Category Archives: Voices

Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits

DeFiprime | Nick Sawinyh | Sep 19, 2019

defi decentralized finance - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract AuditsWhen it comes to “being your own bank,” having the ability to evaluate the security of the tools at your disposal becomes a necessity.

A software audit is a process where an individual or team examines the code that lies behind a piece of software with the goal of uncovering any bugs, security breaches, or violations of programming conventions before the code gets deployed. Smart contract audits play a critical role in evaluating the technical risks associated with a dApp but as a relatively new form of code, the standards for software audits of smart contracts remain in their infancy.

Companies like ChainSecurity, Trail of Bits, and Certik provide smart contract audits and have adopted their own standards for how a proper audit should be conducted. Until the industry adopts its own standard, however, customers have to rely on the reputation of these companies and the team members conducting the audit to evaluate the quality of a potential audit. To help you understand the current state of smart contract security, we’ve gathered insights from a number of industry experts.

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Q1: What is the smart contract audit exactly

There is a lot of misconceptions in the space, like many of DeFi users thinking that smart contract audit is a sort of silver bullet and sign of security (or lack of) of the dApp.

Hubert Ritzdorf, ChainSecurity:

A smart contract audit is an independent review that assesses the security and correctness of the code. This provides the following advantages. First, users obtain an independent opinion on how the smart contract behaves, which can alert them about potential threats. Project managers receive valuable feedback about their projects and can take the necessary steps to mitigate security risks. Finally, developers receive important security advice and concrete security bug reports. However, not all audits are the same. The value provided by an audit depends on the technology used to conduct it and the expertise of the audit team.

Dan Guido, Trail of Bits:

Think of security assessments like getting your car inspected: If you do it early enough, the mechanic can recommend parts to replace and preventative maintenance that can avert leaving you stranded at the side of the road later. If you wait until 300,000 miles to get your first service, the damage might be irreparable.

The amount of time you allot for inspection also makes a big difference: Give the mechanic 30 minutes, and they might only have time to use an automated scanner to determine that your spark plugs are bad. Give the mechanic a day, and they might have time to diagnose the underlying cause of why the spark plugs became bad (failed sensors? wiring? engine running rich?).

Scope also matters: Request that the mechanic only diagnose problems with the alternator, and the car may drive away with a repaired alternator as well as a latent, undiagnosed issue with the transmission.

It is the mechanic’s job to provide advice, but it is ultimately up to the owner to decide if, when, and how to implement the recommendations.

See:  Fintech, decentralization pose risks: Report

Daryl Hok, CertiK:

In the simplest sense, a smart contract audit is a third-party review of the source code of a smart contract. Although a completed audit means that the code was reviewed, the rigorousness of the audit may vary substantially - and this rigor is really what matters for security, not merely the presence of an audit. For instance, a dApp may flaunt that no errors were found during the audit process, but it’s difficult to determine whether this means that the code quality was extremely high or whether the auditor was really bad.

At CertiK, we specialize in using Formal Verification to prove or disprove the correctness of source code; we apply mathematical proofs to compute source code outcomes and prove the absence of bugs, meaning that, if there are no bugs found, it is not possible for the specified vulnerabilities to exist.

Q2: Are there degrees of “approval”?

Are there some contracts where you’re more confident they are solid vs. others where you can’t find a problem, but you are less confident?

Hubert Ritzdorf, ChainSecurity:

A limited audit scope affects confidence levels. Before the audit begins, we determine the scope together with the customer. It can be decided not to review certain dependencies or components due to time or budget constraints. To clarify this, our audit reports always precisely state the scope of the audit.

Dan Guido, Trail of Bits:

We try to make it easy to understand what happened on a security review. If you’re investigating the health of a project, then pay attention to these sections in our reports:

  1. Executive Summary. This section includes a brief review of what we did, what we found, and what we recommend as next steps. It should make clear how much work is ahead of the project to remediate the risks we identified.
  2. Project Dashboard. This easy-to-read table summarizes the level of effort applied to review the codebase and what was found. Did we identify systemic issues? Was every bug identified high severity? Get a visual indicator by glancing at this table.
  3. Engagement Goals. This section describes our scope, or, what we set out to do on the project. Did we seek to identify risks that you care about? You’ll find out by reviewing our own goals for the project.
  4. Coverage. This section discusses our ability to achieve our engagement goals within the constraints of the project. You’ll find information on specific contracts and techniques we used to review them here, as well as pointers for future review.

It’s no accident that these are the top four sections in all our reports.

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Daryl Hok, CertiK:

In the case of Formal Verification, the results are binary - when the mathematical model runs, it either identifies an example of the vulnerability in the code, or it does find anything, which means that it’s secure. As a result, our confidence is tied to the output of these results in these instances. When it is not feasible for Formal Verification to be applied, we utilize various tools to test the security, while also performing thorough manual examination.

Our confidence level is a collective consideration of the usage of commonly accepted best practices, patterns, libraries, as well as the quality of documentation and test cases. Rare, complex patterns typically reduce our confidence or require more customized review of whether the output is consistent with the intention. Overall, we work with projects to correct all critical vulnerabilities and antipatterns before publishing any passing audit scores.

Q3: What are the five most common things people miss in smart contracts that make them vulnerable?

Hubert Ritzdorf, ChainSecurity:

  1. Improper access control: granting access to unauthorized parties or denying access to authorized ones
  2. Front-running or back-running: No enforcement of execution order
  3. Improper input sanitization: insufficient filtering of untrusted user inputs
  4. Logical errors: logical flaws in the code due to faults in the code
  5. Numerical errors: rounding errors and incorrect arithmetic calculations

Dan Guido, Trail of Bits:

It has everything to do with development process rather than awareness, or not, of individual security issues.

  1. Developers are simply not using security tools. Ask any developer about unit tests, and they’ll say they won’t ship without 100% test coverage. Yet, many of those same people will have never used, or even tried to use, security testing or verification tools. Don’t leave it for the security consultants – nearly all the best tools are free.
  2. Developers still look at security as the last step before production. I’m writing this interview about a month ahead of DevCon, and my schedule has never been so busy. Developers should seek guidance earlier, including developer training, architectural review, and brief checkins over the lifetime of the project.
  3. Developers are writing too much code without a clear idea of its purpose or whether it is needed at all. Developers should start with a specification and then write the minimum amount of code to meet it. Our best-performing clients have documented security requirements in their spec. Complexity breeds insecurity; keep it simple.
  4. Developers rush to use bleeding-edge third-party dependencies that increase complexity and reduce the safety of their project. Examples include low-level optimizations, delegatecall proxy upgrades, ABIEncoderV2, and even the latest version of the Solidity compiler. Be judicious about inherited risks.

I don’t think there is a step five. You’ll be ahead of nearly every other project if you can do these four.

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Daryl Hok, CertiK:

  1. Integer overflow/underflow
  2. Not updating the balance first before further operations. (reentrancy vulnerability)
  3. Writing loops without considering the gas cost. (DoS vulnerability)
  4. Lack of balance checking for value transfer operations.
  5. Lack of permission settings and permission check for public/external functions.
  6. Use of block.timestamp and block.number without considering their drawbacks (block.timestamp can be modified by miners; time between two consecutive block numbers is dynamic so block.number is not ideal for a stable time delta estimation).

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Incumbents, consumer complacency barriers to innovation in Canadian banking

Betakit | | Sep 27, 2019

canadian banking innovation barriers - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract AuditsWednesday at the #ElevateTechFest Money Stage, BetaKit’s Meagan Simpson spoke with three FinTech disruptors about open banking and the barriers faced by innovators looking to shake up Canada’s financial system.

“I think we need to own the fact that we frankly didn’t get our shit together soon enough.”

The panel featured Daniel Eberhard, founder and CEO of Koho, a Toronto-based challenger bank, Alexandra Nuth, managing director of ATB’s new digital offering Brightside, and Saud Aziz, strategy and operations manager of Canada for Revolut, a UK-based challenger that is currently expanding to the Canadian market.

See: 

Revolut is one of a number of UK-founded challenger banks, including Starling and Monzo, that have popped up in recent years to offer an alternative to traditional banking. The UK, in fact, is known as having a competitive environment for challenger banks to thrive. The UK has adopted open banking much more quickly than other nations; In 2016, the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority required the nine largest UK banks to allow licensed startups direct access to their data.

Eberhard said the regulatory environment across the pond in Canada has made it much more difficult to thrive as a challenger bank, as regulators have prioritized managing system risk over creating a competitive environment.

Open banking is meant to give consumers more control by allowing their banks to distribute their personal data to third parties through the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs). One of the goals of open banking is to foster a more competitive and innovative financial ecosystem and proponents of open banking claim it allows financial companies to improve their offerings and customer engagement, and create new channels for digital revenue.

One of the specific advantages to UK challenger banks over their Canadian counterparts is the ability to receive an electronic money institution licence (EMI), which allows PayTech and FinTech companies to offer specific and common financial operations, including money remittance services, process payment transactions, and direct debit or credit transfers.

No such licence exists in Canada, and this inability to operate means companies like Koho need to rely on partnerships with incumbent institutions to move their customers’ money. Aziz said regulators need to understand that Canada shouldn’t have a binary framework between existing as only either a bank or not a bank.

See: 

Outside of Canadian regulations that also make it extremely difficult for startups like Koho and Revolut to get banking licences, challenger FinTech’s like Koho have faced direct roadblocks from incumbent financial institutions. Eberhard referenced a tweet that he shared over the summer, regarding a Koho employee being blocked by CIBC from transferring funds to their Koho account, with the bank flagging that Koho could be associated with “scams.”

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Sep 22, 2019: NCFA Response to ASC Consultation Paper 11-701: Energizing Alberta’s Capital Market

NCFA Canada | Sep 22, 2019

ASC  - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits

NCFA is pleased that the Alberta government is undertaking this important initiative to the  benefit of all Albertans.  We acknowledge the substantial background information provided by 11-701.  This submission responds to the brainstorming headings pp. 24 – 31 and seeks to fill knowledge gaps with recent consultation data (mainly obtained in Edmonton) and pays specific attention to equity (investment) crowdfunding and peer lending in Alberta.

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Key Takeaways

The NCFA recommends that the ASC undertake the following:

  • Review and publish a report that evaluates the effectiveness of Alberta’s investment crowdfunding and peer lending requirements compared to other jurisdictions in Canada and international competitors such as the UK, US and Australia, including a comparison of the relative cost of capital to other available financing options;
  • ASC to take a more active role as a resource for both early stage companies and investors including data collection, market analysis, and information sharing to ensure more fair and efficient capital market formation in Alberta;
  • Engage Innovate Edmonton and Platform Calgary following the detailed third-party study by Startup Genome to obtain detailed ecosystem benchmarking data for follow-on analysis of Alberta’s funding gaps;
  • Support the development of a tax relief program for investors to increase the volume of start-up risk capital allocated to non-traditional sectors (eg. financial technology) similar to the effective programs in the UK: SEIS[1] and EIS[2];
  • Work with other jurisdictions to harmonize the crowdfunding regime across Canada (CSA Staff Notice 45-324) with the goal of eliminating unjustified regulatory burden at the same time. We favour BC’s regime;
  • Modify existing requirements so that they are principles based and outcomes focused to enable businesses to comply in the way that best suits their operations – detailed or prescriptive controls should only be imposed when clearly justified;
  • Implement burden reduction amendments for crowdfunding (45-108):
    • Increase the 12 month issuer cap to $5 million or higher;
    • Increase the 12 month investor caps to $10k and allow accredited investors to fully participate;
  • Allow advertising and general solicitation on social media for all crowdfunding;
  • Allow fintech solutions to streamline KYC and suitability tests;
  • Startup crowdfunding business exemption (45-109) – remove lifetime cap of $1 million; or increase lifetime cap to minimum $5 million.

See:  [Survey Deadline Sep 20, 2019]: ASC consults on Energizing Alberta’s Capital Market

Benefits to Alberta will include:

  • Increased capital investment in the province and increased economic growth;
  • Increased investment options for investors that support small businesses across Alberta;
  • Reduced pressure on Albertan startups to raise capital from outside Alberta and Canada;
  • Crowdfunding sources remain in Canada;
  • More capital and improved access to capital specifically for small businesses, rural businesses, economically challenged sectors, and under-served groups (eg. women and Indigenous business owners);
  • More liquidity and transparency in the markets;
  • Improved probability of retaining high growth companies in Alberta; and
  • Accelerated commercialization of new products and services.

Crowdfunding helps to drive innovation, economic activity and job growth. It fills a critical early stage funding gap (‘valley of death’), enables more productive investment in venture markets, and strengthens early stage capital markets. Crowdlending also provides support to more mature companies looking to access capital that may fall outside the parameters of bank lending. And last, but not least, it helps to democratize investment by giving smaller investors direct access to the capital markets.

“Regulation may be the largest constraint to capital markets Fintech development in Canada, as we have not set out many of the same principles as in the U.S. and U.K.”[3]

This is not the time for Alberta to hold back.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute comments.  NCFA would be happy to expand on any of the points raised in this submission.  We look forward to future developments.

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1.    Background and Context

Contrary to the intent of the crowdfunding exemption, Alberta’s crowdfunding requirements hinder access to capital for SMEs across many sectors. These requirements have restricted innovative opportunities for retail investors and our members feel the impact of this directly. The potential of opening up regulation is to significantly increase job creation and economic development, as experience in other jurisdictions shows. Alberta’s 417,000 small businesses would also benefit from the increased access to capital that crowdlending offers.  Canada has fallen behind international competitors like the UK and the US. Crowdfunding now provides the largest investment at the seed stage in the UK and peer-to-peer platforms now provide 15% of all new bank lending to small businesses.

2. Fintech and Crowdfunding are Being Held Back in Canada

Canada’s crowdfunding and fintech “ecosystem” should be competitive, be in line with global trends, and enable early stage entrepreneurs to access smaller amounts of capital at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, it is not and does not. There is a ‘funding gap’ as smaller companies find it very challenging to raise debt or equity financing in Canada.

There is a 'valley of death' for start-ups at around the $250,000 level. Venture capital funding has increased, but VC dollars are mostly going to expanding firms. Angels are a lot less active than in the US and their investment amounts are lower. Banks generally steer clear of start-ups. This means fewer innovative start-ups, fewer opportunities for investors, lower economic growth and productivity and fewer jobs.

“Regulation may be the largest constraint to Fintech development in Canada, as we have not set out many of the same principles as in the U.S. and U.K.”[5]  The NCFA has conducted numerous stakeholder consultations which overwhelmingly tell us that regulatory requirements are overly prescriptive, complex and burdensome, disproportionately raising the costs of doing business for start-ups. Entrepreneurs are reluctant to start up in Canada due to high costs (relative to a small financing), along with concerns about ongoing regulatory burdens such as over-reaching and complex reporting requirements and compliance reviews.

Investors are inhibited by restrictions like caps on investment. Many talented entrepreneurs and investors move to (or invest in) overseas jurisdictions that better understand (and support) innovation and the economic potential of start-ups and SMEs.  If the NCFA recommendations were to be implemented, the experience of other jurisdictions makes clear that more capital would be raised, especially for under-serviced sectors (e.g. women and minority groups, including First Nations, and rural communities). Investors would have increased confidence and more freedom to invest as they choose – any increase in investor downside risks are anticipated to be low.

3. Alberta

The call for comments by the ASC is a leap towards positive change in the Albertan capital markets and crowdfunding landscape. While the in-depth background material supplied by the ASC in 11-701 clearly lays out the challenges for Albertan companies, there are updated consultative engagements with the entrepreneur communities in Edmonton and Calgary. These updated reports will be a useful addition to the ASC’s decision-making processes. They also provide excellent contacts for ASC’s engagement with Alberta’s major centers.

See:  ASC advances new capital-raising initiatives for start-up businesses

(a) Startup Genome Reports

In Edmonton, starting in May 2018, community meetings under the banner of the “Edmonton Innovation Ecosystem Community” engaged members of the innovation community.[6] To date, there have been 11 community consultations with key innovators on a near-monthly basis. The impetus for the first gatherings followed consultation with 50 entrepreneurs in Edmonton to gather their feedback on ecosystem performance. The EEDC engaged Startup Genome to begin measurement of the ecosystem performance. The Edmonton Report brought two key measurement instruments to the ecosystem, Global Market Reach (GMR) and Global Connectedness (GC).

startup genome edmonton report - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits

Startup Genome Edmonton Ecosystem Assessment, May 2018

We ask that the ASC review the results of EEDC’s more detailed analysis of the ecosystem as part of their assessment of 11-701 responses. Notably, Edmonton lags behind its Canadian peers in attracting resources from within the country.  In addition, Edmonton ranked below what the report calls the Globalization Phase Average in Early Stage Funding per Startup, based on data from Crunchbase and Deal Room. The key actionable insights from this early analysis are that Edmonton should focus on increasing early stage funding by (1) widening the funnel and increasing startups with seed funding; (2) supporting the formation of more sources of capital (ie. Angel groups); and increasing access to Series A capital.  Calgary has also engaged Startup Genome for ecosystem benchmarking[7].

(b) Innovation Compass

Another work product from the EIEC meetings in Edmonton was the Innovation Compass report[8]. Due to perceived low numbers of early entrepreneur engagement, EEDC engaged ZGM Marketing to complete a third-party interview process with Edmonton Entrepreneurs to make recommendations that reflect the voice of Edmonton entrepreneurs. Engagement began in December 2018 and the final report was published June 20, 2019. The report provided community validated recommendations and directions for supporting the city’s tech innovation ecosystem. Among 14 recommendations and directions, the top recommendation was:

“Encourage pools of private investors from all sectors to move off the sidelines and start investing in local tech entrepreneurs.”

innovation compass edmonto recommendations - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits

Highest priority recommendation from Edmonton innovation ecosystem community members in the YEG Innovation Compass Report.

(c) Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS)

During the early meetings of the EIEC, it was recognized that a body completely separate from EEDC that reflected the voice of Edmonton entrepreneurs was needed. The Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups was formed with members representing all stages of entrepreneurship to ensure diversity. EACOS is comprised of 13 individuals representing students, seed, startups and scale-up stage companies, and investors. EACOS has published three position papers[9] aimed at increasing the size, throughput, energy, and success of the Edmonton startup community.   EACOS has identified a number of community priorities and access to capital is top of mind. EACOS has recommended:

“Intensified efforts to engage local investors into investing into local technology companies. Investors who have built capital through traditional means, like real estate and energy, need to be effectively engaged, educated, and presented with the portfolio opportunities of technology investments.”

4. Comparison: British Columbia

BC and some other jurisdictions have less burdensome crowdfunding requirements[10] that allow small firms to raise up to $250,000 per offering (twice a year), with participation from other provinces. While still not ideal, these less burdensome exemptions have proven to be much more effective than MI 45-108 in Ontario.

For background on exemptions in Canada see: https://www.bcsc.bc.ca/Securities_Law/Policies/PolicyBCN/PDF/BCN_2018-01__February_14__2018/. (This BCSC Notice expresses well many of the points we raise in this submission)

5. Canada’s Uncompetitive Position

Canada has fallen behind international comparators such as the UK. In the UK,  crowdfunding platforms were involved in 24% of all equity deals in 2017, but with 30% of seed stage deals in 2017.[11]

To see the advantages of a uniform, cross-border, and flexible crowdfunding regime, one need look no further than Regulation D in the US. The following are quotes from the recent Crowdfunding Capital Advisers Report.[12]

“2018 saw triple digit growth in unique offerings, proceeds and investors. More importantly, start-ups are successfully using Regulation Crowdfunding to raise meaningful capital in a relatively short period of time and at costs that are less than a typical Regulation D offering.

“Unlike venture capital, where less than 6.5 percent of start-ups successfully raise funds, the success rate in Regulation Crowdfunding hovers around an impressive 60 percent. A key data point for industry followers is that the average raise ($270,996) helps start-ups hurdle the “valley of death” they often face after expending their internal or personal capital.

“Regulation Crowdfunding is proving to be a jobs engine (creating on average 2.9 jobs per issuer), economic generator (pumping over $289 million of revenues into local economies)... There is still a lot of room for growth with Regulation Crowdfunding offerings as they equate to only 1.2 percent of all Regulation D offerings and only 4 percent of all capital raised under Reg D.

“The fact that the velocity of capital into funded offerings continues to be steady without signs of abnormal activity or irrational investor behaviour is a healthy indicator. Meanwhile, the rapid increase in the number of offerings and investors proves there is continued appetite for Regulation Crowdfunding from both issuers seeking capital as well as investors looking to diversify. This is true across the [US].

“Regulation Crowdfunding is also proving efficient. If we compare the average days to close (113) in 2018 and average raise ($250,635) of a successful Regulation Crowdfunding campaign to a traditional Regulation D offering, Regulation Crowdfunding most likely represents the most efficient, cost effective way to raise capital for start-ups and SMEs.”

The type of (published) data collection and analysis provided by the above report is rare in Canada, which is another serious impediment to decision making in this area. To back its recommendations, NCFA (and others) must rely largely on anecdotal evidence from its members.

6. Canada’s Competition Bureau

As the Competition Bureau has pointed out[13], a more flexible approach to regulation and better government support would provide significant economic benefits by freeing entrepreneurship. It would also help to keep our entrepreneurs in Canada (along with the related jobs), boost GDP (especially by improving productivity), and encourage the commercialization of new products and services generally.  It is well-documented that overly complex, prescriptive regulation is a much higher burden for smaller firms and so is inherently anti-competitive.  For a disappointing progress report on the Bureau’s recommendations of Dec 2017.  See: http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/04392.html

7. ASC Brainstorming Ideas and Comments

(a) Information resource for Alberta start-ups and early stage businesses on capital raising options

  • Raising capital shouldn’t be a ‘black box’. Companies and investors would benefit if the ASC could:
    • provide a roadmap to the various financing options including use of exemptions, what typical companies (and investors) that qualify look like, average time to market, related costs and effort, and capital flows;
    • publish sample templates of the expected quality of good offering documents;
    • work with industry to develop a transparent resource database that is widely available.
  • Dovetailing with EACOS recommendations on entrepreneur preparedness, more information on successive financings would benefit the Alberta tech ecosystem. The ASC could consider hosting this data in an anonymized format so that Alberta startups could learn about their local comparables.

(b) Information resource for investors in Alberta

Some market participants have suggested there might be a role for the ASC in increasing investor understanding respecting the exempt market and considerations when investing in start-up and early stage businesses

  • The ASC assuming an educational role could only be beneficial to Albertan investors, especially those that are seeking to diversify outside of real estate or oil and gas. An equity crowdfunding or peer lending platform operating in Alberta could then easily point to this resource as a third party unbiased educational resource for investors.
  • In addition to local investors, ASC could work with economic development agencies to provide education on exempt market trends and developments to international investors and funds with a new focus on emerging technology as a means to diversify the Alberta economy.
  • Highlighting a range of companies by sector and capital raised in private markets would help investors understand high growth SME opportunities.

(c) Expanding the accredited investor exemption to include educated, experienced investors

What are the right combinations of education and experience? For the educational component, should we consider courses such as those offered through the CVCA Canadian Private Capital Investment School or the NACO Academy for those investing in private markets?

  • The accredited investor exemption if expanded to include educated and experienced investors would unlock latent capital in Alberta while increasing opportunities for qualifying investors and allow for greater portfolio diversification.
  • Any expansion of the accredited investor definition should aim to ensure that investors understand the risks involved with investing in private market securities such as reduced disclosure and lack of liquidity and provide education on the evolving trends of online financing such as peer lending, investment crowdfunding, and digital assets.
  • Education should be tendered and open to all private capital market training bodies, associations, licensed exempt market dealers, and investor-orientated groups and structured to be flexible and allow a wide range of participation to enable:
    • the right balance of training expertise and collaboration;
    • wide program accessibility;
    • current and relevant training content updated on an annual or periodic basis;
    • range of “textbook” and experiential training delivery;
    • certification and listing for public verification on an ASC database; and
    • capture of investor risk acknowledgement such as ability to withstand loss
  • The certificate of training could then be used by equity crowdfunding and lending exempt market dealers and portals to validate investor training in a streamlined manner (rather than have investors go through the same process with various dealers and portals time and time again).

Given that the policy rationale for the accredited investor exemption is ‘ability to withstand loss’, would it be appropriate to impose some limit on the amount that can be invested by an educated/experienced investor that is not otherwise an accredited investor e.g., the greater of $30,000 and 5% of their investment portfolio?

  • Accredited investor and qualifying experienced-educated investors should be allowed to fully participate without caps in investment crowdfunding and peer lending offerings.
  • Accredited investors should be encouraged to invest in or along-side a Start-up Business Exemption campaign. The participation of accredited investors at higher levels will provide non-accredited investors with added value as the investment group will perform greater due diligence than investors only investing the minimum threshold amount in a Start-Up Business Exemption offering.

(d) Addressing the compliance challenges associated with confirming accredited investor status

The central party could then confirm, through a unique investor identifier, to any business or dealer to whom the investor provided the unique identifier, that based on the information provided, the investor qualifies as an accredited investor, without the need for the investor to reveal all of their personal information.

  • This is a logical and reasonable solution that mirrors recreational licensing and even academic author identification systems (see Orcid ID).
  • Unique IDs could be used as part of a background check which will help reduce the number of days required to verify ID prior to being permitted to participate on equity crowdfunding or peer lending platforms.
  • There are numerous ‘regtech’ solutions now in the market that can be assessed by the ASC for potential use and deployment.
  • Any investor verification system should be neutral to avoid a single group monopolizing a provincial (or national)system.

(e) Registration exemption for finders

We are interested in feedback on a dealer registration exemption for sales to investors that are accredited investors who also meet certain education and/or experience criteria. We are interested in how such an exemption could be tailored to adequately protect investors but help address the issues associated with smaller financings that are not being serviced by registered dealers.

  • We agree that a registration exemption for qualified ‘finders’ would help expand the pool of investors and supply more capital to early stage companies.
  • Finders should be required to notify the ASC of their identity or could be required to associate with registered dealers or engaged by investment platforms.
  • Finders not associated with registered dealers could be required to report periodically on their investor prospecting activity using technology to streamline communications. This would not only provide employment opportunities for finders but also minimize unreported finder type activity that occurs anyway while increasing the transparency in the exempt market for smaller financings.

(f) Reducing compliance costs for registered dealers when dealing with accredited investors

This applies across the piece in the crowdfunding sector. Each requirement should be cost justified by regulators.

(g) Addressing other registered dealer compliance burdens

For crowdfunding related burden reduction examples we encourage the ASC to review NCFAs submission to the Ontario Securities Commission of March 1, 2019 – burden reduction.[14]

(h) Facilitating angel investment funds

Should we consider adviser registration exemptions where accredited investors have a limited amount of capital at risk?

  • Yes, especially if accredited investor status is expanded to include well educated and experienced investors. In this scenario, with small amounts of capital deployed and a demonstrated ability to withstand a specified loss, barriers to obtaining capital from multiple crowd sources would be reduced.

(i) Facilitating the development of a retail, publicly-traded fund focused on innovative businesses

  • We feel this is best answered by VCs and institutions.

(k) Facilitating a semi-public market that allows secondary retail trading by non-public companies

  • The illiquid nature of exempt market securities is often cited as a major concern of prospective investors so anything that assists secondary trading is welcomed.
  • A secondary market for exempt securities would also benefit early employees of start-up companies by allowing them to liquidate holdings pre-IPO and thus help early stage companies to offer creative compensation packages and attract a wider range of employees to help them grow.[15]
  • A semi-public market should be open to all types of exempt securities from crowdfunding to security tokens to allow fair and efficient markets to form.

(m) Fostering crowdlending and peer-to-peer lending

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is providing SMEs with financing in many jurisdictions, including the US, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, at rates which are considerably lower than those offered by competitors.
  • The popularity of P2P lending in the UK has increased exponentially in recent years, with nearly £10 billion being transferred through such platforms in the past ten years and approximately £1.2bn having been transferred through P2P platforms in the second quarter of 2019 alone.
  • The current securities regulatory regime in Canada imposes costs and burdens that create significant impediments to the success of any P2P platform and by extension the availability of financing to Canadian SMEs.
  • The current regime in Canada is not suited to allowing companies to raise debt financing as it treats them as issuers. The regulatory requirements for becoming an issuer are simply too burdensome for small loan sizes (for example a $50,000 loan).
  • The sheer magnitude of P2P lending and its positive impact on the economies of  advanced jurisdictions elsewhere suggests that it would be beneficial for Canadian SMEs if the regulators in Canada were to adopt a regime specific to P2P lending. A regime modeled on those successfully implemented in jurisdictions, like the UK, where P2P lending has been proven to provide much needed funding to SMEs while ensuring an appropriate level of protection for investors.

About the NCFA

The National Crowdfunding and Fintech Association of Canada (the Association) represents over 2,000 fintech SMEs and individual members that support financial and capital market innovation, small businesses and technology. We are pleased that the Alberta government is undertaking this important initiative to the benefit of all Albertans.  Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

 

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‘We don’t have enough money’: Tech leaders debate constraints at Vancouver Startup Week

Vancouver Courier | Tyler Orton | Sep 20, 2019

Vancouver tech leaders debate VSW 2019 - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract AuditsGrowth in technology may be stymied without enough investment capital, say experts

It’s a rare feat for B.C. tech companies to lay claim to capital raises totalling more than $450 million over the course of 13 days.

Despite that recent tally, the current level of capital flowing into the province may not be enough to elevate the ecosystem to a level on par with other global leaders, according to experts speaking at Vancouver Startup Week.

B.C. Tech Association CEO Jill Tipping told a downtown Vancouver audience on Sept. 19 that the province has great startups and all the fundamentals for a solid tech sector. “But we don’t have enough money. I’ll state that boldly,” she said during a panel that also featured Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Jeanette Jackson and Innovate BC CEO Raghwa Gopal.

Tipping added there is not enough Series A funding coming in to early-stage companies and government funding is lacking.

“I just think it’s time B.C. gets serious about its technology-innovation economy,” she said.

See: 

Her industry association offers programming to startups in a bid to help them scale and grow.

Jackson said one big issue for B.C. is that it doesn’t have enough tech anchor companies that can attract the right type of investment capital that would then filter down to early-stage companies — those most in need of Series A funding.

Her organization is currently embarking on a cluster initiative aimed at fostering collaboration between small-to-medium-sized businesses, corporations, academic institutions and investors in a bid to grow the province’s cleantech sector.

Three B.C. tech companies made headlines over the past two weeks after Burnaby-based legal-tech firm Clio (Themis Solutions Inc) announced it had raised US$250 million (C$332 million), Vancouver-based Terramera Inc. announced it had raised US$45 million (C$60 million) and Vancouver-based Trulioo Information Services Inc. announced it had raised $70 million.

And while Gopal echoed Tipping’s sentiment about the province’s tech sector already possessing solid fundamentals, he said funding from venture capitalists and angel investors “could be improved.”

If the province wants to become even more attractive for investment, Gopal said it must continue to invest in training and education to ensure there is enough access to talent.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Competition Bureau’s call for intel on anti-competitive conduct in digital economy raises eyebrows

Financial Post | Julius Melnitzer | Sep 17, 2019

big tech and competition bureau - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract AuditsIn a general sense, what the Bureau wants to know is whether the characteristics of certain digital markets favour concentration — a process called 'tipping'

The Competition Bureau’s recent call to Canadians to flag anti-competitive conduct in the digital economy is raising eyebrows among industry professionals.

Certainly, the Bureau’s consultation seems far more concrete than what is evident from the regulator’s statement that it “is examining concerns that certain digital markets have become increasingly concentrated.”

“The Bureau is looking to collect information and understand facts to determine whether increased concentration is truly occurring,” says Anita Banicevic, a competition partner in Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP’s Toronto office. “But it’s also looking to see whether it should take enforcement actions and beyond that, a fairly open call for complaints on which to base such actions.”

Although Banicevic acknowledges that the Bureau has “always been driven by complaints to a significant degree” and “does have the ability and resources to weed out the genuine complaints from those that are meritorious,” she still finds the call-out disquieting.

“I remain concerned that the call for complaints is essentially a matter of looking for issues,” she says.

See:  Bureau Speech: Advancing Competition in a Changing Marketplace

James Musgrove, a competition partner in McMillan LLP’s Toronto office, is of similar mind.

“This (call-out) was a little surprising, because presumably if there are actual problems, people already know how to contact the Bureau,” he says.

But Matthew Boswell, Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, says the Bureau is bound to approach the issues with an open mind.

“We don’t have the luxury of making assumptions and going in with a fixed view of things,” he says. “We work on a prosecutorial model in which any evidence we have will be tested because we have to take everything we do to a court and establish that there are anti-competitive effects. We can’t just go off on a jag of our own.”

In this regard, the Bureau is encouraging market participants to schedule meetings with the Bureau to discuss the issues.

“We’re willing to hear from all quarters, including people who believe there is no cause for concern,” he says.

In a general sense, what the Bureau wants to know is whether the characteristics of certain digital markets favour concentration — a process called “tipping,” which emerges from a combination of the network effects of a widely used product (such as Facebook), economies of scale and access to huge databases.

The Bureau also wants to define the extent to which anti-competitive strategies may have contributed to the success of leading players. The Bureau’s list of such strategies includes protecting core markets, capturing adjacent markets, refusals to deal, self-preferencing, margin squeezing and creeping acquisitions.

See: 

At stake is nothing less than the long-term viability of current practices in core digital markets, including online search engines, social media, display advertising, app stores and services such as ride-hailing. Still, both the Information Technology Association of Canada and Facebook have made public their willingness to co-operate with and be accountable to Canadian and other regulators.

“ITAC welcomes the Canadian Competition Bureau’s focus on targeting anti-competitive conduct in the digital economy,” said Angela Mondou, the organization’s president and CEO, in an email response to questions from the Financial Post. “It’s important to note that the tech industry is always ready to co-operate with government.”

Mondou went on, however, to add a note of caution.

“It’s important that government of all levels find a clear balance between being too prescriptive and setting clear rules for the tech of the future,” she said. “Industry should adhere to policies; and government must establish clear guidelines.”

While many other stakeholders — particularly traditional media — have welcomed the call-out, critics have suggested that Canada is late to the game.

In the U.S., enforcement actions against big tech are already a reality: 50 states attorneys general have recently announced antitrust investigations involving Google and Facebook. In July, the European Commission launched an antitrust investigation of Amazon.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Why venture capital firms need more women partners and entrepreneurs

Globe and Mail | | Sep 12, 2019

lauren robinson - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract AuditsLauren Robinson is general partner at Highline BETA and executive director at Female Funders

For decades the research has been clear: businesses benefit from gender diversity. Women are starting businesses at a faster rate than ever before, and leadership teams that include women provide better financial returns for investors.

Investing in women is good for business. But for women founders looking to launch and scale successful businesses, access to capital remains a major barrier.

There is consistent data showing that deal flow is often sourced from pre-existing networks. This explains why women entrepreneurs have a higher likelihood of closing an investment when a female investor is involved: venture firms are twice as likely to invest in women-led startups if they have at least one female partner on their team, and women angel investors place greater importance on the gender of the founders they are considering investing in. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to access capital when there are women making investment decisions. This is critical when funding for female founders is stalled at 2.2 per cent of the total invested in the United States. We can do better.

Why venture capital needs more women

Entrepreneurs, emerging technology and innovation are driving our future. It’s time to reconsider the role of private capital and its influence on the innovation funding. Among venture capitalists and angel investors, the numbers remain embarrassingly skewed. Across North America, only 13.5 per cent of partner roles at VC firms are held by women. Without women and more diverse perspectives at the table, funds miss out on deal flow and expertise, and female founders struggle to access capital. VC firms, angel investors, policy-makers and corporations all have a role to play in ensuring this change does not take another decade.

See:

Specifically, corporate venture capital (CVC) groups are becoming increasingly involved in early-stage funding. According to CB Insights, global CVC deals have tripled in the past five years and CVC participation in seed-stage and series A rounds is rapidly rising. Corporations are also increasingly investing in independent venture capital funds as limited partner (LP) investors.

In a report released in May by Female Funders and Highline Beta, we found that there is little gender diversity among the top CVC decision makers. Using firm websites and data sources such as LinkedIn and Crunchbase, we gathered the title and gender of nearly 4,500 team members of more than 300 venture capital firms across North America. While women hold nearly half (47.4 per cent) of junior-level analyst roles in CVC, the representation of women drops off as seniority increases. At the top, only 15.9 per cent of CVC leaders are women.

See:  Meet The Female Entrepreneur Who Raised Over $3 Million From Crowdfunding, Not VCs

Looking to today’s high-performing women executives is the key to changing numbers at the top: 82.6 per cent of women who hold executive or partner roles in CVC groups today come from within the company itself or a direct competitor. By providing female executives with opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge needed to evaluate and invest in startups, corporations can open doors for more women to pursue leadership roles in CVC.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Fintech Fridays EP37: Funding is Female with Jill Earthy

NCFA Canada | Sep 13, 2019

JOIN US ON A STORYTELLING JOURNEY EVERY FRIDAY.

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Sep 13: Funding is Female with Jill Earthy EP37

GUEST: JILL EARTHY, Head of Female Funders (Linkedin)

HOST: Manseeb Khan, Fintech Friday's show host

BIO:  Jill Earthy is an entrepreneurially minded leader who believes diversity drives innovation. As Head of Female Funders (powered by Highine BETA), she is empowering female leaders to become investors in early stage companies. Her background includes being an entrepreneur, supporting entrepreneurs in various leadership roles and working as Chief Growth Officer of FrontFundr, an online investment platform. She is a community leader and active mentor, currently serving on the national Board of Sustainable Development Technology Canada and as Board Chair of the Women’s Enterprise Centre in BC, and as Co-Chair of We for She. Jill was recently recognized by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion award as a Community Champion, by Business in Vancouver as an Influential Woman in Business and by WXN as one the Top 100 most powerful women in Canada in 2019.

 

About this episode: 

On this episode of NCFA'S Fintech Fridays Podcast, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Jill Earthy the Head of Female Funders. The talk about what the Angel Academy is, why female funders matter, and the holistic approach to innovation.  Enjoy!

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Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

Listen to more podcasts here: Season 1 | Season 2

 


Transcription of Interview

Intro: Welcome fintech Friday's a weekly podcast brought to you by the National Crowdfunding and Fintech Association of Canada and partners.Covering all things fintech block chain be AI and alternative finance.

Manseeb Khan : Hey everybody Manseeb Khan here. Thank you for tuning to another fantastical episode of the FinTech Friday podcast. I'm thinking of actually creating fantastical T-shirts because we should use this. Every single show as fantastical is not a word. Last episode I said I was part of the Oxford Dictionary actually might come highly considered actually trying to make it an actual word just for the sake of my introduction, sort of look like an idiot. But this week I'm super excited to have Jill. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jill Earthy: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Manseeb Khan : Absolutely. Jill. Could you for the five or six people or actually for the five or six people that may not know who you are and what Female Funders is, could you just give us a little bit of introduction of your background and the amazing work that you're doing?

Jill Earthy: Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah Jill Earthy a program called Female Funders. And, you know, it's interesting, you come out, you ask about my background. And I've always been passionate. I think, like many of your audience members, about disrupting and changing things and looking at things in new ways. And certainly, my career has, as you know, shows that path. So, as an entrepreneur, then leading several organizations, supporting entrepreneurs, or  working as chief growth officer at a fintech company, Front Funder online investment platform, creating new ways for entrepreneurs to access capital and broadening the reach for investors. And then, you know, it all circles. It's funny how it’s kind of all kind of comes full circle. So Female Funders is a program focused on female leaders, primarily senior leaders in corporations and technology companies or seasoned entrepreneurs themselves who have a curiosity about investing in early stage companies, but maybe haven't had exposure to it in the past or aren't sure where to start. And so, our goal is really to demystify the process, make it easy and make it accessible and increase the number of women participating as investors.

Manseeb Khan : That's incredible. So, you guys created this new kind of academy called the Angel Academy. Could you talk a little bit more about that and how I can get of all people can get involved and just essentially what the Angel Academy is?

Jill Earthy: Yes. So, the Angel Academy is our core education program and we work with cohorts of leaders from across North America. And that's really neat to right because they're coming at it from a variety of different backgrounds perspectives. It's primarily, primarily women. And the program runs over. The Angel Academy program runs over eight weeks. It's virtually run. We have four online learning modules which are self-directed full of all sorts of great content and articles and links. And thanks to podcasts, we'll have to add this one and other content. But the most important part is we host office hours where we bring in investor mentors. And those investor mentors are men and women, incredible venture capital partners or experienced angel investors to share their experience and expertise and provides an active learning opportunity for us to all work together. So that happens over an eight-week period. And then we have an apprenticeship component where we match each of our participants with a mentor, an experienced investor. And that's super powerful as they're starting their investing journey. I'm starting to identify companies that they're interested in and having that guide to ask questions I've learned from as they're getting ready to write the first check. So, the bulk of the program is it's a really over eight weeks of education, four-month apprenticeship, so a six month program. And then we wrap a whole number of other things around that, including investment learning labs, bringing different cohort participants together and an in-person event as well.

Manseeb Khan : That's incredible. That sounds like a lot of fun and like very important work because like becoming an investor or, you know, if the audience wants to just quickly, maybe follow along, just I kind of read a little bit about it having a guide or just having somebody kind of walk you through. You know, you have enough capital to start investing in a couple of companies that you definitely have your eye on. Having a mentor or having a system, having a more or less academy to kind of teach you the ins and outs of the realm of investing. It's super important, super crucial, because every single day we have the opportunity to keep more and more investors right now having academies and having institutions to create more and more smart investors. That's an interesting, incredible and it's super exciting.

Jill Earthy: Well, I think you're absolutely right. Because I think we should make sure that it's clear that these are high risk investments. This is an asset class in that that is high risk in early stage companies. Right. You're taking a you're taking a huge risk, but also it could result in a big opportunity as well. But you're absolutely right. Like having that support, expertise, know, sharing, sharing experiences. You know, we know the importance of having diverse perspectives to make better decisions. And we're hoping that mitigates some of the risk greater to result in greater outcomes for all.

Manseeb Khan : So why are female fund funders and backers important? Very important, especially when it comes to funding. I mean, this is a topic that I've very briefly touched on the second episode of this podcast but haven't really had the chance to really go in depth. So, could you just talk a little bit about why Female Funders and backers are very important, especially in the fintech space?

Jill Earthy: Well, you look at just, you know, our economy as a whole and the huge, huge opportunity that we have. So Female Funders in partnership with Highline data released a report earlier this year that looked at some of the numbers and I was fine. Obviously, numbers are great. They tell a story for factual. So just as an example, you know, in Canada last year, 14 percent of angel investors were women, 17 percent of angel investors this year were women. So, we're seeing a shift, which is great, but there's a huge opportunity to increase that. You know, you look at the diversity of those making investment decisions within venture capital firms. And, you know, this is relevant as the growth of the fintech ecosystem continues. But now 15 percent of venture capital leaders are women and 8 percent are partners. Right. So, we look at that as like, wow, OK. We have an opportunity here right now. How do we unlock some of their capital? Because we know that the growth of female leaders is continuing. We have incredible resources. And so how do we how do we connect those dots? I think one of the key challenges that women we don't often identify as investors, you know, certainly as champions and mentors and advisors. And so how do we just connect those dots? And by doing so will unlock new capital, which benefits everybody. Because, again, by having those diverse perspectives making decisions, we'll see a broader range of companies from seed funding, new models. And then everyone benefits.

Manseeb Khan : Yeah. No,  I absolutely agree through. And in a sense of like creating you said something interesting creating more like I guess more or less like diversity and a sense of like, hey, you know, having more female funders, having more female investors, that's just going to, you know, just fast forward innovation in any space. Right. Not a fintech, but any realm of investing, having new ideas, having new concepts, having new models. It just it's a win for.

Jill Earthy: 100 percent, 100 percent. You think about I mean, we're focused primarily on gender diversity, although I would also say very much within our cohorts of women, we have incredible cultural and ethnic diversity and certainly a lot of industry experience diversity, which is powerful, too. But our goal is, is not to continue to run this. This program focused on women. We'd rather not, but. Absolutely. We do have some catching up to do so. So, there's huge power. And that's certainly why we love these conversations and having so many incredible male champions involved in our in our program. And we're just trying to bridge the gap, bring these great women into the ecosystem.

Manseeb Khan : So, yeah. So, you know, I mean, you don't want to be running this program for like six years and be like, OK, well, now we're a two out of five females. Our investors well crap. Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah. Could you talk a little bit more? So, you did briefly mention you guys focus on gender diversity and ethnic diversity. You could talk a little bit how you guys are going about that and just some of the initiatives you have in place to further that mission.

Jill Earthy: Yeah. Yeah. So, with our core program in Angel Academy, we know the types of people that are participating in the program tend to come from three, three groups, I guess primarily so senior leaders within large corporations. I mean, you indicated the need for corporations to continually innovate to That's, especially the financial institutions. Well, every company, you know, oil and gas, you know, there's every sector need to continually innovate. And so, we have a lot of senior leaders within those companies are going, OK, we need to innovate, but we need to do that. We need to understand the venture ecosystem and we need to understand how these startups operate. And so, we're seeing more and more of those types of leaders come into our program for professional development and better understanding and direct connection to the ecosystem, but also for personal interest, of course, as they look to potentially invest to as they become more comfortable and familiar. And then the other group is those in those technology companies. When you think about, you know, even thinking of some of the fintech companies across North America, where they've grown to a point and they're leaders within those companies maybe who didn't start at the very beginning, but who have seen this company grow and are likely to second to be involved with those companies from the from the start. So, they're interested in coming into this program. And then the third group is are those seasoned entrepreneurs who have built businesses to a point where they may still be involved, but they're not as involved in the day to day and can actually step up. And participate on the other side of the table. Or maybe have exited and want to get one. You complete the circle.

Manseeb Khan : And of course, under. And give back. Right. Because one of the core things that you kind of learn, especially in entrepreneurship, is it's great that you know, it's good that you're learning. Creating a network, but also giving back to network is always very crucial. It's very clear that it's the it's the full circle. Right.

Jill Earthy: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. No. It's amazing. And even you look at, you know, there's so many great leaders in fintech now, too. I mean, some of our partners are you know, you look at someone like Lisa Shields of Flies Van and Natalie Cartwright, and there's just so many great. Yeah, great, great leaders, men, and women. But there are some real opportunities to continue to enhance the tech sector.

Manseeb Khan : Yeah. No, absolutely. I like hopefully, you know, not in the fintech sector, but other sectors as well. So, this is, again, very, very exciting, exciting work. So, could you talk about the current challenges that female founders and funders face? Yeah. Top five or even top 10.

Jill Earthy: So, I think there's a couple of key ones and I like to think about. So, there's a lot of a lot of articles and things that talk about women being risk adverse. I think that holds true on women entrepreneurs’ access and capital as well as women investors. I much prefer the term risk astute, meaning that women tend to be more methodical in their approach, especially when it comes to accessing, financing, or writing checks. Want to really understand the process, demystify it, understand the lingo. You want to talk to a number of people. That's not a wrong way of doing things. It's just a different way of doing things. And so, I think by embracing that, there's a lot more opportunities. And we're seeing the data now show, too, that, you know, women entrepreneurs they're building companies in different ways and accessing different buckets of financing and putting this together. The results are much stronger. They're actually using less capital to grow more and focused on revenue growth. And that's pretty powerful. I see that as an opportunity. It's just a different model because often we you know, certainly in the venture ecosystem, success is often based on how much money you've raised. And so, you know, which is one benchmark. But I don't think that's the that that should be the only one to benchmark. No, not like I personally would much rather invest in companies that are focused on revenue growth and customer acquisitions. But that that's different anyways. And then so and on the investor side, too, it's the same thing. Women are less likely to just immediately write a check. Really. They want to do more research, dig it, dig in deeper, understand that more. Not a bad thing, just a different path. And therefore, the process takes a little bit longer and the numbers aren't quite as high. Also tend to write smaller checks versus larger checks, more maybe more smaller checks. But again, just different approaches. So, I'm not sure yet. There's lots of data around that challenges. I think sometimes it's also around access to networks and women are getting better at doing that. But we have to invite them in sometimes. That's another common challenge. Like often.

Manseeb Khan : Are they? So, when you mean access to networks, are they just a little adverse to joining? These said networks are like what is like what is the challenge specifically of them having access to these networks.

Jill Earthy: Yeah, well, you think about it and I'll just use angel groups as an example. Right. Typically, haven't been very many women involved in those groups. And so, you know, but that's where the deals happen or in other groupings like that, right. Or no. I have a lot of friends to get a call from their friend saying, hey, do you want to go in on this deal with me? And women are just for whatever reason, you know, it's not. Not necessarily that they've been excluded, maybe just not completely invited, or haven't put their hand up to be invited. Right. There are multiple factors, but I think we need to. Yeah. So. So that's why you're seeing an increase in the number of women's networks. And I don't believe just in women only networks. But I think that's a starting point to get and start to have those conversations and create access. And we'll see that. And now. As I said, our goal is to make sure we're just growing the networks overall. So, people are connecting and identifying deals and opportunities together and collaborating on those. So that's just a shift right there where a lot of all know the term old boys’ networks and where we're trying to shift that.

Manseeb Khan : Yeah, I know for sure. I mean, definitely having a focus on first like an equality, it comes to both parties and then starting to network. I think that's definitely one of the better approaches when it comes towards that. I guess I guess I'm going to I'm going to try to throw it to you. Is there something that we should be aware of when it comes to Female Funders and female founders? Is it something that we, the audience can kind of do to help is? Yeah. Is there a way that we can kind of hope or is it ways that we're just not aware of that we can help?

Jill Earthy: Well, I think what you're doing right now is awesome because it's really often about just having the conversation right and putting it out there and hearing people's stories. So I think for all of us, it is about just getting engaging with more people, reaching out, talking about it, you know, and certainly as it pertains to Female Funders, you know, where I get excited and most passionate about it is, you know, I'll just start talking about at the dinner table or a dinner party. Right. About an opportunity to participate in investing in this new venture. And, you know, it's amazing when you just start to open up the conversation that how people are like, oh, that sounds interesting. I thought that I had to write a million-dollar check to and not look like I look like that. And I think that's for young people. I think that's for women. I think that's for everybody. Is just a start to have the conversation about finance and about investing, you know, whether you have the capacity to do it now or in the future? It's starting to just think about that differently and starting to plan because again, these are high risk investments. So, you need to plan you need your traditional investments, for sure, but starting to plan a small portion. Your first check is small or maybe it's five thousand dollars. Or through something like Front Funder , it's a thousand dollars or whatever it is. That being the thought of being coordinated and collaborating with others. Have more experience or all are all critical.

Manseeb Khan : Yeah, no, I agree. I mean that's kind of what kick this. That that's just one of the reasons why I actually invited you to come on the show. It's because of, you know, we're thinking of creating this new initiative where we kind of focus on female founders, female funders, and kind of sharing the stories. I know when we had when I had  Sue Britain on, one of the fears was that like, hey, especially in finance is an old boys club. Slowly but surely, you're seeing some of that remnants bleed into fintech. And that's one of the biggest worries of OK. I definitely don't want that to happen here because the because the whole purpose of fintech is to be different. Right. From the traditional sense. Right. So having amazing people like you and some of the other guys that we have lined up should be a really interesting set of conversations that we're going to have a, you know, talk about the challenges, talk about opportunities, how we can how what we can do and just, you know, hope furthering long the conversation of like, hey, you know what? There should be an even playing field for anybody and everybody. That's. That's. There's no there's no it is no budge on that, there's no leeway. Right.

Jill Earthy: Yeah, no, absolutely. And there's so many more opportunities now, right? I mean, you look at some of the new fintech initiatives or programs and there's. Yeah. I mean, a lot of the point of it is to make it a bit more inclusive. Right. Because it's more transparent. A lot of the platform are more accessible and so there's things are really exciting opportunity.

Manseeb Khan : Well, yes. And now like a TV to switch gears a little like when it comes to investing. And now you have you have the chance of crowdfunding and, you know, getting money from people. They want to see that you're doing amazing work. They want to see that like, hey, like, what are what are some of the initiatives that they're that they're doing? What are the social causes that they're involved in? Right. Cause if you're putting if I'm putting my money towards something beautiful, a regular Joe Schmo like me or an actual seasoned investor, they want to see that you guys are doing something different, something that, you know, having female funders or even having a team of like really kickass female executives matters. That works.

Jill Earthy: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Chuckling Yeah. There are so many new incredible opportunities for people to participate. And even as you said, like even starting small, I mean, my first my first cheque was five thousand dollars for my RSP, which I didn't realize I could do. And was eligible for 30 percent tax credit. This was four or five years ago. And it's just those things where nobody talks about those and you're like, wow, that's amazing. And I get to participate. And it's not all opportunities are like That's. There are obviously much higher minimums and sometimes there's much lower minimums and there's pros and cons. And sometimes you want a whole mix of all those things. Course. Yeah, but the point is there's a lot there, a lot more opportunities out there everywhere and a lot more people that can now engage and participate in the right way.

Manseeb Khan : Yeah, no, I absolutely go through. This is really exciting things. So, before I wrap this up, I'm going to throw it to you. Is there anything else that the audience should be aware of when it comes to the great work that you're doing?

Jill Earthy: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, it's just. Just keep talking about it. I mean, we run our Angel Academy program twice a year, bringing together these leaders through a virtual environment. Our next programs and we run in the fall, the end of October and one in the spring. So, if you know anybody who's interested and love to hear from them or any questions. We also talked to founders all the time and help to direct them to the right resources. So, we're happy to support there. But I just think it's such you know, it's an exciting ecosystem at the moment, right. Technology fintech, you know, everybody's talking about it. Everybody has a role to play in it. So, it's just figuring out what your role is and how you how you want to engage. But it's amazing. And I keep telling these great stories. Yeah.

Manseeb Khan : No, I mean, definitely I'm going to flip to you to you if there is any amazing funders or founders that you think wish that I should personally talk to you just to come on the show. By all means, it's an open invitation for anybody. I mean, the more conversation, the more stories I can share, the more exciting my job becomes, right?

Jill Earthy: Yeah. And the more impact we can have.

Manseeb Khan : Absolutely. Absolutely. Joe, before we wrap this up, are there a couple of golden nuggets that you want the audience to kind of go home with and just, you know, a year from now? Oh, yeah. Jill told me That's. Yeah, I know that that makes total sense. So, what are some golden nuggets that you want to leave the audience with?

Jill Earthy: That's a lot of pressure. Yeah. I think I think a key thing is just, you know, I think sometimes we get overwhelmed. There's so much noise, there's so much information. You know, you are reading information online and you hear about the technology in an ecosystem and innovation and what does it all mean. And I think we each have a role to play in it. And so I think it's identifying, you know, our own strengths, our own interests, our own goals, whether that's as an art partner and how we want to engage and participate and make a difference as an investor, you know, putting our hand up and reaching out to learn more about what that can look like, because it can look a lot of different ways and engage that way or just as an advisor or a mentor supporter, because we all have strengths and skills and expertise. But I think just the power of that and continuing to talk about innovation as a whole as a holistic approach. It's pretty exciting time, but it can get a bit overwhelming. So just keep me be clear on your mission and connect with others who align with

Manseeb Khan : That's incredible. Jill, thank you so much for sitting down today. Super excited to have you back on the show and super excited to have any of the amazing people a part of your network on the show.

Jill Earthy: Thank you.

Outro : you've been listening to fintech Fridays brought to you by NCFA and partners. Tune in weekly for the latest fintech Friday podcast by subscribing to this channel. The National crowdfunding and FinTech Association of Canada is a non-profit actively engaged with social and investment fintech sectors around the globe and provide education research industry stewardship services and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers. For more information please visit and see if a Canada dot org. Oh yea.

 

End of Podcast

 

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Expert Roundup: DeFi Smart Contract Audits The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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