PayPal equality for Israeli settlers, but not Palestinian entrepreneurs

The Palestinian IT sector and more than 40 Palestinian businesses have signed an open letter to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, asking him to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

paypalWithout access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, non-profits and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.

PayPal’s absence is problematic for the Palestinian economy overall because IT is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation. Given that IT products do not have to cross physical borders, they are less impacted by Israel’s severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods and people.

In contrast to Palestinians, Israeli settlers living illegally (per international law and official U.S. policy) in the West Bank are fully integrated into the Israeli financial system and enjoy access to all of PayPal’s services.

In their letter, Palestinian entrepreneurs remind Schulman of his courageous stand in North Carolina and argue that as part of PayPal’s commitment to equality, it must ensure that Palestinians and Israelis living among one another have equal access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Zahi Khouri, CEO of Palestine’s National Beverage Company and early-stage startup investor through the Ibtikar Fund, said, “All we want is equal access for our talented young people to bring their innovative products and ideas to the world. By extending service to Palestine, PayPal has the opportunity to make a real contribution to alleviating the disastrous unemployment rates in Palestine which are a major source of instability.”

Text of letter to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman:

Dear Mr. Schulman,

We are writing to urge you to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza thereby removing a major limitation on the Palestinian technology sector, one of the only bright spots in the overall economy. More importantly, extending PayPal services would resolve the current discriminatory situation whereby PayPal’s payment portal can be accessed freely by Israeli settlers living illegally (per international humanitarian law) in the West Bank while it remains unavailable to the occupied Palestinian population.

PayPal’s absence is a major obstacle to the growth of Palestine’s tech sector and the overall economy. While other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.

Moreover, PayPal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy as tech is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation which severely restricts the internal and cross-border movement of goods and people. Indeed, by entering the Palestinian market, PayPal has the opportunity to make a significant contribution toward alleviating the destabilizing unemployment rates of over 25 percent in the West Bank and 40 percent in Gaza.

We have been told that PayPal is concerned about the compliance investments required to enter the Palestinian market. We believe such costs have been greatly overestimated. The U.S. Treasury Department has spent a great deal of time working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to strengthen safeguards against abuse. PayPal currently operates in over 203 countries including places with major problems of corruption and terrorism like Somalia and Yemen. We are confident that Palestine will prove a much easier place to profitably do business than these and other markets that PayPal has already entered.

In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts.

We believe a company such as PayPal, whose actions in North Carolina reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights, would agree that people living in the same neighborhood ought to have equal rights and access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.

We understand that entering a new market can be complex and would be more than happy to work with you, the Palestinian Monetary Authority, and any other necessary officials to pave the way for PayPal’s entry to the Palestinian market.

We very much look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure that Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others are free to participate in global commerce.

Index On Censorship magazine 250 issues later

Truth is in danger as reporters are threatened all over world and news is suppressed, argues the editor of Index on Censorship as it publishes its 250th issue.

censorshipWhere do we go for real news? Which channels can we trust? Does the brand of the news organisation matter any more? Where are the great, long-form writers? To whom do we fucking turn?

It’s not easy to work out what’s happening around the world. TV stations are self-focused on national events and home politics. Wars are chronicled by compromised imbeds, countries have policies of attacking journalists, not protecting them, and there are less windows than ever where one can view tumultuous and revolutionary events.

They still exist though. PBS in the US, the World Service, the Quartz daily newsletter, the ongoing work of brave men such as John Pilger and the Index on Censorship quartely magazine.

The current issue of the magazine examines how journalists have become high-profile targets… and is written by some of the world’s finest journalists and writers such as local reporters in Syria and Eritrea. It describes itself as ‘the only global free expression magazine’. They are probably right.

Other highlights include:

* Lindsey Hilsum asks if journalists should still cover war zones
* Stephen Grey looks at protecting sources amid mass surveillance.
* Kaya Genç interviews Turkey’s threatened investigative journalists
* Steven Borowiec lifts the lid on Japan’s press clubs
* Fred Searle on young UK journalists who fear speaking out against ‘churnalism’ in case they lose their jobs

“In many countries around the world, journalists have lost their status as observers and now come under direct attack. In the not-too-distant past journalists would be on front lines, able to report on what was happening, without being directly targeted,” Index on Censorship editor Rachael Jolley writes in the magazine.

The first issue of Index on Censorship magazine appeared in 1972. Since then, great writers such as Nadine Gordimer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Amartya Sen, Samuel Beckett, as well as Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter have written for the magazine. The magazine continues to attract great writers, passionate arguments, and exposes stories of censorship and violence.

Each quarterly magazine is filled with reports, analysis, photography and creative writing from around the world. Index on Censorship magazine is published four times a year by Sage, and is available for print subscription, online and in the Apple and Google Play stores.

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Paul Lipman, CEO BullGuard

CEO Paul Lipman talks exclusively about how consumer security company BullGuard is shaking up the IoT market.

lipmanBullGuard appears to be undergoing a renaissance after being around for a while. Why the sudden surge?

BullGuard’s promise to our customers is ‘we keep you safe and we keep it simple’. This promise of providing the very best, easiest to use, security products to our customers is what has made us the #1 rated consumer security company in Europe. On the back of this product strength we are rapidly expanding into new markets around the world, including India, Latin America and the Middle East.

However, our vision for keeping our customers secure is much broader than just Anti-Virus. An AV product was perfectly OK in the days when the only connected devices we had in the home were PCs. However, the devices in our homes are proliferating both in number and form such as smart TVs, internet-enabled surveillance cameras, door locks, garage door openers… the list goes on. 

Traditional Anti-Virus solutions can’t protect these devices. Today’s connected home needs enterprise-grade network security to protect against the very real attacks that threaten IoT devices. This is a major transition point for the industry, and BullGuard is at the forefront of this new wave of innovation.

You recently made an interesting acquisition in Israel. What is the strategy behind this?

More than four billion consumer non-PC devices are connected to the internet and this number is growing exponentially. Until now, the security and privacy of these devices has been essentially non-existent, leaving our most precious data and possessions exposed.

That’s why we bought Dojo-Labs. BullGuard and Dojo share a common vision for solving this critical market problem, and for delivering the products our customers need to keep them safe. Dojo has developed a world-class intelligent security device that connects to the home network and acts as the essential layer between connected devices and any threats to their security or privacy. Their team comprises of cybersecurity experts with the highest level of hacking and security-related big data analytics experience.

Why are you focusing on IoT?

Successful hacks against IoT devices are in the news literally every day. The problem is real, significant and growing. Nobody is solving this problem today. BullGuard has the technology, channels and capital to lead this new market.

Isn’t IoT just another hyped-up buzzword?

Absolutely not. IoT is a huge tech trend that will transform consumers’ lives. However, the security aspect is a nightmare. It’s poorly thought out and loosely implemented, if at all. It’s probably the major impediment to growth of this industry.

BullGuard is intently focused on solving this problem. We launched the world’s first IoT scanner, and after the Dojo-Labs acquisition we will be at the forefront of the next wave of consumer security services and innovation.

What is the problem BullGuard is solving?

Our homes contain our most precious possessions and intimate data The promise of Smart homes can only be truly realised once this security problem has been solved. We like to call it SoT, the Security of Things.

How many customers and partners do you have?

We have millions of consumer customers around the world. Our products are sold by more than 2,500 partners in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

How big is the market? 
The consumer security market is worth more than $8 billion. The IoT security market is at least another $7.5 billion today (comprising both consumer and enterprise markets).

How much have you raised in funding to date?

$20 million

Where is the BullGuard team based?

The team is located in Silicon Valley, London, Bucharest and Herzliya.

What are the challenges with separate teams in four locations?

On the contrary, BullGuard’s office locations provide us with some important advantages. Being a globally distributed company not only enables us to serve customers and partners wherever they are around the world, but lets us tap into the varied and deep talent pools that each region provides. Our main office is located in Bucharest, where we have close ties to the major technical universities and the city’s broad base of software development and anti-virus talent.

We recently opened an office in Silicon Valley and now, with the acquisition of Dojo-Labs, we get to tap into Israel’s renowned cyber security expertise. Simply put, uniquely positioned in terms of talent and market access.

UK SMEs vastly overpay in global transaction fees

UK SMEs with 20 transactions a month are overpaying £52,800 in international payment fees

SMEsNew research from international payments service company Covercy reports that UK companies are vastly overpaying for cross-border payments, with some companies paying more than £4,000 per month in unnecessary fees.

More than 69% of the UK’s 53,000 SME exporters are paying completely unnecessary fees. For a company making 20 transactions of £10,000 this equates to £2,120 a month or £25,440 a year. Similarly, conducting 20 transactions of £1,000 this will total £1,100 a month or £13,200 a year.

HMRC has also released its monthly Overseas Trade Statistics report that reveals UK’s exports to EU countries increased by £1 billion in June 2016. However, in a post-Brexit world, UK exporters and importers will need to keep costs as low as possible as the UK seeks to open up new trade links. Reducing the cost of their international payments will be critical to this.

“While it may have expected that exports in particular might slow significantly down to the EU due to a potential ‘Brexit’, However, exports actually increased by over 8% compared to May. However, we’ve yet to see how Brexit has actually affected UK companies who export to the EU,” said Doron Cohen, CEO of Covercy

Covercy is trying to eliminate the hidden costs facing SMEs who make international money transfers and is licensed by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an Authorised Payment Institution. It recently closed a $2.5 million (£1.9 million) funding round led by Californian-based venture capital firmSGVC.

Covercy’s quoted rates are guaranteed through its own algorithm that means businesses know exactly how much their overseas transactions cost before committing to use the service. In addition, all cross-border transactions can be tracked and traced in real time by a business owner.

Algerian in UK faces deportation if startup fails

AlgerianSetting up a startup is never an easy venture, but 27-year-old Algerian entrepreneur Mehdi Meghzifene faces a different type of challenge.

He faces deportation from the UK and five years prison in Algeria if his ‘tree water’ company, Sibberi is not a financial success and does not fulfil the criteria of his UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.

The big print stipulated on his visa obtained in March 2015 from the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) division of the Home Office, Mehdi must be employing at least 10 people and his company must be a financial success before March 2018. If not, the in order for him to receive Permanent Leave to Remain in the UK will expire and he could be deported.

Mehdi, who studied for a MSc in Mathematical Finance at Imperial College London, worked for two years at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Banking Division before set up Sibberi with co-founder Clara Vaisse.

Mehdi and his family fled a civil war when he was nine years old for a better life in Austria. Consequently that means he has avoided compulsory military service at 18 years of age in Algeria and could face a five-year prison sentence if forced to return.

“I have to make Sibberi a success at all costs and I have no other option than for it be a success. There’s no going back. It’s very fortunate that Tree Water is really trending at the moment, surpassing sugary and calorific Coconut water,” said Mehdi.

Sibberi is a tree water company dedicated to bringing nutritious health foods to the UK market. Founded in 2015 bthe company won the Unilever Food for the Future Award and is one of the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 Finalists.

Inspired by tales of the health-giving properties of birch sap, Sibberi’s co-founders Clara Vaisse and Mehdi Meghzifene embarked on a quest which lead them across Estonia and Latvia to find the pure, unsweetened sap then unavailable in UK stores.

“The moment we tasted fresh birch sap, used by Latvian farmers to make birch sap wine, we knew we wanted to share this ingredient with UK consumers. As we travelled through the rural villages and wild forests of Estonia and Latvia, tasting fresh spring birch sap, Sibberi was born”, said co-founder Vaisse.

The pressure for Mehdi is now on, he deserves as much support as possible.