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Ransomware Incidents Surging; Cybersecurity Experts Scramble to Respond   



A surge in cybersecurity protection is needed to counter the increasing number of attacks from cyber criminals, says a former US Attorney. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor  

Ransomware attacks are ramping up. A former US Attorney suggests that a “surge” in cybersecurity protection is needed to counter the increasing number of attacks from cyber criminals. Other experts say cybersecurity best practices should be applied to plug holes.  

The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes on June 6 included a segment on ransomware, which outlined how the largest meat producer in America (JBS) was forced to close for several days, three weeks after a primary source of gasoline for the US East Coast (Colonial Pipeline), was held hostage, causing gas shortages over a weekend.  

Then on Monday, June 7, US authorities announced the recovery of $2.3 million in ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline, by using a private cryptocurrency key the FBI had obtained that led to a bitcoin wallet.   

The scale of ransomware attacks is enormous. “The losses are very significant and easily approach a hundred million dollars or more just in the United States,” stated Michael A. Christman, assistant director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI, on 60 Minutes  

Tom Pace, Cofounder and CEO of NetRise

Tom Pace, Cofounder and CEO of NetRise, a cybersecurity startup, demonstrated on the show a website where hackers can go to buy ransomware attacks. They set them up to scan vulnerable networks, potentially targeting thousands of sites automatically. Moreover, “They actually provide you with basically a chat room where you can ask questions to the people who maintain this architecture for you,” Pace stated. He then showed how easily he could encrypt a test site he set up, within minutes, by stepping through several screens, not having to write any code. Needless to say, his clients are reluctant to pay ransom, but many feel they have no choice. “We have lots of clients who are incredibly angry,” Pace stated.  

For his clients, “We try to do a really good job of making sure we reduce all the vulnerabilities and entry points.” Pace stated. Still, no guarantee exists that the ransomware attackers will not try attacking the same sites again.  

Over the weekend of June 5-6, ransomware attackers targeted the reservation system of the Steamship Authority in southeastern Massachusetts, serving Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with ferry service. Boats were still running, but customers could not make online reservations and had to pay cash.  

“Since the beginning of April, we’ve seen an average of a thousand organizations impacted by ransomware every single week,” stated Mark Ostrowski, head of engineering for the eastern US for cybersecurity firm Check Point Software, quoted in The Boston Globe. That is twice the rate of attacks he saw last year for cases he  knows about. 

Former US Attorney Suggests A Cyber “Troop Surge” Response Mode 

Kellen Dwyer, former US Attorney, Adjunct Professor, George Mason University

One former US attorney is suggesting the Justice Department go into a response mode akin to the post 9/11 terrorist attacks. “The department needs a ‘troop surge’ of cyber prosecutors and agents to conduct long-term, proactive investigations into ransomware and the organizations that enable them,” stated Kellen Dwyer in an account in Lawfare, a blog dedicated to national security issues. “A surge of resources for proactive investigations into organized cybercrime is the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree of possible policy responses to ransomware. It should be picked immediately,” he stated.  

Hacking is no longer executive by lone wolf techies. Dwyer described “cybercrime-as-a-service” as “a massive business.”  

Ransomware attackers need three things to be effective at what they try to do: access to compromised networks, preferably to an organization with deep pockets and a dependency on computers; malware that can remotely and securely encrypt the victim’s data; and a means to receive and launder the resulting ransom payments.   

“The widespread availability of such services is the main reason for the recent explosion in ransomware attacks,” Dwyer stated.  

The criminals usually demand ransom payments in cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin or Ether, because it can be transferred without a third-party, such as a bank, that could assist law enforcement in conducting traces in an effort to identify the perpetrator. “It’s no coincidence that ransomware attacks have soared with the advent of cryptocurrency,” Dwyer stated.   

However, cryptocurrencies do have a security vulnerability, in that they rely on public ledgers, which can enable law enforcement to conduct traces from one crypto wallet to the next. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has begun freezing cryptocurrency by publishing digital currency addresses that are associated with ransomware, Dwyer indicated. This puts pressure on ransomware gangs to convert ransom payments from cryptocurrency to flat currency, using exchanges or “mixers.” Dwyer stated, “These services are essential to the ransomware business model.”  

Cracking this ecosystem that allows ransomware and cybercrime to flourish, will be an increasing focus of law enforcement. Some prosecutions have been successful. “A relatively small number of sophisticated and well-connected cybercriminals play an outsized role in this ecosystem,” stated Dwyer.  

The effort to catch more ransomware criminals needs to be funded. “They can be investigated and prosecuted and the organizations that support them can be dismantled, if we are willing to pay the modest price,” Dwyer stated. 

The recovery of ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline is an example of how law enforcement plans to follow the money after a ransomware attack. A judge in San Francisco approved the seizure of funds from the “cryptocurrency address” uncovered by the FBI,  which was located in the Northern District of California, according to an account from Reuters. 

The hack was attributed by the FBI to a gang called DarkSide, described as a cybercrime group based in Russia.  

Colonial Chief Executive Joseph Blount stated that the company had worked closely with the FBI from the beginning. “Holding cyber criminals accountable and disrupting the ecosystem that allows them to operate is the best way to deter and defend against future attacks,” Blount stated. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated on Sunday the Biden administration was looking at all options to defend against ransomware attacks and that the topic would be on the agenda when President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin this month.  

Tom Robinson, co-founder of crypto tracking firm Elliptic, stated that most of the recovered bitcoins had gone to a DarkSide “affiliate” (or customer) who had initially hacked into Colonial. DarkSide is essentially offering cybercrime-as-a-service, investigators stated in the Reuters report. 

An FBI affidavit filed on June 7 said that the bureau had tracked the bitcoin through multiple wallets, using the public blockchain and tools. Small amounts were shaved off the initial 75 bitcoin payment along the way, according to the Reuters report.  

Cybersecurity Best Practices Still a Good Idea 

Meanwhile, best practices for cybersecurity include these five pillars, according to an account on GoogleCloud:  

Identify. Know the cybersecurity risks you need to protect against.  

Protect. Create safeguards to ensure delivery of critical services and business processes to limit or contain the impact of a potential cybersecurity incident or attack. 

DetectDefine continuous ways to monitor your organization and identify potential cybersecurity events or incidents.   

RespondActivate an incident response program within your organization that can help contain the impact of a security event, including a ransomware attack.    

RecoverBuild a cyber resilience program and back-up strategy to prepare for how you can restore core systems or assets affected by a security incident, including a ransomware attack. 

Role of AI in Cybersecurity, Ransomware Defense 

AI can be incorporated into the cybersecurity profile as well. Identifying continuously evolving threats is easier with AI, suggests a recent account in Geekflare. Ideally, the AI system is training to detect ransomware and malware attacks before they enter the system, using predictive analytics to help. Once discovered can be isolated from the system. 

Benefits of using machine learning in cybersecurity include the ability to:  

  • Monitor and analyze multiple endpoints for cyber threats; 
  • Detect malicious activity before it manifests into a full-fledged attack; 
  • Automate routine security tasks; 
  • Do better with zero-day vulnerabilities. 

A 2019 survey by Capgemini Research Institute found that 69% of organizations acknowledge that they will not be able to respond to critical threats without AI. Some 56% of executives reported their cybersecurity analysts are overwhelmed by the vast array of data points they need to monitor to detect and prevent intrusion.  

AI cybersecurity applications are currently in use, including:  

  • Secure user authentication, and 
  • Hacking incident forecasting 

Read the source articles and information from CBSNews/60 Minutes in The Boston Globe, in the Lawfare blog, on GoogleCloud and on Geekflare. 

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Artificial Intelligence

Extra Crunch roundup: Finding GTM, China’s edtech clampdown and how to define growth



Early-stage startups tend to claim that their go-to-market strategy is fully operational. In reality, GTM is a stark numbers game, and even with a solid plan in place, it can be easily foiled by common problems like turf battles and poor communication.

Finding GTM fit is a milestone for any startup that includes everything from expanding the engineering team to launching your first media buy. But how do you know when you’ve reached that magic moment?

“You have to consider three metrics: gross churn rate, the magic number and gross margin,” says Tae Hea Nahm, co-founder and managing director of Storm Ventures.

High churn means customers aren’t delighted, low gross margins mean poor unit economics, and that so-called magic number?

“You can calculate it by taking new ARR divided by your marketing and sales spending,” Nahm writes. “But keep in mind that the magic number is a lagging indicator, and it may take you a few quarters to see a positive result.”

Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

If you are methodical in your approach to building a larger customer base, it is not difficult to foster steady growth.

Marketers who shift with whichever way the wind is blowing — or blindly follow someone else’s idea of best practices — are less likely to be successful.

“The not-so-secret secret here is that the key to great retention is really simple,” said growth expert Susan Su recently at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising. “It is building a product that solves a real and especially persistent problem for people.”

In conversation with Managing Editor Eric Eldon, Su delved into several issues, including tips on how founders should discuss growth with investors, and her methods for developing a sample qualitative growth model.

“I firmly believe that every founder should try their hand at growth,” said Su.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch

How we built an AI unicorn in 6 years

An adult wearing a unicorn mask leaps over a chain-link fence

Image Credits: Lucas Knappe/EyeEm (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Few startups go to market with the exact product their founders first envisioned.

Today, Tractable is known for developing tech that allows drivers to upload photos of their vehicles after a collision so its AI can assess the damage. Its first paying customer, however, used Tractable to inspect plastic pipe welds.

And as fate would have it, that customer also fired them just as the founders were raising their first round.

“We struck gold with car insurance,” says co-founder Alex Dalyac, as it was “a huge and inefficient market in desperate need of modernization.”

In an Extra Crunch guest post, he shares several takeaways from the last six years spent scaling a unicorn that have value for founders of all stripes. Step one?

“Search for complementary co-founders who will become your best friends,” advises Dalyac.

The European VC market is so hot it may skip its summer holiday

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim continued their exploration of the scorching global VC market, this time taking a look at Europe.

For perspective, they analyzed data from Dealroom and spoke to four VCs about the continent’s investment climate:

  • Diana Koziarska, SMOK Ventures
  • Vinoth Jayakumar, Draper Esprit
  • Simon Schmincke, Creandum
  • Javier Santiso, Mundi Ventures

“There’s little indication that what we’ve seen thus far from Europe in 2021 will slow in Q3 or Q4,” Alex and Anna write.

“Even though Europe has a reputation for lengthy summer vacations, investors don’t expect much — if any — slowdown to come in Europe during this sun-drenched quarter.”

Startups and investors are turning to micromobility subscriptions

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murky path to profitability for shared electric micromobility, an increasing number of companies have turned to subscriptions,” Rebecca Bellan writes in a roundup about the future of micromobility.

“It’s a business model that some founders and investors argue hits the profit center sweet spot — an approach that appeals to customers who are wary of sharing as well as paying upfront to own a scooter or e-bike, all while minimizing overhead costs and depreciation of assets.”

What Robinhood’s warnings about crypto trading say about Coinbase’s near-term future

After noting that Robinhood anticipates a decline in revenue in the third quarter as a result of slowing crypto trading, Alex Wilhelm got to thinking about what that forecast means for Coinbase.

“The now-public unicorn has lived through crypto ups and crypto downs,” he writes. “A decline in consumer interest in the next few months or quarters is not a huge deal, assuming one keeps a long enough perspective and the crypto-infused future that its fans expect comes to pass.”

But will it?

Dear Sophie: Should we look to Canada to retain international talent?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I handle people ops as a consultant at several different tech startups. Many have employees on OPT or STEM OPT who didn’t get selected in this year’s H-1B lottery.

The companies want to retain these individuals, but they’re running out of options. Some companies will try again in next year’s H-1B lottery, even though they face long odds, particularly if the H-1B lottery becomes a wage-based selection process next year.

Others are looking into O-1A visas, but find that many employees don’t yet have the experience to meet the qualifications. Should we look at Canada?

— Specialist in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley comms expert Caryn Marooney shares how to nail the narrative

Caryn Marooney, right, vice president of technology communications at Facebook, poses for a picture on the red carpet for the 6th annual 2018 Breakthrough Prizes at Moffett Federal Airfield, Hangar One in Mountain View, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (N

Image Credits: MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images (Image has been modified)

Caryn Marooney, a Silicon Valley communications professional turned venture capitalist, spoke extensively on storytelling at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising.

Throughout her time in Silicon Valley, she helped companies like Salesforce, Amazon, Facebook and more launch products and sharpen their messaging. In 2019, she left Facebook, where she was VP of technology communication, and joined Coatue Management as a general partner.

Marooney uses the acronym RIBS to describe her basic strategy for startup messaging: Relevance, Inevitability, Believability and keeping it Simple.

Canada’s startup market booms alongside hot global VC investment

For The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim looked at Canada’s VC market in the first half of 2021, and if you’ve been reading their work, you know what’s coming.

Canada, like the rest of the globe, was absolutely scorching in the first half.

“Canada’s venture capital results now rival those of the entire Latin American region, with exits and mega-deals coming in roughly on par in the second quarter, and a similar number of total venture capital rounds in the period,” they write.

“That caught our attention.”

Greylock’s Mike Duboe explains how to define growth and build your team

With more venture funding flowing into the startup ecosystem than ever before, there’s never been a better time to be a growth expert.

At TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising earlier this month, Greylock Partners’ Mike Duboe dug into a number of lessons and pieces of wisdom he’s picked up leading growth at a number of high-growth startups, including StitchFix. His advice spanned hiring, structure and analysis, with plenty of recommendations for where growth teams should be focusing their attention and resources.

Last-mile delivery in Latin America is ready to take off

a cardboard box flies through outer space propelled by two thruster rockets

Image Credits: Erlon Silva/TRI Digital (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Thanks to sprawling fulfillment centers, seamless logistics networks and ubiquitous internet access, consumers in many regions can now order groceries and a new set of cookware during breakfast and reasonably expect everything to arrive in time for dinner.

In Latin America, a lack of technology infrastructure makes delivery operations complex, and these supply chains are often managed with spreadsheets, paper and pen.

Algorithms that manage delivery routes or automatically dispatch drivers “are almost unheard of in the Latin America retail logistics sector,” says Bob Ma, an investor at WIND Ventures.

But thanks to growing consumer demand and expanding investment in last-mile delivery startups, Ma says the region is at a turning point.

Since Latin America’s middle class has grown 50% in the last decade and e-commerce constitutes just 6% of all retail, several unicorns have emerged in recent years, with more waiting in the wings.

China’s expected edtech clampdown may chill a key startup sector

China’s edtech industry is estimated to be worth $100 billion, but its leaders are reportedly considering a plan that would require these firms to operate as non-profits.

“When it comes to control, the Chinese government doesn’t mind wiping out a few dozen billion dollars in market cap here and there,” writes Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.

“That’s not a great system.”

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AI Chatbots Can Help Retailers Convert Live Broadcast Viewers into Sales!



Do you remember the simpler times when we imagined: “one day, robots will roam the streets and act like people”? It sounded unrealistic, that something other than humans will be able to perform our functions. However, now when technology advances at an unbelievable rate, this is becoming more tangible than ever. It’s no longer a fruit of our imagination, not with chatbots acting like humans and machines doing tons of our work.

BusinessInsider estimates that the chatbot market size will grow to $9.4 billion by 2024 compared to $2.6 billion in 2019. This equals a compound annual growth rate of a whopping 29.7%. What does this tell us?

It tells us that businesses are investing heavily in this new technology. AI-powered chatbots have tremendous benefits for businesses. They offer instant assistance to customers and leads, helping retailers get more sales. If you’ve been looking for ways to boost your live broadcast strategies, this is definitely a great way to do it!

But, before we get into it, let’s see what a chatbot is.

What Is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a program on a computer designed specifically to simulate conversations with users over the Internet. Think of them as virtual assistants, but the customer is not speaking to an actual human on the other side. In this case, they talk to automated tools capable of generating instant or text messages to respond to the most common questions.

Naturally, since AI-powered chatbots aren’t humans, they have their limitations. Still, if you compare the current chatbots with those from just a few years back, you’ll notice that they’ve gotten much ‘smarter’ by now. Sometimes, it is even hard to distinguish whether you’re talking to a human or a computer.

To perform its function, a chatbot will use advanced machine learning and natural language processing algorithms. The latter is also known as NLP, which refers to the ability of the computer to process, understand, and respond in a human language. The two processes involved to make this happen are Natural Language Understanding (when the bot comprehends the human text) and Natural Language Generation (when the bot transforms data into text and responds to the human.

Generally speaking, there are three different types of chatbots people can find on sites these days:

  • Rule-based – the user needs to click on buttons and use predefined options to get his answers
  • Intellectually independent – the chatbot uses ML to learn from the users’ requests and inputs (they learn phrases and keywords that trigger a reply)
  • AI-powered – these are the most advanced, smartest bots of them all. They use AI, ML, and NLP to combine the qualities of both rule-based and intellectually independent bots.

The perks of using chatbots for retailers

From a business perspective, chatbots are a great way to keep interested parties in the loop, provide them with immediate answers, and generate more leads. Such innovations may come with downsides of their own, but for you as a retailer, this is a great tool.

If your business is customer-centered, which it should definitely be, anything that boosts the user experience is a good thing. Just think of this scenario.

You constantly create live broadcasts, but these aren’t as effective as you want them to be. When you’re done, you get only a few questions from leads, or your leads are long gone before you can answer them all. With an AI-powered chatbot, this will no longer be an issue.

That’s the most amazing use of chatbots to this day – being able to get answers to people when you cannot do it on your own. Let’s see how this works.

Chatbots facilitate better live communication

You’ve figured out how to share your message and, now that live broadcasts are so popular, what better way to do it than via a live video? There are plenty of ways to make this happen, as well as amazing tools and tricks that make it possible. Whisby not only explains what is live broadcasting, but they provide you with brilliant solutions that attract your target audience.

When you have your live broadcasting prepared and are ready to start, consider this – how will you respond to interested parties if you have to lead the broadcast? Will you be able to answer all questions before the interested party leaves?

Ideally, you should have many people reaching out to ask more about your products and services. People hardly have any patience these days. Their attention span is akin to a goldfish, and they don’t have the time to wait around and get your response.

Since live broadcasting is all about sharing things in real-time, you need to be prompt at answering people’s questions or communicating with them. A simple ‘thank-you’ for a compliment, a ‘hi’ for a new member, or an answer to a person’s question right away can make a huge difference for your brand.

This is where chatbots can do wonders for you. If you integrate them into your support system, people can engage with it without waiting around or any difficulties. Chatbots will analyze their questions and find the right response in real-time, assisting you greatly in the process.

Many great chatbots work seamlessly across social media platforms where most of the live streaming is done.

Chatbots boost the trust between you and your customer

When you’re selling things online or attempting to reach an audience on the Internet, you have one huge disadvantage – actual face-to-face, personal contact. When people visit an actual retail store, they are greeted by employees as soon as they walk in, asked if they need assistance, and provided help as long as they need it.

Whether they are using your retail website or seeing your live broadcast, people can’t expect the same type of service online. This diminishes the personal touch and your chances of building trust with customers.

Many online shoppers don’t enjoy such assistance because the retailers cannot cater to everyone’s needs all at once. The online world opens up opportunities for retailers to reach many people across the world. When their online stores are ‘crowded’, it’s hard to dedicate time to everyone.

But, chatbots can do a lot to amend this. When you use them, it opens up a chance to assist your customers along with a purchase, no matter how many of them need assistance at the same time. Quality chatbots have definitely changed the game. This buzz-worthy technology does a lot to boost sales.

This isn’t a theory at this point. Let’s consider some examples. When Amtrak decided to use a chatbot, this drove a 25% rise in bookings. Their AI-powered chatbot answered over 5 million questions in a year! People had a lot to ask and before that, there wasn’t anyone to give them answers as fast as they needed them!

Kia’s chatbot, on the other hand, has achieved even better results. They reported a conversion at a rate three times higher than before.

What does this tell you?

It shows that the 24/7 availability of chatbots, including their availability while you’re broadcasting live, covers many of the past issues in terms of responsiveness.

Chatbots can handle much higher traffic than humans, maintain conversations simultaneously, all while minimizing delays and human error. They don’t even have to take some time off and rest!

Chatbots can direct the sales for you

When you’re communicating with people live, do you stop to tell them ‘This is where you can buy it’? You can’t do this for every individual customer, and many of them won’t wait around for your broadcast to end to ask you.

Luckily, chatbots are there to assist you. AI-powered chatbots will not only greet people and answer their questions, but they’ll also walk them through a sale. In a simple, smooth interaction, they can complete the entire order process without waiting for your broadcast to end.

The process is pretty simple with the right chatbot. Let’s say that you are an interested customer who wants to make a purchase. If you decide to do this based on your view of a broadcast, you’d have to go to the website, look for that product, find it, and then continue to make a purchase.

But what if there’s something that can get everything done for you without much effort? You can just tell the chatbot what you need, and it will redirect you to a filled order form or the product’s page where you’ll find the information you need.

The first option might convince you to look elsewhere or keep scouring social media. The latter is far more likely to entice you to make a purchase.

Final thoughts

Retailers who sell their products online enjoy amazing perks and an opportunity for a much, much wider reach. But they cannot offer the same kind of experience and service to buyers, at least not when they have many interested parties. Sales chatbots can make online shopping seem like traditional in-store shopping. They offer a smoother, quicker, and more personalized experience for the buyer. As a result, they create a more converting system for the retailer

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Artificial Intelligence

Digital Asset Risk Management Platform Elliptic Chosen by Fintech Paysafe to Help Manage Crypto Exposure



Elliptic, a company focused on crypto-asset risk management, has been chosen by Paysafe, a specialized payments platform, for its Elliptic Lens solution.

Paysafe is now able “to manage indirect exposure to cryptocurrency-related risks and bolster their cryptocurrency controls,” according to an update from Elliptic.

Paysafe, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in March of this year, enables businesses and consumers to transact “seamlessly” via different capabilities in payment processing, digital wallet, and online cash.

By integrating Elliptic Lens into its proprietary AI-enhanced risk engine, Paysafe can “enrich know-your-customer (KYC) processes, reduce potential exposure to illicit activity, and effectively monitor the interaction between entities moving across fiat and crypto payment rails.”

Simone Maini, CEO at Elliptic, stated:

“Paysafe has a reputation for staying ahead of the curve in innovation and compliance for the payments sector, anticipating its customers’ needs to support new products that link the fiat and crypto economies. By choosing Elliptic’s suite of crypto compliance solutions, Paysafe is able to adapt and scale compliance operations as the company grows its footprint and keeps pace with regulatory changes to protect the business and its customers.”

Giacomo Austin, VP, Compliance Strategy & Advisory at Paysafe, remarked:

“Paysafe sets the bar high when it comes to compliance, which we see as a key enabler to achieve Paysafe’s vision of becoming the leading specialized payments platform. We embarked on a rigorous selection process with a number of blockchain analytics providers and Elliptic demonstrated excellence in functionality, Risk Rule capability, data coverage and accuracy and the flexibility to meet our unique requirements. So far, Elliptic’s overall service, reliability and technology is exactly what we were looking for in a crypto compliance partner.”

Elliptic’s configurable Risk Rules were a key factor in Paysafe’s decision to choose Elliptic’s crypto AML solutions, the announcement revealed.

Giacomo added that Elliptic’s configurable Risk Rules allow Paysafe “to have direct control over how rules are designed and customized specifically to our needs and to the risk presented by our product, while also allowing us to leverage Elliptic’s deep market expertise.”

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Small Businesses Use AI Tools To Increase Their Leads By 50%




Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and resources have become indispensable to today’s industry. The 2019 study by Gartner shows that in the last four years, the use of AI has increased by 270%. In the last year alone, the number of organizations that have deployed AI in some way has more than triples from 4% to 14%.

Why is AI becoming so popular with businesses of all sizes? Because AI tools produce considerable value and benefits for them. And this is now a proven fact.

Early AI adopters were bullish about the cognitive technologies in Deloitte’s 2017 cognitive survey. As many as 83% of companies stated that that the use of AI tools had generated ‘moderate’ or ‘significant’ benefits for them. In the 2018 survey, Deloitte found that these early adopters are ramping up their AI investments and getting positive returns.

Harvard Business Review agrees that Artificial Intelligence is reshaping the business. It estimates that over the next decade, the AI market will grow to $13 trillion. Companies that deployed AI for sales were able to:

  • increase their leads by 50%,
  • reduce their call time by 60-70%, and
  • reduce their costs by 40-60%. 

AI can empower sales reps by monitoring different signals and predicting a specific lead’s readiness to purchase. It can mine review sites, online communities, and social media platforms for buying signals and relate them with demographic and other types of information to find sales-ready leads. This alone can help small businesses increase the efficiency of their sales staff significantly.

Use AI-powered Data Analytics Tools

When we talk about machine learning, data science, or artificial intelligence, our attention is focused on huge enterprises. The truth is that whether a company is big or small, it needs data analytics tools that can:

  • reduce its customer acquisition cost,
  • improve its sales forecasting, 
  • help it capture the market share, and
  • solve logistics problems.

AI tools allow small businesses to analyze data with lean resources.  

Smaller and newer businesses have the liberty to gear towards data-driven decision-making from the start. In times when markets and customers are changing rapidly, it is almost suicidal for a business to stick to traditional business practices that are based on whims and fancies of the upper management. 

Simple AI technologies today can help data scientists and business analysts work together to:

  • connect to market data in real-time,
  • clean it quickly, and
  • use machine learning models for predictive analysis.

Free Best Data Analytics Tools for Small Businesses

Google Analytics: This free analytics platform offers various insights about user traffic on your website. It offers traffic reports that can help a small business:

  • track user trends,
  • identify the conversion points on the website,
  • check the referrals and the traffic they direct to your website, and
  • analyze keywords used by potential buyers to reach your website.

You may also embed tracking codes on your website to know more about the visitors on your website and gain some useful insights about them.

MS Excel: Excel is one of the most underrated but widely used tools for small-scale analytics. You can use graphs, pivot tables, and set up formulae to analyze data in your way. It is an ideal solution for a small business with low data volumes.

Qlik Sense: This is a free service for up to five users. You have to pay to allow more users to access it. This Business Intelligence tool creates a report by combining all your data sources at once place. It has a cloud-based version too. You can also create custom apps using it for your business intelligence requirement.

Tableau Public: This free service allows anyone to publish interactive data visualizations on the web. These vizzes can be embedded into web pages ad blogs or shared through social media or email. You do not require programming skills to use it. 

The paid version of the tool can query:

  • relational databases, 
  • spreadsheets, 
  • OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cubes,
  • cloud database, etc. 

and converts them into interactive dashboards.

Turn your Salespeople into Advisors with AI-powered Solutions

AI can fill in the roles of sales professionals:

  • who take customer orders and process them 
  • provide information about different products to customers.

Sales reps of the future can take on the role of consultants and advisors with the help of AI. By analyzing customer data, they will be able to:

  • identify the pain points of the customers,
  • find out their reasons for buying a product, and
  • identify who are the decision-makers in the deal.

Thus, they can have more engaging and relevant conversations with potential buyers.

The comprehensive data analytics AI systems today can use internal data as well as data collected from various sources to produce:

  • actionable reports,
  • sort information by date, geographic location, product lines, pricing structure, etc., and
  • present business and marketplace opportunities to guide the management.

Small companies hesitate to adopt new AI and data science technologies because they lack adequate funds and resources. But today, the optimal use of revolutionary and innovative AI tools can allow small business owners to save a lot of money on product development, customer service chatbots sales IVR system, and marketing CRM. The key to success with AI applications is to align them with their respective business goals and create a long-term scalable plan for the future.

Keep Your Data Safe

AI platforms are an excellent choice for small businesses that do not have funds to set up their office or infrastructure yet. For example, VPN allows a small business owner to work from the nearest Starbucks on an encrypted connection – away from the prying sight. The employees working from remote locations can share files, link to record and program servers, and participate in video conferencing among many other things. 

The reason so many apps and websites offer free services to people are to harvest their data to influence users in different ways. In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal demonstrated how the Facebook account data of UK users were used to influence the outcome of the Brexit voting process.


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