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SpecTrust raises millions to fight cybercrime with its no-code platform




Risk defense startup SpecTrust is emerging from stealth today with a $4.3 million seed raise and a public launch.

Cyber Mentor Fund led the round, which also included participation from Rally Ventures, SignalFire, Dreamit Ventures and Legion Capital.

SpecTrust aims to “fix the economics of fighting fraud” with a no-code platform that it says cuts 90% of a business’ risk infrastructure spend that responds to threats in “minutes instead of months.” 

“In January of 2020, I got a bug in my ear to, instead of an API, build a cloud-based service that handles all this complex orchestration and unifies all this data,” said CEO Nate Kharrl, who co-founded the company with Bryce Verdier and Patrick Chen. “And, it worked. And it worked fast enough that you can’t even tell it’s there doing its work.”

For example, he says, SpecTrust even in its early days was able to pull identity behavior information in seconds.

“Today, it’s more like five and seven milliseconds,” he said. “And, engineers don’t have to lift anything or adjust data models.”

Since the San Jose, California-based startup’s offering is deployed on the internet, between a website or app and its users, an organization gets fraud protection without draining the resources of its engineers, the company says. Founded by a team that ran risk management divisions at eBay and ThreatMetrix, SpecTrust is banking on the fact that companies — especially financial institutions — will be drawn to the flexibility afforded by a no-code offering.

Much of the industry is split up between compliance and onboarding, authenticating risk and payments, and user trust and safety, Kharrl said.

“We put all the tools together to address all things combined, to make sure the person an institution is talking to is who they say they are, and not acting with malicious intent,” he told TechCrunch. “We sit in between them and their traffic to make sure the risk and fraud teams have what they need to spot bad guys.”

Image Credit: SpecTrust

Online businesses spend billions on risk defense yet still lose a lot of money to fraudsters, scammers and identity thieves, Kharrl said. And, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global shift in the digital economy as more people came to rely on the internet to meet day-to-day needs. 

“With these new trends in commerce and banking came more opportunities for fraudsters, scammers and identity thieves to target people and businesses,” he added. For example, an alarming number of cybercriminals employed no-code attack tools and click-to-deploy infrastructure to launch sophisticated attacks.

Fintech and crypto companies are feeling the biggest impacts, as legacy software designed for big banks, for example, can be slow and expensive, said Kharrl. 

We built SpecTrust to instantly put complete assessment, automation and enforcement capabilities in the hands of teams charged with fighting modern cybercrime threats,” he said.

Using its platform, the company says an organization’s risk team can review and investigate everything a customer does “from its first page view to its last click with unified behavior, identity, history and risk data.” 

Even non-technical staffers can do things like identify attack behavior, verify customer identity information, validate payment details and work to mitigate threats before they become losses, according to Kharrl.

Jon Lim of SignalFire says that SpecTrust has built an end-to-end risk protection platform that enables customers of all sizes and risk profiles “to access the latest innovative risk protection solutions, quickly respond to the evolving threat landscape and share the best practices and learnings across the entire customer base.”

And of course, it was drawn to the startup’s no-code platform and ability to provide visibility over every user interaction versus treating each interaction as an independent event.

“This not only delivers stronger protection to customers but also a smoother experience to the end user,” Lim said.

The fraud prevention space is hot these days. Sift, which also aims to predict and prevent fraud, in April raised $50 million in a funding round that valued the company at over $1 billion.

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Start Ups

Don’t wait for legislation banning NDAs: Write ethical policies now




Companies across the United States should be closely following the California State Legislature hearings on the “Silenced No More Act,” which would prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees from speaking up about all forms of discrimination and harassment.

The legislation was introduced in response to the stunning claims brought forward by former Pinterest employees alleging a pattern of racial and gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They courageously called attention to the hypocrisy of Pinterest’s aspirational comments on social issues even though the company had required them to sign NDAs.

As attorneys who work with shareholders to hold companies accountable for this misconduct, these allegations have deeply impacted our work. They formed the basis of an ongoing shareholder derivative lawsuit that a state pension fund we represent brought against Pinterest’s board of directors and top executives for participating in and otherwise protecting powerful executives who are alleged to have discriminated against Pinterest employees.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light.

The Silenced No More Act would extend existing laws that limit the use of NDAs. Such laws are important because NDAs are intended to protect executives by keeping their harassment, discrimination and retaliation under wraps. That NDAs chill the voices of employees who have already been victimized makes them even more toxic. NDAs cause women to fear reprisal from the company, sometimes even incorporating financial penalty clauses, long after their individual claims have been resolved.

The Silenced No More Act should pass swiftly and be a model for other states, but this is what all companies throughout the country should be doing on their own, rather than waiting for legislation to drag an ethical NDA policy out of them.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light. It will continue to uphold an unsustainable corporate system where executives in positions of power assume they will be protected no matter how unlawful their behavior toward others in the workplace.

We have seen from our investigations the compounding impacts of NDAs and how they allow problems to fester over years.

The two of us, working with others and on behalf of Alphabet shareholders, were part of the team that led a groundbreaking $310 million settlement with the tech company that led to historic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reforms at the company. That settlement was the result of a shareholder derivative lawsuit where stockholders alleged that executives and board members violated their fiduciary duties by enabling a double standard that allowed executives to sexually harass and discriminate against women without consequence.

In that case, we believe Alphabet’s “culture of concealment” was driven in large part by the silencing effects of NDAs.

The duration of misconduct, enabled by NDAs, goes far beyond Alphabet and Pinterest. There is no shortage of #MeToo scandals at powerful companies, many with presences in California, that were exacerbated by muzzling NDAs. Weinstein Company, Wynn Resorts, NBC and 21st Century Fox are prominent examples of companies that first tried to keep allegations quiet through the use of NDAs and later faced a firestorm of allegations from former employees.

Fortunately, the landscape surrounding discrimination and harassment in the workplace is changing. Shareholders, workers, customers and other key business stakeholders are becoming more active in demanding that companies stop protecting harassers.

All of this should send a message to boards and C-suite executives that they must set the tone from the top and they are far better off being proactive than reactive. That means actively creating a company culture where DEI is a foundational component — not an afterthought. It also means intentionally prioritizing transparency and proactively doing away with policies that are antithetical to that goal, like NDAs that are intentionally designed to suppress the voices of employees.

The public and shareholders want to be associated with companies that do right by their employees. Business should recognize this change from a culture of compliance to one of equity and inclusion and embrace this new reality by stopping the practice of requiring complainants to enter into NDAs and fostering a culture of inclusion and accountability.

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The Briefing: Cyral Lands $26M For Cloud Security, Impress Raises $50M, And More




Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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Cyral lands $26M for cloud security

Milpitas, California-based Cyral, a security provider for data in the cloud, announced that it raised $26 million in new funding from existing and strategic investors.

The financing brings total capital raised to date to $41.1 million.

Funding rounds

Impress picks up $50M for orthodontics: Barcelona-based Impress, a developer of orthodontic technology that offers invisible aligners, raised $50 million in a Series A round led by CareCapital, an investor focused on the dental and oral care industry.

DeepScribe raises $5M for medical record-taking: DeepScribe, an AI-driven platform for medical record-taking, announced it has raised $5.3 million in a seed round led by Bee Partners.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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BRD’s Blockset unveils its white-label cryptocurrency wallet for banks and other enterprise clients




Blockset, the blockchain infrastructure platform for enterprises by BRD, announced early access to its Wallet-as-a-Service today. The white-label solution gives clients, like financial institutions, the ability to launch wallets that have the same features as BRD’s own mobile cryptocurrency wallet, which now has about 7 million users with over $20 billion assets under protection.

Blockset’s clients include some of the largest ATM networks and Japanese investment bank (and BRD investor) SBI Holdings, CoinFlip, Welthee, CoinSwitch, Coinsquare and Wyre. BRD’s other investors include Ripple and it has raised $56 million in funding so far.

One of Blockset’s selling points is access to real-time data about several kinds of cryptocurrencies. This not only allows users to see how their assets are performing, but also enables institutions to perform compliance tasks, fraud detection, anti-money laundering and other important services. Blockset also claims that its multi-chain API has up to 99.999% uptime.

The platform currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Tezos, Hedera, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV, and will add more chains based on customer demand.

Blockset already offered a white-label solution called WalletKit, before launching its current Wallet-as-a-Service with more features. BRD co-founder and CEO Adam Traidman compares its Wallet-as-a-Service to Google Maps, because both aggregate large amounts of constantly-changing data and can connect to other apps, while remaining user-friendly.

“The concept is really a result of learnings from working with our customers, tier one financial institutions, who need a couple things,” Traidman told TechCrunch. “Generally they want to custody crypto on behalf of their customers. For example, if you’re running an ETF, like a Bitcoin ETF, or if you’re offering customers buying and selling, you need a way to store the crypto, and you need a way to access the blockchain.”

“The Wallet-as-a-Service is the nomenclature we use to talk about the challenge that customers are facing, whereby blockchain is really complex,” he added. “There are three V’s that I talk about: variety, a lot of velocity because there’s a lot of transactions per second, and volume because there’s a lot of total aggregate data.”

Blockset also enables clients to add features like trading crypto or fiat or lending Bitcoin or Stablecoins to take advantage of high interest rates. Enterprises can develop and integrate their own solutions or work with Blockset’s partners.

Other companies that offer enterprise blockchain infrastructure include Bison Trails, which was recently acquired by Coinbase, and Galaxy Digital.

Blockset differentiates by focusing on real-time data. It looks at a smaller number of mainstream blockchains in order to ensure depth of information and speed.

“If you’re a financial institution, you can’t accept anything other than instant, accurate and highly-scalable kinds of data. Right down to the millisecond of latency is really important because it can give traders an advantage,” said Traidman.

In a press statement, Wyre chief executive officer Ioannis Giannaros said “Blockset is the clear industry leader in offering enterprise-grade SLAs [service-level agreements] that we require to guarantee high scalability, uptime and data integrity across multiple blockchains.”

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