On April 17th, the decentralized finance (DeFi) project Beanstalk Farms was exploited for $182 million after an attacker mounted a lightning-fast hostile takeover, buying a controlling stake of tokens and immediately voting to send themself all of the funds.
The incident sparked discussion around “governance attacks,” a way of manipulating blockchain projects that use decentralized governance structures by gaining enough voting rights to reshape the rules.
In the wake of the attack, chat logs and video evidence show that the founders were warned about the risk of exactly this kind of attack, but they dismissed community members’ concerns.
The Beanstalk exploit was made possible by another DeFi mechanism known as a “flash loan,” which allows users to borrow large amounts of cryptocurrency for very short periods of time. In the case of the recent hack, the attacker borrowed close to $1 billion in cryptocurrency assets through a service called Aave, exchanged them for a 67 percent share in the Beanstalk project, voted through their own proposal to withdraw the entire treasury, and returned the borrowed funds — all in less than 13 seconds.
Though the attack shocked Beanstalk users — some of whom claimed to have lost six-figure sums of money — the threat of a governance attack was raised in Beanstalk’s Discord server months previously and in at least one public AMA session held by Publius, the development team behind the project.
On February 12th, in a discussion room centered around a proposal to accept more kinds of cryptocurrency tokens in the “Silo” (Beanstalk’s central fund reserve), a user with the screenname Mr Mochi wrote:
Because of governance attacks, bribes and voter manipulation, governance doesn’t always go as it should. Is this a risk we are willing to take or will there also be an Emergency DAO (like Curve’s) who can block potential attacks?
Later they added:
There’s absolutely ways to mitigate some of this concern in an elegant manner … As far as I can tell, the current rule-set does not account for flash loan governance attacks or rugpull tokens.
Replying to the comment, a Publius admin account wrote that such manipulation was “not a concern in any capacity until Stalk [governance token] is liquid.”
A concern about flash loans was also raised in an AMA-style session hosted by Publius on April 12th, a video of which is available on YouTube. Around 6 minutes into the video, a participant asks via chat: “Can the team go into … why the protocol isn’t susceptible to flash loan type attacks?”
In response, a member of Publius discusses protections against price manipulation via flash loans but doesn’t address the possibility of flash loan-driven governance attacks.
With Beanstalk’s assets entirely depleted by the attack, the project has launched a 10-day fundraiser to try to replenish the lost funds. Without the benefit of VC funding, the company lacks the kind of deep pockets that have helped other hacked protocols backstop even bigger losses. But with the fate of the company hanging in the balance, the success of the fundraiser will depend largely on the community’s trust in the founding team to not make similar mistakes again.
Reached via Discord, Publius had not responded to a request for comment by time of publication.
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HeyRenee has raised $3.8 million for a personal health care concierge — the latest home health care business from the founders of Heal.
Husband and wife team Renee Dua and Nick Desai started Heal in 2014 after a bad experience in an emergency room with their son. They created a startup that let doctors make house calls to see patients in their homes or via remote telemedicine appointments. Mobile health care became a huge trend during the pandemic and grew to serve patients in a number of stages.
Over seven years, Heal raised more than $120 million. But Desai started thinking about what he wanted to do next and left in March. Dua stayed on longer to finish up her work as the company’s chief medical officer. Then she also left. For a time, they focused on taking care of their family, and then they started thinking about their next startup.
That’s where HeyRenee comes in. It’s a service that has similar vibes to Heal in that it focuses on patients and using digital technology to provide better health care. In this case, HeyRenee focuses on helping the elderly, the underserved, those with chronic health conditions, and others manage their patient care. The aim is to use the concierge service to tie together all of the patients’ medical needs — from prescriptions to doctor visits — through one digital helper.
Above: Renee Dua cofounded HeyRenee after taking care of her father.
Image Credit: HeyRenee
Los Angeles-based HeyRenee will be an open platform that will eventually work with every provider, partner, and point solution to curate the necessary combination of services for each patient’s specific needs.
Quiet Capital led the oversubscribed $3.8 million funding round, with Mucker Capital, Fika Ventures, Tau Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and SaaS Venture Capital also participating. HeyRenee is using seed proceeds to curate digital health partners, build a team of product and engineering leaders, and win early customers.
Dua, a practicing nephrologist, said in a statement that it’s “impossibly difficult for all of us, certainly older, sicker Americans, to follow the many instructions from their doctors.” She said those instructions are the recipe for leading happier, healthier lives, but people need help managing them.
She added that HeyRenee’s aim is to build something to finally slow the progression and exploding costs of easily treated chronic diseases, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues, by easing the burden of managing health care.
About 85% of the people who used telehealth options during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had a household income over $150,000. However, the true potential of the digital health revolution is to transform care for those with the fewest financial resources, the company said. HeyRenee aims to do that by demystifying and integrating previously disconnected point solutions and providers to work together in a data-driven symphony for a delightfully easy patient-centric experience, Desai said.
Above: Nick Desai is cofounder of HeyRenee.
Image Credit: HeyRenee
Health care helper
HeyRenee intends to ease the burden of health care coordination — from appointment scheduling, in-home services, and medication delivery to telehealth and the monitoring of symptoms and vital signs via one easy-to-use app. HeyRenee won’t provide an actual personal caretaker to care for a specific patient, but such a caretaker might use HeyRenee to manage a patient’s care, Desai said.
Tau Ventures managing partner Amit Garg said in a statement that his firm invests in AI-first companies and that having a moat around data is key. He touted the founders’ experience and said he believes HeyRenee will help improve the lives of patients.
And the founders reminded us that the business is personal. In the aftermath of a surgery on her father, Dua saw his memory was greatly affected. He had new cognitive difficulties because the hospital stay wiped him out. She became his caretaker and is bringing this knowledge to HeyRenee because she believes everyone needs a “Renee” as a best friend on their health care journey.
The platform is expected to launch in 2022.
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2020 was a year of rapid adaptation. Companies quickly, at times haphazardly, pivoted as fast as possible to new digital solutions that would keep supply chains functioning, employees and teams connected, and products accessible to customers.
In most cases, companies found that this quick switch accelerated their rate of new tech adoption and experimentation. Plans on the backburner to ‘eventually’ see how blockchain, IoT, or AI could be leveraged were suddenly added to the list of starters.
2021 will be a year of refinement. Companies are now wiser about what works and what doesn’t, and will yet again be experimenting with how they can use newly adopted tech to refine processes and innovate in ways not thought of before.
Techleap.nl’s Rise Program is focused on providing fast-growing Dutch scaleups with the tools they need to take on the global market. We spoke with three of their cohorts to find out what new trends they see on the horizon this year.
Using tech to enhance digital relationships with customers
Online supermarket app, Crisp, started out on a mission to bring fresh products directly from producers to their users’ doors. Not only would ingredients be fresh, their bet was that the convenience and time-saving benefits that online shopping could bring would attract families who wanted to spend less time at the supermarket and more time with their loved ones.
Of course, when social distancing concerns became a major factor in consumer behaviors, Crisp was already ahead of the game. As CFO Michiel Roodenburg explained to TNW,
One of the most important tech trends we’re experiencing is an increased level of personalization in B2C. By leveraging the power of large data sets, more online retailers are able to create individualized shopping experiences.
This enhanced capability has allowed them to not only make the shopping experience faster and more convenient; it’s also helped them go beyond simply meeting customer expectations.
“Using data in a smart manner allows us to combine convenience with inspiration,” Roodenburg said. “Users want to buy their usual products as quickly as possible and we can help them by suggesting these. In addition, we offer a layer of inspiration with an offering that is new but equally relevant.
“For example, in our recipe section, our offering is automatically adjusted to make it more relevant. We’ve seen that this also increases the average order value, positively impacting the logistical cost ratio, which is very important in the online food business.”
This has also helped them streamline different aspects of the customer experience.
“Tech enables our service team to effectively communicate with consumers. For example, by automatically categorizing questions or suggesting useful answers that the employee uses to send a richer answer.”
For companies that want to experiment with new strategies this year, Roodenburg suggests:
Focus on creating customer value as opposed to lowering costs. Improving your value proposition is, in my opinion, often more important. But it only works if the customer is truly the middle point of the organization. Technology does not make the distance with customers bigger; quite the opposite: it can help you become more intimate with the customer.
Easing the transition to the new normal with AI
Just like our shopping habits have changed, so have our work habits. While the quick switch to remote working was a struggle for many in the beginning, with over a year of Zoom meetings under our belts, some have now gotten used to the comforts of a home office, skipping the morning commute, and having extra time to spend with families.
The question is when the time does come for everyone to go back to the office, will we actually want to go back to the normal nine to five?
As Judith Huisman, co-Founder of Meetingselect, said, “Nothing can ever completely replace face-to-face meetings,” especially when it comes to team building, brainstorming, or branding activities.
Companies will therefore need to find the balance between in-person and more flexible work options. But this can also bring new opportunities for those willing to adopt new tech.
Meetingselect is at the crossroad between businesses and the hospitality industry, making it easier for organizations and enterprises to provide external meeting spaces, group bookings, and workplace solutions to their employees while helping hotels and venues attract more customers to their meeting spaces.
As Huisman explained, this requires a more strategic use of meeting data and AI-powered automation.
The meetings industry is a $450 billion industry, yet only 10% of those meetings are booked online. Even though we’re used to booking hotel rooms or car rentals in a few clicks, meeting bookings still haven’t been embraced by 90% of the market.
A couple of years ago people said, ‘why should I book a meeting online?’ Now no one wants to call and send emails anymore, they just want to search online and book it. That’s why you want to have an automated booking solution backed by Artificial Intelligence.
We now have large hotel chains that have signed on to our software solution to make that happen. We’ve also developed a booking engine so that small venues or boutique hotels don’t have to invest in the technology themselves.
Looking to the future, when we can begin traveling again for work, Meetingselect is now working on a new feature that will help companies calculate “The Best Place to Meet” in terms of Total Travel Time, Total Travel Cost, and CO2/carbon footprint reduction, and ease the process of flexible workspace and co-working space bookings.
Digitizing workplace knowledge and learning
One of the biggest challenges manufacturers have faced over this past year has been the breakdown and fragmentation of communication lines. With warehouses and other facilities working at limited capacity due to social distancing measures, supervision and guidance for workers has been limited. As Willemijn Schneyder, CEO of SwipeGuide explained, this experience revealed a serious gap:
Covid-19 has forced companies to fundamentally rethink their approach to building knowledge capital. But as many experts have noticed, it’s also accelerating an inevitable digital transformation within the industry.
Manufacturers still struggle to capture something we call silent knowledge: the dos and don’ts of the job that live in the heads of long-time expert employees that simply never get recorded. Think about any process at your own job that’s not written down anywhere, it’s simply ‘how it’s done.’
As these employees retire or switch jobs, best practices and crucial operational knowledge is lost forever. Given the scale and tight tolerances of global manufacturing, the resulting errors and lost time can be catastrophic. If you develop the tools to capture this knowledge at scale, suddenly you’re able to improve and distribute it throughout your supply chain.
Not only is this a communication issue, it’s a safety issue. With the technology manufacturers are working with constantly evolving, workers need to be kept up to date with new operational procedures, safety measures, and potential hazards. Ironically, the learning process used to teach workers how to operate high-tech machinery is still low tech, with PDF-based instructions being the norm.
Much like a CMS, Swipeguide’s platform allows users to create, drag and drop, edit, publish, update, and share instructions with their workforce in real-time. This also allows companies to capture data on these instructions including usage, scoring, and feedback from workers. Best of all, it’s available on or offline and can be easily adjusted to different language and device preferences by users — meaning workers can easily access instructions wherever they are.
Schneyder believes this transition to digital workplace learning is just the beginning.
The best manufacturers are solving this problem and also thinking past the pandemic. Yes, the current situation has accelerated the process. But they’re laying the groundwork for future success by investing in digital solutions that will enhance productivity at scale for years to come.
For example, we’re really excited to see the development of something called the Workforce Digital Twin. This is the collection of expert knowledge, captured via apps, that’s stored in the cloud to be distributed among frontline workers. It’s an ever-improving and ever-expanding repository of your best knowledge that’s insulated from turnover, and simple enough to be customized for any person working on the factory floor.
We think of this as a now, near, future process. It’s a matter of taking today’s operational knowledge to build tomorrow’s digital twin, in order to build resilience and efficiency for the future.
Ready to step up your game, but don’t know where to start?
As Schneyder told TNW, “We would tell any company to look at their product and ask themselves: ‘how does our solution help connect people to the resources they need and make them more effective in a world dominated by remote work and new technology?’
“Once you’ve answered this, you can begin to position your product within any digital transformation at scale. We believe that when you focus on empowering the human elements first, the sky’s the limit.”
Once you’ve answered this, you can begin to position your product within any digital transformation at scale. We believe that when you focus on empowering the human elements first, the sky’s the limit.”
Carl Pei left OnePlus in the year 2020, aiming for a new project that’d be revealed in 2021. Here in 2021, the company was revealed to have the name “Nothing Technologies Limited.” Or just “Nothing.” Today it was revealed that Nothing took over ownership of what remains of Android founder Andy Rubin’s smartphone technology company Essential.
Last week it was revealed that Nothing was getting some monetary backing from Alphabet’s VC arm. This week, 9to5Google found a set of listings in the UK Intellectual Property Office. It was revealed that Andy Rubin “signed over ownership” of Essential over to Nothing Technologies Limited.
The process for moving Essential ownership to Nothing began in November of 2020. It would appear that everything Essential is now officially under ownership of Nothing – at least in the UK. UPDATE: Per UK records, reassignment of ownership was made not between companies, but people – from Andy Rubin (id 1528181), to Carl Pei (id 1528125). The “effective date of assignment” was November 25, 2020, with received date for full assignment on December 18, 2020.
This likely suggests the companies have agreed to combine their efforts – or that Nothing decided to use the massive amounts of cash they just received from funders to buy Essential for their patents. They’ve been patenting products like “mobile device” and “hone assistant device” and “handheld writing implement form factor mobile device” since 2017.
ALSO NOTE: Essential Products, INC. continued to file for patents through March of 2018 according to the USPTO. Their most recently granted patent was in March of 2020. Two patents were granted by the USPTO for Essential in March of 2020, one for a “handheld mobile device for adaptive vehicular operations”. The other was “modular light detection and ranging device of a vehicular navigation system.” They’ve not yet been reassigned to Nothing.
UPDATE: Further investors were revealed – Google Ventures, Steve Huffman (CEO, co-founder of Reddit), Kevin Lin (co-founder of Twitch), Josh Buckley (CEO of Product Hunt), Liam Casey (founder and CEO, PCH), Paddy Cosgrave (founder of Web Summit), and Casey Neistat (YouTuber). The company currently has job listings in Delhi India, Shenzhen China, Scockholm, and London.
ALSO: There’s a countdown timer on Nothing’s homepage right now that ends at 4AM Central Time, February 16, 2021. It’s not yet clear what’ll happen when the timer expires, but it looks like it’ll have to do with Shopify. So maybe there’ll be a store on the site – we shall see!