Hello Robot emerges out of stealth to launch a mobile robotic gripping platform for the home

This is Stretch — or, more precisely, the Stretch Research Edition. The name certainly conveys the tall, skinny and minimalist design of the home helper robot. Stretch is different and somehow familiar, with a straightforward technical design that adapts a number of standard robotic elements designed to offer a versatile machine that’s capable of navigating a house and getting out of the way when necessary.

It’s the first product out of Bay Area-based Hello Robot. Fresh out of three years operating in stealth, the company was founded by CEO Aaron Edsinger, a Georgia Tech product who was previously the director of Robotics at Google after its acquisition of his company, Redwood Robotics, in 2013.

Image Credits: Hello Robot

Stretch is still in quite early stages. At $ 17,950, it’s really more of a developer platform at the moment, but it’s easy to see how the company could ultimately spin it into something more commercial, with the right software. “Subsequent editions of Stretch will likely be targeted more directly at commercial applications,” says Edsinger, “but at this point we’re focused on providing the best customer experience possible with the Research Edition.” In addition to a gripper, the robot also sports a 3D camera and range finder for navigating and an on-board computer. On the software side, it uses a combination of ROS and Python.

It’s an open-sourced platform, designed to help robotics develop a unique range of potentially useful tasks for the home and retail setting.

Image Credits: Hello Robot

“What sets this robot apart is its extraordinary reach — which is why we named it Stretch,” Edsinger, says in a release. “Its patent pending design makes possible a range of applications such as assisting an older parent at home, stocking grocery shelves, and wiping down potentially infectious surfaces at the workplace. We see Stretch as a game-changing platform for researchers and developers who will create this future.”

Again, this is all still quite early. Hello Robot is still a small team — with a headcount of fewer than 10 employees at the moment. Thus far, the startup has been completely bootstrapped. Edsinger tells TechCrunch, “based on customer response so far we expect to have a healthy and profitable business.”

Startups – TechCrunch

RIOS comes out of stealth to announce $5M in funding for ‘industry-agnostic’ robotics

Bay Area-based robotics startup RIOS is coming out of stealth today to announce $ 5 million in funding. The round is being led by Valley Capital Partners and Morpheus Ventures, with participation from a long list of investors, including Grit Ventures, Motus Ventures, MicroVentures, Alumni Ventures Group, Fuji Corporation and NGK Spark Plug Co.

The move comes during a time of increased interest in factory automation. A number of different startups have received massive funding of late, including Berkshire Grey’s massive $ 263 million raise in January. RIOS’s raise is considerably smaller, of course, but the young company has more to prove.

Even so, investors are clearly eyeing automation with great interest amid an ongoing global pandemic that has both screeched many industries to a halt and led many to look to alternative production elements that remove the human element of virus transmission.

RIOS was founded in 2018, as a spin-out of Stanford University, with help from a number of Xerox PARC engineers. The startup has operated in stealth for the past year and a half while testing its technologies with a select group of partners.

The company’s first product is DX-1, a robot designed for a variety of industrial tasks, including static bin picking and conveyor belt operations. The system is powered by the company’s AI stack, including a perception system and a variety of tactile sensors mounted on the robotic hand.

The plan is to charge a monthly fee for the robotic system that includes a variety of services, including programming, maintenance, monitoring and regular updates.

Startups – TechCrunch

DriveU.auto, a LiveU spinout, comes out of stealth with $4M

Teleoperators who remotely monitor and control autonomous vehicles rely on high-performance connectivity to transfer 4K video, multiple audio streams and other data. Even a skosh of latency, jitter or packet loss could spell disaster for a teleoperator intervening to help an autonomous sidewalk delivery bot or even a robotaxi.

One Israeli startup, which spun out of video transmission technology company LiveU, has developed a connectivity platform aimed at ending unpredictable network behavior. Now, after a year as an independent company, DriveU.auto is coming out of stealth with $ 4 million in new funding.

The funding round was led by RAD group co-founder Zohar Zisapel and included participation from Two Lanterns Venture Partners, Yigal Jacoby, Kaedan Capital and other private investors. Francisco Partners is an existing shareholder. Alon Podhurst, who was vice president of sales at Israeli startup Cognata, has joined DriveU.auto as CEO.

The connectivity platform is designed specifically for teleoperations, a burgeoning technology used to support a variety of autonomous vehicle applications, including robotaxis, self-driving trucks and delivery drones.

DriveU.auto uses what it calls cellular bonding technology, 4K video encoding and advanced algorithms to adapt to changes on a network. Podhurst explained that the company’s “secret sauce” is how it fuses dynamic encoding and cellular network bonding to enable the level of connectivity needed for demanding AV use cases.

The platform provides the missing link for AV companies that want to deploy autonomous vehicles without a human safety driver, Podhurst told TechCrunch. It works in the two major use cases of teleoperations. Teleoperations can be used for direct driving, in which a remote human operator controls the autonomous vehicle. That operator can also use a teleoperations system for remote assistance such as providing high-level driving commands.

DriveU.auto started as a unit within LiveU. It was initially part of LiveU’s CTO office. Although it spun out as an independent company late last year and is now a standalone company, some of its shareholders also have stakes in LiveU.

DriveU.auto has demonstrated its platform with AV developers and Tier 1 suppliers on public roads in Europe, Israel, Japan and the United States, according to Prodhurst. The investment followed engagement with several customers that helped confirm market demand for its technology.

DriveU.auto isn’t sharing customer names. However, Podhurst was able to share that its product is being tested by companies developing delivery and robotaxi platforms, autonomous trucking technology as well as a Tier 1 supplier. DriveU.auto also has a long-term proof of concept agreement with another Tier 1 supplier.

Startups – TechCrunch

Zycada emerges from stealth with $19M and a bot that speeds up e-commerce and other interactive services

Shopping cart abandonment — when a person shopping online moves away from a site or mobile app before completing a sale — remains one of the biggest hurdles to e-commerce, with some 70% of all visits with an intention to buy never resulting in actual transactions.

Now, a startup called Zycada is emerging from stealth to help address that, with bot-based technology that speeds up how quickly the interactive elements load up on e-commerce sites. In turn, online retailers — which number somewhere between 12 million and 24 million sites globally — can have sites that work as well or even faster than Amazon, the quintessential bull in the e-commerce shop.

In addition to coming out of stealth today, it’s announcing $ 19 million in funding and a new CEO, James Brear, to grow the business.

The round is being led by Kholsa Ventures, with Cervin Venturers and Nordic Eye Venture Capital also participating. Prior to today, according to PitchBook data, it looks like the company had raised just under $ 11 million in early stage funding, and it’s not disclosing its valuation.

But as is the case with a lot of B2B companies, Zycada has not been sitting idle while in stealth: the company has already picked up a number of very large customers, including one of the world’s very biggest retailers (which wishes to keep its name out of this story). These businesses are using the technology to speed up their sites, and specifically the interactive elements on their pages such as “buy” buttons. Those large customers are likely one reason it’s raised so much money while still in stealth.

The issue that Zycada is tackling is one particular niche of web content delivery called Time to Interactive (TTI).

The idea is that a typical webpage involves a complicated mix of activities and purposes being handled and loaded by content delivery networks, and each of those don’t necessarily work in concert with the others.

They range from images, advertisements and interactive buttons through to cookies, analytics and many things that a consumer doesn’t “see” but are used by the company to improve what they are providing and to amass data for future activities.

Obviously, in an ideal world all of this would be coming online in the blink of an eye, but realistically what is more often the case is that some of the most critical elements find themselves “queuing” behind others to appear and work for a typical user.

And it turns out that typical users have very little patience online. “Buy Now” really does mean “now“. So when something critical like interactive buttons don’t appear or don’t work for a moment or more, shoppers move on and the site loses a sale. The worry is that losing a sale really is losing: Zycada estimates that e-commerce sales will be worth some $ 7 trillion by 2024, from $ 3.5 trillion in 2018. But with world events like global health pandemics pushing people to shop virtually, if one site doesn’t work well, a shopper will simply navigate to another that works better.

As Subbu Varadarajan, the CPO (who served as CEO before Brear came on board) who co-founded the company with Roy Antonyraj (who is the CTO), describes it, Zycada’s bot technology essentially acts as a way to prioritise interactive elements, with the understanding that these are the first that a user will want to have appear and working when typically visiting a site.

He claims that using Zycada’s bots can speed up the TTI to 10 times faster than Amazon typically offers on its pages. (Amazon is a huge benchmark in this area for all online retailers, but especially the biggest in the world, which see it as their key rival and disruptor.) In terms of actual numbers, he said that Amazon typically takes 1.35 seconds to load its interactive content, while Zycada shortens that to milliseconds. The “long” wait typical e-commerce sites have without this kind of acceleration, of more than three seconds, can result in 57% of shoppers abandoning a purchase. “And that’s not all,” he added. “The get frustrated and tell their friends.”

Of course, TTI is only one part of the mix for why one site will “work” and convert sales. Others include what stock a company has, how long it takes to deliver something, how much the product costs, how easy it is to pay for it, and more — all problems that underscore just how fragmented the e-commerce market is, and how complicated it can be.

So it’s interesting that longer term the plan will be to apply this technology to more than just e-commerce, according to Brear, who noted that other sectors like media could also benefit from Zycada bots to speed up how users can respond and click around a page.

It’s an interesting problem and while today the focus is on “how to be better than Amazon,” when and if Zycada expands to other areas like online news, for example, it will throw up other kinds of rivals. Google, for example, has been trying to “fix” load times for news and other kinds of sites with an approach it developed called AMP, but many in the industry don’t like the idea of working with it and essentially handing over traffic to the search giant in exchange for faster performance.

In that regard, Zycada could potentially one day offer an alternative.

“Modern consumers and mobile app users are sophisticated and demand experiences that are responsive, regardless of the content,” said Preetish Nijhawan, Managing Partner at Cervin Ventures and co-Founder of Akamai Technologies, in a statement. “Zycada is changing the game, and creating a new standard for high performance delivery of rich, dynamic experiences.” Nijhawan is joining the board of the startup with this round.

Startups – TechCrunch

Sentropy emerges from stealth with an AI platform to tackle online abuse, backed by $13M from Initialized and more

Online abuse in its many forms on social media is in the spotlight these days as it has never been before: Not only can strong and hateful words be directly harmful to individuals, but their use fans the flames around hate groups and other extremists, fomenting even stronger (and often tragic) responses offline, too. Today, a startup called Sentropy that believes it has developed the most sophisticated, yet easy to implement, system yet to help identify, track and ultimately purge online abuse by way of its AI-based platform, is launching to take on the issue.

The idea behind Sentropy is as much philosophical as it is technical: John Redgrave, the CEO who co-founded the startup with Michele Banko, Taylor Rhyne and Ethan Breder, said that it was about using what he and his co-founders knew about how to manipulate and “read” unstructured data, to apply it to online abuse, which, finally, really needed to be taken seriously.

“Every week I was watching the impact that online conversations were having on the real world,” he said in an interview. “They were creating a lasting impact. There is a link between URL and IRL. For the younger generation, the difference between their digital and physical selves will be indistinguishable. That is powerful, but also problematic.”

The startup is coming out of stealth mode with $ 13 million in funding from a pretty illustrious list of backers — they include Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, his VC firm Initialized Capital, King River Capital, Horizons Ventures and Playground Global, founders and executives from Riot Games, Nextdoor, OpenAI, Twitch, Twitter and a “former head of government” (whose name is not disclosed).

Although Sentropy is emerging into the open today, it has actually been active for a while, working with a number of tech companies while in a private beta since June for the first of its products, an API-based abuse detection engine branded Defend. That is coming out as a generally available product, along with an out-of-the-box version called Detect. Redgrave would not disclose which tech companies it has been working with so far, although it’s notable that until just this week, Ohanian still sat on the board of Reddit and would have been an obvious strategic connection into working with it, and of course Reddit is a prime example of the kind of platform that faces the kind of abuse that Sentropy is tackling.

“I’ve seen first-hand the difficulty of manually moderating online communities,” said Ohanian, in a statement. “The breadth and depth of this issue require serious resources and machine learning chops. Sentropy has built the tech that is much needed across social media communities. User safety has become a competitive differentiator for those willing to take a stand against abuse.”

Another reason Sentropy has likely had some early and strong interest in its product is because of the track record of the founders. Their previous company, Lattice Data, was a specialist the larger general area of unstructured, dark data, albeit for different ends. It was acquired by Apple in 2017, with several on the current team going on to work there after the sale. Redgrave said that the idea of tackling online abuse as an unstructured data problem was something that they had actually started to identify while Lattice was still a startup, although it was not something that they developed there.

Sentropy is sold both as an API-based product for developers to implement and customise and as one that can be used out of the box to manage communities online, respectively branded Detect and Defend. Both implementations today are based on providing tools to humans to ultimately make moderation decisions for their respective platforms, although over time there could be a service added that will automate more of the work.

There are a number of problems today when dealing with online abuse and the task of trying to stem and moderate it, Redgrave pointed out. The sheer volume of comments on popular sites makes the task of human triage very complicated and practically an insurmountable (and potentially harmful in its own right) task. Meanwhile, a lot of the current systems for automating and flagging keywords and phrases are often not sophisticated enough to catch the right things. This leads to a small dent in the problem, but in actual fact some 75% of online harassment goes unreported, the company said, citing Pew Research.

Rhyne said that the “brain” that underpins the service was built by ingesting many, many pages of conversations from across the open web, the grey web and the dark web. As you would expect with an AI system, Sentropy also “learns” how specific customers use it to adapt to them. In turn, those learnings are also fed into the bigger brain to continue teaching it as well. (The way that Sentropy has parsed all that data to make its own reading of it more “intelligent” is of course the secret sauce here.)

There are a lot of questions and untapped areas that will likely need to be addressed over time, even with the headway it’s making here. For one, Sentropy is making its start by focusing on text. For now, there is no product that parses audio or video content, which would need to today be run through a transcriber in order to be “read” by Sentropy’s algorithms. Over time, given the prevalence of video apps and the popularity of sites like YouTube and video on other platforms like Facebook, this is an area it will have to reckon with.

Similarly, there are question marks still over how much customising a site might want to make around certain terminology and how and if that might be abused at some point. Rhyne notes that for now, Sentropy decides the terms so it can’t itself be abused and used as a tool of political censorship, as one example. It raises interesting questions, of course, about what is universally “right” and “wrong.”

“We do have a choice of who our customers are,” said Redgrave. “It’s not open source technology, and they have to interact with us and we will learn specific use cases.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Data startup Axiom secures $4M from Crane Venture Partners, emerges from stealth

Axiom, a startup that helps companies deal with their internal data, has secured a new $ 4 million seed round led by U.K.-based Crane Venture Partners, with participation from LocalGlobe, Fly VC and Mango Capital. Notable angel investors include former Xamarin founder and current GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Heroku co-founder Adam Wiggins. The company is also emerging from a relative stealth mode to reveal that is has now raised $ 7 million in funding since it was founded in 2017.

The company says it is also launching with an enterprise-grade solution to manage and analyze machine data “at any scale, across any type of infrastructure.” Axiom gives DevOps teams a cloud-native, enterprise-grade solution to store and query their data all the time in one interface — without the overhead of maintaining and scaling data infrastructure.

DevOps teams have spent a great deal of time and money managing their infrastructure, but often without being able to own and analyze their machine data. Despite all the tools at hand, managing and analyzing critical data has been difficult, slow and resource-intensive, taking up far too much money and time for organizations. This is what Axiom is addressing with its platform to manage machine data and surface insights, more cheaply, they say, than other solutions.

Co-founder and CEO Neil Jagdish Patel told TechCrunch: “DevOps teams are stuck under the pressure of that, because it’s up to them to deliver a solution to that problem. And the solutions that existed are quite, well, they’re very complex. They’re very expensive to run and time-consuming. So with Axiom, our goal is to try and reduce the time to solve data problems, but also allow businesses to store more data to query at whenever they want.”

Why did they work with Crane? “We needed to figure out how enterprise sales work and how to take this product to market in a way that makes sense for the people who need it. We spoke to different investors, but when I sat down with Crane they just understood where we were. They have this razor-sharp focus on how they get you to market and how you make sure your sales process and marketing is a success. It’s been beneficial to us as were three engineers, so you need that,” said Patel.

Commenting, Scott Sage, founder and  partner at Crane Venture Partners added: “Neil, Seif and Gord are a proven team that have created successful products that millions of developers use. We are proud to invest in Axiom to allow them to build a business helping DevOps teams turn logging challenges from a resource-intense problem to a business advantage.”

Axiom co-founders Neil Jagdish Patel, Seif Lotfy and Gord Allott previously created Xamarin Insights that enabled developers to monitor and analyse mobile app performance in real time for Xamarin, the open-source cross-platform app development framework. Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft for between $ 400 and $ 500 million in 2016. Before working at Xamarin, the co-founders also worked together at Canonical, the private commercial company behind the Ubuntu Project.

Startups – TechCrunch

Decentralized identity management platform Magic launches from stealth with $4M

For developers looking to quickly build identity management into their platforms, the most readily available options don’t stray far from the internet’s biggest, most data-hungry platforms.

Magic, a small SF startup building a decentralized blockchain-based identity solution, wants to create a seamless experience that feels similar to login workflows from apps like Slack and Medium, where users are sent a link to they can click to immediately log in. Magic’s SDK allows developers to craft similar experiences to Medium and Slack without building them from scratch, leveraging authentication via blockchain key pairs that allows users to securely log in across devices.

“Our identity these days is mostly controlled by Facebook and Google; what’s cool about this identity solution is that it’s a decentralized identity,” Magic CEO Sean Li says.

The startup is launching out of stealth, rebranding from its previous company name Fortmatic, and announcing that they’ve raised $ 4 million in a seed funding round led by Placeholder. A host of other investors participated in the company’s funding, including Lightspeed Ventures, SV Angel, Social Capital, Cherubic Ventures, Volt Capital, Refactor Capital, Unusual Ventures, Naval Ravikant, Guillermo Rauch and Roham Gharegozlou.

Li has largely sought to minimize the blockchain aspect of the company’s tech in an attempt to keep the appeal more mass market, but Magic’s early customers are largely in the blockchain world, specifically Ethereum applications. The company is free for customers with less than 250 users, and past that subscription pricing scales from a $ 79/mo plan to custom pricing for full white-labeled enterprise roll-outs with custom integrations. Li says the Magic platform is SOC 2 compliant.

In the company’s security documentation, they note that any user keys completely bypass Magic servers and are stored encrypted on AWS’s Key Management Service, ensuring that Magic never sees private user keys. The company is currently building out their SDK to support authenticator apps and hardware-based authentication through YubiKeys

“One big difference that we have compared with something like Medium, is if you’re trying to log into your laptop and click on the link on your phone, you’d be logged in on your phone and that’s not the ideal place to edit an article,” Li says. “But with our Magic link login you’re logged into the laptop and you can click your magic link from anywhere.”

Alongside the funding news, Magic announced partnerships with front-end developer platform Vercel, Cryptokitties-maker Dapper Labs and the Max Planck Society research institute.

Startups – TechCrunch

7 Reasons To Avoid Stealth Mode For Your New Venture

secret-lipsIt’s still popular these days for startup founders to operate in stealth mode, meaning no details about the idea or progress are shared with anyone until the big reveal and rollout. The common reason given is that this prevents any competitor from stealing their idea and beating them to market. In my view, this paranoid approach costs them much more than the risk of being open.

I’m not suggesting that a startup should ever disclose patent details to others before filing, but I can’t imagine why a startup would not seek visibility and feedback for their idea and solution while they could still make changes with minimal cost. Pivots and corrections are inevitable for startups in this age of rapid change, and the earlier you make them, the quicker you get to success.

Being open is the new business culture around the world. Entrepreneurs talk to customers and competitors talk to each other about the new trends and technologies they see. Coopetition is the new mantra for growing your business faster. Here are seven key reasons that being open is better for your startup than trying to fly under the radar:

  1. Visibility generates interest. You can’t get any word-of-mouth or media activity by hiding. Before you finalize the product is the best time to talk about it and see if you can get some buzz started. This will do more for your first mover advantage than more time in the lab. Most people agree that even negative media attention is better than none.
  1. Evaluate customer response prior to development. It’s never too early to get real feedback from the people who count. No matter how passionate and certain you are that your idea is perfect, the reality is that you will likely need to pivot at least once. Why not make the change before you have wasted significant time and money?
  1. Get competitors to surface early. You may be convinced that no competitors exist, which is very unlikely. If there really are no competitors, then there is likely no market opportunity, or you haven’t looked yet. If your position is so tentative that knowledge of your idea puts you in jeopardy, you need to know it sooner, rather than later.
  1. Demonstrate a minimum viable product (MVP). Surface your prototype, get customer feedback, make corrections, and iterate until you get it right. Startups in stealth mode often have a false sense of security that they can take extra time to do the job right the first time. Customer feedback is required to get it right, and hidden time is wasted time.
  1. Meet investors before asking for money. The time to build investor relationships is before you need the investment. It gives you credibility to mention your idea in general terms, without immediately asking for money. This can help you get in the door when you are ready, and asking questions early will give you insights on investor priorities.
  1. Pivots can be done gracefully at this point. Customer credibility actually improves when they see you making changes based on their input, and the cost of correcting mistakes early is lower. Operating in stealth mode for an extended period tends to convince entrepreneurs to believe their own biases, and visibly fight the need to change.
  1. Optimize your web history and presence. Stealth mode normally means no time for search engine optimization prior to product launch, not to mention relevant blogging activity, and link building. This means your whole startup effort will appear as very early stage for investors, and will likely not be adequately tuned for customers.

On the other hand, stealth mode does make sense for large companies, like Apple and IBM, who will likely be sued for pre-announcing a future product, since other companies have used this ploy in the past to freeze the market and lock out new competitors. Of course, even startups can get into serious trouble by talking about products and direction with no intent or ability to deliver.

I also realize that there are a limited set of startups, facing particularly entrenched and unscrupulous competitors, where early stealth mode is necessary. With most other classes of startups today, including smartphone apps, web services, and social media applications, early customer feedback is critical, and time to market is of the essence, so secrecy is more of an excuse than an advantage. Who are you fooling by not allowing your startup to be found?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

Is stealth mode a good idea?

Basically the title says it all. Is operating in stealth mode a good idea for any start-up?

If it is a good idea for some start-ups what is the context where it would be useful? What is the time frame over which it would be useful?

It seems to me that being stealth until launch is a mistake… It means you ha e spent 3/6/9/12 mo that not talking to customers. My only thought on why is if the most is so shallow you can't risk getting scooped, but I'd that is the case you will be swimming in a pool of sharks soon enough regardless.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Buzzy Ethereum wallet app Argent comes out of stealth

Argent is launching the first public version of its Ethereum wallet for iOS and Android. The company has been available as a limited beta for a few months with a few thousand users. But it has already raised a seed and a Series A round with notable investors, such as Paradigm, Index Ventures, Creandum and Firstminute Capital. Overall, the company has raised $ 16 million.

I managed to get an invitation to the beta a few months ago and have been playing around with it. It’s a well-designed Ethereum wallet with some innovative security features. It also integrates really well with DeFi projects.

Many people leave their crypto assets on a cryptocurrency exchange, such as Coinbase or Binance. But it’s a centralized model — you don’t own the keys, which means that an exchange could get hacked and you’d lose all your crypto assets. Similarly, if there’s a vulnerability in the exchange API or login system, somebody could transfer all your crypto assets to their own wallets.

At heart, Argent is a non-custodial Ethereum wallet, like Coinbase Wallet or Trust Wallet. You’re in control of the keys. Argent can’t initiate a transaction without your authorization for instance.

But that level of control brings a lot of complexities. Hardware wallets, such as Ledger wallets, ask you to write down a seed phrase so that you can recover your wallet if you lose your device. It requires some discipline and it’s hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the concept of seed phrases.

Even Coinbase Wallet tells you to back up your seed phrase when you first create a wallet. “We see them as advanced tools for developers,” Argent co-founder and CEO Itamar Lesuisse told me.

That’s why a new generation of wallets tries to hide the complexity from the end user, such as ZenGo and Argent. Creating a wallet on Argent is one of the best experiences in the cryptocurrency space. Your wallet is secured by something called ‘guardians’.

Trust your friends

A guardian can be someone you know and trust, a hardware wallet (or another phone) or a MetaMask account. Argent also provides a guardian service, which requires you to confirm your identity with a text message and an email. If you lose your phone and you want to recover your wallet on another phone, you need to speak to your guardians and get a majority of confirmations. If they can all confirm that, yes, indeed, your phone doesn’t work anymore and you want to recover your crypto assets, the recovery process starts.

Let’s take an example. Here’s your list of guardians:

  • Argent’s own guardian service
  • Two friends who are also using Argent
  • A Ledger Nano S hardware wallet

In total, there are five different factors involved, you including. If you lose your phone, you can recover your wallet by downloading Argent on another phone (factor #1), asking Argent’s guardian service to send you a text and an email to confirm your identity (factor #2) and confirming your identity with the Ledger Nano S (factor #3).

You have reached a majority and the recovery process starts. You’ll get your funds in 36 hours so that you have enough time to cancel it it’s a hijacking attempt.

But you could also have downloaded the Argent app on another phone (factor #1) and pinged your two friends (factor #2 and #3) directly. If they can confirm the same sequence of characters (emojis in that case), the recovery process would start as well.

“I’m interested in social recovery, multi-key schemes,” Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin said in a TechCrunch interview in July 2018. It’s not a new concept as social media apps already use social recovery systems. On WeChat, if you lose your password, WeChat asks you to select people in your contact list within a big list of names.

In Argent’s case, social recovery adds an element of virality as well. The experience gets better as more people around you start using Argent.

In addition to wallet recovery, Argent uses guardians to put some limits. Just like you have some limits on your bank account, you can set a daily transaction limit to prevent attackers from grabbing all your crypto assets. You can ask your guardians to waive transactions above your daily limits.

Similarly, you can ask your guardians to lock your account for 5 days in case your phone gets stolen.

Betting on Ethereum

Argent is focused on the Ethereum blockchain and plans to support everything that Ethereum offers. Of course, you can send and receive ETH. And the startup wants to hide the complexity on this front as well as it covers transaction fees (gas) for you and gives you usernames. This way, you don’t have to set the transaction fees to make sure that it’ll go through.

The startup plans to integrate DeFi projects directly in the app. DeFi stands for decentralized finance. As the name suggests, DeFi aims to bridge the gap between decentralized blockchains and financial services. It looks like traditional financial services, but everything is coded in smart contracts.

There are dozens of DeFi projects. Some of them let you lend and borrow money — you can earn interest by locking some crypto assets in a lending pool for instance. Some of them let you exchange crypto assets in a decentralized way, with other users directly.

Argent lets you access TokenSets, Compound, Maker DSR, Aave, Uniswap V2 Liquidity, Kyber and Pool Together. And the company already has plans to roll out more DeFi features soon.

Overall, Argent is a polished app that manages to find the right balance between security and simplicity. Many cryptocurrency startups want to build the ‘Revolut of crypto’. And it feels like Argent has a real shot at doing just that with such a promising start.

Startups – TechCrunch