Elliptic banks $23M to shrink crypto risk, eyeing growth in Asia – gpgmail


Crypto means risk. To UK company Elliptic it also means business. The startup has just closed a $23M Series B to step up growth for a crypto risk-management play that involves selling tech and services to help others navigate the choppy darks of cryptocurrencies.

The round was led by financial services and asset management firm SBI Group, a Tokyo-based erstwhile subsidiary of SoftBank . Also joining as a new investor this round is London-based AlbionVC. Existing investors including SignalFire, Octopus Ventures and Santander Innoventures also participated. SBI Group’s Tomoyuki Nii and Ed Lascelles of AlbionVC are also joining Elliptic’s board.

Flush with a sizeable injection of Series B capital, Elliptic is especially targeting business growth at Asia — with a plan to open new offices in Japan and Singapore. It says client revenues in the region have risen 11x over the past two years.

We last spoke to Elliptic back in 2016 when it had just raised a $5M Series A.

The 2013-founded startup began by testing the crypto waters with a storage product before zeroing in on financial compliance as a pain-point worth its time. It went on to develop machine learning tech that screens transactions to identify suspicious patterns and, via them, dubious transactors.

Now it offers an integrated suite of products and services for financial institutions and crypto businesses to screen volumes of crypto-flows that sum to billions of dollars in transactions per day — analyzing them for links to illicit activity such as money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions evasion, and other financial crimes.

It’s focused on selling anti-money laundering compliance, crypto forensics and cryptocurrency investigation services to the private sector — though has also sold tools direct to law enforcement agencies in the past.

Billions of dollars in financial services terms is of course just a tiny drop in a massive ocean of money movements. And growth in the crypto risk-management space has clearly required more than a little patience, from a startup perspective.

Three years ago Elliptic’s first blockchain analytics product had 10-20 Bitcoin companies as customers. That’s now up to 100+ crypto businesses and financial institutions using its products to shrink their risk of financial crime when dealing with crypto-assets. But the more three than year gap between Elliptic’s Series A and B is notable.

“To date, we’ve focused on product development and assembling the right team as the market has matured. This new funding will help us expand in the right way, namely by making the push into Asia without diluting our focus on the US and EMEA,” says co-founder and CEO James Smith when asked about the gap between financing rounds.

He declines to comment on how far off Elliptic is from achieving breakeven or profitability yet.

“We provide best-in-class transaction monitoring products for crypto-assets, which are trusted by crypto exchanges and financial institutions worldwide,” he adds of its product suite. “Our products are used as key components of larger compliance processes that are designed to minimise money laundering risks.”

With the addition of SBI Group to its investor roster Elliptic gains a strategic partner in Asia to help push what it dubs “bank-grade risk data” at a new wave of established financial institutions it believes are eyeing crypto with growing appetite for risk as larger players wade in.

Larger players like Facebook . Elliptic’s PR name-drops the likes of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, Line Corporation’s LINK and central bank digital currencies, as markers of a rise in mainstream attention on crypto assets. And it says Series B funds will be used to accelerate product development to support “an emerging class of asset-backed crypto-assets”.

Regulatory attention on crypto — which has been rising globally for years but looks set to zip up several gears now that Facebook has ripped the curtain off of an ambitious global digital currency plan which also has buy-in from a number of other household tech and fintech names — is another claimed feed in for Elliptic’s business. More crypto implies growing risk.

It also points to the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force’s global regulatory framework for crypto-assets as an example of some of the wider risk-based requirements and now wrapped around those dealing in crypto.

The focus on Asia for business expansion is a measure of relative maturity of interest in opportunities around crypto-assets and localized attention to regulation, according to Smith.

“Revenue growth is certainly very strong in this region. We have been working with customers in Asia for a number of years and have seen first-hand how vibrant their crypto-asset ecosystems are. Countries such as Singapore and Japan have developed clear crypto-asset regulatory frameworks, and businesses based in these countries are serious about meeting their compliance obligations,” he says.

“We have also found that traditional financial institutions in Asia are particularly keen to engage with crypto-assets, and we will be working with them as they take their first steps into this new asset class.”

“We believe that crypto-assets will play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives and are shaping the future of banking. Our investment in Elliptic is a further commitment to this belief and to SBI Holding’s appetite to help build the digital asset-related ecosystem,” adds Yoshitaka Kitao, CEO of the SBI Group, in a supporting statement.

“Elliptic’s pioneering approach is enabling the transparency, integrity, and trust necessary for this vision to become reality. We are seeing a growing demand for their services across our portfolio of crypto-assets related companies and view Elliptic as best-placed to meet this considerable opportunity.”

While Elliptic’s business is focused on reducing the risk for other businesses of inadvertently transacting with criminals using crypto to launder money or otherwise shift assets under the legal radar, the proportion of transactions that such illicit activity represents in the Bitcoin space represents a tiny fraction of overall transactions.

“According to our analysis, approximately $1BN in Bitcoin has been spent on the dark web, so far in 2019, on items ranging from narcotics to stolen credit cards. This represents a very small share of all Bitcoin activity — less than 0.5% of Bitcoin payments over this period,” says Smith.

Not that that diminishes the regulatory risk. Nor, therefore, the business opportunity for Elliptic to sell support services to help others avoid touching the hot stuff.

“Crypto money launderers are continually developing new techniques to cover their tracks — from the use of mixers to transacting in privacy coins such as monero,” Smith adds. “We are also constantly innovating to keep pace with this and help our clients to detect money laundering. For example our work with researchers from MIT and IBM demonstrated the application of deep learning techniques to the identification of illicit crypto-asset transactions.”


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AMD Overtakes Nvidia in Graphics Shipments for First Time in 5 Years


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AMD saw its share of the graphics market surge in Q2 2019, with total shipments larger than Nvidia for the first time in five years. At the same time, Nvidia retains a hard lock on the add-in board market for desktops, with approximately two-thirds of total market share. And while these gains are significant, it’s also worth considering why they didn’t drive any particular “pop” in AMD’s overall financial figures for Q2.

First, let’s talk about the total graphics market. There are three players here: Intel, AMD, and Nvidia. Because this report considers the totality of the graphics space, and 2/3 of systems ship without a separate GPU,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce both AMD and Nvidia are minority players in this market. AMD, however, has an advantage — it builds CPUs with an onboard graphics solution, like Intel. Nvidia does not. Thus, we have to acknowledge that the total market space includes companies with a very different suite of products:

Intel: Integrated-only (until next year), no discrete GPUs, but accounts for a majority of total shipments.
AMD: Integrated GPUs and discrete cards, but with very little presence in upper-end mobile gaming.
Nvidia: No integrated solutions. Discrete GPUs only.

Graphics-Market-Share-JPR

According to JPR, AMD’s shipments increased by 9.8 percent, Intel shipments fell by 1.4 percent, and Nvidia shipments were flat, at 0.04 percent. This jives with reports from early in the year, which suggested that AMD would take market share from Intel due to CPU shortages. Separately from its global report, JPR also publishes a separate document on the desktop add-in board (AIB) market. This report only considers the discrete GPU space between Nvidia and AMD (Intel will compete in this space when it launches Xe next year). AMD and Nvidia split this space — and again, AMD showed significant growth, with a ten percent improvement in market share.

Image by Jon Peddie Research

If you pay attention to financial reports, however, you may recall that AMD’s Q2 2019 sales results were reasonable, but not spectacular. Both companies reported year-on-year sales declines. Nvidia’s fiscal year Q2 2020 results, which the company reported a few weeks back, showed gaming revenue falling 27 percent year-on-year. AMD doesn’t break out GPU and CPU sales — it combines them both into a single category — but its combined Compute and Graphics revenue reports were lower on a yearly basis as well:

AMD-Financial-Q2-2019

During the first half of the year, AMD was thought to be gaining market share at Intel’s expense, but these gains were largely thought to be at the low-end of the market. AMD launched its first Chromebooks with old Carrizo APUs, for example. This explains the growth in unit shipments in the total GPU space, as well as why the company didn’t show a tremendous profit from its gains. Growth in the AIB market may be explained by the sale of GPUs like the RX 570. This card has consistently been an incredibly good value — Nvidia didn’t bother distributing review GPUs for the GTX 1650 because the RX 570 is decisively faster, according to multiple reviews. But GPU sales have been down overall. According to JPR, AIB sales fell 16.6 percent quarter-to-quarter, and 39.7 percent year-on-year.

This explains why AMD’s strong market share gains didn’t translate to improved C&G sales revenue. The company earns less revenue on low-end sales compared with high-end cards. And its market share improvements have been overshadowed by a huge decline in AIB sales year-on-year, likely due to the combination of lingering crypto hangover and a weak overall enthusiast market in Q2.

Q3 will be a much more significant quarter for both companies. Not only does it typically improve on the basis of seasonality alone, but both Nvidia and AMD introduced price cuts and new products. AMD’s Navi powers the excellent 5700 and 5700 XT, which are both faster than the Nvidia refreshes of the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 (now dubbed the RTX 2060 Super and RTX 2070 Super, respectively). Nvidia, in turn, offers ray tracing and variable rate shading — two features that are used in very few games today but may become more popular in the future. AMD lacks these features.

The two companies have staked out opposing strategies for boosting their respective market share. It’ll be interesting to see how consumers do or don’t respond to their separate value propositions.

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