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Andreessen Horowitz Leads Investment In Privacy Startup Integrating With Bitcoin – Forbes

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Working to make the internet more private, Nym Technologies recruited former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who used privacy software Tor to leak thousands of classified documents in 2011. Now, with a fresh $13 million capital injection, valuing the three-year old Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based company at around $270 million, Nym is gearing up to accelerate the advent of the private web powered by blockchain. 

Revealed exclusively to Forbes, the Series A financing round was led by Silicon Valley monolith Andreessen Horowitz (a16z Crypto). Other investors include Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group, Tayssir Capital, Huobi Ventures, HashKey, Fenbushi Capital, and more than two dozen operators of validator nodes, or servers responsible for verifying transactions on the startup’s network. 

Following a $2.5 million seed investment led by Binance’s VC arm and incubator, in 2019, and a Polychain Capital-led $6.5 million raise, which closed this July, Nym’s latest round signals the growing interest in privacy preserving technologies, no longer a niche avail of the paranoid and the criminal. And the world at large is paying attention.

“Encryption is becoming an incredibly important component of the internet today,” says Ali Yahya, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and “Nym provides privacy at the very bottom layer as a foundation for other private solutions to be built on top.”

The Nym blockchain uses a mix network, or mixnet, where nodes are rewarded with tokens to shuffle internet traffic. If needed the nodes can inject dummy packets of data to make it harder for adversaries to decode information even at the highest level. Nym CEO Harry Halpin, who had worked at the World Wide Web Consortium with Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee prior to founding the firm in 2018, says this approach, offering what he calls “network level privacy”, can defeat even nation-state level mass surveillance, unlike VPNs or the Tor network. 

That said, Nym is not trying to directly compete with Tor. “We do recommend people use the Tor Browser,” Halpin notes, “but for bitcoin and Layer 2 solutions I think, we would be a better fit.” In fact, Nym has been rewarding its network node operators with bitcoin. In the long run, he hopes Nym’s technology could be integrated with protocols like Lightning, an additional layer built on top of the bitcoin network for instant, high-volume micropayments.

Chelsea Manning, who is now working closely with Halpin on client side security, told Forbes “Nym has demonstrated it has secured its mixnode process to a degree worthy of investment.” 

While not every privacy startup uses crypto, those that do have found renewed success raising capital, says Halpin, who in 2017 managed to raise only a few thousand dollars for a similar idea that didn’t use blockchain. By contrast, Nym’s network, which is now operating in test mode with approximately 5,000 nodes and 30 validators, is expected to go live at full capacity by the end of this year.

Notably, this is at least the fifth blockchain-related privacy investment for the round’s lead investor Andreessen Horowitz. Others include cloud computing firm Oasis Labs, zero-knowledge private applications platform Aleo, blockchain and software development company Orchid Labs, and infrastructure builder for private data on Ethereum, Keep. Since 2018, when Nym was established, funding for privacy startups has picked up: more than two thirds of the total $3.1 billion raised by companies in the field has come in the past four years, according to Crunchbase. Not to mention, many privacy-focused cryptocurrencies have proven to be sound investments this year, with several quietly outperforming bitcoin during the current bull market.

Ahead of its mainnet launch, Nym has already begun deploying fresh capital for new hires, expanding the original eight-member team to 30. Among them is Nym’s cofounder George Danezis, who briefly left the project to help design Facebook’s controversial digital currency Libra when another company he cofounded, Chainspace, was acquired by the social media giant. Danezis rejoined Nym in October. Additionally, Halpin says Nym will be giving out grants to independent third party developers starting next year.

Last week, the team rolled out a wallet for node miners, through which they can pledge tokens to join the Nym network, earn reputation and, consequently, more tokens, based on the amount and quality of mixing the internet traffic. This helps ensure that the quality of service is sufficient for the network to remain usable and incentivizes miners to do the work correctly, Halpin explains. Though much of Nym’s tokenomics is still in the works, he believes these economic incentives combined with mixnet’s potential will help Nym “to make privacy real on the scale of the entire internet.”

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Oil rises as investors focus on OPEC+ decision amid growing Omicron fears

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Oil prices rose on Thursday, recouping the previous day’s losses, as investors adjusted positions ahead of an OPEC+ decision over supply policy, but gains were capped amid fears the Omicron coronavirus variant will hurt fuel demand.

Brent crude futures rose 85 cents, or 1.2%, to $69.72 by 0402 GMT, having eased 0.5% in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.42 a barrel, after a 0.9% drop on Wednesday.

“Investors unwound their positions ahead of the OPEC+ decision as oil prices have declined so fast and so much over the past week,” said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at NLI Research Institute.

Global oil prices have lost more than $10 a barrel since last Thursday, when news of Omicron shook investors.

“Market will be watching closely the producer group’s decision as well as comments from some of key members after the meeting to suggest their future policy,” Ueno said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, together known as OPEC+, will likely decide on Thursday whether to release more oil into the market as previously planned or restrain supply.

Since August, the group has been adding an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of output to global supply each month, as it gradually winds down record cuts agreed in 2020.

The new variant, though, has complicated the decision-making process, with some observers speculating OPEC+ could pause those additions in January in an attempt to slow supply growth.

“Oil prices climbed as some investors anticipate that OPEC+ will decide to maintain the current supply levels in January to cushion any damage on demand from the Omicron spread,” said Toshitaka Tazawa, an analyst at Fujitomi Securities Co Ltd.

Fears over the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rose after the first case was reported in the United States, and Japan’s central bank has warned of economic pain as countries respond with tighter containment measures.

U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk said President Joe Biden’s administration could adjust the timing of its planned release of strategic crude oil stockpiles if global energy prices drop substantially.

Gains in oil markets on Thursday were capped as the U.S. weekly inventory data showed U.S. crude stocks fell less than expected last week, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose much more than expected as demand weakened. [EIA/S]

Crude inventories fell by 910,000 barrels in the week to Nov. 26, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, compared with analyst expectations in a Reuters poll for a drop of 1.2 million barrels.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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Toronto market hits 7-week low on Omicron uncertainty

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Canada‘s main stock index fell on Wednesday to its lowest level in over seven weeks as the United States reported its first case of the Omicron variant that investors fear could impede economic recovery, with the index giving back its earlier gains.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended down 195.39 points, or 0.95%, at 20,464.60, its lowest closing level since Oct. 12.

Wall Street also closed lower as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the country had detected its first case of the new COVID-19 variant, which is rapidly becoming dominant in South Africa less than four weeks after being detected there and has spread to other countries.

It might take longer than expected for supply chain disruptions to abate, “especially if we have renewed shutdowns in Asia,” said Kevin Headland, senior investment strategist, Manulife Investment Management.

Still, Headland does not expect the new variant to lead to an economic recession or a bear market for stocks in 2022, saying: “Reaction to headline news provides opportunities for those that have a longer-term timeframe to add in the equity markets.”

The TSX will add to its recent record high over the coming year as the domestic economic recovery helps underpin corporate earnings, but gains are expected to slow from 2020’s breakneck pace, a Reuters poll found.

The technology sector fell 2.7%, while energy ended 1.9% lower as oil was unable to sustain an earlier rally. U.S. crude oil futures settled 0.9% lower at $65.57 a barrel

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 2.2%.

Financials were a bright spot, advancing 0.4%, helped by gains for Bank of Nova Scotia as some analysts raised their target price on the stock.

Bombardier Inc was among the biggest decliners. Its shares sank 10.4%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Additional reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada’s TSX to extend record-setting rally; pace of gains to slow: Reuters poll

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Canada‘s main stock index will add to its recent record high over the coming year as the domestic economic recovery helps underpin corporate earnings, but gains are expected to slow from 2020’s breakneck pace, a Reuters poll found.

The median prediction of 26 portfolio managers and strategists was for the S&P/TSX Composite index to rise 9.1% to 22,540 by the end of 2022.

That’s a move that would eclipse last month’s record high of 21,796.16 and compares with an August forecast of 22,000. It was then expected to edge up to 23,150 by the middle of 2023.

The index had advanced 18.5% since the start of the year, putting it on track for its second biggest gain since 2009.

“We think the economy and markets will continue to progress further into the mid-cycle phase next year,” said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist at Edward Jones. “We are past the strongest point of the cycle, but there is plenty of runway ahead, especially from an economic standpoint.”

Canada‘s economy https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadian-economy-posts-annualized-gain-54-q3-october-gdp-seen-up-08-2021-11-30 grew at an annualized rate of 5.4% in the third quarter, beating analyst expectations, and growth most likely accelerated in October on a manufacturing rebound.

“Banks can continue to benefit from an improving economy and reducing loan loss provisions and resource companies can benefit from higher commodity prices,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

Combined, the financial services and resource sectors account for 55% of the Toronto market’s valuation.

Nearly all participants that answered a separate question on the outlook for corporate earnings expected earnings to improve. But the pace of growth could slow.

“We expect a decelerating pace of (earnings) growth,” said Chhad Aul, chief investment officer & head of multi-asset solutions at SLGI Asset Management Inc. “In particular, we expect the recent strong earnings growth in the energy sector to begin to moderate.”

The price of oil, a key driver of energy sector earnings, has tumbled 24% since October, pressured by rising coronavirus cases in Europe and the detection of the possibly vaccine-resistant Omicron variant.

Another risk to the outlook could be a reduction in policy support, say investors.

With inflation climbing, the Bank of Canada https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/bank-canada-signals-it-could-hike-rates-sooner-than-expected-2021-10-27 has signaled it could begin hiking interest rates as soon as April and the Federal Reserve https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/powell-yellen-head-congress-inflation-variant-risks-rise-2021-11-30 is mulling whether to wrap up tapering of bond purchases a few months sooner.

“The key is the pace of both fiscal and monetary policy normalization,” said Ben Jang, a portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth. “This process will likely lead to more volatility in markets, potentially returning to an environment where we will see drawdowns of more than 10%.”

Asked if a correction was likely over the coming six months, nearly all respondents said yes.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; polling by Mumal Rathore and Milounee Purohit; editing by David Evans)

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