Robert Grant knows how to make an impression.
During a lunch meeting at North Italia with the Business Journal on July 30, Grant, dressed in a blazer and polo shirt, spoke expansively about his background.
The entrepreneur—his aesthetics medicine firm Alphaeon Corp. helped birth upstart Botox competitor Jeuveau, from Newport Beach-based Evolus Inc. (Nasdaq: EOLS)—and before that running the aesthetics division of Allergan, said he’s “not a foreigner to technology, but I am mainly from the healthcare space.”
Early in the interview he noted, “I like [thinking in] patterns, I speak several languages.”
It turns out for him math is a language and recently he’s turned his attention to cybersecurity.
He also turned heads at a Las Vegas confab this month, the high-level high-tech Black Hat USA, often called the top information security conference in the world with other iterations of the gathering of hackers, companies and government agencies taking place in London, Abu Dhabi, and Barcelona.
Then the online community chimed in.
He called the Business Journal back to add to comments he’d shared with us the first time, before his Black Hat bow, which has led to recent litigation.
Grant told the Business Journal last month about Newport Beach-based Crown Sterling, a firm formed to push new computer security technology, backed by “approximately $9 million” and employing about 30 people.
It’s separate from Strathspey Crown, also in Newport Beach, which Grant helped found and has previously served as chairman. It’s a group “focused on the most complex sectors of healthcare, energy, and technology.”
He told the early August assembly in Vegas that he’d developed a revolutionary new encryption system to protect communications data and transmissions between parties. He offered up his software, Time AI, followed by an address entitled “Discovery of Quasi-Prime Numbers: What Does this Mean for Encryption?”
The assertion involves “quantum encryption,” a theoretical approach to protecting data garnering greater interest.
Encryption intentionally scrambles data to protect it; a machine with the code “key” can “read” it, just as a person does with written encoded messages. Quantum cryptography uses quantum mechanics—the part of physics relating to the very small—to scramble data more deeply using the behavior of properties, light, matter, waves and particles at the sub-atomic level.
His system “doesn’t depend at all on factorization, whereas all other current encryptions do,” Grant told us last month.
Factorization is a method of standard encryption involving multiplication of prime numbers; Grant’s software uses a “multidimensional” approach “including time, music’s infinite variability, artificial intelligence, and, most notably, mathematical constancies, to generate entangled key pairs,” according to Crown Sterling.
Mock Turtle Soup
Response from those on the scene in Las Vegas was swift and fierce, followed by tech sites and industry execs to deeply doubt, even denounce, the debonair Grant.
Dan Guido, chief executive of New York cybersecurity firm Trail of Bits, challenged Grant’s assertions in an interview on PCMag’s website. Guido told the Business Journal last week, “It’s a scam, it’s an investment scam; he’s trying to trick people into giving him money.”
Guido continued: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and he has made no offer whatsoever [of] any of that evidence. And he won’t because there is none.”
Vice News’ website said: “People in attendance, as well as security researchers who were following [the Black Hat conference] on Twitter” panned the presentation “and criticized the conference for letting Grant speak.”
Gizmodo’s headline simply read: “Bizarre Sponsored Talk on ‘Time AI’ Encryption Tech Mocked at Black Hat Conference.”
Game Theory On
Grant pushed back.
“Crown Sterling has announced a legitimate multidimensional encryption technology that challenges the paradigm of today’s encryption framework,” he said in an Aug. 10 press release.
“We understand the discovery completely transforms the way we secure data and that some members of the security industry are resistant to change or accepting of new technologies that do not conform to traditional approaches.”
Grant and Crown Sterling backs all content presented at Black Hat and is eager to offer more information on “our quantum AI encryption technology,” the release said.
He spoke with the Business Journal last week to offer further comments.
“We had, in general, an extraordinarily successful meeting” at Black Hat, he said, citing an “extremely civil and very good” discussion.
There’s always, he said, “some degree of skepticism whenever a new disruptive technology comes into play.”
As the Business Journal was going to press, Crown Sterling filed a lawsuit against the Black Hat owner and organizers UBM LLC, according to a statement filed on Business Wire on Aug. 23. Crown Sterling said Black Hat broke its sponsorship agreement with the company and the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
The statement did not provide further specifics on the alleged wrongful actions by UBM, nor did it say what remedies are being sought.