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Web3Auth secures $13M from Sequoia India to simplify crypto onboarding and authentication

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Web3 is seen as the future of the internet because it allows people to control their own data and digital assets, but crypto developers have been learning from the past when it comes to onboarding new users.

The current state of crypto onboarding is unwieldy and unnecessarily prolonged due to the seed phrase, a series of words created by the crypto wallet to regain access. On a technical level, seed phrases have contributed to the loss of nearly 20% of all bitcoins in circulation, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Hungary, according to Singapore-based crypto infra startup Web3Auth, formerly known as Torus. The lengthy passwords that users are asked to store in a safe place can be a significant barrier to entry for non-technical users who are used to simple “forgot password?” workflows on nearly every traditional internet platform. There have also been security issues when it comes to platforms holding control of a user’s private keys.

Web3Auth, a non-custodial key infrastructure solution for Web3 apps and wallets, wants to solve these problems by leveraging social accounts and devices that mainstream users already own to enable users to manage their keys intuitively.

“Users use keys as accounts to trade, hold assets, or just interact with blockchains, so control and security of those keys are important,” chief executive officer and co-founder Zhen Yu Young told TechCrunch. “Non-custodial wallets help you manage your key, spanning from solutions as simple as writing a phrase on a paper to more secure methods.”

Web3Auth is powered by the Torus Network, an open-source, non-custodial, distributed key management network. Web3Auth builds on this infrastructure to make Web3 authentication — including password-less auth, SMS auth, or other OAuth methods like Google, Twitter, Discord and Reddit – in apps and wallets simple and intuitive to use.

Web3Auth announced today it has closed a $13 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital India. This round included participation from Union Square VenturesMulticoin CapitalFTX, Bitcoin.com, DARMA CapitalChainstryHashedKOSMOS Capital, Kyros Ventures, LD Capital, Minted Labs, P2P Capital, Phoenix VC, Staking Facilities, YBB Capital, Moonwhale Ventures and Decentralab.

The fresh capital brings its total raised to $15 million since its inception in 2019. It will accelerate expansion into decentralized gaming, NFTs, and social applications and advance its mission to eliminate seed phrases and make blockchain authentication decentralized and accessible to all with the Series A funding. The company also plans to increase its headcount, Young told TechCrunch.

Image Credits: Web3Auth

Web3Auth’s authentication infrastructure is designed to make it easy for developers to build familiar login flows such as single sign-on with Google and Twitter, eliminating the need for users to directly interface with vulnerable public-private key pairs. It is also designed to give more advanced users the ability to connect the wallet or key management system.

“We designed Web3Auth to bypass the UX obstacles holding back mainstream crypto adoption. True to our focus on accessibility, we wanted Web3Auth to meet users wherever they are. Intuitive and familiar login flows are needed if we want to onboard the next wave of mainstream users into crypto,” said Young. “We’re encouraged that some of the best investors in the world care deeply about usability and accessibility in crypto. We’re extremely grateful for their support, and we’re going to use it to catapult Web3 into the future.”

In 2021, more than 300 applications and wallets selected Web3Auth to secure over four million users’ private keys. Its users have increased 30 times since the same time last year, Young noted.

“Our main users are Web3 wallets and applications. Many popular wallets in the ecosystems, such as Binance Extension, Kepler, Kukai, Skyweaver and Kash, are powered by Web3Auth”  in their core flows to boost conversion rates, reduce loss and support tickets, Young told TechCrunch. “On the application side, the NFT and gaming applications utilizing Web3Auth that are particularly popular include Skyweaver, Rarible MyCryptoHeros, and others.”

Young pointed out similar platforms like Magic Link, which provides key management through a different infrastructure like AWS Cloud HSM to store user keys, and Fireblock’s underlying infrastructure that utilizes multi-party computation (MPC)/threshold cryptography. They’re, however, more enterprise and internal-facing authentication relative to the Torus platform being more external, Young said, adding that a similar analogy could be Okta and Auth0 in the web 2.0 authentication space.

“We think that the non-custodial nature of Web3, which allows users to control their own data and destiny, is a huge step forward in bringing power back to the users. This makes the data more portable and safer while continuing to enable existing login product features, giving users the best both worlds. Sequoia Capital India is excited to partner with a team and a product that is concentrating on making crypto more accessible not by adding more bells and whistles but by addressing a long-standing problem at its most fundamental level,” Anandamoy Roychowdhary, principal of Sequoia India.

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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