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Lit Protocol raises $2.2M to use NFTs for decentralized access passes

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Lit Protocol has raised $2.2 million to build out its decentralized network that enables nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to act as access keys to exclusive content and experiences both online and in the real world.

Collab+Currency and Sfermion led the round, with participation from CMT Digital, Crowdcreate, G1 Ventures, Gumi Cryptos Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lattice Capital, LongHash Ventures, Protocol Labs, Shima Capital, Tribe Capital, and leading angel investors.

An open-source ecosystem that leverages encryption and blockchain technology, the Lit (Lockable Interactive Token) Protocol allows blockchain, decentralized app (dapp), and NFT developers to build
applications online that make the community building and digital asset ownership envisioned under Web 3 a reality. (You can help make an NFT with Lit Protocol here).

David Sneider, cofounder at Lit Protocol, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the technology enables anyone to lock their data behind the equivalent of gated communities on the internet.

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He said the company’s team of six is excited to work with a group of investors committed to  decentralization, tokenization, and stakeholder-owned systems — without the need to use centralized technology to protect their data.

Lit Protocol is ramping up with big plans for the future of the blockchain-based internet. Anyone
interested in using the protocol today can get started with “Apps” and “Offers” sections at LitGateway.com, where they can token gate files and documents.

How it works

Users can lock things away in IFPS and Google Drives, host token gated Cloudflare livestreams and Zoom meetings, create exclusive spaces in Gather.Town, drop token gated merch in Shopify, and complete targeted quests to earn tokens.

Developers meanwhile can get started with the Lit Protocol software development kit, which is currently integrated with all EVM chains, including Ethereum, Polygon, and BSC and storage providers like Ceramic Network.

“Token gated access will be one of the most powerful applications of web3, and it’s just getting started,” said Stephen McKeon, partner at Collab+Currency, in a statement. “Tokens will be the keycards to the internet and the Lit Protocol infrastructure is designed to enable that vision.”

Lit Protocol plans to use the funds from this investment round to support developers, further decentralize the network, and partner with brands and teams to create novel blockchain. The founders run Lit Protocol as a San Francisco company, but they plan to convert it to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in the future.

“This is more like a web utility,” said Sneider. “The Lit Protocol is a decentralized access control protocol. And what that means is that it’s a network of nodes that can independently validate some info on chain information, such as ownership of an NFT.”

Then those nodes can provision the user a key to access some content, whether it’s to decrypt something, or access some service. That’s a gateway that many can use. For instance, Shopify merchants could use it to enable NFTs to act as coupon discounts.

In the Gather.Town social space, users can token gate spaces — so that you need proof of NFT ownership to get inside a place. Or someone using Cloudflare could token gate livestreams and videos that are embedded within websites.

You could set conditions for unlocking, such as someone who owns more than three CryptoPunks can access this file. To unlock something, you send signed messages to each of the nodes for the blockchain, and each node creates a decryption share.  The network uses BLS threshold encryption. And then, kind of like a torrent, those decryption shares are sent to you, the user the in the client. You aggregate those shares above the threshold and then can reproduce the key to access the Zoom meeting or the file or whatever it might be, Sneider said.

You can used encrypted messages where only your own address can decrypt a message. The net result is that your data is sovereign.

Above: The architecture behind Lit Protocol, where nodes provide partial keys to unlock a gate.

Image Credit: Lit Protocol

“We’re moving into a world where individual users have their own private space,” said Sneider. “That’s their data. And then they’re consenting to various individuals or applications or agents to access that data.”

That means you can own your data and decide what to do with it in the decentralized web, without having to rely on centralized authorities — like governments or big tech firms — to hold your data. Asked if this was something like crypto ticket sales, Sneider said this is an infrastructure layer, so the analogy is closer to a company like Mulesoft, a middleman that can connect a variety of disparate systems.

The protocol enables on chain conditions, such as NFTs, to act as keys to Web 2 and Web 3 experiences.

“The tools create gated communities and gated experiences, and protect your privacy as well,” Sneider said.

“Where it starts to get really interesting, where privacy comes important, is when you start trusting the system with money,” Sneider said.

The tech is an access control network and it works across all of the Ethereum virtual network (EVM) blockchains. It isn’t using a lot of computing power, Sneider said.

How it’s useful

What can you lock away in it? Sneider calls it a resource, where you make use of a mechanism for using on chain data to access an off-chain resource.

“To me where it gets very interesting in the context of gaming,” he said. “There is a big dream around interoperable gaming around Web 3 that I’m sure you’re quite familiar with. But let’s say I create a model of the Eiffel Tower in some Web 3-enabled version of Minecraft. And then I want to sell that to you and you want to use that model in in your game, which is a separate environment.”

He added, “I could encrypt that model, like the 3d model stored on decentralized storage. The NFT represents the ownership. You buy the NF T and then by virtue of having the NFT, you’re then able to download that model and use it in your game. So this is like access control becomes kind of fundamental to interoperability in that context.”

There’s no limit to the amount of data that could be token gated because it’s up to the user to decide where they want data stored. Lit Protocol provides the access control layer in the stack. Also the user might not always be unlocking data. They could also be unlocking a perk, reward, content, metaverse experience, etc.

There are multiple parties in the network, there are nodes that provide the service, with different parties doing encrypting and decrypting. Whether this is legal or not in a particular country varies with each nation’s encryption laws and policies. It depends on the laws in a stakeholder’s role and their location.

Sneider thinks the tech could be disruptive to centralized companies that provide middleman services where they hold onto your data. That disruption will take time, but it’s possible, he said.

Sneider and Chris Cassano started the company. They met at Bitcoin meetups in San Francisco in 2014. Sneider was on the founding team at Sendbloom, a sales enablement service firm that was acquired by LinkedIn. Cassano is the inventor of the first Bitcoin hardware wallet and was formerly a senior engineer at 21.co/Earn.

Sneider said he was inspired by the dreams of early internet pioneers like Tim Berners Lee and Tim O’Reilly.

“This dream of data sovereignty has been around for 40 years, and it is really just starting to click into place,” he said.

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Get a Discount on Training Courses to Help You Finally Master Excel

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just about everybody in the business world claims to know Microsoft Excel. A fraction of them actually know just how much Excel can do. Therefore, if you’re looking for a practical gift for yourself or someone else this year that is actually useful, look no further than The 2022 Complete Microsoft Excel Expert Bundle.



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The bundle includes 12 courses from StreamSkill (4.4/5-star instructor rating), part of the Simon Sez IT family that has taught more than one million students over the past 15 years.

Here, you’ll start out with the basics of Excel 2021, learning what’s new and how to navigate the Excel 2021 interface. You’ll start learning useful keyboard shortcuts, understand how to format cells and use conditional formatting, analyze data using charts, and more. As you progress through the courses, you’ll explore advanced formulas in Excel, touch on macros, and much more.

There are several courses on some of Excel’s more unique tools, too. You’ll learn how to use the VBA editor, VBA syntax, keywords, and more. You’ll discover how to define and manage variables, set up subroutines, and create functions to automate your most repetitive and frustrating tasks. Additionally, you’ll get started with Power Query, learning how to connect Excel to multiple workbooks to crunch numbers across sheets. You’ll learn how to set up and manage data relationships in a data model, create PivotTables to display your data, and use functions like CALCULATE, DIVIDE, and DATESYTD in DAX. Before you know it, you’ll have a business analyst education that will help you in all of your business ventures.

It’s about time you finally learned Excel. Right now, you can get this Microsoft Excel Expert Bundle on sale for just $24.99 (reg. $4,788).

Prices subject to change.

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Ocho wants to rethink (and rebrand) personal finance for business owners • TechCrunch

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When Ankur Nagpal sold Teachable for a quarter of a billion dollars, he felt lucky. Then, he quickly felt lost when trying to navigate the financial systems of a country he wasn’t born in and learn the institutional language often only spoken fluently by the historically wealthy.

It would be a few years of self-employment, and building a venture firm later, before Nagpal returned to the moment as one of the early catalysts for his newest startup, Ocho. The company, launching publicly today, wants to make it easier for business owners to set up and manage their own 401(k) retirement accounts.

Personal finance is hard – and that’s a tale as old, and difficult to disrupt, as time. And while Nagpal agrees that there’s no “north star” company that has shown how to tackle finance literacy at scale, he’s hoping that Ocho’s 10-person team may just have a not-so-boring wedge that changes that.

Ocho is joining the several fintech companies out there that aim to modernize, and really rebrand, the retirement account away from traditional providers like Charles Schwab or Fidelity, or expensive solutions like lawyers and consultants.

“I’ve started exploring the space, and we realize everyone – like Robinhood to Coinbase – is just spending unsustainable amounts of money to acquire customers, but are making no money themselves and continually sort of need these large funding rounds just to exist,” Nagpal said. “I’m actually expecting there to be a very rough 6, 12 or 18 months for fintech companies specifically.”

Ocho’s twist from competition, he thinks, is in its market focus. “There’s so many companies targeting startup founders and their wealth – there’s literally a new one launching every month or two all backed by big name VCs, but no one is focused on the business owner that is otherwise doing well but is not a startup founder or a startup employee,” he said.

Instead, Ocho is leaning into Nagpal’s background of working with creators when he was building Teachable. Teachable helped creators build revenue streams, Ocho wants to help those same creators take their earnings and invest, harvest and scale them in a smart way.

“At Teachable, we helped these people make money online and now there’s lots of places for creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs to make money online – but how do we help them think about building wealth?” Nagpal said. The long-term vision for Ocho is to offer products, beyond solo 401(k)s, that help business owners build wealth.

Human Interest is one of Ocho’s closest competitors; raising $200 million at a $1 billion valuation last year. Nagpal says that Ocho differentiates itself because its focused more on individuals, freelancers and creators, instead of Human Interest’s target of small and medium-sized businesses.

For now, Ocho is charging a flat $199 annual fee to help individuals start their retirement account. It takes about 10 minutes to set up, and 48 hours to get final confirmation.

The big challenge for the startup is getting the right solopreneurs to care about their retirement accounts. Its look for people who have income-generating businesses, but don’t have any full-time employees. If you have a side gig alongside your full-time job, you can create a 401(k) just for the side hustle, but can’t put full-time income into the retirement account.

ocho-interface-fintech

Image Credits: Ocho

Nagpal thinks he can nail early adoption through smart education material and outreach, referring to personal finance trends on TikTok as an example of consumer demand for more information. He says that 40% of the Ocho staff is working on marketing or education, and that the balance will be retained even as the company scales.

If education is so important to getting Ocho to work, one may wonder why it’s launching with a fintech product. The answer is simple: deadlines. Users need to make a retirement account by December 31, 2022, if they want one for 2023 – which puts the fintech in a relevant, but time pressed, position.

Nagpal isn’t worried about the seasonality of the 401(k) product because of the upcoming product roadmap, which includes the education product, investment flows into the retirement product like being able to invest in startups and ETFs, and even HSAs, often described as a 401(k) for healthcare.

To power that ambitious product spree, Ocho has raised $2.5 million from Nagpal’s own venture firm, Vibe Capital. The entrepreneur says that he raised the $60 million debut fund for Vibe Capital with the idea that he would incubate a startup or two out of the firm, which materialized today now that it owns 20% of Ocho.

Nagpal admitted that the idea of a founder using his own venture firm to seed his own startup may appear to be the “mother of all conflicts of interest” but reasoned that it was everything but. He emailed all LPs in his fund about the investment, got a unanimous yes, and ended up raising at a much lower price for the startup than if they had gone out into the fair market. It’s still uncommon to see founders sell a company, start a venture firm and then use that same venture firm to seed their next company.

Perhaps the unique connection between Nagpal’s first company, to his firm, to his newest startup, could hint at what his approach to personal finance may be: diversify across multiple vehicles, redefine what a supercharged investment could look like, and keep on learning.

Ocho-team

Ocho’s starting team.



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A Simple Brain Trick To Guarantee Success

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As entrepreneurs, most of us are goal-driven, and we’ve learned how to set clear, juicy goals and then break them down into game plans of smaller projects and tasks. The challenge comes when it’s time for you and your team actually to follow those game plans.

After the thrill of setting that awesome goal comes the day-to-day work that is often not so exciting. So how do you keep yourself and your team moving forward? How can you stay on track and consistently hit your daily, weekly and quarterly goals? One of the answers is in the simple brain hack that psychologists call “implementation intention.”

Related: Brain Hacks to Boost Motivation and Beat the Work From Home Blues

What the research shows

A psychology professor at NY University, Peter Gollwitzer, first coined the term in the 1990s. He realized that many people set goals, but not many achieved them because they didn’t take the action they needed to take. Dr. Gollwitzer showed that the difference was not just motivation, as some people were highly motivated and still didn’t do what they needed to do. But people were much more likely to reach their goals by figuring out “pre-determined goal-directed behaviors” and turning them into habits.

Rather than just coming up with a strategy to achieve a goal and then breaking it down into tasks, Dr. Gollwitzer found that people were more likely to succeed if they trained their brains to choose to do the things that they needed to do by using “if-then” statements (you can also use “when-then” statements).

He and his colleagues ran over 400 studies using every type of goal — quitting smoking, voting, healthy eating, exercising and even using condoms! All the studies showed that implementation intentions made a massive difference in the results people got.

Related: Setting Measurable Goals Is Critical to Your Strategic Plan (and Your Success). Here’s Why.

Get to your goal using “when-then”

How does it work? For example, let’s say that you want to grow your business and that getting lots of 5-star testimonials will help. So, you decide to get 100 testimonials this quarter (about eight per week), and you’ll get them by calling 20 past clients per week, just four every day.

Sounds simple, right? But this kind of project easily gets lost in the shuffle. You mean to do it; you know it’s important, but other things that seem more urgent pop up. Eventually, you might even forget about
getting those testimonials completely.

With implementation intention, you start with the statement, “When _________, then I will ______.” You not only say what you will do but also give it a specific time and place. In this case, you might say, “When I get to the office, and before I even look at my emails, I’ll call four past clients for testimonials.” This tells your brain exactly when to be ready to make the calls. It sets up your energy and focus. By doing it over and over, your brain is automatically triggered to sit down and make calls as soon as you walk into your office.

James Clear talks about this in his book Atomic Habits. He points out that setting up implementation intention keeps you from deciding whether to do something every single time. You don’t need to be super motivated that day, and you don’t need to use your willpower to get yourself to do it. You just do it because, after a while, it would feel weird not to do it, just like not brushing your teeth before bed would feel strange.

Related: Your Problem Isn’t Laziness

Overcome obstacles using “if-then”

Implementation intention also helps you pre-plan for obstacles you might encounter and helps get you through them. Say you know that your morning calls will often get interrupted by team members who need your input. You know something like this is bound to happen, so before it does, you figure out, “If ___________, then I will ___________.”

“If I get interrupted, I will ask the person (unless they are bleeding to death) to give me 15-20 minutes.” Or maybe you decide, “If I get interrupted in the morning, I will close the door and eat lunch at my desk to make my calls.” The strategy you use to handle the obstacle is up to you. The point is that you already have it figured out and know exactly how to stay on track despite anything that tries to get in the way.

Athletes have used this for years. Marathon runners know they’ll run into “the wall” at about 18 to 20 miles. Rather than getting blindsided, they figure out ways to handle it before the race. They’ll slow their pace and take some sports gel. They’ll pay attention to the cheering crowd or focus on a certain mantra. They don’t try to figure out how to deal with the wall when it’s happening. They have a plan, so it doesn’t throw them off their goal.

Related: 5 Things About Overcoming Adversity That Athletes Can Teach Entrepreneurs

When I started coaching, I realized that many of my students hit a wall about three months in. They were learning and implementing different marketing strategies. But these strategies take some time, so they didn’t see any results yet. We learned to warn them ahead of time. “Hey, you might not see results for 4-5 months. That doesn’t mean you aren’t on track. If you’re doing the work, results will come soon.”

Then we help them with “if-then” strategies. “If you feel stuck or discouraged, then call in
during office hours.” An implementation intention is a brain-hack tool that helps you take the steps you need to take whether you’re feeling motivated or not. You set up the implementation intention by saying what you’ll do and precisely when you’ll do it, and you pre-plan how you’ll deal with obstacles to stay on track.

James Clear wrote: “Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.”

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