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SpankChain spanked

SpankChain, a cryptocurrency aimed at decentralized sex cams, has announced that a hacker stole about $38,000 from their payment channel thanks to a broken smart contract. They wrote: At 6pm PST Saturday, an unknown attacker drained 165.38 ETH (~$38,000) from our payment channel smart contract which also resulted in $4,000 worth of BOOTY on the contract becoming immobilized. Of the stolen/immobilized ETH/BOOTY, 34.99 ETH (~$8,000) and 1271.88 BOOTY belongs to users (~$9,300 total), and the rest belonged to SpankChain. Our immediate priority has been to provide complete reimbursements to all users who lost funds. We are preparing an ETH airdrop to cover all $9,300 worth of ETH and BOOTY that belonged to users. Funds will be sent directly to users’ SpankPay accounts, and will be available as soon as we reboot Spank.Live. The hacker used a ‘reentrancy’ bug in which the user calls the same transfer multiple times, draining a little Ethereum each time. The bug is the same one that previously affected the DAO. The company pointed out that a security audit on their smart contract would have cost $50,000, a bit more than the amount lost. “As we move forward and grow, we will be stepping up our security practices, and making sure to get multiple internal audits for any smart contract code we publish, as well as at least one professional external audit,” they wrote. I’ve reached out to the company for clarification but in short it seems the spanker has become the spankee. UPDATE – According to the CEO the hacker returned the cash and offered to help Spankchain fix its smart contract. Who said the crypto world was full of crooks and liars! Ladies and gentlemen, I present the real winner of the @ETHSanFrancisco hackathon! — Ameen Soleimani (@ameensol) October 11, 2018

3 out of 4 Small Business Owners Support the Trump Tariffs, BizBuySell Says

As President Trump continues to increase tariffs against China, the 2018 Buyer-Seller Confidence Index from BizBuySell has revealed 3 out of 4 small business owners support the President’s agenda. The data regarding tariffs highlights the support the President has with this particular issue. Even though 30% said the tariffs would negatively affect their business, more than half of these respondents said they back Trump’s initiatives. As one of the business owners put it, “I import 90 percent of my inventory so tariffs will hurt my business but are necessary to the American economy.” The confidence small business owners have is driven by a strong economy, low unemployment and an increased sense of optimism in index after index. This optimism is also driving up the price of available business inventory. In the press release, Bob House, President of and, explained there are different factors driving up the price. House said one of the reasons is business owners who are looking to retire. “The owners, many of them Baby Boomers looking to retire, will receive more for their business, but the buyers are also receiving more financially-healthy, profitable businesses than they were a few years ago. This is a big reason why there have been so many transactions taking place this year and we expect that to continue into 2019.” BizBuySell uses its expertise in the business for sale marketplace to generate the data for the confidence index with a survey. The company currently has an inventory of around 45,000 businesses in 80 countries around the world. The survey is carried out with the participation of more than 2,000 entrepreneurs interested in either buying or selling a small business. A score from 0 to 100 is used to measure the confidence level small business owners have for the current sale environment. Higher is better, and 50 represents even confidence. BizBuySell 2018 Buyer-Seller Confidence Index The 2018 Buyer Index is up by one point from 2017’s 46 to 47, while the Seller Index has stayed the same at 58. The company says buyers are more confident they will find quality listings…

SBA Celebrates National Women’s Small Business Month

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is celebrating October as National Women’s Small Business Month by highlighting the accomplishments and challenges women face. In recognition of this month, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon has written a blog on the organization’s site on the entrepreneurial spirit of women. In particular, McMahon has highlighted April Lukasik, who started a childcare center after the birth of her second child. The SBA played a great role in making Lukasik’s dream come true by providing the financing she needed for her business. That was 1997, today Lukasik has four Bright & Early Children’s Learning Centers and she was recently named the 2018 Connecticut Small Business Person of the Year. Financing is one of the biggest challenges women face when they decide to open a business, which was pointed out by Lukasik in the blog. She said, “Without the SBA, I absolutely would not have been able to build the business I have. She added, “They were the only place I could find to lend me money with no experience and no real estate capital, and they took a chance on me. Twenty years later, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the faith the SBA has had in me.” Today Lukasik’s company employs 70 people with full-time jobs, while at the same time providing a valuable service in her community. And it all started with the resources the SBA offers women. SBA Resources In the blog, McMahon said the celebration of the month was a great opportunity to highlight some of the many resources the SBA provides women. Three of the resources highlighted by McMahon are the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which encourages female entrepreneurs and empowers them through advocacy, outreach, education, and support. There are 68 district offices across the country providing a range of business training and counseling as well as access to credit and capital, and marketing opportunities. Women’s Business Centers is a national network of 116 educational centers designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. According to the SBA, the goal is to level the playing field for women…

KZen raises $4 million to bring sanity to crypto wallets

KZen, a company run by former TC editor Ouriel Ohayon, has raised $4 million in seed to build a “better wallet,” obviously the elusive Holy Grail in the crypto world. Benson Oak Ventures, Samsung Next, Elron Ventures invested. Ohayon, who has worked at Internet Lab and founded TechCrunch France and Appsfire, wanted to create an easy-to-use crypto wallet that wouldn’t confound users. The company name is a play on the Japanese word kaizen or improvement and it also points to the idea of the zero-knowledge proof. Omer Shlomovits, Tal Be’ery, and Gary Benattar are deep crypto researchers and developers and helped build the wallet of Ohayon’s dreams. “We wanted something that did not feel like a pre-AOL experience, that was incredibly superior in terms of security, and simple to use,” he said. “We wanted a solution that brings peace of mind and that did not force the user into compromising between convenience and security which is, unfortunately, the current state of affairs. We quickly realized that this mission would not be possible to achieve with the same tools and ideas other companies tried to use so far.” The app is launching this month and is being kept under wraps until then. Ohayon is well aware that the world doesn’t need another crypto wallet but he’s convinced his solution is the best one. “The market does not lack solutions,” he said. “On the contrary, there are software wallets, hardware wallets, paper wallets, vaults, hosted custody. But there is no great solution. To be able to use a crypto wallet you either need a good dose of Xanax or a master’s degree in computer science or both, unless you want to depend on a central entity, which is even worse as the news are reminding us weekly.” We’ll see as they use the cash to launch a crypto wallet that anyone – not just Xanax-eaters – can use.

US Coal Businesses Should Consider Foreign Markets as International Demand Increases

Foreign markets are lining up to purchase American coal by widening amounts as U.S. coal consumption reaches its lowest level in more than three decades. US Coal Consumption Power plants’ consumption of coal dropped to 298 million short tons in the first half of 2018, a sharp fall from 312 million in the same period last year, according to a Thomson Reuters report. This marks the lowest level of consumption since 1983 and a reflection of the coal industry’s declining status as natural gas continues to grow. Coal-fired generation diminished by 32 billion kilowatt hours during the first six months of 2018. Much of this decline has been attributed to the closure of coal plants and operators choosing to run their coal facilities for fewer hours. The future for coal does not appear to be any better: Another 9 gigawatts of coal-fired generation in the U.S. is expected to shut down by 2020. At the same time, the country’s natural gas industry is booming. Thanks in large part to the invention and implementation of hydraulic fracturing, natural gas is cheaper and more reliable than ever before, rendering coal less economical. The U.S. is, by far, the biggest producer of natural gas in the world. The evolving energy landscape has prompted the Trump administration to consider a bailout plan for unprofitable coal plants. The White House has drafted a proposal that would, if implemented, order utility companies to purchase electricity from at-risk coal plants under the auspices of emergency authority. Since the beginning of his administration, President Donald Trump has led an ambitious roll back of Obama-era regulations in the fossil fuel industry. Rescission of the Clean Power Plan, Clean Water Rule and the exit of the Paris climate deal were some of the major moves made the current administration to unleash U.S. energy potential. President Trump has long argued that unnecessary environmental regulation has hampered the country’s coal industry. However, as stateside utilities turn to other sources of energy, international consumers continue to grow an appetite for American coal. During Trump’s first year in office, coal exports skyrocketed by 61 percent, largely due to increased demand in Asia where fast…

Survey Reveals Top 20 Telecommute Jobs Businesses are Hiring For in 2018

Freelancers are increasingly making up a larger percentage of the workforce and businesses of all sizes are offering more telecommuting gigs to accommodate them. The new survey from Virtual Vocations has ranked the top telecommute jobs of 2018 along with the seasonal telecommute jobs through December. As the freelancer and telecommute job market matures, it is attracting professionals across many different industries. The participation of these professionals is especially beneficial for small businesses looking to hire experts for projects and one-off jobs. CEO of Virtual Vocations, Laura Spawn, addressed this very point in the press release announcing the results of the survey. Spawn said, “The average telecommute jobseeker is over 40 years of age with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience working remotely, so it’s no surprise that the best jobs of 2018 reflect many diverse, mid-level career specialties.” The list for 2018 was compiled from Virtual Vocation’s mid-year company data through June 30, 2018. Other data include salary and job growth collected by PayScale and the  Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Top 20 Best Telecommute Jobs Virtual Vocations identified which telecommute jobs are most prevalent in the most popular job industries after going through the queries of its website members. The company also said these jobs will experience growth at least until 2026. Software Developer Sales Representative Nurse Account Manager Instructional Designer Consultant Project Manager Interpreter Manager Customer Service Representative Teacher Marketing Manager Writer Business Analyst Fundraiser Speech-Language Pathologist Quality Assurance Specialist Researcher Recruiter Finance Manager Seasonal Hires More and more seasonal jobs are also being carried out by telecommuters. According to Spawn, this can be a great testing ground for professionals looking to telecommute fulltime. The company said there will be a boom in seasonal hiring through the end of 2018. Customer service, sales, marketing and travel industries are already filling jobs to get ahead of the holiday shopping surge. The Growth of Telecommuting and Freelancing More Americans are working from home, including freelancers. According to a report (PDF) by MBO Partners, around 32% or 40 million of the private workforce are…

YC grad The Lobby raises $1.2M to help job seekers break into Wall Street

Six months after completing Y Combinator’s 12-week accelerator program, The Lobby is announcing a $1.2 million investment. The startup connects job seekers to Wall Street bankers, venture capitalists and other finance “insiders” for advice and personalized career coaching. Founder and former investment banker Deepak Chhugani wants to help people who don’t come from elite backgrounds or have the network of an Ivy League graduate land high-profile finance roles. “There’s a huge chunk of people that never get noticed,” Chhugani told TechCrunch. “The best opportunities are usually only privy to people that are from those wealthy networks.” Chhugani, a Bentley University graduate who began his career at Merrill Lynch, believes he was only able to break into Wall Street because the firm had a hole in its Latin America M&A group and he’d grown up in Ecuador. He and his other non-Ivy League friends who are or have been employed on Wall Street, in venture capital or private equity, are lucky, he says. Despite being perfectly able to succeed, many people of similar backgrounds have had no such luck navigating the finance job market. “The Lobby is creating the real meritocracy that we tell ourselves the job market is –– or at least should be,” said Matt Mireles in a statement. Mireles, a scout investor at Social Capital, invested personally in the seed round alongside Y Combinator, Ataria Ventures, 37 Angels, former Travelocity CEO Carl Sparks and Columbia Business School’s chief innovation officer Angela Lee. Using The Lobby, job seekers can connect with professionals over anonymous 30-minute phone calls, where they can conduct mock interviews or fix-up their resumes. Insiders, who are paid by The Lobby’s customers, can give the honest truth about what it’s like to work in finance, a sort-of real-life Glassdoor . As for the name, Chhugani says he can’t promise any of the startup’s customers a job, but he can promise to get them in the lobby. “The ones who work really hard and deserve it will get up the stairs.” Here are 64 startups that launched today at Y Combinator’s W18 Demo Day 1

73% of Gen Z Freelancers Do So By Choice, Report Says

Upwork’s Freelancing in America: 2017 survey reports there will be more Gen Z people than Millennials in the workforce within a year. They are the generation that is most likely to freelance. In fact, the data shows that 73% of this generation freelances by choice. Small Business Trends spoke with Rich Pearson, SVP Marketing at Upwork, about what the trends mean for the future of work generally and freelancing specifically. The numbers are relevant for the overall American economy too. They report there are over 57 million people freelancing in the US. That represents 36% of the entire workforce in the last 12 months. Traditional Workplace No Longer Makes Sense “When you think about the traditional workplace that many of us grew up with, Upwork believes that kind of nine to five office doesn’t make sense anymore because it was born of the industrial era,” he says. Given that, Pearson goes on to say that it makes more sense to bring the work to the workers rather than have them commute. The data bears this out generationally. For example, almost half of Gen Z is already freelancing. In fact, 46% reported they had freelanced in the last 12 months and the data goes on to suggest that number will grow as more of this generation enters the workforce. Freelancing Provides Another Advantage Pearson touches on another advantage to this type of work for the generation that was born between the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. “Freelancing also makes it possible for people with great skills to get work and jobs as well as dignity, income and everything that comes with that no matter where they live.” For Small Businesses, There Are Upsides Too There’s an upside for small businesses too. Quite often looking for freelancers means searching on the Internet. This means that smaller businesses can look at bigger pools of suitable candidates at a time when filling positions with qualified people is still an issue. That means small businesses will need to understand how to attract this huge swath of new workers. Pearson says they put flexibility and…

VCs say Silicon Valley isn’t the gold mine it used to be

In the days leading up to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, The Economist published the cover story, ‘Why Startups Are Leaving Silicon Valley.’ The author outlined reasons why the Valley has “peaked.” Venture capital investors are deploying capital outside the Bay Area more than ever before. High-profile entrepreneurs and investors, Peter Thiel, for example, have left. Rising rents are making it impossible for new blood to make a living, let alone build businesses. And according to a recent survey, 46 percent of Bay Area residents want to get the hell out, an increase from 34 percent two years ago. Needless to say, the future of Silicon Valley was top of mind on stage at Disrupt. “It’s hard to make a difference in San Francisco as a single entrepreneur,” said J.D. Vance, the author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ and a managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, which backs seed-stage companies based outside Silicon Valley. “It’s not as a hard to make a difference as a successful entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio.” In conversation with Vance, Revolution CEO Steve Case said he’s noticed a “mega-trend” emerging. Founders from cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit or Portland are opting to stay in their hometowns instead of moving to U.S. innovation hubs like San Francisco. “The sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.” “We are seeing the beginnings of a slowing of what has been a brain drain the last 20 years,” Case said. “It’s not just watching where the capital flows, it’s watching where the talent flows. And the sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.” J.D. Vance says that most entrepreneurs don’t need to move to Silicon Valley. Here’s why. #TCDisrupt — TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 6, 2018 Farewell, San Francisco “It’s too expensive to live here,” said Aileen Lee, the founder of seed-stage VC firm Cowboy Ventures, amid a conversation with leading venture capitalists Spark Capital general partner Megan Quinn and Benchmark general partner Sarah Tavel . “I know that there are a lot of people in the Bay…

Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model. You can watch the live stream at 3pm PST here. Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year. Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring in emerging market pharmacies, starting with Africa. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world — but also the fastest growing rate of diabetes (double North America’s). Redbird supplies local pharmacies with software and rapid tests to transform them into health monitoring points – for anything from blood sugar to malaria to cholesterol. The founding team includes a Princeton Chemical Engineer, 2 Peace Corps alums, and a Pharmacist from Ghana’s top engineering school. They have 20 customers, and are growing 36% week over week. Shuttle – Shuttle is getting a head start on the future of space travel by building a commercial spaceflight booking platform. Space tourism may be coming sooner than you think. Shuttle wants to democratize access to the heavens above. Founded by a Stanford Computer Science alum active in Stanford’s Student Space Society, Shuttle has partnerships with the leading spaceflight operators, including Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Zero-G. Tickets to space today will set you back a cool $250K, but Shuttle believes that prices will drop exponentially as reusable rockets and landing pads become pervasive. They have $1.6m in reservations and growing. Birdnest – Threading the needle between communal and private, Birdnest is the…

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