Senius Q&A: The Future Of Crypto And Privacy DeFi


Welcome to Mob76 and our readers… please tell us about the new venture, Senius and how you’re working with the Sienna Network?

Senius is a core contributor to the Sienna Network, a privacy-first decentralized finance (DeFi) platform built on top of Secret Network, which enables various financial instruments, such as private trading, lending and borrowing.

We’re launching the first products in April and we are currently raising a private sale that has seen terrific interest and we are excited that our vision has been matched by investors of all sizes.

Most of our readers will be familiar with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but what issue are you trying to solve?

Existing DeFi protocols are fundamentally flawed because transactions are not private and future trades can be seen by everyone prior to execution. 

Any transaction can be pre-empted by simply introducing a transaction and paying a higher transaction fee. This is known as front-running and is illegal in the regulated financial system for good reasons. This exploitation has been in its prominence ever since DeFi surfaced and our privacy protocol will prevent that.

Lack of privacy means institutional money will not come into DeFi without a privacy-first solution. These huge institutions don’t want their activities, trading positions and liquidity provision publicly known as it compromises competitiveness.

What are these DeFi products that you speak of?

We are introducing a new interconnected DeFi protocol; a completely private lending, borrowing and, trading experience with great scalability and low transaction fees, and with a bridge for ERC-20 tokens to ensure compatibility with the Ethereum ecosystem,

This makes digital money markets efficient and fungible for everyone, and open for institutional investors. Sienna is aiming to quickly expand to other large blockchain ecosystems as well.

Any reason for naming the company after an Italian city?

Absolutely. Our company was named after the Italian city Siena (Sienna in English), which played a historical role in banking and cryptography almost a millennium ago.

In the 12th Century and as early as 1135, Sienna was an important trade city. To support the trade and economic growth of Sienna, the Bishop of Sienna started to offer loans against collateral and interest to Sienna citizens and the many people who traveled to the city to buy goods and sell their products.

At the same time, the world’s original bankers, the Knights Templar, began a network of money transfer locations so people could deposit money in the Veneto region and travel to Sienna and the port of Venice without the risk of being robbed.

Upon arrival at either destination, merchants could withdraw their money from a Templar location by handing in an encrypted document; a unique kind of encryption that allowed people to travel with a document that could only be decrypted by the Templars. It was one of the world’s first adoptions of finance and cryptography.

What are your ambitions for the company in 2021?

Sienna Network is aiming to become the de facto standard for privacy-first DeFi across multiple blockchains, targeting Ethereum initially, the biggest DeFi ecosystem, followed by other blockchains such as Polkadot, blockchains built with Cosmos (IBC) and many other chains in the near future.

The platform is controlled by SIENNA, the governance token, which is earned by using the Sienna platform via liquidity mining and other initiatives over time, creating a fair distribution for a perfect decentralized future, where SIENNA token holders decide over the entire platform. 

Where can our readers find out more about Sienna?

Yes, we are on all major networks:

🖥 Website
💬 Discord
💬 Telegram
🐦 Twitter 
👥 Reddit 
🗄 LinkedIn 
📰 Blog 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with our readers… good luck with the launch in April

No problem, thanks for inviting me. I look forward to connecting with your readers on the networks above.

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Accountancy Cloud Q&A: Wesley Rashid, CEO and Co-Founder

FinTech is changing the face of money, but it’s not all about apps, it’s also about some of the oldest financial instruments of the world. Meet Wesley Rashid who is disrupting accountancy.
accountancy

Please tell our readers what The Accountancy Cloud is

We help businesses turn chaos into financial clarity. We offer a robotic accounting service that uses our intuitive API, can connect to financial services clients are already using to offer daily bookkeeping, custom dashboards and unlimited reporting, removing the barriers to financial clarity.

We pair them up with an Accountancy Cloud expert so they get a trusted partner, at every stage of their growth to help them with future planning.

Do you regard yourself as a FinTech company?

The Accountancy Cloud is a tech company solving the problem of accounting, which needs to be solved with next-gen technology.

What problems are you solving for your industry?

Accounting was invented back in medieval venice when Excel and beans were used to count numbers and paperwork was used to record financial transactions. It hasn’t changed all that much today.

We are bringing accounting back into the 21st Century, and into the Cloud then adding gasoline into the Cloud with a box of matches, all so we can create a best in class-super f’charged service that is 7x faster than conventional tools.

What do you think of Tech Nation’s Upscale Program you were previously part of?

Excellent program, there’s nothing quite like it. The quality of the founders and peer to peer learning aspects of the program were really helpful.

Could you tell us about your funding history?

We were/are on the Barclays Techstars accelerator so although Techstars and Barclays are on our cap table, we’ve essentially bootstrapped ourselves to £1 ARR to date.

Are you current looking at raising more money?

Yes we are! Contact me 🙂

You have offices in London and New York, more expansion soon?

Our focus in the next year is on the UK market as we are strongly positioned with a huge commercial opportunity ahead.  Then we’ll see.

What’s next for The Accountancy Cloud?

Fundraising and then growth!

Q&A: 7BC Venture Capital Founders

Andrew Romans and Hazem Danny Al Nakib are the co-founders of 7BC, a venture capital fund using he power of capital, network and technology to back teams disrupting industries and solving global problems toward a more connected, digitized and automated global economy.

7BC

7BC Co-Founder Hazem Danny Al Nakib is based in London.

Welcome to Mob76 Outlook, please tell our readers about 7BC

We were founded for a number of reasons. The first is that although digital transformation and the sharing economy has taken the world by storm over the past 20 years, it has been incredible at sharing, transferring and transmitting data and information, but not at transmitting and transferring value.

The second reason is that without targeted capital investments into innovations at a protocol level, standard, and infrastructure level that really aims at connecting systems, their resiliency, privacy, security, and capabilities and focusing far too much on applications, the entire objective of the model of what economies and industries will look like is ultimately lost.

The third is that we wanted to take a holistic approach across a broad and yet still focused mandate at a technological layer across AI, FinTech and software infrastructure – particularly within the financial sector where it has welcomed, in parts digital transformation, but is nascent when it comes to actual digitalisation where value itself has become digital.

Across all of this, it becomes clear that we are thinking about what global and local economies will turn into and our focus is on what underpins those futures that prioritise security, resilience and optimise efficiencies. We are interested in broader waves effective the use of data, implementations of digital identity, the creation of new asset classes, and the future models of connectivity.

7BC

7BC Co-Founder Andrew Romans is based in Silicon Valley.

Why is the fund called 7BC Venture Capital?

Our name 7BC Venture Capital signals our ability to assist and support our portfolio companies on all 7 continents of the world and experience a journey together with our network where after receiving our capital support they will travel the 7 seas and develop their business with our support on a global basis through expansion and growth.

The number seven suggests our international LP base and other business support networks and is also a lucky number which is important at early stage investing and entrepreneurship. BC stands for borderless continents and borderless capital while spanning many different technologies. We believe that AI, FinTech and software infrastructure will collectively usher in a new era for humankind. Our mission is to fund, develop and support the startups that create the foundation of this new era. The right teams, the right technology, the right capital, and the right business model.

Why are you focusing on AI, software infrastructure and FinTech?

There are disparate alternatives of what the future can look like. However, from a trend standpoint, we know that barriers to entry into the financial sector continue to lower as technology innovations come to the market. As such, the financial sector is becoming more integrated with other sectors and industries within the sharing economy, particularly around healthcare, travel, identity, hospitality and much more.

The second is that we view software infrastructure, and other forms of possibly decentralised technologies as the digital underpinning for applications that are built and that use other technologies such as AI, IoT and others to deliver products, services, and value.

There have been barriers to the successful deployment of many of these technologies and often it comes down to where the data is, how is it being collected, and is it being used well in a connected and secure environment, particularly when it is now more valuable than gold. And secondly, whether the digital representations of physical objects are easily stored, transferred, and transacted in a more transparent, disintermediated, and automatic way.

We find that changing the narrative and focusing on building blocks positions us well from a narrative standpoint to build a robust, disruptive and transformational portfolio of companies with both a unique advantage and a unique selling point and differentiator – Where our portfolio companies work together and are complimentary with each other as well. The future is one that will be even more connected, even more automated, and even more digital, that is all we can be certain of.

At what stage of startup investment do you invest?

The majority of our fund is dedicated to series A and growth stage rounds of early stage businesses at the post-product and post-revenue stage where rapid revenue growth, traction, and expansion are the key performance indicators of the business.

However, we do leave some room for a large number of small ticket capital investments at the seed or pre-series A rounds enabling us to double down in future rounds. Our global network of venture partners and ties to universities, incubators and local ambassadors allow us to support the rights teams early on.

Why is 7BC different to the other funds out there?

Every fund can say why they’re different. Most will say it’s their past performance and current network. We can ‘say’ that, but we can also ‘show’ you. We will continue to show you our network and continue to develop it.

In many cases the network is at our 7BC LP investor, team, VC co-investment / syndication and service provider layers, but our favourite is our own current and former portfolio CEOs and founders supporting our evolving global community, and that brings past performance to current and future financial performance. 

Any advice to startups when the pitch to you?

Really it always comes down to the basics. If the four biggest factors for success in real estate are location, location, location, the biggest factors for success in our lenses are team, team, team, market, technology, traction and who else is supporting this startup? 

Innovations come from having a new technology, at the right time, in the right place with a the right business model. That is what we’re looking for. Where is value not being captured, and where can value be better captured and best delivered?

But with all things, it is a story and depends on the facts of the case at hand – keep it simple, tell your story, have your reason and purpose that drives you and your team, and implement it then demonstrate in your pitch how you’ve been implementing it and what you plan on doing. 

Stick to facts and what is there specifically, what you have accomplished and what you will. As long as that can be shown tangibly and clearly, then you’ll attract the right capital, partners, and team members. Sometimes it is a numbers game, sometimes it’s a bit of your gut and vision, but above all it’s a mixture of demonstrating delivery, having laser sharp focus, being consistent, and being surrounded by the best team in an area of the market that you’ve identified is missing or lacking something. 

We know that our cash cheque is important, but if we can’t see how we can add value in other ways we don’t invest. This often comes down to our experience, advice and network. We believe that is how all early stage investing should be. Good startups will always attract plenty of funders in any boom or bust economy. The best funders need to demonstrate how they will add value and then deliver that value whilst constantly growing their reputation. It’s that simple. Add value or don’t invest. 

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Govind Balakrishnan, CEO Curio

It’s one of the strangest phenomena in technology, the inexorable rise and popularity of podcasts. While there is any number of places to access such content, one London-based company is focusing on quality.

Curio is a free app that offers curated content that gives listeners the opportunity to fully engage with audio and CEO Govind Balakrishnan talks exclusively about why his company’s product is music to our ears.

govind

Monty Munford: Welcome to Mob76 Outlook, Govind. I believe Curio produces quality podcasts, would that be right?

Yes, that’s right. In a world where everything is available at once, people’s time and attention are scarce resources. Curio solves that by helping people listen to the stories shaping our world as they go about their days.

Through high-quality audio and curation, we give people back time and surface content worthy of people’s attention.

We solve the two biggest problems for people in the world – time and attention. We choose content from the best providers in the world and get that narrated as high-quality audio – saving people the time of choosing the right content to consume.

Govind Balakrishna: Every startup has a founder’s story. What’s yours?

I was a strategist at the BBC and saw the really high engagement that radio and other audio were receiving online. This was particularly heartening when journalists had put themselves at great personal risk, such as in war zones.

At the same time, print engagement was plummeting and this prompted me to ask – why is a 100-year-old trusted medium getting so much more engagement than print or websites?

The insight was that people’s lifestyles had changed and the new world required a media platform that worked seamlessly with their busy, on-the-go lifestyles, while also actually rewarding content producers.

That was how Curio was born.

Would you describe yourself as a media company?

Media is the software that powers society, but we no longer have the time or attention to engage with it deeply. Curio is a subscription-based audio app that helps people live curiously, by allowing us to listen to the stories shaping our world as we go about our busy lives.

Is this the right time for Curio or are you awaiting a tipping point?

The advent of conversational devices, their popularity and the fact that technology is going through a fundamental paradigm shift means this is a perfect time.

Due to multitasking, we are becoming a species that is entering a post-literacy/ post-Gutenberg age. In the same way that Snapchat is a communication medium, so audio and voice will be as well.

It will go to the core of how we engage with media, content and entertainment and how it all fits in and around our lifestyles.

Why is now the right time for Curio?

We want to become the media platform of the conversational future. Most innovation so far has been in the form of functional interaction. But content consumption is also going to move in that direction.

And as it does, it’s going to go beyond one-way consumption to more a more interactive form, closer to augmented reality.

Ever since the year 1439 the visual medium – books, TV, screens – has dominated. When we are visually engaged we do little else. This future, however, will be characterised by audio, conversational interactions and ultimately augmented reality.

What particular problem are you solving?

We are solving the problem of time and reduced attention spans and using the power of audio to help build a more well-informed world effortlessly. In that way, we also indirectly help with breaking information bubbles, fake news and superficial engagement.

In a world where everything is available instantaneously, people’s time and attention are scarce resources and we are just unable to and deeply engage with stories that are shaping the future.

Who are you working with and on what platforms?

We partner with top publishers such as The Guardian, Salon, The Financial Times, Aeon and more than 40 other providers to gain access to their exceptional content base.

Our learning algorithm and human curators then scour their databases for the best content – across various topics which have current relevance, are part of the zeitgeist or are of evergreen interest – and we then get that narrated by the best voice actors in the industry.

That content is offered to our subscribers through our mobile apps, our website and our Alexa skill.

Please take me through a user journey

Simply download the free Curio app and sign up. You can either subscribe to a monthly or annual plan, or listen to a certain amount of content free everyday.

Subscribers get new audio tracks curated across our partners everyday. Much of the content on Curio is evergreen and is easily discoverable. Playlists on topics ranging from Hackers to Privacy, Stoicism to Creativity.

Why is Curio better than its competitors?

We consistently produce high-quality content from premium and niche brands, an all-you-can-listen ad-free experience, best-in-class curation that makes for both a lean-back and lean-forward experience.

We consider rival podcasts to be our competitors, but also traditional radio. One interesting company is Audible, but we believe we offer a more tailored curation, and content that fits any length of time for our audience.

How has the company been funded to date?

We’d like to keep this confidential at this time, but we have been through two early rounds of funding including our stint at 500 Startups in the US.

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Christopher Kahler, CEO Qriously

Qriously was the only data company to predict the Labour surge in the last election, a story that Wired picked up and was one of their best-trafficked stories of the year. Company CEO Chris Kahler explains what happens next.

kahlerWelcome to the Mob76 Outlook audience, Mr Kahler. Tell us more about your company.

We are a research platform to understand and predict human behaviour in real-time, in particular with event-based predictions such as political elections.

The main alternative to our approach is to use traditional polling which is becoming increasingly inaccurate (as evidenced by the recent spate of hilariously wrong predictions).

We are in a state of political tumult and we think accurate polling is an important feedback mechanism for a government to function properly. This applies to readers ‘in tech’ and beyond.

What is currently happening in the world that makes Qriously relevant?

Ummm, the world is totally fucked. Russia, Putin, Trump, China… Name it! It feels like no one knows really what’s going on.

Right now it’s quiet, but the mid-terms in the US next year will be huge and we might be lulled into a false sense of security with Germany. Populism is threatening the EU.

Can’t argue with that summation. So what needs to be done?

Polling is broken but the need for it hasn’t diminished. That means something needs to be done about it if governments want to know what citizens really think.

Research and polling methodology has seen extremely little innovation since the invention of the first online panel. In particular, research methods have barely taken advantage of smartphones although it’s the most universal medium of information creation and communication of all time.

How, specifically, is Qriously helping to solve this problem?

Without diving into too much detail and giving away too much to our competitors, Qriously has developed a methodology that produces more accurate results and up to 10x faster than traditional methods.

The main problem our methodology is solving is that of sample bias: traditional landlines/panels capture an increasingly skewed subset of the population. Our method captures random people in random apps, making them more likely to random people.

So, it’s a mobile-first product?

Yes. We’ve developed a research methodology that replaces ads with surveys in smartphone apps. Instead of building a panel, we use machine learning to create representative samples in real-time.

Sounds simple enough, but describe it to somebody who knows nothing about technology.

Do you know those pesky banner ads you see in some smartphone apps and games? Qriously replaces those with surveys on smartphones that you can answer if you want to.

Because so many people have smartphones nowadays, we can get better data than other methods which use landlines (who has those nowadays anyway?) or online panels which are groups of people that are paid to answer surveys.

The Brexit decision, which you predicted, is making people nervous. Do you intend to stay based in London?

At the moment, yes, we plan to stay in London. Looking at how much work goes into predicting an election or referendum outcome, predicting something much more complicated like the political future of the UK is truly in the realm of pure speculation – we’re not that good yet!

We originally came to London because of access to capital, talent, and a diverse set of markets (important for young startups experimenting with business models). At the moment, those continue to be compelling reasons for us and many other startups to stay. Of these, however, talent is the main concern.

So how did you get this point and where did you start?

In 2010 my co-founders and I built a few simple consumer-facing apps for fun, just to see what would happen. In 2010 many apps weren’t designed really well and searching for apps didn’t work very well (it’s still nowhere near as good as web search).

So we discovered that if you built well-designed apps and gave them really boring descriptive names, you got tons of downloads (in our case, more than 30 million across all the titles we released).

We wanted to find a way to monetise those apps and began experimenting with display ads. However, we didn’t like the way those ads looked in our apps so we decided to do the only logical thing which was to build our own native ad unit. Once we had the unit, we began tinkering with other modes of engagement such as simple questions.

We were blown away by the response rates and once we did some basic data validation we knew this was something special, that we had stumbled across a new way of gathering data that wasn’t possible before. We also had our own user base to test out the technology and iterate quickly.

How much traction in the market do you have?

* Hundreds of clients across a range of industries, including government organisations, hedge funds, and brands.

* Hundreds of millions of answers

* Millions in revenue

Finally, Chris, you’re clearly good at predicting what other people are going to do? What’s next for Qriously?

Up until this point we’ve been busy getting the methodology right and building the technical infrastructure. That’s largely completed so the next area for us to focus on is opening up the predictive power of the data to everyone so we’re building a self-serve platform. We can’t say too much at this point, but we’re really excited to see what happens you open access to the opinions of >1b people all over the world.

That was awesome, Chris Kahler, thanks for sharing your story.

My pleasure, thanks for having me.