As we approach virtual New York Blockchain Week (NYBW) taking place May 7-15, 2020, the industry continues to exemplify innovation and leadership in donating to relief efforts for COVID-19. CoinDesk, which runs the Consensus conference, Ethereal Summit, an event held by Consensys, Gitcoin, a mission driven project to grow the open source community, and nonprofit crypto donation platform The Giving Block are delivering a series of intelligent crypto-driven fundraising activities.

The fundraiser will use a method derived from a paper based on Microsoft Principal Researcher Glen Weyl’s “liberal radicalism” ideas and co-written by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Harvard researcher Zoë Hitzig, whereby the mathematical formula results in the largest matching grants going to causes that attract the broadest spread of contributions across the largest number of participants. Citizens make public goods contributions to projects of value to them. The amount received by the project is (proportional to) the square of the sum of the square roots of contributions received. Under the “standard model” this yields first best public goods provision. If this works correctly, nonprofits elevate their impact, crypto donors lower their tax bill and crypto adoption accelerates.

Scott Moore, head of partnerships for Gitcoin said: “So far over $2 million has been distributed to public goods using Quadratic Funding on Gitcoin. We’re excited to continue experimenting with these innovative mechanisms in new ways, especially for charities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donations will be given directly to critical charities serving on the frontline of the global pandemic including Operation Masks, Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, Meals on Wheels, Médecins Sans Frontières, SOS Children’s Villages-USA, The Water Project, International Medical Corps, United Way, Team Rubicon, No Kid Hungry, and International Rescue Committee.

This is not the first initiative from the Blockchain community. In addition to many individuals and companies making donations, The Giving Block announced the start of the #cryptoCOVID19 alliance. Alex Wilson, the executive director, commented “in total, there are over 20 industry partners helping support our efforts, each contributing in a unique way.”

Whether it be donations or technology, the industry is coming together to fight.

 

Article first appeared May 5, 2020 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2020/05/05/innovation-in-crypto-charitable-efforts-for-covid-19

Wash your hands, social distance, isolate!  Humans are doing their part to fight COVID-19, but   the technology side of the story that is currently underreported.  There was a boost last week to Google’s Verily when President Trump mentioned that they were going to be using technology to screen.  As we saw, they were nowhere close to launching such a tool. Verily’s rush to build a COVID-19 screening tool on the fly underscored how tech companies have been forced to improvise to stay in Trump’s good graces.  There’s no way to do this in days, weeks, or even months. The data has never been properly aligned in healthcare, and COVID-19 is exposing this weakness. There are many self assessment mediacal tools however, CloudMedx is one of the only companies that uses crowdsourced data and artificial intelligence (AI) to fine tune and inform doctors’ models to flatten the curve of COVID-19; they have been in development for 5 years.  CloudMedx does this by using AI on data to help both doctors and patients.

The company believes in “Aligning Intelligence” to the 3 Ps in healthcare – Payers, Providers, and Patients to serve their needs. CloudMedx uses AI to enhance existing workflows and generate automated clinical insights, which in turn improve operations, case management, and patient engagement for health organizations.

Supporting some of the top hospitals and payers in the country, CloudMedx integrates natural language understanding (NLU) and deep learning with major EHRs and healthcare organizations nationwide. In the case of COVID-19, this may include predicting surge, length of stays, resource utilization (ICU beds, equipment, etc.), staffing needs, and identification of high-risk individuals based on available data.  Without aligning all the data, you can’t treat people based on the one thing that drives all care, i.e. what happened with the other person who was just like you, had similar symptoms, because you need to do what worked last time again.

For patients, CloudMedx announced that its AI chatbot, AskSophie, is now enabled to help them self-assess for the risk of COVID-19.  AskSophie is a free, online symptom checker that uses guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide patients with the relative risk of contracting the disease based on their location, symptoms, and age. It further provides reference guidelines on what to do if patients are high, medium, or low risk.  AskSophie is available via Medicare.gov and Covid2019.health.  t works similarly to how Waze sources user-provided traffic information. However, instead of real-time traffic information, CloudMedx uses guidelines from the CDC to better inform the  patient about their relative risks, lab centers near them, and having a meaningful and personalized conversation with a doctor. Then, like an Air Traffic Control, it provides the healthcare ecosystem with the location, spread, and impact of the virus, so they can prepare for what’s coming.  This allows patients to be a part of the decision-making process with their doctors while avoiding public interaction as symptoms persist. AskSophie is not intended to provide anything definitive, but rather to provide patients with categories of conditions common to people with similar symptoms for education purposes and to further investigate with their health providers.  In the near future, CloudMedx plans to connect AskSophie to telemedicine providers and provide additional resources to assist patients.

Tashfeen Suleman, CEO of CloudMedx said, “Instead of user-submitted transportation information, we want to gather and organize large volumes of medical information to help patients and healthcare administrators assess this disease together and collectively align care to drive better patient outcomes.”

Doing the right thing for patients is deeply rooted into the ethos of the company and is also the genesis. Six years ago, Suleman’s father went to an emergency room twice complaining of frequent headaches, and twice doctors sent him home with a diagnosis of allergies. It turned out he was suffering from a subdural hematoma — bleeding around the brain. Following the second misdiagnosis, he went into a coma and required emergency brain surgery (he made a full recovery). After trying to get to the root of the inaccurate diagnoses, his family discovered the hematoma was the side effect of a new medication his father had been prescribed a few weeks prior. He lacked physical symptoms like slurred speech and difficulty walking, which normally would have prompted doctors to order a CT scan and detect the bleeding earlier. CloudMedx exists today because of this misdiagnosis.

“We believe healthcare is a fundamental right for everyone, and we are driven to tackle its greatest challenges by aligning intelligent insights to improve care at scale,” said Suleman.  “With enough crowd sourced self-reported data, we can get a better handle of the disease. COVID-19 has exposed that the health system has a data problem. When you are sick, it is all the other sick people who preceded you, from their symptoms and pre-existing conditions to their heredity and location, that enables doctors to ensure you’re properly guided for care. Without this insight, it’s very hard to make the right call about treatment. And that’s why COVID-19 is tricky, because there is no history to work from, and it’s being exacerbated by the speed of which it’s coming, making it impossible to ensure that only people who need assistance can be prioritized and properly cared for.  Healthcare is a village, and with the current pandemic growing in numbers, it becomes paramount to contribute patient data to a broader collaboration with technology companies and healthcare service providers, to join forces and tackle this challenge together.

 

Article first appeared March 18, 2020 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2020/03/18/is-ai-smarter-than-humans-to-flatten-the–curve-of-covid-19-coronavirus

Last week, Sequoia Capital, one of the oldest and most respected venture funds, issued its “Black Swan” memo to its portfolio companies warning them to have enough cash on hand and make decisive decisions to weather the storm that has been the financial, economic and social crisis triggered by Coronavirus. Since then, there has been a debate among venture investors whether to continue to fund, pull out of existing commitments, write “Corona Clauses” in their term sheets, or invest as an opportunity against the drop in other asset classes.

There are many smart investors who are continuing to invest right now. There is still dry powder out there that needs to be invested, just cautiously. It seems like much of the venture business is “open for business” according to Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures. Others are posting about how they are closing deals from start to finish using Zoom and not meeting in person. The technology and investing businesses are used to operating fairly decentralized anyway. It seems as if Coronovirus has just accelerated that trend – and perhaps will make it more permanent.

Historically, startups might find it difficult to raise capital with recession warnings. No matter what the economic circumstances are, there’s always capital for companies that have the product market fit and a strong relationship with a diversified set of customers. Some investors already have been pressing founders to be more mindful of the fundamentals of running a sound business: cut unnecessary expenses to extend cash runway, expand their customer base, be sure to have a dependable board of directors and, at last, become a great storyteller about how their company is successfully solving a problem. Companies should hold off on deploying capital until they understand business drivers that enable them to become category-owning companies offering a defensible product or service.

As Sequoia notes “Google and PayPal soldiered through the aftermath of the dot-com bust. More recently, Airbnb, Square, and Stripe were founded in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis.” Some of the best returning funds also happened in those years.

So what is the case for investing in technology at the earliest stage besides the fact that returns are the best and investors are seeking a long term game now? Early stage pre-revenue tech startups become in relative terms less risky. At the early stage, risk doesn’t change much in absolute terms but changes dramatically in relative terms. If you at normal times evaluate a pre-seed startup risk to be, say, 100x higher than that of a later-stage company, at the time of crisis this could become only 20x. this of course assumes the crisis is bounded in time. If the crisis is long-term other factors come into play, like sharply increased funding risk.

Pre-revenue startups have zero exposure to market, and generally benefit from crises, because they can get cheaper workforce (this assumes employees will still want to join a company with financing risk). If you expect the crisis will take x number of months, and the startup has >x runway, you know it will survive. There are almost no other variables except in the Coronavirus instance, we don’t know x number of months yet.

There is no supplier risk. Compare this with revenue-generating companies. Market demand squeeze makes them shed costs, which is detrimental in the long term. Growing back to the same size will take more time than small companies. They also are more exposed to supplier risks, and systemic economic shocks (lending etc.).

Technology trends are not going to stop moving forward in a crisis – in fact they will accelerate in many areas. Think of the Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and other technologies that are currently being used to assist in the Coronavirus crisis for instance. In China, Blockchain startups popped up to assist this quarter. Innovation is born of necessity. It’s a matter of looking in the right places at the right time.

 

Article first appeared March 13, 2020 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2020/03/13/early-stage-technology-funding-in-the-time-of-coronavirus

Can a Superhero Inspired Game Solve the Climate Crisis?

I sit down with “ecopreneur” Alfie Rustom to learn about his plans to motivate superhero fans to restore climate through gaming.    Bioman’s Forest Garden is a farming simulation game that empowers players to take constructive action against climate change; in both digital and real realities.

What is Bioman™? 

Bioman™ is a new visionary superhero franchise that explores what it means to be human in the 21st century. It evolves our understanding of our relationship with nature and technology. The eponymous novel was unleashed on Earth Day 2018 and was listed by the publishing industry’s gold standard, Kirkus Reviews, as one of the best books of 2018. You can think of it as Avatar meets Spiderman.

Why does the world need another superhero?

The world doesn’t need just another superhero, the world needs a cadre of superheroes that are aligned with a purpose beyond the box office.  A purpose-driven superhero franchise with global reach could help mobilize a global population currently in danger of being paralyzed by eco-anxiety.

Tell us more about eco-anxiety, and how gaming can help?

According to the U.N., we now have less than 11 years to prevent catastrophic climate change.  And, as extreme weather events start sweeping across the globe, worry about the climate crisis is affecting more and more people.  Today, 70% of Americans are “worried” about climate change and 51% feel “helpless.” With no framework for treatment, eco-anxiety is fanning the flames of our global mental health crisis. 

What if a game could be designed that transforms feelings of learned helplessness around climate change into feelings of hope. And gives us the strength to take on the challenge of solving climate change.

We saw a hint of this story potential with James Cameron’s eco-myth, Avatar.  Where we were given a view of what life connected with nature could look like.  I struggle to think of any other media franchise that is doing this.

Sounds great, but what kind of game can alleviate eco-anxiety?

I see eco-anxiety as a form of learned helplessness. Psychologists know that we can transform learned helplessness through setting and achieving goals. This provides a sense of control over outcomes – especially as players begin to meet those goals on a consistent basis.

Games are perfect for this first step.   With gaming being the fastest growing media platform in the world, we can reach the greatest number of people. And games, unlike standard two-hour movies, can be played for years with new content being delivered continuously.

Specifically, in Bioman’s Forest Garden you are a climate refugee in a camp on the edge of a forest devastated by industrialization and climate change. The player has to use robots and drones to transform the dying forest into a biodiverse and bountiful forest garden.

Based on principles of sustainable agroecology the game teaches players how to plant and nurture forest gardens. Players then harvest the plants to craft food, medicine and other goods that are in short supply in the camp.

In addition, we will generate real-world impact through our partnership with Tree Nation. The partnership will allow players to plant real trees through the game and monitor the CO2 offset. CO2 leaderboards will gamify tree-planting.

Finally, the game is social and designed to get players to collaborate in the game to tackle the worst effects of climate change.   We also will offer an opportunity for our players to come together in the real world to volunteer in urban gardening/farming projects.

How will you use blockchain? 

Blockchain will serve as a ledger that maintains ownership of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).  These tokens are attached to individual digital assets within a game.  This allows digital collectible items to be bought and traded with clear provenance of the asset. This eliminates the risk of fraud and provides the potential for digital assets to be used interchangeably between games.

Cryptokitties was the ground-breaking blockchain game that allowed people to buy digital cats — breeding them to create more unique and rare cats. Cryptokitties showed the possibilities of how these assets can be used across games, creating an ecosystem of independent developers building new experiences on top of it.  According to some estimates, the game had 1.5 million users who were responsible for $40 million worth of transactions on its platform. Individual cryptokitties have sold for more than $300,000 a piece.

In comparison, in games like Fortnite, players spend money on digital assets like cosmetic skins, dance moves, etc. that they don’t own. And, if the game shuts down then they will lose all their investment in the game assets. NFTs eliminate platform risk.

Where are you now? 

The game is in pre-production and I’m partnering with one of the top mobile free-to-play game designers in the world. He designed FarmVille and is passionate about permaculture and sustainable farming.  Farmville generated 700 million installs and over a billion dollars in revenue. With that player base and those revenues, we can generate a significant impact.

The movie adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel is in the final stages of development. The former chief creative of DC comics consulted on the script and the film is slated for release on Earth Day 2022.

See more at www.defendnature.com

 

Article first appeared March 4 5, 2020 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2020/03/04/the-new-superheros-theyll-use-gaming-and-blockchain-to-solve-climate

It’s a great time for hard tech female founders!

There have been many women-led businesses who became “unicorns” in the past few months, namely GlossierRent the Runway and now Away.

Great news for female founders! But did you know that the newer, lesser-known female founders in areas outside of beauty, fashion, e-commerce, etc. are also on the rise?

I have been a venture investor for the past 9 years and an entrepreneur before that. I have invested in the areas outlined in my book – Blockchain, AI, VR/AR, and Robotics. I was inspired to write the book after speaking to a large Blockchain focused fund in December. When I asked how many female founders were in their portfolio he asked me if they even existed in these fields. At that moment, I thought it was my moral imperative to show him what he was missing. Of course they do! They just didn’t know how to find each other. So I decided to write “WTF Is Happening? Women Tech Founders on the Rise” to showcase a dozen female founders in these areas and make the business case for investing in them.

The data is overwhelming. Female founders still only receive 2% of venture funding while building companies at a higher rate and then outperforming. As an investor, this represents an alpha-generating opportunity and I wanted more investors to be aware of it. Everyone wants to make money! Women need more capital to build businesses that build future technology. We cannot have new technology that only reflects half the population’s input.

Also, showcasing these 13 women is just a start for getting more women and girls to join. Most of the media coverage on female founders is around fashion, e-commerce, and beauty — not around these technologies because they are newer and not yet “unicorns”. It is exactly because they are newer that there is opportunity for parity and breaking patterns from traditional tech and finance industries.

“We cannot have new technology that only reflects half the population’s input.”

One of the biggest takeaways from writing the book and interviewing a dozen of accomplished female founders in these emerging markets is that you do not need a STEM degree to succeed. Entrepreneurship in frontier technologies can take many forms and backgrounds. Even so, STEM is marketed poorly to young women — it should not be seen as a scary territory, but rather a field of opportunities to envision, design and innovate.

 

Article first appeared July 15, 2019 on Swaay.com.

https://www.swaay.com/female-founders-in-blockchain-

Mining is a vital part of the cryptocurrency industry today. While some industry followers believe that crypto mining will go away sometime in the future, it remains an active pursuit for individuals and companies to mint digital money using racks of computers.

In the current regulatory environment, the status of cryptocurrency miners is unclear.  For instance, when miners approve a Security Token transaction that is built on top of a public protocol like Ethereum, are they essentially approving a transaction on behalf of another?    Does this make them a broker dealer because they are approving a securities transaction and receiving securities-based compensation?  SEC Corporate Finance Director Bill Hinman  publicly stated that Ethereum is not a security but, importantly, did not pass judgment on its issuance.

Ever the regulatory leader, on April 4, Templum, a FINRA-registered broker-dealer and approved alternative trading system (ATS) in the digital asset sector, submitted a Petition for Rulemaking to the SEC on digital asset mining. They state in the letter:

“Chairman Clayton has stated that nearly every Initial Coin Offering has involved the sale of a security. However, it is unclear if miners of digital assets that are securities be required to register as a broker-dealer under the Securities and Exchange Act of 34. We encourage the SEC to provide formal guidance to the industry on this issue.”

Co-founders Vince Molinari and Chris Pallotta state that “Given the heightened regulatory concerns in the market, we believe that clarity of technical applications of mining and their functions could constitute regulatory activity.  We believe the markets should evolve to standards to ensure best practices while protecting investors. We have concerns around public blockchains and mining as it relates to their anonymity of this function and what that could mean, i.e., who is doing the mining, and who is receiving the compensation for their service. For example, are they a bad actor or located in a banned jurisdiction of the US? Also, what happens to public chain securities if mining is no longer economical?”

Keep in mind there is no obligation for the SEC to answer this petition.  But if these miners are manufacturing securities or participating in securities transactions and must be registered as broker-dealers, the ramifications may be profound.  Somewhere between the anarchist cryptographers who want no regulation and the traditional institutional investors who will only enter with regulation, lies the future of the industry.  For instance, there are vestiges of the old world like Transfer Agents (a trust company, bank or similar financial institution assigned by a corporation to maintain records of investors and account balances), that could be made obsolete with blockchain.  The existing regulations assume they are necessary, so clarification is needed.

Right before this petition was filed, Blockstack, the New York-based blockchain software provider that launched in 2017 to create the infrastructure for a decentralized internet, filed a registration statement with the SEC on its intent to raise $50 million in a token sale that would leverage the SEC’s Regulation A+ crowdfunding exemption.   Introduced in 2012 under the JOBS Act, the Regulation A+ exemption enables equity crowdfunding campaigns to offer and sell securities to U.S. non-accredited investors via two tiers, either for $20 million or $50 million, each over a 12-month period.  In the filing, they say miners are not Broker Dealer’s, no Transfer Agent is required, no clearing agency functions are being performed.  This is largely due to the focus on “salesman’s stake” functionality of Broker Dealers absence in this case.  However, the SEC has said before that Broker Dealers do not have to have human involvement.

Reg A+ was specifically designed for eligible companies to offer debt or equities securities, or securities convertible into debt or equity such as options and warrants.  Blockstack claims the tokens don’t share the characteristics as might be expected for a traditional debt or equity instrument. Blockstack is saying they are eligible to conduct the offering without the services of a Transfer Agent because of the first reason mentioned, that the Tokens don’t constitute as debt or equities securities because “they do not have equity-like features.”

As the SEC is required to respond to Blockstack’s registration statement within 120 days, it will be interesting to see which way the SEC offers guidance here and whether Templum’s petition puts some sand in the gears.

 

Article first appeared May 2, 2019 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2019/05/02/can-crypto-miners-be-considered-broker-dealers

The offerings of digitized securities are expanding rapidly. In January, I attended Atomic Capital’s Digital Asset event, at which they announced a partnership with Agenus a Biotech company, offering a digital security around a drug in clinical trials. The initial asset to be tokenized is the future US asset sales of AGEN2034, a PD-1 inhibitor. They are calling it BEST – Biotech Electronic Security Token.

The same month, Templum announced a partnership with IPwe, the world’s first global patent transaction platform, to unlock the value of patents to qualified investors for an underutilized segment of the balance sheet. IPwe laid the groundwork for this new asset class by developing the artificial intelligence and Hyperledger-based tools needed to identify, research, maintain and transact in patents. This offers companies a new opportunity to obtain financing based on the investments they’ve made into their patent portfolio.

At the event, I was able to sit down with the extraordinary Vincent Molinari, CEO of Templum Markets and Co-Founder of Templum Inc. Vince is a well-recognized industry leader in digital securities, technology and regulation. Templum is a fintech and blockchain holding company that is focused on the modernization of securities laws that intersect with the emerging technology.

Joining Mr. Molinari’s perspectives are those of Templum’s esteemed Head of Strategy and General Counsel Annemarie Tierney, former Head of Strategy at NASDAQ Private Market.  As a former securities lawyer, I agree with Tierney and Templum that the laws created in the 1930’s do need modernizing with this new asset class. Templum will continue to innovate in creating necessary new market infrastructure in clearing, settlement, custody and transfer of digital assets as securities that will allow large pools of institutional capital to enter the market.

How would you summarize where we are with digital assets today?

(Molinari) A. Blockchain’s potential to impact the securities industry has never been more evident and, in many ways, it feels as though the industry is on the verge of meaningful adoption across a number of key asset classes. Continued guidance and engagement from regulators and legislators, along with strategic institutional investment, will help lead the digital asset industry to new heights in 2019.

What explains the move in nomenclature from the alphabet soup of acronyms like ICOs, STOs and TAOs to smart securities?

(Molinari) A. As the digital asset industry matures, market participants are increasingly distancing themselves from the ICO phenomena of 2017 and early 2018, offerings that we  long argued were unregistered security offerings. This trend is important for both prospective issuers and investors since the underlying properties of an ICO and a digitized, smart security offering could not be more different. As part of this process, the industry will look to move away from terms like “token”, “STOs” and “TAO” and towards terms like “smart securities” and “digitized” or “digital securities,” all of which are part of the broader “digital asset” industry.

Enterprise blockchain company Symbiont has been using the term “smart securities” since 2015, categorizing tokens as “old technology that didn’t offer the level of sophistication of its smart securities project.” This language transition will be critical in gaining mainstream adoption for digital assets represented by securities. Just as most issuers are unaware of the technology (or lack thereof) underlying traditional equity offerings, distributed ledger technology used to facilitate smart security offerings should be out of sight and out of mind for issuers and investors alike. Few people know how AWS works…it just does, as should be the case for these new programmable financial instruments.

What do you see is the role of legislators in the burgeoning market and what sort of activity do you foresee on Capitol Hill?

(Tierney) A. The rise and fall of the crypto markets and the problematic practices associated with the ICO space over the past few years has resulted in increased awareness and focus on the digital asset industry from Congressional leaders. While there is a recognition that this new asset class is not going away, legislators will continue to grapple with the question of how to best harness this innovative technology so the United States can remain competitive, while also providing important investor protections. This will provide a real opportunity for bipartisan collaboration, particularly around legislation separating utility tokens from digitized securities issued on a private, permissioned blockchain solution.

We’ve already seen early evidence of this approach with the proposed “Token Taxonomy Act of 2018,” which attempts to define the term “digital token” and to specify cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum would not be subject to SEC-purview once they become a fully functioning network. This bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Darren Soto, R-Ohio, and Warren Davidson, D-Fla, is the first of what will likely be a number of attempts in 2019 to provide legislative clarity around digitized securities and areas where blockchain technology can add efficiency to our existing public market infrastructure.

And what do you foresee coming out of regulators to address the unique challenges of balancing innovation of smart securities issuance and trading with investor protections?

(Tierney)  A. In 2019, the SEC will continue to provide guidance around the issuance and trading of digitized securities, balancing their aim to not stifle innovative technologies in the securities markets against important investor protections. Additionally, the SEC will continue to use a combination of enforcement actions, investor bulletins and public speaking engagements as methods to “regulate” the digital asset industry. We also anticipate that the SEC will deliver more complete guidance, encouraged by a growing number of letters authored by congressmen and congresswomen, on what types of digital assets are securities, providing clarity on requirements for post-trade functions such as clearing and settlement, and proposing appropriate changes to the rules for qualified custodians.

We believe that specific guidance and clear rules and regulations are critical to providing more certainty for issuers, investors and service providers in the digital asset space, enabling significant growth and potentially unlocking tremendous value.  We believe that digital assets that are securities present unique regulatory challenges that cannot only be addressed by tailored regulation. As the use of blockchain technology in the financial services industry continues to grow in 2019, along with the issuance and trading of digitized securities, we expect to see the development of best trading practices across the space. In light of these developments, we expect that FINRA will integrate the trading of digital assets into its exam modules for market participants who intend to engage in such activities.

The trading of digital assets requires specialized knowledge in order to be conducted in a compliant manner. This includes an understanding of blockchain technology, its uses and potential risks, as well as regulatory frameworks for different types of assets. The addition of information regarding the sale and secondary trading of digital assets during FINRA exams will demonstrate the significant progress the digital asset industry has made since the ICO boom days of 2017. Ultimately, this will lead to new levels of engagement and participation from institutions, as well as better protections for investors.

How do you view the role of public versus private blockchains, and are we at an inflection point in terms of adoption?

(Molinari) A. As 2018 saw the market for security token offerings and tokenized asset offerings begin to take shape, in 2019, we expect to see growing acceptance and adoption of a regulatory compliant iteration of these transactions involving digitized securities representing a variety of asset classes. Ultimately, we believe that widespread adoption of digitized or smart securities will require certain levels of regulatory licensing and a move to private, permissioned blockchains to facilitate these transactions.

While public blockchains can be useful in increasing efficiency and transparency for a range of industries (i.e., supply chain management), we believe that public decentralized blockchains, such as ERC-20, will prove to be unsuitable for the securities industry, especially institutional engagement. To our mind, a move to a private, permissioned blockchain solution will separate smart securities from other solutions in the digital asset and cryptocurrency spaces.

Do you see a correlation between public market volatility and private market opportunities?

(Molinari) A. 2018 was the worst year for stocks since 2008, with the S&P, Dow, and Nasdaq down 6.2%, 5.6% and 4% respectively. As central banks globally begin the process of quantitative tightening, coupled with softening economic data, most market pundits have expressed an expectation of continued volatility throughout 2019. And, while many are projecting a robust 2019 IPO market with late stage unicorns such as Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, and Slack  all reportedly preparing for IPOs in the first half of 2019, suitable IPO windows will close quickly if market volatility resumes. If this occurs, it would continue a growing trend of companies staying private longer (the median time to IPO in the late 90s was ~3.0 years compared to ~7.5+ years today, underscoring the growing importance of a robust secondary market for private assets).

As more value accrues in the private markets, we’ve seen institutional investors move downstream with asset managers and hedge funds raising private market vehicles for the first time. With new investment vehicles deploying more capital into private markets and companies choosing to stay private longer, a continuation of this trend at this late stage in the cycle will only further highlight the importance of smart securities.

It is widely believe that custody or “good control” locations will spur institutional flows. Can you elaborate?

(Tierney) A. Questions regarding the custody of digitized securities will continue to represent a gating factor for many participants eager to enter the smart securities space. We believe, however, that few market participants truly understand that a “custody” solution is not a required element for the issuance and trading of private unregistered securities. The SEC’s rules and requirements around custody, are, in fact, currently applicable only to publicly registered securities. Despite this fact, the SEC and FINRA are questioning potential market participants on how they intend to provide custody solutions around private unregistered digitized securities, creating a good deal of uncertainty and confusion.

In our view, the anticipated high degree of tradability of digitized securities along with institutional demand for “good control” will drive the need to develop a custody solution for private, unregistered digitized securities that will be a key piece of the new market infrastructure being developed around these assets. In our opinion, a well-developed market infrastructure, combined with access to private, permissioned liquidity provided in a transparent and immutable manner, will result in growing acceptance across a wide range of issuers and investors. Institutional capital, bound by fiduciary obligation, will find comfort in the increased levels of security, process and certainty afforded by private, permissioned blockchains.

For Templum, and all of the other companies innovating in the space, 2019 may not define, but will certainly move along the evolution of, answering some of these regulatory and technical issues… as well provide as interesting issuances to watch!

 

Article first appeared January 30, 2019 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2019/01/30/the-rise-of-smart-securities-and-private-blockchains

Is private and secure healthcare a crisis of modernity? The cost of seeing a doctor experiences significant increases yearly, baring many from realizing the benefits of modern medicine. In 1970, the expense per person for health care was $355, and in 2016 $10,348.  A community burdened by rising cost, debt, and complicated methods of access to a doctor are today’s healthcare consumers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted research claiming 40 million adults in America, one in five, are living without proper healthcare.

In 2017, the World Bank reported that half of the world’s population lacks essential health services and these numbers are growing. Approximately 100 million people have become impoverished under the burden of their directly funded medical expenses. As accessibility to medical professionals continues to decline, we see the most significant impact in the parts of the world where practices continue to use century old methods to track and treat patients.

The healthcare industry has notorious privacy, fraud and security challenges. As of 2018, 37 data breaches occurred among healthcare institutions. One involved Long Island-based Cohen, Bergman, Klepper, Romano MDs mis-configuring its online database, exposing the personally identifiable information of about 42,000 patients.  Trade in anonymous medical data is allowed in the U.S., a $28 billion dollar industry. Prescription records, blood tests, doctor notes, hospital visits and insurance records get monetized. The healthcare information provided so far represents years of records for hundreds of millions of people.

The usage of mobile health apps and wearables is ever-growing with more than 55% of smart phone users upload health-related information on their phone. Health-related data is a valuable asset for both individuals and data-driven healthcare stakeholders.  However, today’s healthcare landscape does not offer the consumers who provided the data a method of capturing value for its usage. Businesses capitalize on rights to personal medical data without benefiting the consumers generating this data.  Moreover, current system lacks the means to interconnect existing data and unlock its full potential for the benefit of all market players, losing an estimated $300 billion a year in data unavailability for marketing due to integration issues. Furthermore, siloed medical systems prevent needed records from getting to the people whom need it when they need it most.

The rise of various applications has not yet delivered on the promise of digital technology empowering individuals and resulting in better healthcare and a more connected health related market.

Does physical movement and healthy diet have economic value?

A New York startup, Gainfy, a brainchild of Victoria Saucier, a partner of Ignite 500 investment firm, has proposed innovative solutions powered by AI and blockchain technologies to address the challenges discussed in this article and enable the healthcare system to reward the people behind the data and deliver efficiency, privacy, and data security.

“The key barrier for many people to make healthier life choices and be physically active is not a lack of motivation, but rather a human tendency to ignore things without instant gratification, causing people to struggle with weight, unhealthy diet habits and lack of physical activity. Moreover, people tend to underestimate the costs (problems) that obesity will ha

ve on them in the future and overestimate the costs (hardship) of leading a healthier life at present. As a result, people underinvest in their present self and have to pay for this in the future.”

Victoria sees use of direct financial incentives, gamification strategy and protection provided by blockchain technology as most critical tools to help consumers stay healthy, save money on medical cost and monetize their data.  Gainfy employs blockchain technology and rewards users with its GainCash proprietary tokens for walking, exercising or opting for healthier diet choices. The users can earn more by setting and completing their daily FIT goals (Frequency, Intensity, Tenacity). The tokens can then be spent to buy products, services and experiences at partnered local retail stores and online vendors.  “It’s basically like a frequent flyer points for staying healthy. We want people be healthy, be motivated, track, own and monetize their data” she said.  Every Gainfy participant possesses secure identity credentials, providing unparalleled personal data protection, control, and incentivized rewards with digital payments.

As I have previously written about convergence theory, this is a great use case for the intersection of blockchain, AI, and IoT.  Gainfy’s ability to build a data ecosystem providing incentivized way to stay healthy and providing data ownership rights to its end consumer is an industry game-changer.  Gainfy has the potential to not only disrupt the underlying flawed processes in the healthcare industry but will also improve the quality of life for millions of people all over the world.

 

Article was first published on Forbes.com

 

Is private and secure healthcare a crisis of modernity? The cost of seeing a doctor experiences significant increases yearly, baring many from realizing the benefits of modern medicine. In 1970, the expense per person for health care was $355, and in 2016 $10,348.  A community burdened by rising cost, debt, and complicated methods of access to a doctor are today’s healthcare consumers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted research claiming 40 million adults in America, one in five, are living without proper healthcare.

In 2017, the World Bank reported that half of the world’s population lacks essential health services and these numbers are growing. Approximately 100 million people have become impoverished under the burden of their directly funded medical expenses. As accessibility to medical professionals continues to decline, we see the most significant impact in the parts of the world where practices continue to use century old methods to track and treat patients.

The healthcare industry has notorious privacy, fraud and security challenges. As of 2018, 37 data breaches occurred among healthcare institutions. One involved Long Island-based Cohen, Bergman, Klepper, Romano MDs mis-configuring its online database, exposing the personally identifiable information of about 42,000 patients.  Trade in anonymous medical data is allowed in the U.S., a $28 billion dollar industry. Prescription records, blood tests, doctor notes, hospital visits and insurance records get monetized. The healthcare information provided so far represents years of records for hundreds of millions of people.

The usage of mobile health apps and wearables is ever-growing with more than 55% of smart phone users upload health-related information on their phone. Health-related data is a valuable asset for both individuals and data-driven healthcare stakeholders.  However, today’s healthcare landscape does not offer the consumers who provided the data a method of capturing value for its usage. Businesses capitalize on rights to personal medical data without benefiting the consumers generating this data.  Moreover, current system lacks the means to interconnect existing data and unlock its full potential for the benefit of all market players, losing an estimated $300 billion a year in data unavailability for marketing due to integration issues. Furthermore, siloed medical systems prevent needed records from getting to the people whom need it when they need it most.

The rise of various applications has not yet delivered on the promise of digital technology empowering individuals and resulting in better healthcare and a more connected health related market.

Does physical movement and healthy diet have economic value?

A New York startup, Gainfy, a brainchild of Victoria Saucier, a partner of Ignite 500 investment firm, has proposed innovative solutions powered by AI and blockchain technologies to address the challenges discussed in this article and enable the healthcare system to reward the people behind the data and deliver efficiency, privacy, and data security.

“The key barrier for many people to make healthier life choices and be physically active is not a lack of motivation, but rather a human tendency to ignore things without instant gratification, causing people to struggle with weight, unhealthy diet habits and lack of physical activity. Moreover, people tend to underestimate the costs (problems) that obesity will ha

ve on them in the future and overestimate the costs (hardship) of leading a healthier life at present. As a result, people underinvest in their present self and have to pay for this in the future.”

Victoria sees use of direct financial incentives, gamification strategy and protection provided by blockchain technology as most critical tools to help consumers stay healthy, save money on medical cost and monetize their data.  Gainfy employs blockchain technology and rewards users with its GainCash proprietary tokens for walking, exercising or opting for healthier diet choices. The users can earn more by setting and completing their daily FIT goals (Frequency, Intensity, Tenacity). The tokens can then be spent to buy products, services and experiences at partnered local retail stores and online vendors.  “It’s basically like a frequent flyer points for staying healthy. We want people be healthy, be motivated, track, own and monetize their data” she said.  Every Gainfy participant possesses secure identity credentials, providing unparalleled personal data protection, control, and incentivized rewards with digital payments.

As I have previously written about convergence theory, this is a great use case for the intersection of blockchain, AI, and IoT.  Gainfy’s ability to build a data ecosystem providing incentivized way to stay healthy and providing data ownership rights to its end consumer is an industry game-changer.  Gainfy has the potential to not only disrupt the underlying flawed processes in the healthcare industry but will also improve the quality of life for millions of people all over the world.

 

Article first appeared December 3, 2018 on Forbes.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/12/03/breaking-the-barriers-how-blockchain-can-make-you-healthier-and-richer/amp/

After many stops and starts it finally appears that we are on the verge of a true convergence explosion between Internet of Things (IOT), AI, and blockchain. Or in other words, the production of data, the consumption of data and the distribution of data.

To review:

IoT, pertains to the interconnectivity of the world around us—basically how all of our personal and home devices work together to optimize daily human life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has previously been described as the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that previously had required human interaction, but today it pertains more to algorithms that assemble and analyze personal data which is then used to facilitate and streamline human existence.

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. The technology often involves bitcoin or other similarly cryptocurrencies. The main benefit of blockchain is that it catalogues data into a permanent record along a chain that is transparent and linear.

The convergence of these technologies come with both enormous benefits and also significant risks. Industries have been looking at blockchain as a way to streamline their processes and make tracking and data collection simpler and more transparent. In the past, there have been those who worried about the susceptibility of IoT and AI to the hacking of encryption services. Those security concerns are one of the main reasons why we haven’t yet seen a true explosion of the convergence of IoT, blockchain and AI but the tide has begun to turn as blockchain advances have now made the aforementioned hacking more difficult.

What are the key convergence highlights? One of the main ideas at the interaction of AI and Blockchain is the data marketplace. If everyone owns their own data and can make it available as they choose in a private manner, we could have more data in aggregate.  To truly achieve its potential, each of the three building blocks of AI must be made available in a centralized, private, and secured manner.

Outlier Ventures explains the need for the Convergence Ecosystem by saying, “The Internet of Things is creating an unmanageable data environment, and artificial intelligence is giving those who control the most data more power than any company in history.”  Outlier adds, “The integration of these technologies will see markets become increasingly open-sourced, distributed, decentralized, automated, and tokenized.”

Observers are closely watching which sectors and companies will emerge atop the convergence industry bracket. Interestingly, this convergence war echoes what occurred several years ago with cloud/mobile convergence. The companies who emerged victorious from that battle were not initial sweetheart companies like Lycos and Yahoo but rather Microsoft, Amazon and surprisingly, IBM, a company once associated with hardware who has made significant inroads into this space, especially as of late.

Several budding convergence sectors will undoubtedly determine the winners and losers. The Government Accountability Office recently identified eight industries where convergence has the greatest upside. They include the health care industry, transportation (both personal and commercial), smart homes and buildings, manufacturing, supply chains, wearables, agriculture and energy. Other industries that appear primed to take full advantage of the technology include farming, marketing, retail and the financial services arena.

So if you’re making your convergence picks who should be in your Final Four? Not surprisingly the smart money is on the companies that are already leaders in the digital economy like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and, despite their recent Cambridge Analytica issues, Facebook. These behemoths have access to a wealth of data and already have established footholds in the IoT landscape. Google, for example, has cornered the market on geographic mapping. But the companies who could become major convergence players aren’t simply limited to the GAFA Four. Metromile, for example, is a San Francisco based company which provides per-mile auto insurance along with an app called The Pulse, which collects data about trips and car health. Ecobee is a Canadian home automation company that makes thermostats and smart light switches for both residential and commercial use and a company like Ring is already a major player in the home security field.

In the health care field, Chrono Therapeutics is focusing on improving clinical outcomes for patients battling addiction and living with neurological disorders via their Integrated Dosing Solution. The company integrates timed drug delivery with personalized, mobile-based digital support and data analytics which seeks to maximize compliance and improve overall patient health. Several smaller start-ups have a real shot at establishing and solidifying a hold on a market that escapes the view of one of the aforementioned tech giants.

 

Article first appeared on Forbes.com

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/07/18/convergence-of-brains-and-chains/#499cc61d6495