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Encrypted Email Provider ProtonMail Releases iOS And Android Apps

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ProtonMail

ProtonMail, an encrypted email service developed by CERN scientists in Geneva and researchers at MIT, has released its iOS and Android mobile apps to the public following a beta test period. Users can sign up for apps on the ProtonMail website.

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Scientists who met while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland developed ProtonMail. The goal was to protect people from the mass surveillance by governments and corporations around the world.

Crowdfunding Proves Helpful

Thanks to the support from its crowdfunding campaigns, the company has been able to overcome its challenges and expects to expand significantly. In 2014, ProtonMail raised $550,377 USD from 10,576 backers in one month on Indiegogo, marking a 550% response to its $100,000 campaign goal.

The email provider also raised $64,286 on gofundme.com in November of 2015 in response to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that CCN reported. The gofundme campaign raised $64,286 from 1,808 people in four months, exceeding the campaign’s $50,000 goal. The campaign allowed ProtonMail to implement a state-of-the-art solution to prevent such attacks in the future.

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Privacy Under Siege

The decision to make the service public was based on the observation that in the past couple of years, surveillance has expanded globally. ProtonMail cited the Investigatory Powers Bill in the U.K., the CISA in the U.S. and the recent FBI case against Apple.

“We understand that governments have concerns when it comes to terrorism and encryption, but undermining our collective security by weakening cryptography is the wrong approach. Whether we admit it or not, we are now in the middle of a second crypto war,” ProtonMail said on its website.

Even Apple, the world’s largest tech company, has moved towards the side of greater privacy protections, ProtonMail noted.

The best way to defend the right to privacy is to provide the necessary tools to the general public as fast as possible and put the decision into the hands of the people and not the governments.

Public Support Needed

To keep ProtonMail free, public support is essential; the company noted its operational expenses will increase significantly. ProtonMail will need more users to upgrade to paid or donating accounts to have the financial resources to support its growing community.

ProtonMail, unlike Facebook and Google that abuse user privacy to sell advertising, entirely depends on users upgrading to paid accounts to cover expenses. Minus this support, the project will not be able to operate.

“We hope enough of you will support us in this mission so we can continue to protect online privacy,” the company stated on its website.

ProtonMail Paid A Ransom

ProtonMail paid a ransom demand of 15 bitcoin (approximately $6000) to attackers who targeted the service with destructive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks back in June, CCN reported. Two groups were believed to be behind the attacks, one of which began the cyber-strikes and put forth the ransom demand.

The attacks spread to company’s data center in Switzerland while assuring users that the company’s core technology of end-to-end encryption remained untouched.

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4.8 stars on average, based on 4 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Are You Considering a Career in Crypto?

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In 2008, a bizarre and esoteric technology by the name of bitcoin was introduced to the world in a whitepaper penned by Satoshi Nakamoto. Just one decade later, that whitepaper would spawn a budding industry racing toward the trillion-dollar mark.

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At the time of writing, there are more than 1,550 cryptocurrencies trying to do a variation of what bitcoin has accomplished. Hundreds more are expected to be created this year alone. To bring these currencies online, startups, institutes and not-for-profits are depending on a talented workforce made up of engineers, analysts, marketers and business professionals.
That’s a long-winded way of saying the crypto-economy is hiring, and there’s no shortage of opportunity. Recently, freelance marketplace Toptal announced it was launching a blockchain engineering platform for talented technology professionals. As TechCrunch pointed out, this is a huge deal because Toptal represents about half of “on-demand engineering labor by revenue.”

Blockchain Talent Demand: By the Numbers

Blockchain engineering has quickly emerged as the fastest-growing segment on Toptal. Since January 2017, demand for professionals in this category has surged 700%. The company also reports that some 40% of fully managed software development jobs in the last month require blockchain skills and domain knowledge.

Toptal isn’t the only freelance community witnessing a surge in blockchain skills. Upwork also reported blockchain as the fastest-growing skillset in terms of revenue, with billings skyrocketing 35,000% year-over-year. For a site like Freelancer, bitcoin job posts grew 82% in the third quarter alone.

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It’s not just freelancing websites that are witnessing an upsurge in blockchain-related job posts. Last year, LinkedIn reported that finance companies saw a 900% increase in bitcoin-related job postings since 2014. There are now tens of thousands of users who list “blockchain” as one of their available skillsets.

At the time of writing, there are 1,060 “cryptocurrency” jobs listed on the U.S. section of Indeed.com, one of the world’s largest job boards. The “blockchain” job category had nearly 3,200 hits. Pretty much all of the jobs had a minimum salary of $70,000 per year and about 40% paid six figures.

Job Categories

From the author’s perspective, working in blockchain/crypto usually involves one of the following organizations:

  • startup company launching an initial coin offering (ICO)
  • an advisory service helping ICOs launch their product
  • a large technology or financial services company utilizing blockchain technology
  • an institute or not-for-profit researching blockchain applications and use case

In terms of job categories, you are mostly looking at the following:

  • Technical: Software developers, engineers, programmers and other IT specialists get the lion’s share of job postings.
  • Writing and Marketing: This is a fairly broad category that covers journalism, content development and copywriting. If you understand blockchain technology and the world of crypto and have good writing skills, there’s no shortage of opportunity.
  • Advisory Services: Domain experts can charge a premium advising startups on how to navigate the crypto sphere. Experts usually make it on to an ICO’s adviser page.
  • Legal: We are seeing a steady rise in legal services that assist token issuers navigate the regulatory requirements of cryptocurrency crowdfunding.

It’s clear from many of these categories that most people didn’t specialize in blockchain initially but have applied their skills and experience to the domain. Depending on how you view the future, specializing may or may not be a good idea.

In mainstream and institutional circles, blockchain is much more of a sure thing than cryptocurrency. That’s one place budding professionals can focus on if they do decide to enter the labor market.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 153 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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First Internet Bancorp: Breaking The Shackles

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Traditional bank stocks have been pretty boring until recently.  Yes, that is changing.  The prospects of a steeper yield curve could make for better earnings in 2018.  But if it weren’t for some of the exciting things to come along in financial technology, the S&P 500 financial index would still be stuck in the rut of underperformance.

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So let’s take a look at one of the early innovators that draw their roots to the small town of Fisher Indiana in 1999.  That was era of landline telephones and dial up Internet.

The Original Internet Bank  

So what makes First Internet Bank (INBK: NASDAQ) different?  For starters, they are the first state-chartered, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) insured Internet bank.

INBK does not have a conventional brick and mortar branch system. It operates through a scalable Internet banking platform.  That may not sound like a big deal since every bank around has mobile banking.

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Everybody in fintech wants to tap into branchless online banking but getting and FDIC charter isn’t so easy. It takes a huge amount of paperwork and lots of time to get approval.

Many startups like Simple attempted to enter the game acting as a broker for FDIC insured banks.  However, under banking rules growing out of the 2008 financial crisis, this proved a tuff road.  

So little old plane vanilla First Internet Bancorp has the key benefit of being an FDIC chartered and insured bank just like the big boys like Citibank and JP Morgan Chase but without the bricks and mortar branches.

INBK’s structure gives them nationwide reach. The implications for costs and customer acquisition being a major benefit.  Until more recently, however, capital limitations put the brakes on major expansion opportunities.  But now, things have changed.

What To Do With $150 Million

On August 8, 2017 INBK filed a registration statement for a $150 million secondary offering with all proceeds going to the company for “general corporate purposes.” Considering the market cap of INBK at the time was about $250 million, the offering was huge.  It substantially bolstered Tier One Capital.  That means for the first time in a while since the financial crisis that INBK could expand its deposit and lending base.

These days INBK’s balance sheet looks darn attractive with cash and deposits more than tripling since 2015 to $656 million and long term investments more than doubling to $2.4 billion.  INBK is exceptionally lean.  They have no long term debt.  When you add up all the fixed overhead like offices, computers and employees, it amounts to just a little under $15 million.  That, as they say, is chump change.  

Full Service Banking

INBK offers the usual assortment of commercial, small business, consumer and municipal banking products and services. They conduct consumer and small business deposit operations primarily through online channels on a nationwide basis and have no traditional branch offices.

Residential mortgage products are offered nationwide primarily through an online direct-to-consumer platform and are supplemented with Central Indiana-based mortgage and construction lending.

Consumer lending products are originated nationwide over the Internet as well as through relationships with dealerships and financing partners.

Commercial banking products and services are delivered through a relationship banking model and include commercial real estate (“CRE”) banking, commercial and industrial (“C&I”) banking and public finance.

A public finance team was established in early 2017, provides a range of public and municipal lending and leasing products to government entities on a nationwide basis.

Free At Last

In 2017 customers shelled out about $45 billion in fees to the banking industry in account service fees, check return fees, overdraft fees and more.  All of this was needed to cover the overhead of the bazillion bank branches.

In 20 years it is possible that 80% of all branches will be replaced by mobile devices. Perhaps there will be none at all.

With no branch overhead to cover, First Internet and others like them can offer appealing perks like free checking, no overdraft or bounced check fees.  That is a big selling point.

Customer Turnover Is Low In Banking

Customers hate those annoying fees but it takes a lot to get them to move.  Costs are often measured on the amount of marketing dollars needed to attract new customers.  There are many ways of measuring these costs so there is no single guide to the true cost.

One bank, BBVA placed the cost at $100.  Other estimates run as high as $145.  Both numbers include the cost of branches.

A study that I participated in several years ago placed the cost for an online bank as low as $50 per new customer.  The difference in these two numbers is just one reason why you should get excited about pure online banks.  First Internet Bank looks well positioned.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 21 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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USA Technologies: Thinking Small To Grow Fast

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Malvern Pennsylvania is the home of USA Technologies, a town of just 3,000 people. In Malvern it pays to think small.  USA Technologies (USAT: NASDGM) is trying to make it big by thinking small.

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The word small ticket comes up frequently in USAT’s self-description. Here is why they want to be a big fish in a small pond.

What They Do For A Living

USAT provides wireless networking, cashless transactions, asset monitoring, and other value-added services to the small ticket, unattended Point of Sale (“POS”) market.  This sounds super cool, but what does it mean?

USAT developed something they call ePort technology.  When it is installed into things like vending machines, commercial laundries, amusement games, or stand alone kiosks so you no longer have to carry cash.  It is another application of network technology and it is spreading rapidly.

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While thinking small, USAT also developed ePort Connect, which amounts to a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)-compliant, comprehensive service that includes simplified credit card processing and support, consumer engagement services as well as telemetry, Internet of Things (“IoT”) and machine-to-machine (“M2M”) services, including the ability to remotely monitor, control, and report on the results of distributed assets containing electronic payment solutions.

Competitive Position

Company CEO Stephen Herbert claims the company is a leading provider in the small ticket, beverage and food vending industry.  They are expanding solutions and services to other unattended market segments, such as amusement, commercial laundry, kiosk and others.

Historically, these businesses have relied on cash for payment in the form of coins or bills, whereas, USAT systems allow the acceptance of cashless payments through the use of credit or debit cards or other emerging contactless forms, such as mobile payment.

How Does USAT Make Money

Revenues are generated from the sale of equipment and from license and transaction fees.  It is this last source that helps make USAT most interesting.

During the fiscal year 2017, 73.0% of revenues came from recurring license and transaction fees related to ePort Connect service and just 27.0% from equipment sales.

CEO Herbert believes that a service based business model, will create a high-margin stream of recurring revenues as a foundation for long-term value and continued growth.

Financials: Small Is Getting Big Quickly

USAT strategy seems to be paying off handsomely.  Revenues over the past five years have been growing a better than a 25% pace going from $29 million in 2012 to $104 million in the year ended June 2017.

For the six months ending December 2017 the company surpassed last years total ringing up about $43 million in revenues, a 30% increase.

In their February 8th earnings release, the company raised guidance for fiscal 2018 revenues to $140-$145 million and for adjusted EBITDA to between $13.5 and $14.5 million.

At this time four Wall Street firms cover the company and these folks expect USAT to earn $0.06 per share this year before tripling in fiscal 2019 to $0.18.

Cantaloupe Acquisition

Back in November USAT signed an $85 million deal to acquire Cantaloupe Systems, Inc based in San Francisco.  Just like USAT, Cantaloupe is a provider of cloud and mobile solutions for vending, micro markets and office coffee service.  The two companies tout the deal as bringing together complementary portfolios for the purpose of creating the industry’s top solutions platform.

The acquisition had only minor benefits to reported USAT first half results.  On a pro-forma basis, if the acquisition had occurred on July 1, 2016, first half consolidated revenue would have increased 26% year-over-year.

Management With Beverage Industry Background

CEO Stephen Herbert has considerable history in the beverage industry and has been CEO at USAT for over 5 years. In other words, he needs no on the job training.

For the 10 years prior to joining USAT in 1996, Herbert had been with Pepsi-Cola in their beverage division vending area.

The company believes Herbert’s intimate knowledge and experience with all aspects of USAT for over 20 years and his extensive vending experience at PepsiCo before joining USAT provide the requisite qualifications, skills, perspectives, and experiences to serve.  We would tend to agree.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 21 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Hacked.com and its team members have pledged to reject any form of advertisement or sponsorships from 3rd parties. We will always be neutral and we strive towards a fully unbiased view on all topics. Whenever an author has a conflicting interest, that should be clearly stated in the post itself with a disclaimer. If you suspect that one of our team members are biased, please notify me immediately at jonas.borchgrevink(at)hacked.com.

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