infoholic Research predicts the growth at a compound annual growth rate of 59.4 percent from 2018 to 2024.