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10,000 subscribers later, This Week in Fintech has a venture fund – TechCrunch

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If you keep up with financial technology, you likely know that the fintech community is a tight-knit, large (yet small) group of enthusiasts that includes all sorts of people — from founders, to investors, to fintech-focused employees at startups or large companies to journalists like me.

Over the years, a few players have emerged with a special kind of knowledge and expertise in the space. Nik Milanović has been publishing a newsletter called “This Week in Fintech” for the past two and a half years, growing its subscriber base to north of 10,000. He also spent the past two years at Google, heading up business development and strategy for Google Pay as well as serving as a mentor through Techstars. All the while, Milanović has not only been an integral member of the growing global fintech community, he has helped build and grow it. In addition to publishing the newsletter, Milanović sponsors meetups all across the globe (from Mexico City to Lagos, Nigeria) so that thousands of fellow “fintech friends” — as he calls them — can network and get to know each other.

Inclusion has played a big role in Milanović’s fintech aspirations. During his time at Stanford University, he was a researcher at the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. (Full disclosure, he has written for TechCrunch as a contributor on topics such as “Build products that improve the lives of inmates.”) 

While Milanović has invested as an angel in recent years, he is now taking the plunge to full-time investing with a new early-stage fund called simply “The Fintech Fund” with the tagline  of “by fintech people, for fintech people.” His goal is to raise $10 million for the new fund (of which he has so far brought in $4 million), and already it has a diverse group of LPs, including Better Tomorrow Ventures’ Sheel Mohnot and Jake Gibson; Cowboy Ventures’ Jillian Williams; Sriram Krishnan, founder of Angel Collective Opportunity Fund; Bain Capital Ventures and founders such as NerdWallet co-founder Jake Gibson, Orum.io’s Stephany Kirkpatrick and The Block’s Mike Dudas.

Better Tomorrow Ventures’ Mohnot told TechCrunch that he “loves” the global community that Milanović is building, especially since he believes that “community is an incredibly powerful lever for startups.” 

“Nik sees the world similarly to us at BTV; there is an incredible global opportunity that others aren’t seeing,” he said. “We wanted to support Nik in part because we like him, in part because he will be successful and in part because we think we’ll get to see great companies by working closer with him.”

Image Credits: Lagos, Nigeria meetup / The Fintech Fund

The Fintech Fund is investing at the pre-seed and seed stages, and so far has backed 10 companies, including Goldfinch, 3Box, Ponto and Paysail.

“The goal is to make this kind of a community fund, rather than an undifferentiated out-of-the box venture fund,” Milanović said. “Our focus is to give the people and institutions working deeply in fintech a way to reinvest in the fintech ecosystem.”

The Fintech Fund also has a 120-person fintech syndicate, where all members are fintech operators or founders. The fund gives members of the syndicate the opportunity to double-down on the fund’s investments with the founders “they really want to support,” Milanović said.

The new fund is also holding itself to a quantitative commitment to inclusion for its founders and syndicate. For founders, it has an explicit target of over 25% or more of its dollars and total number of investments going to founders from underrepresented backgrounds. For the syndicate, Milanović does not plan to set a quota or target, but is measuring the composition of the syndicate and fund LP base on a quarterly basis (via a survey) in an effort to continuously ensure representation and inclusion.

If founders are looking for hands-on investors, they’ll find it in The Fintech Fund, Milanović said.

“There’s a lot of ETFs that will write large checks,” Milanović said. “But our goal is to really bring together this whole community — and that’s newsletter readers, investors in the fund, our angel syndicate — so that when the founder gets a check out of The Fintech Fund, it’s not just money but also a ton of consulting or referrals to new hires and to new customers.”

True to his background, Milanović will continue to provide resources to founders through his newsletter and events because he believes investing in a company’s success should be about more than the money. 

“This community can help you decide between two vendors you’re considering or make a referral for like a head of product that you’re looking to hire,” he told TechCrunch. “I think for an early-stage founder, that really makes a huge difference.”

Portfolio company Paysail founders Liam Burke and Nicole Alonso said they have been impressed with Milanović’s “extensive fintech background and understanding of the landscape” since their first meeting with him. The company, which leverages stablecoins to enable instant, global B2B invoicing and payments, recently raised a $4 million seed round led by Uncork Capital that included participation from The Fintech Fund.

“We are also excited by the breadth and diversity of experience the fund’s LPs bring to the table and look forward to tapping into the support they provide to founders, including advisory work, domain expertise, and access to their vast network,” the pair wrote via email.

To Mohnot’s point, Milanović said the VCs that are opting to be LPs in this fund clearly don’t view it as direct competition. 

“We want to focus on collaboration,” he said. “Some people view other successful people as competitors with a mentality like ‘I win because I’m best or other people can’t.’”

But Milanović doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy.

“I believe we can all win together as a network and I view this fund as a way for everybody working in fintech to win together,” he said. “And so for me, it was a no-brainer to bring these funds along as LPs and it’s a no-brainer to find people who might be competitors and figure out where to collaborate with them because I think we can collaborate and build things that are way better than the things that we build when we compete.”

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Better together: Offsetting cybersecurity’s labor challenges with API integrations

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The labor challenges afflicting cybersecurity teams far and wide are no secret. A razor-tight hiring market coupled with surging demand and an accelerating threat landscape has created a perfect storm of complexity, resulting in a widening skills gap that is driving higher levels of burnout and human error across the sector. In fact, Verizon’s independently commissioned 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 82% of breaches today involve some degree of human error. Whether it’s an unsuspecting end user or a bleary-eyed analyst, the vulnerabilities caused by cognitive overload shouldn’t be overlooked.  

Take the recent high-profile Uber data breach. A malicious actor, posing as an internal IT administrator, used digital collaboration channels to trick an Uber employee into giving up their VPN credentials, leading to a total compromise of the rideshare giant’s network infrastructure. The breach exemplified the consequences of a social engineering attack targeting the always-on hybrid workforce. And with the rate of such attacks accelerating in volume and velocity, it’s clear that more visibility of these threats is needed for security teams to effectively remediate them.

Many organizations are investing in a plethora of new, best-in-class security products in response to staffing shortages. However, reactive patchwork spending on the industry’s latest niche products shouldn’t be viewed as the answer, as the tool sprawl often creates additional complexity that hurts organizations more than it helps. Enterprises, on average, have 60 to 80 different security monitoring tools in their portfolio, many of which go unused, underutilized or forgotten. Forcing security teams to master a myriad of tools, consoles and workflows shifts priorities from managing risk to managing technology.

An integrated cybersecurity framework

The companies best positioned to offset cybersecurity’s labor challenges are those adopting best-of-breed security tools and platforms that offer a deep library of API and third-party integrations. Above all, an integrated framework empowers organizations to effectively navigate their unique environments by consolidating tools and reducing human error through the following three processes:

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  • Improved protection via security intelligence and threat sharing: This enables rapid recognition and response to incoming threats via machine learning analytics tools, strengthening a human analyst’s ability to formulate swift and comprehensive cyberdefense measures.
  • Improved efficiency via automation: This enables offloading of repetitive and mundane manual tasks to AI-enabled tools, streamlining human workflows by accelerating and improving key facets of incident response and vulnerability management.
  • Improved prevention via sharing and consolidating tool data: This enables complete, real-time visibility into an organization’s entire security environment to promote the creation of targeted alerts that uncover unknown threats.

In collaborating with a wider range of security vendors, organizations leveraging API integrations benefit from the combined knowledge of all integrated platforms to greatly improve overall security posture. The extensive access to timely threat intelligence allows security teams to align prevention, investigation and response plans across multiple security controls, as well as increase the speed of their detection and remediation efforts.

Amid the widespread adoption of cloud-based hybrid work environments, it’s increasingly clear that organizational security architectures must consist of scalable, tightly integrated solutions that combine the right balance of automated prevention, detection and response capabilities to effectively protect data across its lifecycle.

Enhancing detection and increasing cybersecurity efficacy

An open API integration framework is the embodiment of unlocking strength in numbers. It stitches together the critical functions and processes performed by foundational security tools — email security, endpoint security, web security, NDR, data security — into a single meshed framework that operates in unison and shares centralized threat intelligence data across its ecosystem. By connecting all the pieces of the puzzle, organizations gain the resources to enhance their prevention and detection capabilities in complex environments.

In one scenario, an API framework could enable automated processes to continuously flow between an email gateway and security service edge (SSE) to corresponding SIEM/XDR systems. This would allow security teams to share rich logging, metadata, indicators of compromise, malicious URLs, user activity, data movement and machine learning analytics in real time. The AI-powered SIEM platform automates the analysis of that threat data, sifting through the noise to generate actionable alerts with contextual information for security teams. Meanwhile, the real-time contextual insights provide simplified guidance for analysts to alleviate potential threats and, if needed, formulate a swift response to an attack.

With access to a wider range of threat data touchpoints, cybersecurity teams can also create customized scripts within the overarching API library. This gives them “targeted capabilities” that more directly align with their specific needs and skillsets. For instance, the team could create a script that simultaneously analyzes email security logs from Vendor A, data protection logs from Vendor B, web security click logs from Vendor C, and spam filter logs from Vendor D, based on which intel is most relevant to their specific use case. Filtering the exceedingly high volumes of incoming alerts enhances the efficiency of the entire team, empowering analysts to identify needles in the haystack by prioritizing the right alerts at the right times for maximized protection.

Automating manual processes and workflows

Despite the growing number of innovative, best-in-class products available on the market today, it’s important to remember that a multi-vector social engineering attack is exceedingly difficult for hybrid security teams to combat regardless of the tools in their stack. Quick and agile responses are non-negotiable in these situations, but with resources stretched thin and employees working from multiple locations, executing swift corrective action free of human error is easier said than done. Even the most experienced and skilled security teams are susceptible to mistakes while trying to remediate an attack. Therefore, identifying how to automate well-defined processes wherever possible is imperative for tightening these response durations and ensuring security teams can remediate quickly and effectively.

With access to an open API library, organizations can integrate the capabilities of additional AI/ML security tools into their existing security architecture to automate the repetitive steps of protection, detection, response, mitigation and intelligence sharing. Whether it’s informing an endpoint security provider of an emerging alert, or securely moving data from one storage solution to another, API-driven automation can handle the routine, error-prone tasks cybersecurity teams perform every day. Streamlining these otherwise human-centric workflows allows overstretched analysts to instead focus on more critical threat assessments requiring extensive time and attention. That, on a macro level, strengthens the security posture of the greater organization.

There’s no magic bullet that will completely reverse cybersecurity’s labor challenges in the immediate future. But there are proactive steps organizations can take now to provide the critical support their security teams need today. For effectively navigating a complex threat landscape, there’s no better place to start than with the applied adoption of a deep API integration framework.

After all, cybersecurity is a team sport. Why defend alone when you can defend together? 

Joseph Tibbetts is senior director for tech alliances and API at Mimecast.

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It’s foie gras season in unicorn land • TechCrunch

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W

elcome to the TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

With most startups getting repriced behind closed doors, we love getting data that gives us a glimpse of what’s going on. This week, our new information comes from EquityZen, which shared insights on secondary stock sales. EquityZen also put up a few IPO predictions that gave us food for thought. Let’s explore. — Anna

A glimpse of repricing

How do you know when a unicorn has lost its billion-dollar valuation? Usually you only find out long after the fact, when — and if — the company raises a down round that makes it clear that its equity valuation is no longer in the unicorn realm.

The thing is, not many founders want to advertise that they have raised capital at a lower valuation than their previous round; in most cases, they just won’t disclose their new valuation.

As market observers, this leaves us with little data on a topic that our readers do care about: What kind of repricing they could expect. This is why we were grateful for Instacart, which made it public that it reduced its valuation through a 409A price change. This wasn’t good news, but it was a helpful data point for everyone involved. However, that was back in March.



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This Top-Rated PDF Solution Is 66% Off Now

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Paper has made its way largely out of business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still work with documents regularly. Instead, we’re just working with them differently: with the dreaded PDF. These static files can be great if you’re positive that a document is ready, but a serious nightmare when you have to make changes. When you’re working with a lot of PDFs, you need a quality digital solution.



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UPDF Pro is one of the top-rated PDF solutions on the market. Geeky Gadget writes, “UPDF is a potent PDF editor and PDF converter designed to stay up with advanced technologies. It ensures that whichever features you use are up to date. UPDF not only converts PDF to Word but can perform many advanced editing.” Fossbytes adds, “UPDF doesn’t have a boring interface like other PDF software. The design is stunning and eye-catching. On top of it, it is convenient to use. You wouldn’t be bothered with a complex design that is very time-consuming.”

These are just the tip of the iceberg of positive reviews for this all-in-one PDF solution for individuals and businesses. With it, you can edit any PDF document across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, adding or deleting text, editing fonts and color, and much more. The tool allows you to add, crop, rotate, replace, extract or delete images, watermark documents, and password-protect them for elevated confidentiality. You can also easily annotate PDFs, highlight, underline, or strike out text, add shapes and notes, and much more. Finally, it’s even easy to convert any PDF to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a ton of other file types in just a click.

Working with PDFs has never been easier than with a lifetime subscription to UPDF Pro. Grab it on sale for 66% off $149 at just $49.99, the best price you’ll find online.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE