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* (Revised) INVESTIGATION: Crown Sterling and Its “Discovery” of Public Key Encryption and Prime Numbers

As anyone can see in the About section of this website, I’m an independent journalist, which means I do not ask for, or receive money, from anyone to publish any articles on this website. That’s what independent journalism means.

As journalists, we are trained to be skeptical, with our bullshit radars as honed as possible.

So a recent presentation by Crown Sterling, which calls itself an “emerging digital cryptography firm” raised some eyebrows.

Robert Grant, the chairman and CEO of Crown Sterling in Newport Beach, and Mark Cofano, a paid advisor for Crown Sterling, which is also a customer of Cofano Ventures created the event.

Cofano created an “Innovation Week,” which transpired at several venues around OC this week. He said he use the word “innovation” so he could broaden the scope of the event to be more than just startups and tech. So it could also inspire conversations about how to innovate in other realms, like homelessness, for example.

Cofano told OCSN that the goal for Innovation Week, is “to democratize and re-define the definition of innovation.” As Cofano lives in OC, this is the first Innovation Week he’s putting on. He also intends to put on these weeks in San Diego and Seattle, among other places.

Before I attended the Crown Sterling keynote event on September 19 at the Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, I reached out to UCI Applied Innovation, UCI’s innovation platform; OCTANe, a multi-faceted organization with a tech and life sciences accelerator; and Neal Bloom, who describes himself as a “ecosystem and company builder” and is planning his own innovation week.

A spokesperson from UCI Applied Innovation said she was not familiar with Innovation Week. Bill Carpou, the CEO, of OCTANe, said Cofano had reached out to him. Bloom told me that he had talked to Cofano before the event “and may help him out, especially since he wants to launch it in a lot of other cities.”

Crown Sterling calls itself a digital cryptography firm. They describe their product, Time AI, as a “dynamic ‘non-factor’ based quantum AI encryption software to protect data privacy for consumers and enterprise systems.”

How’s that for jargon?

Grant claimed it can encrypt messages among Facebook users, without Facebook’s permission, and so that even Facebook wouldn’t be able to read them. Time AI would be used within devices, such as a Facebook user’s smart phone. He said AI is “a really logical solution for encryption that can improve itself, by itself.”

Grant claims that he recently identified the first “infinite prime number prediction pattern.”

“I strongly believe that this discovery will serve as a doorway to higher understanding of a new wave-based theory of numbers with further research, the positive impact of which we hope will be significant to many fields of research in mathematics and science,” Grant said in a press release put out by Strathspey Crown in March. See below for info on Strathspey Crown .

Mark Cofano, Founder and CEO, Cofano Ventures
Robert Grant, CEO, Crown Sterling

In doing online research about Crown Sterling, I came across the following critique:

Here is the link to the article. The author of this article studied number theory in college and in the Ph.D. math program at MIT. He also worked for 20 years at Forrester Research, where he wrote and edited reports on the future of technology.

And, here is another link from another journalist who was at the presentation by Crown Sterling on Thursday, who compares what the company is doing to a medicine show selling snake oil.

Some of the red flags that I noticed at Crown Sterling’s presentation included:

  1. CEO Robert Grant said several times that this OC presentation was the first time Crown Sterling was releasing this information publicly. Anyone can do a Google search to see that’s clearly not the case. In fact, the company distributed a press release on August 7. See that release here.
  2. Grant said several times that Crown Sterling’s “discovery” was so earth-shattering that he and his fellow C-level execs needed “bodyguard protection” following this disclosure.
  3. Back to not needing Facebook. Grant said Crown Sterling has been “very careful to design a product where we do not need any permission from Facebook.” I reached out to Facebook to see their response. I have not heard back from them yet.
  4. In March, Grant’s discovery was published on Cornell University’s www.arXiv.org: “Accurate and Infinite Prime Number Prediction from Novel Quasi-Prime Analytical Methodology. This paper was not peer reviewed, according to the above referenced article.

Crown Sterling is a stand-alone business, Christopher Hodson, VP of legal for Crown Sterling, told OC Startups Now. It is not part of Strathspey Crown, a private equity firm in Newport Beach. This firm describes itself as “a visionary portfolio of transformational businesses, focused on the most complex sectors of healthcare, energy, and technology.”

Strathspey Crown manages more than 15 separate subsidiary companies and investment assets, according to Robert Grant’s LinkedIN page.

The only connection between Strathspey Crown and Crown Sterling is that Grant and Vikram Malik, who serves as the managing partner of Strathspey Crown, are co-founders of both Strathspey Crown and Crown Sterling, Hodson said.

Grant helped launch Botox at Allergan. He touted his “branding” credentials during his talk on Thursday.

More Press About Crown Sterling

The event Thursday night was a private, controlled event. Neither Cofano nor Grant sent out a press release before the event, which is normally standard operating procedure.

Maybe because they didn’t want anyone in OC to know about the bad press they received in Las Vegas, where they had already put on the same presentation.

In fact, not only did the company get bad press, Crown Sterling filed a complaint against UBM, the owner and organizer of Black Hat USA 2019 Cryptography Industry Conference in Las Vegas. See more about that lawsuit here and here.

See the article another journalist, who was at Thursday night’s presentation in Newport Beach, wrote here.

And, this from an internationally renowned security technologist.

Look at the Crown Sterling website and you will not see articles by any journalists, you will only see press releases put out in a controlled fashion by Crown Sterling.

And, this, which displays several skeptics of Crown Sterling and what they’ve written.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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