New year, new topics. Finally a bit about Blockchain

Well well, after months of research and talks with thought leaders and blockchain companies finally gained some confidence to bother you with my thoughts.

When talking about blockchain you cannot skip bitcoin on the way. So what is bitcoin and why is it relevant?

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. It is the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency. A software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin and the idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees. Bitcoin was introduced to a cryptography mailing list and released as open-source software in 2009.

The bitcoin protocol – the rules that make bitcoin work – say that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins can be divided into smaller parts (the smallest divisible amount is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin and is called a ‘Satoshi’, after the founder of bitcoin).

Source: Coindesk

Bitcoin is an application of blockchain and as such carries several very important characteristics:

It’s decentralized – The bitcoin network isn’t controlled by a central authority. Every machine that mines bitcoin and processes transactions makes up a part of the network, and decisions are taken based on consensus.

It’s transparent – Bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a huge version of a general ledger, called the blockchain.

It’s non-repudiable – When bitcoins are sent, you cannot get them back. Unless the recipient returns them to you.

Some other characteristics are:

Transaction fees are miniscule – If a bank may charge you a EUR 10 fee for international transfers. In the case of Bitcoin we talk cents.

It’s fast – Money transfers arrive just few minutes later.

It’s easy to set up – You can set up a bitcoin address in seconds, no questions asked, and with no fees payable. Now think what it takes with your home bank.

It’s anonymous – Users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses, and they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information.

Source: Coindesk

If this is not enough watch this cool bitcoin video. Something I find really entertaining is the mining industry behind bitcoin – take a look for some spicy details.

So what is blockchain?

Blockchain is a huge general ledger. And it has a killer application in the financial markets. More on the topic in the context of financial markets will follow in my next post in a week time.

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This week: a lil teaser about Blockchain and how your Skype account got hacked

Skype spam messagesBlockchain is growing in importance with every day passing by. This is the reason why I plan dedicated posts, not mixed with the rest of my areas of interest. The series of posts that I prepare will follow a simple pattern:

 

  • The history of Blockchain and brief description of the technology
  • Application of Blockchain with financial services in focus
  • Overview of Blockchain projects, startups and ideas

Once I finally get the time to condense all the info I have collected into the planned brief blog posts, you will hear from me. But I do believe this will happen in the next 2 weeks.

Now about Skype. Few weeks ago I woke up late on a Sunday morning to find out that my Skype account has been sending spam messages to my contact list. That kinda hurt my feelings as I tend to have decent security in place and until then used to LOL on all skype accounts that sent me these messages.

It took me about 2 days to ping all my friends, colleagues, business contacts not to click these links (the screenshot above is real, unfortunately). Not surprisingly also changed my password, but I promised to myself to do some research.

There are several ways how the hackers could have guessed my password – brute force attack, getting the answer to my secret question, Microsoft leaking my password (Skype was acquired by MS). My password was a strong one (as usual), same with my secret question. The resulting research showed that other users had password of 15 chars and above, plus special chars, and still got hacked. And after changing their password, some of them got hacked again.

The anatomy of the hacking activity was well described in 2015. The hacker would search for an account with weak password, then break the password and start sending messages to all contacts of this account. The messages contain a seemingly legitimate link e.g. link from Baidu and when the link is clicked the URL will lead to the hackers site, record the username of the user that clicked and then forward to another site e.g. diet site. Thus the attacker knows that a skype ID is valid and in use (so it makes sense to break in and spam further). More than 1 year later Microsoft has still not taken sufficient action to prevent this from happening and this is all that Skype offers on the topic.

In case you have a Microsoft account things do not stop here. Apparently, after the acquisition, all Skype logins were merged into Microsoft’s own login system. This allows for the hackers to log in into an MS account with weak (or hacked) skype credentials, even bypassing enabled 2 factor authentication although it was configured for the initial MS account. Big thanks to Jukka-Pekka for summing it all up. And go check your MS account, you might have a ticking bomb there.

Bottom line, the hack seems to pass even one year after it was reported. A hacked account could send thousands of identical spam messages without the message being automatically blocked or flagged. All this is happening at the end of year 2016!

It is still unclear, how long and seemingly secure passwords have been repeatedly compromised. Looking forward to somebody finding the missing link e.g. if our Skype passwords were leaked.

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A bit about ISTA 2016, the killer of Slack and Blockchain

ista crosslend

This November I came back on stage at the ISTA conference 2016. The 2 day event gathered quite a crowd of geeks from the software industry and in particular from Bulgaria. Hosted in the top notch Sofia Event Center and with a great view to the Vitosha Mountain, the event allowed me to dust out after such a long break. In about an hour I walked with the audience through the evolving online consumer behaviour, and how the internet and ecommerce proliferation have opened the door for a whole new myriad of financial services innovations. That eventually brought me to cryptocurrencies, p2p lending and ultimately securitisation services through CrossLend. What struck me is that the hardcore financial language didn’t scare off the audience. I was actually a bit afraid that my topic might be too softy, yet the insights of how we run our IT operations rounded the talk and instigated plenty of questions from the audience. So all in all, a great event, amazing people and in support of a noble cause.

Another thing that I cannot not resist to mention is the lack of excitement in the media about the advance of a Slack killer from Microsoft. And from Facebook. And… no more big players, for now. So the rumours were true. Microsoft released its Teams product and bets it could beat Slack in their own game. Instead of buying Slack, MS goes for its own product for a second time in recent years. And it certainly has a scalable channel to get a sizeable chunk of the collaboration market. Same time there is the not so old mishap in the recent history of the company and namely building an awesome mobile OS, appealing mobile devices and still not succeeding to beat its equally powerful competitors. What failed MS was the lack of apps. What may fail them again is … the lack of apps (Slack has 750 of them). Yet, the main differentiator seems to be video calls capability. Well, yes, you may say we cannot compare Slack with Microsoft due to their vast difference in size. But keep in mind that Facebook has also launched Workplace and has won over 1 000 business clients. This is gonna be a heated one. Agree?

And finally, a bit about Blockchain.  It is officially my new darling to explore and you will probably get fed up with me writing about it again and again. Just saying 🙂

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Quick update: Taking on a new challenge in the fintech industry

It has been exciting 2 years at the helm of my startup incubator Stark Founders. Without doubt this has been the most rewarding but also dynamic part of my life. Must admit my previous 3 year tenure at Rocket Internet has prepared me well for this rollercoaster as some of you might know. 🙂

Looking back, I have extended my understanding of technology and business ecosystems, venture capital, business modeling and marketing with focus on B2B/B2C cloud based products, IoT and nearshoring outsourcing. I can say for sure that what I loved the most were the entrepreneurial minded tireless people I met on the way.

Several companies later (including one exit), it was time for a change. Me being me – why not experience a whole new industry? Since few months I am part of the amazing CrossLend team sitting in the futuristic Sony Center at the heart of entrepreneurial Berlin.

So what do we do?

Undoubtedly money is the rocket fuel for business growth. Lending in the form of SME, mortgage or consumer loans is an essential vehicle to maintain consumption of goods and services. CrossLend provides a solution to redefine the lending economy as we know it for both consumers and business. With its unique securitization service it allows to convert loans into bonds and thus gives investors access to asset classes unavailable before while enabling financial institutions to grant more loans.

Unequivocally identified as a truly innovative company, I am really happy to be leading the digital effort at CrossLend. And for those who want to join our amazing technology team feel free to apply through our careers site. We are looking to grow our team of product managers and engineers with financial services background.

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VCs spend an average of 3 mins, 44 secs on a pitch deck. What is the perfect deck then?

dollar-1164990_640DocSend recently published their findings from a research on the pitch decks of 200 companies raising funds. The companies raised a total of $360m so I believe this research could be treated as pretty representative.

Respected companies like Sequoia have long published their dream pitch deck.  Yet, DocSend has brought a bunch on insights that should be considered.

Here are the most important take aways in brief:

  • Seed raise takes 3 months on average.
  • Seed firms provide higher rounds with fewer meets than angels.
  • More meetings does not mean more money. 20-30 meetings should be enough.
  • Average time an investor spends on your deck is close to but under 4 minutes.
  • The perfect deck should be 20 pages or less.
  • Your deck should be mobile friendly, 1 out 8 investors views it on mobile.
  • The Sequoia suggested model seems to be ubiquitous in the industry as there were almost no big deviations on the slides required and their order. Check slide 7 for more info.
  • Investors spend most time on Financials, Team and Competition slides. If your financials are not ready yet, better do not include as they will be seriously scrutinized.
  • Do not include your deal terms in the deck.

 

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