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Binance pledges to ‘significantly’ increase security following $40M Bitcoin hack

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in articles, Binance, Bitcoin, blockchain, ceo, computing, cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency, digital currencies, phishing | 0 comments

Binance has vowed to raise the quality of its security in the aftermath of a hack that saw thieves make off with over $40 million in Bitcoin from the exchange.

The company — which is widely believed to operate the world’s largest crypto exchange based on trading volumes — said today that it will “significantly revamp” its security measures, procedures and practices in response. In particular, CEO Changpeng Zhao wrote in a blog post that Binance will make “significant changes to the API, 2FA, and withdrawal validation areas, which was an area exploited by hackers during this incident.”

Speaking on a livestream following the disclosure of the hack earlier this week, Zhao said the hackers had been “very patient” and, in addition to targeting high-net-worth Binance users, he suggested that attack had used both internal and external vectors. That might well mean phishing, and that’s an area where Zhao has pledged to work on “more innovative ways” to combat threats, alongside improved KYC and better user and threat analysis.

“We are working with a dozen or so industry-leading security expert teams to help improve our security as well as track down the hackers,” Zhao wrote. He added that other exchanges are helping as best they can to track and freeze the stolen assets.

The real focus must be to look forward, and in that spirit, Binance said it will soon add support for hardware-based two-factor-authentication keys as a method to log in to its site.

That’s probably long overdue and, perhaps to make up for the delay, Zhao said the company plans to give away 1,000 YubiKeys when the feature goes live. That’s a worthy gesture but, unless Binance is giving out a discount code to redeem on the website directly, security purists would likely recommend users to buy their own key to ensure it has not been tampered with.

The final notable update is when Binance will resume withdrawals and deposits, which it froze in the wake of the attack. There’s no definitive word on that yet, with Zhao suggesting that the timeframe is “early next week.”

Oh, and on that proposed Bitcoin blockchain “reorg” — which attracted a mocking reaction from many in the blockchain space — Zhao, who is also known as CZ, said he is sorry.

“It is my strong view that our constant and transparent communication is what sets us apart from the “old way of doing things”, even and especially in tough times,” he wrote defiantly, adding that he doesn’t intend to reduce his activity on Twitter — where is approaching 350,000 followers.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Despite declines for the quarter, Tesla is bullish on its overall energy business

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 in analyst, articles, Elon Musk, Energy, energy storage, gigafactory, renewable energy, solar energy, Solar Power, TC, Tesla, Zachary Kirkhorn | 0 comments

Even as its solar business declined in step with its overall earnings, Tesla is bullish on the prospects for the energy side of its business over the course of the year.

The energy business is an unheralded part of Tesla — overshadowed by its headline grabbing (and much larger) auto exploits — that chief executive Elon Musk thinks will generate an increasing share of revenue for the company over time.

Revenues from its solar power and energy storage business fell by 13% from the fourth quarter 2018 and 21% from a year ago period down to $324.7 million from $371.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $410 million in the year ago quarter.

Solar energy deployments fell from 73 megawatts to 47 megawatts from the fourth to the first quarter, the company said. Those figures were offset by a slight increase in solar deployments.

The company actually introduced a new financing and purchasing model for solar installations in the second quarter — saying in its shareholder letter that residential solar customers can buy directly from the Tesla website, in standardized capacity increments.

“We aim to put customers in a position of cash generation after deployment with only a $99 deposit upfront. That way, there should be no reason for anyone not to have solar generation on their roof,” Musk and chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn wrote in the shareholder letter.

Tesla’s battery storage business was hit as the company shifted units from energy storage to installation in its own vehicles.

“Energy storage production in the second half of 2018 was limited by cell production as we routed all available Gigafactory 1 cell capacity to supply Model 3,” the company wrote in its letter. “Some Gigafactory 1 cell production has been routed back to the energy storage business, enabling us to increase production in Q1 by roughly 30% compared to the previous quarter.”

And Musk thinks that the energy business will grow significantly over the course of the year. “We hope that growth rate will continue and battery storage will become a bigger and bigger percentage over time,” Musk said on an analyst call following the earnings release. Potentially, Tesla thinks its energy business could grow by as much as 300%, Musk said. 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Kindbody raises $15M, will open a ‘Fertility Bus’ with mobile testing & assessments

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in articles, Entrepreneur, fertility, Health, infertility, IVF, Kindbody, Los Angeles, manhattan, New York City, Perceptive Advisors, Recent Funding, right, RRE Ventures, San Francisco, social network, Startups, TC, TrailMix Ventures, ultrasound, United States, Venture Capital, winklevoss capital | 0 comments

Kindbody, a startup that lures millennial women into its pop-up fertility clinics with feminist messaging and attractive branding, has raised a $15 million Series A in a round co-led by RRE Ventures and Perceptive Advisors.

The New York-based company was founded last year by Gina Bartasi, a fertility industry vet who previously launched Progyny, a fertility benefit solution for employers, and FertilityAuthority.com, an information platform and social network for people struggling with fertility.

“We want to increase accessibility,” Bartasi told TechCrunch. “For too long, IVF and fertility treatments were for the 1 percent. We want to make fertility treatment affordable and accessible and available to all regardless of ethnicity and social economic status.”

Kindbody operates a fleet of vans — mobile clinics, rather — where women receive a free blood test for the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which helps assess their ovarian egg reserve but cannot conclusively determine a woman’s fertility. Depending on the results of the test, Kindbody advises women to visit its brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan, where they can receive a full fertility assessment for $250. Ultimately, the mobile clinics serve as a marketing strategy for Kindbody’s core service: egg freezing.

Kindbody charges patients $6,000 per egg-freezing cycle, a price that doesn’t include the cost of necessary medications but is still significantly less than market averages.

Bartasi said the mobile clinics have been “wildly popular,” attracting hoards of women to its brick-and-mortar clinic. As a result, Kindbody plans to launch a “fertility bus” this spring, where the company will conduct full fertility assessments, including the test for AMH, a pelvic ultrasound and a full consultation with a fertility specialist.

In other words, Kindbody will offer all components of the egg-freezing process on a bus aside from the actual retrieval, which occurs in Kindbody’s lab. The bus will travel around New York City before heading west to San Francisco, where it plans to park on the campuses of large employers, catering to tech employees curious about their fertility.

“Our mission at Kindbody is to bring care directly to the patient instead of asking the patient to come to visit us and inconvenience them,” Bartasi said.

A sneak peek of Kindbody’s “fertility bus,” which is still in the works

Kindbody, which has raised $22 million to date from Green D Ventures, Trailmix Ventures, Winklevoss Capital, Chelsea Clinton, Clover Health co-founder Vivek Garipalli and others, also provides women support getting pregnant with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). 

With the latest investment, Kindbody will open a second brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan and its first permanent clinic in San Francisco. Additionally, Bartasi says they are in the process of closing an acquisition in Los Angeles that will result in Kindbody’s first permanent clinic in the city. Soon, the company will expand to include mental health, nutrition and gynecological services.

In an interview with The Verge last year, Bartasi said she’s taken inspiration from SoulCycle and DryBar, companies whose millennial-focused branding strategies and prolific social media presences have helped them accumulate customers. Kindbody, in that vein, notifies its followers of new pop-up clinics through its Instagram page.

In the article, The Verge called Kindbody “the SoulCycle of fertility” and questioned its branding strategy and its claim that egg freezing “freezes time.” After all, there is limited research confirming the efficacy of egg freezing.

“The technology that allows for egg-freezing has only been widely used in the last five to six years,” Bartasi explained. “The majority of women who froze their eggs haven’t used them yet. It’s not like you freeze your eggs in February and meet Mr. Right in June.”

Though Kindbody touts a mission of providing fertility treatments to the 99 percent, there’s no getting around the sky-high costs of the services, and one might argue that companies like Kindbody are capitalizing off women’s fear of infertility. Providing free AMH tests, which often falsely lead women to believe they aren’t as fertile as they’d hoped, might encourage more women to seek a full-fertility assessment and ultimately, to pay $6,000 to freeze their eggs, when in reality they are just as fertile as the average woman and not the ideal candidate for the difficult and uncomfortable process.

Bartasi said Kindbody makes all the options clear to its patients. She added that when she does hear accusations that services like Kindbody capitalize on fear of infertility, they tend to come from legacy programs and male fertility doctors: “They are a little rattled by some of the new entrants that look like the patients,” she said. “We are women designing for women. For far too long women’s health has been solved for by men.”

Kindbody’s pricing scheme may itself instill fear in incumbent fertility clinics. The startup’s egg-freezing services are much cheaper than market averages; its IVF services, however, are not. Not including the costs of medications necessary to successfully harvest eggs from the ovaries, the average cost of an egg-freezing procedure costs approximately $10,000, compared to Kindbody’s $6,000. Its IVF services are on par with other options in the market, costing $10,000 to $12,000 — not including medications — for one cycle of IVF.

Kindbody is able to charge less for egg freezing because they’ve cut out operational inefficiencies, i.e. they are a tech-enabled platform while many fertility clinics around the U.S. are still handing out hoards of paperwork and using fax machines. Bartasi admits, however, that this means Kindbody is making less money per patient than some of these legacy clinics.

“What is a reasonable profit margin for fertility doctors today?” Bartasi said. “Historically, margins have been very, very high, driven by a high retail price. But are these really high retail prices sustainable long term? If you’re charging 22,000 for IVF, how long is that sustainable? Our profit margins are healthy.”

Bartasi isn’t the only entrepreneur to catch on to the opportunity here, as I’ve noted. A whole bunch of women’s health startups have launched and secured funding recently.

Tia, for example, opened a clinic and launched an app that provides health advice and period tracking for women. Extend Fertility, which like Kindbody, helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing, banked a $15 million round. And a startup called NextGen Jane, which is trying to detect endometriosis with “smart tampons,” announced a $9 million Series A a few weeks ago.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Beto O’Rourke could be the first hacker president

Posted by on Mar 15, 2019 in articles, computing, Government, hacker, hacking, hacktivism, president, Security, texas | 0 comments

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has revealed he was a member of a notorious decades-old hacking group.

The former congressman was a member of the Texas-based hacker group, the Cult of the Dead Cow, known for inspiring early hacktivism in the internet age and building exploits and hacks for Microsoft Windows. The group used the internet as a platform in the 1990s to protest real-world events, often to promote human rights and denouncing censorship. Among its many releases, the Cult of the Dead Cow was best known for its Back Orifice program, a remote access and administration tool.

O’Rourke went by the handle “Psychedelic Warlord,” as revealed by Reuters, which broke the story.

But as he climbed the political ranks, first elected to the El Paso city council in 2005, he reportedly grew concerned that his membership with the group would harm his political aspirations. The group’s members kept O’Rourke’s secret safe until the ex-hacker confirmed to Reuters his association with the group.

Reuters described him as the “most prominent ex-hacker in American political history,” who on Thursday announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

If he wins the White House, he would become the first hacker president.

O’Rourke’s history sheds light on how the candidate approaches and understands the technological issues that face the U.S. today. He’s one of the few presidential candidates to run for the White House with more than a modicum of tech knowledge — and the crucial awareness of the good and the problems tech can bring at a policy level.

“I understand the democratizing power of the internet, and how transformative it was for me personally, and how it leveraged the extraordinary intelligence of these people all over the country who were sharing ideas and techniques,” O’Rourke told Reuters.

The 46-year-old has yet to address supporters about the new revelations.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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UC Berkeley’s Ken Goldberg and Michael I. Jordan will discuss AI at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in Anthony Levandowski, articles, Artificial Intelligence, cofounder, colin angle, editor-in-chief, Events, marc raibert, Robotics, TC, TC Sessions: Robotics + AI, TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2019, uc-berkeley | 0 comments

We’re just over a month out from our TC Sessions: Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley on April 18. We’ve already announced a number of marquee guests for the event, including Marc Raibert, Colin Angle, Melonee Wise and Anthony Levandowski. Today we’ve got another exciting panel to unveil and, as an FYI, our early-bird sale ends Friday!

This is our third robotics event, but it’s the first time artificial intelligence has shared the spotlight. Today we’re revealing that two of UC Berkeley’s top names in the space will be sharing the stage to discuss the role of AI in society for a panel titled “Artificial Intelligence: Minds, Economies and Systems that Learn.”

The pair of professors will be discussing how AI grew to become one of modern society’s most ubiquitous and wide-ranging technologies. The panel will also explore where the tech will go from here.

Ken Goldberg is a professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley. He has co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers on automation, robotics and social information. He is the editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering and co-founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media.

Michael I. Jordan is the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Statistics at UC Berkeley. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including computer science, AI and computational biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Early-bird ticket sales end tomorrow, Friday. Book your tickets today and save $100 before prices increase.

Students, grab your discounted $45 tickets here.

Startups, make sure to check out our demo table packages, which include three tickets, for just $1,500.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The next great debate will be about the role of tech in society and government

Posted by on Mar 10, 2019 in articles, Artificial Intelligence, basic income, chief technology officer, Column, economy, Energy, industrial, Lambda School, Obama, online courses, president, quantum computing, social security, United Kingdom, United States | 0 comments

The Industrial Revolution dramatically re-ordered the sociology of politics. In the US, the Populist Party in the United States was founded as a force in opposition to capitalism, wary of modernity. In the UK, the profound economic changes reshaped policy: from the Factory and Workers Act through to the liberal reforms of David Lloyd George, which ultimately laid the ground for the welfare state, the consequences were felt for the whole of the next century.

Today, another far-reaching revolution is underway, which is causing similar ripple effects. Populists of both left and right have risen in prominence and are more successful than their American forebearers at the turn of the 19th century, but similarly rejecting of modernisation. And in their search for scapegoats to sustain their success, tech is now firmly in their firing line.

The risk is that it sets back progress in an area that is yet to truly transform public policy. In the UK at least, the government machine looks little different from how it did when Lloyd George announced the People’s Budget in 1909.

The first politicians who master this tech revolution and shape it for the public goodwill determine what the next century will look like. Rapid developments in technologies such as gene-editing and Artificial Intelligence, as well as the quest for potential ground-breaking leaps forward in nuclear fission and quantum computing, will provoke significant changes to our economies, societies and politics.

Yet, today, very few are even asking the right questions, let alone providing answers. This is why I’m focusing on technology as the biggest single topic that policymakers need to engage with. Through my institute, I’m hoping to help curate the best thinking on these critical issues and devise politically actionable policy and strategy to deal with them. This will help put tech, innovation and investment in research and development at the forefront of the progressive programme. And we do so in the belief that tech is – and will continue to be – a generally positive force for society.

This is not to ignore the problems that surfaced as a result of these changes, because there are genuine issues around privacy and public interest.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 23: Monitors show imagery from security cameras seen at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative on April 23, 2013 in New York City. At the counter-terrorism center, police and private security personel monitor more than 4,000 surveillance cameras and license plate readers mounted around the Financial District and surrounding parts of Lower Manhattan. Designed to identify potential threats it is modeled after London’s “Ring of Steel” system. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The shifts that have and will occur in the labour market as a result of automation will require far more thinking about governments’ role, as those who are likely to bear the brunt of it are those already feeling left behind. Re-training alone will not suffice, and lifelong investment in skills may be required. So too does a Universal Basic Income feel insufficient and a last resort, rather than an active, well-targeted policy solution.

“The first politicians who master this tech revolution and shape it for the public goodwill determine what the next century will look like.”

But pessimism is a poor guide to the future. It ends in conservativism in one form or another, whether that is simple statism, protectionism or nationalism. And so the challenge for those us of who believe in this agenda of harnessing the opportunities, while mitigating its risks is to put this in a way that connects with people’s lives. This should be a New Deal or People’s Budget type moment; a seismic change in public policy as we pivot to the future.

At the highest level this is about the role of the state in the 21st century, which needs to move away from ideological debates over size and spend and towards how it is re-ordered to meet the demands of people today. In the US, President Obama made some big strides with the role of the Chief Technology Officer, but it will require a whole rethinking of government’s modus operandi, so that it is able to keep up with the pace of change around it.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Kheng Guan Toh

Across all the key policy areas we should be asking: how can tech be used to enable people to live their lives as they choose, increase their quality of life and deliver more opportunities to flourish and succeed?

For example, in education it will include looking at new models of teaching. Online courses have raised the possibility of changing the business of learning, while AI may be able to change the nature of teaching, providing more personalised platforms and free teachers to spend their time more effectively. It could also include new models of funding, such as the Lambda School, which present exciting possibilities for the future.

Similarly with health, the use of technology in diagnostics is well-documented. But it can be transformative in how we deploy our resources, whether that is freeing up more front-line staff to give them more time with patients, or even in how the whole model currently works. As it stands a huge amount of costs go on the last days of life and on the elderly. But far more focus should go on prevention and monitoring, so that people can lead longer lives, have less anxiety about ill health and lower the risks of illnesses becoming far more serious than they need to be. Technology, which can often feel so intangible, can be revolutionary in this regard.

In infrastructure and transport too, there are potentially huge benefits. Whether this is new and more efficient forms of transport or how we design our public space so that it works better for citizens. This will necessitate large projects to better connect communities, but also focus on small and simple solutions to everyday concerns that people have about their day to day lives, such as using sensors to collect data and improve services improve every day standard of living. The Boston Major’s office has been at the frontier of such thinking, and more thought must go into how we use data to improve tax, welfare, energy and the public good.

Achieving this will better align government with the pace of change that has been happening in society. As it stands, the two are out of sync and unless government catches up, the belief and trust in institutions to be seen to working for people will continue to fall. Populism thrives in this space. But the responsibility is not solely on politicians. It is not enough for those in the tech world to say they don’t get it.

Those working in the sector must help them to understand and support policy development, rather than allow misunderstandings and mistrust to compound. Because in little more than two decades, the digital revolution has dramatically altered the shape of our economies in society. This can continue, but only if companies work alongside governments to truly deliver the change that so many slogans aspire to.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Y Combinator president Sam Altman is stepping down amid a series of changes at the accelerator

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Accelerator, advisor, articles, Artificial Intelligence, chairman, chief executive officer, Co-founder, Michael Seibel, OpenAI, partner, paul graham, president, sam altman, San Francisco, Startups, Venture Capital, Y Combinator, yc | 0 comments

Sam Altman, the well-known president of the prolific Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, is stepping down, the firm shared in a blog post on Friday.

Altman is transitioning into a chairman role with other YC partners stepping up to take on his day-to-day responsibilities, as first reported by Axios. Sources tell TechCrunch YC has no succession plans. YC’s core program is currently led by chief executive officer Michael Seibel, who joined the firm as a part-time partner in 2013 and assumed the top role in 2016.

The news comes amid a series of shake-ups at the accelerator, which is expected to demo its latest batch of 200-plus companies in San Francisco March 18 and 19. In Friday’s blog post, YC expands on some of those changes, including the firm’s decision to move it’s HQ to San Francisco, which TechCrunch reported earlier this week.

“We are considering moving YC to the city and are currently looking for space,” YC writes. “The center of gravity for new startups has clearly shifted over the past five years, and although we love our space in Mountain View, we are rethinking whether the logistical tradeoff is worth it, especially given how difficult the commute has become. We also want to be closer to our Bay Area alumni, who disproportionately live and work in San Francisco.”

In addition to moving it’s HQ up north, YC has greatly expanded the size of its cohorts — so much so that it’s next demo day will have two stages — and it’s writing larger checks to portfolio companies.

Altman, who joined YC as a partner in 2011 and was named president in 2014, will focus on other efforts, including OpenAI, a research organization in which he co-chairs. Altman was the second-ever YC president, succeeding YC co-founder Paul Graham in 2014. Graham is currently an advisor to YC.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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