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Blockchain and the Rise of Cryptocurrencies

For the past decade, an insurgency has been quietly sweeping across the digital ecosphere. Meet blockchain, the digital insurgent that’s been gaining international traction. Since its inception in 2009, this technology has been steeped in mystery.

Blockchain is a digital ledger that serves as a permanent record of transactions spread out among a vast network of computers. It’s a decentralized system that experts say will transform the way we view how data is shared. As a shared ledger, blockchain involves the democratization of data, ensuring transparency and the ability to own assets digitally across boundaries. To be sure, this groundbreaking technology has set the stage for a variety of new business models, all in the world of digital cryptography. In fact, cryptocurrencies were the first industry to make use of blockchain.

Creation of Bitcoin

The earliest cryptocurrency was bitcoin, launched in 2009 as an unregulated currency wholly dependent on blockchain. Bitcoin was conceived in 2008 by a nebulous figure known only by their pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Appearing in a paper entitled Bitcoin — A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” the proposed currency was envisioned as a decentralized approach to traditional currency. It would eliminate from the equation third parties like governments and financial institutions.

Nakamoto’s paper depicts  bitcoin as fundamentally inseparable from Blockchain. It goes on to describe an individual bitcoin as a single unit of electronic currency that acts as “a chain of digital signatures.” Each of these signatures verifies a given transaction. The process of signature verification followed by its addition to the Blockchain ledger is called “bitcoin mining.”

Bitcoin Mining

In the Blockchain world, bitcoin mining is as real as mining for gold is in the “real” world. Each scenario imagines a finite supply. According to bitcoin protocol, 21 million bitcoins are supposed to exist at some point, and once they’ve all been mined, bitcoin’s supply will have been depleted unless its protocol is amended. However, whether they ever reach the limit depends on various factors such as transaction fees, mining costs, and competition.

A Ton of Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin merely skims the market’s surface. Right now there are more than 1600 cryptocurrencies. And given the relative ease for people who know simple coding to form a digital currency, the list will only get longer.

Governments Don’t Back Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by any government or institution. Specifically bitcoin, by far the most widely-used cryptocurrency, has earned the animus of many governments because it doesn’t conform to any established fiscal policies. Governments for one thing want to maintain the power to track currency movements so they can determine who owes taxes on them and how much. They also want to be able to make it easier to track criminal activity linked to cryptocurrencies.

Interestingly, governments have been entertaining the idea of issuing their own digital currencies. One reason is to crack down on digital tax evasion and other financial crimes. The idea is, ironically, attractive to certain autocracies unhappy with how they’re perceived by the global financial system.

Could Cryptocurrencies Compete With Banks?

There are those in government who fear that widespread use of cryptocurrencies, especially if they go mainstream, could put the entire banking system in jeopardy. Bank of America recently admitted that adopting a slew of fintech innovations like cryptocurrencies could prove costly as it moves toward revamping its current services in order to remain competitive with upstart companies. It also feels these emerging technologies could hinder its ability to help authorities in anti-money laundering operations. One thing it did in response was enact a rule prohibiting customers from using credit cards to purchase cryptocurrencies.

A Glimpse into the Future of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies 

While some governments have expressed a desire to ban or limit the use of cryptocurrencies, most are reluctant to do so. After all, an increasing number of companies like Microsoft, Overstock.com, Save the Children, OkCupid, Wikipedia, Tesla, Lionsgate Films, Dell, Dish Network, and Expedia accept Bitcoin. Policymakers find themselves grappling with how to handle such a disruptive yet increasingly popular technology. Given their brief history that has left us with more questions than answers, cryptocurrencies may have to be regulated by government.

Blockchain, meanwhile, has entered additional markets like the distributed storage market, which offers a potential challenge to the traditional cloud storage services business model. Other markets include healthcare and finance. The World Economic Forum released a report recently suggesting that by 2027 ten percent of this world’s gross domestic product (GDP) could be found on blockchain, indicating indeed that this technology is here to stay.

Concepts Rise is a consulting firm that helps businesses advance their bottom line through cutting edge technologies. For more information on blockchain and the rise of cryptocurrencies, please contact us.

 

Majid Abai – June 2018 – Los Angeles

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About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com), a High-Technology and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. With over 30 years of experience in supporting US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategic and tactical approach to use of innovation and technology to increase revenues and reduce costs for organizations. Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

 

Tags: Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, Concepts Rise.

Is an Initial Coin Offering Right for Your Business?

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have given corporations another option for raising capital. Instead of tapping the equity or debt capital markets, they develop a blockchain-fueled digital token that is then sold to the public for a price. That token must offer some value, whether it’s contained within the ecosystem of the project or beyond, and investors are keen to hunt the next bitcoin or at least hold tokens whose price they are convinced will rise, the latter of which involves speculation. While many of the businesses that have pursued ICOs are startups, some publicly traded companies are jumping in as well.

Whether or not an ICO is the right choice for your business depends in large part on the technology that you have to offer the blockchain community. The ICOs that raise the most capital are generally either those that are the most disruptive to an industry because of the impact they will have or a business that boasts a proven business model and revenue. Messaging platform Telegram is a good example of the latter.

ICO Activity 

Telegram, a messaging platform that’s incidentally used by many ICO issuers to communicate with their investors, launched an ICO in which it was targeting $1 billion and at last-check had reportedly raised $850 million.

The types of companies that pursue initial coin offerings have spilled over into just about every industry vertical, ranging from healthcare to sports and gaming, to power generation and the food supply chain. Most recently, iconic brands including Eastman Kodak and Atari Group have launched blockchain projects in which they plan to develop and sell their own digital tokens. Both companies are listed on public exchanges, and investors were quick to reward Kodak’s stock when it announced the token sale.

ICOs really began to gain steam in 2017 alongside the rise in the bitcoin price. Overall, blockchain companies raised more than $4 billion from token sales last year, attracting both retail and institutional investors.

In fact, many venture capitalists, which traditionally are the financial backers of tech startups, decided rather than compete with this new form of fundraising to join in.

KYC and AML 

In the United States and around the world, ICOs remain largely unregulated. That doesn’t mean that securities regulators aren’t engaged with the market but rather that there are some gray areas that require the business behind or issuer of a digital token to follow protocol.

Chief among these standards are two rules known as know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) protocols. It’s up to the issuer to vet their investors through a whitelist before transacting with any of them. It’s a way to be sure that investors are who they say they are, in an attempt to thwart any fraud from taking place. The United States is one of only a handful of nations around the world that enforce KYC and AML.

The way that a business classifies its digital token is also of utmost importance. The Securities and Exchange Commission has said that any token that resembles a security will be regulated under securities laws.

Many issuers choose to identify their tokens as utility tokens instead, suggesting their sole purpose is to fuel a particular project and not to be traded based on speculation. But the SEC has the final say, and if they disagree they will stop your ICO in its tracks, or recommend that you stop it.

Enter the Fray 

You may be wondering if launching an initial coin offering is the right direction for your business to take. Contact us at Concepts Rise to discuss your fundraising needs and we will advise you on the best course of action to consider.

 

Majid Abai – April 2018 – Los Angeles

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About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com), a High-Technology and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. With over 30 years of experience in supporting US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategic and tactical approach to use of innovation and technology to increase revenues and reduce costs for organizations. Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

10 Steps of a Successful Business Continuity Plan

As part of our engagements with our client organizations, we always ask about the organization’s business continuity plan. We ask this question regardless of the size of the company, or our level of engagement. Answers often sound something like this: “We’re covered!” or this: “We have a very detailed disaster/recovery plan” or our favorite: “We backup our data every night”.

As we dig deeper, our Sherpas often realize that most companies either don’t have a business continuity plan or at best have a data backup plan.

This has prompted me to write this article about the areas that an organization needs to think about when it comes to business continuity.

Step 1: Business Continuity Plan is an Operational Risk, Not an IT one.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is an operational risk. It effects much more than just simply the technology side of the house, and would include cross-training, rescheduling, and focusing on worst case scenarios

Step 2: Disaster Recovery Plan is a subset of a Business Continuity Plan

In our opinion, the Disaster Recovery (DR) plan is the technology subset of the business continuity plan. For example, a medium-size break and mortar print organization with several offices across the US, and running several systems including CRM and ERP platforms would not only need a DR plan, but also, need to figure out how to deliver customer online, telephonic, and manual orders should a disaster wipe out one of its print centers. In addition, should a call center be closed due to a natural disaster, would other centers have adequately trained specialists to answer the customer phone calls?

Step 3: Define Key Business Activities

We’d like to start by defining key business activities, processes, and systems within the organization. For example, production lines for manufacturing companies, systems, key resources, and important business processes. We also ask some stupid questions: What if the phones are down for more than one day? Could you continue to operate? Are the phone systems designed to relay phone calls to people who work from home?

Step 4: Define Potential Disasters

What does disaster look like in your business? The scenarios are quite different for each organization. Of course, the following categories are the most common set of business disasters:

  • Natural Disasters (earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, etc.)
  • Architectural Disasters (Fire and Water damage)
  • Technological Disasters (servers crashing)
  • Terrorist attacks (e.g. September 11)

In addition to the above set of disasters, each organization has its own set of issues that could be potentially disastrous for the company. For example, a number of major public companies – as well as the US Federal Government – prohibit traveling of 2 of their high ranking members on the same flight as a method of insuring business continuity.

Step 5: Define the Potential Cost of the Disaster

The way to answer this question correctly is to be able to realize that there are 3 types of cost associated with each disaster (a) The unproductive time/money loss due to lack of resources; (b) revenue loss due to lack of sales; and (c) long-term loss due to customer dissatisfaction. For example, an e-commerce company whose servers have crashed will have to pay its personnel while the site is being recovered; will lose sales for the duration; would pay for online ads during this period; and would potentially lose customers as they might find the rival site and never come back. One should calculate this cost as it would directly help with the next section.

Step 6: Define an Acceptable Recovery Time

Following the above example, if e-commerce company A could potentially lose $1,000 per hour, its business continuity strategy might be quite different than e-commerce company B that is losing $75,000 per hour. In case of Company A, the company might be happy for a recovery time of several hours or days, where Company B, would like the recovery to be a matter of minutes.

Step 7: Define an Acceptable Recovery Budget

So far, we have identified disaster types, cost of each disaster, and acceptable recovery times for that disaster. But how much are we willing to pay to be prepared? Nobody really wants to pay for something that could never happen (including the cost of cross-training, re-deployment, etc.), but it is a necessity of life.

Step 8: Consider External Vendors

What if you couldn’t fulfill your products and services for a certain period of time? Could there be external vendors who could perform these services for that period to keep the customers happy? If so, start building a relationship with them and establish the criteria of working together.

Step 9: Protect Your Data!

Data is the new gold. As part of any solid BCP and DR Plan, you’d need to make sure that your data is backed up, accessible, and recoverable. As long as we know data us accessible, recoverable, and easily discoverable, we would be able to restore it or use it in the interim to support our customers. Let’s use this example: Company A uses a sophisticated ERP format. IT department backs up this data every night to a secure offsite location. A few months down the line, the ERP servers crash and we have to wait for new servers for a week. During this period, this data is not accessible which could cause a lot of issues for the company.

Alternatively, a better business continuity plan, would have dumped key data (customer, product list/cost/price, etc.) to an unsophisticated system on nightly basis, allowing users at various offices to have access to this information during the disaster period.

Step 10: Train Your Employees

And finally…. Make sure your employees know what to do in case of a disaster, whether it is natural, technological, or architectural. It’s important for them to have all steps documented in a manual and practiced those scenarios so that they could react to those conditions naturally. Such manuals should be customized for each vital set of groups, so that they’re simply focused on their specific function in case of a disaster.

In Conclusion

As you can see, organizations should be actively developing business continuity plans and should remember that these are live documents that be modified continually as business requirements, systems, and personnel change. As such, it’s very important for executives to review, update, and test the plan, and schedule training and reminders for their employees and team members, on annual basis. One hopes that such plans are never put into action, but executives should always be ready.

 


 About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com and www.QubeMarketing.com), a Technology, Revenue Growth, and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

With over 30 years of experience in leading and managing US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategy and tactical approached to innovation and rapid growth of organizations.

Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

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Forget Big Data! Use Smart Data To Increase Profits!

With all the hype associated with Big Data, we are often asked by our small and medium size clients of whether they could take advantage of Big Data.

We respond to our clients that when it comes to data, wisdom and smart are much more important than size. What we call ‘Smart Data’ is the information that is relevant, actionable, measurable, and concise – and often resides within the company’s databases or is easily accessible from external data stores.

We help our clients identify Smart Data within their organizations and how such data could help them impact the bottom line. You can also use Smart Data for near-immediate increase in profits and performance within your organization:

  1. Customer Targeting: Use your customer and purchasing history to develop better track of your best & worst customers, and to develop better products and services that could serve your best customers.
  2. Right Hiring: For a very limited cost, you could use smart data to help you in Right Hiring – hire the right person for the right position – within your organization.
  3. Competitive Advantage: You want to get ahead of your competition? Use the data within your databases and inexpensive external data to beat your competition.
  4. Cost Reduction: Analyze data within the ERP and other practice management systems to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and recover losses that could happen within the organization.

One last note: Smart Data starts from business. We need to know what you are trying to achieve before jumping into a technology solutions.

Big Data Poses Challenges and Oppurtunities For Retailers

Great article in eWeek about how retailers face both challenges and opportunities by utilizing Big Data. I personally rather focus on opportunities, but one can’t discard the challenges. I would love to hear your comments.

http://www.eweek.com/database/big-data-poses-challenges-opportunities-for-retailers.html

Answers to Three Big Data Question Every CEO Should Know!

There’s a great article in Forbes by David Williams dated 3/31/2014 titled: “Answers to Three Big Data Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Know”. I think it applies to CEOs and Executive of all industries. Please let me know what you think:

Answers To Three Big Data Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know – Forbes

Ten Ways Companies Can Compete Using Big Data and Analytics

This morning, I read an excellent article written by Inhi Cho Suh, Vice President of Big Data, IBM – in Forbes Magazine. In a non-technical language, this article describes how companies could take advantage of Big Data and Analytics. Here is the link to the original article: Forbes Article: 5 Ways Companies Can Compete Using Big Data & Analytics

In my opinion, there should be at least 5 other ways added to this list:

1. Increase the Lifetime Value of Customer – by identifying best (and worst) customers profiles for the organization, increase targeting the best customer profiles, and fire the worst customers, and stay away from those profiles. In addition, analytics could provide new ways for increasing the length of engagement for the best customers and new ways to increase the annual revenue from each.

2. Reduce the operating costs of the company – In every business, there are ways to reduce costs and as a business grows, this waste gets bigger. Big Data and Analytics help find the areas of waste, and management would be able to reduce the risk.

3. Develop better products – Wouldn’t every company want to develop better products that are needed by their customers? What if you were able to combine the complaints, suggestions, and chatter from different internal and external resources, and prioritize the development roadmap for the product based on this information?

4. Hire employees that are more suited to your organization – Currently, there are a lot of Big Data and employee analytics companies that support hiring of the new employees and making sure that they fit the organization. I beleive that managers should look into the various products and find that suits their company. One note: These tools shouldn’t be the ONLY method for decision making, but just an additional tool for supporting this major decision.

5. Learn More About Your Competitors – Utilizing internal and external databases and sites, you can learn a lot about what your competitors are up to and define better competitive strategies to beat them.

Do you have other ideas on how Big Data and Analytics could support an organization? Please let me know!

Majid Abai

How Robots Will Change The Future Of Marketing

I am proud to say that I have been quoted in an article written by Henry DeVries and published in Forbes!

The name of the article is How Robots Will Change The Future of Marketing, and you can see it by clicking here.