Enough is Enough! – Corrupt ICO Advisors, Experts, and Rating Systems
Corruption creeps into everything. While the blockchain revolution was started with grand ideas of decentralization and privacy, its growing popularity has led to unsavory elements looking for ways to corrupt it for their own means. The ICO industry is an especially popular target for bad behavior. Some people are just out for the money and the blockchain is a convenient tool for them; from fraudulent ICOs to advisors and rating agencies accepting payment to promote projects without doing basic due diligence. We’re here today to shine a light on some of the worst offenders and call for more vigilance and better behavior going forward.
Let’s dive into the rabbit hole…
The case of Cremit
My research team was analyzing Cremit’s ICO and found disturbing problems, as can be seen here. These issues are not even the worst part. When my head of research approached the advisors of Cremit, he received the following response to his questions:
Mr. Vladimir Nikitin is considered to be one of ICOBench’s top experts! How can a crypto expert allow himself to join the advisory team of an ICO without doing proper due diligence on the team?
When my head of research approached another advisor, this was the response he received:
His team allowed him? He has been added as an advisor to ICO without even researching the ICO and the team himself? Tell me this is some kind of joke!
ICO advisors – you have a responsibility to the blockchain and the crypto community. You can’t keep joining ICO teams just because they pay you to do so! You should be joining teams because you believe that they have potential and you want to see them grow and succeed.
Still, the answers from these alleged top experts were better than what my head of research received when he tried to reach out to the rest of the team, including Cremit’s alleged CTO, marketer, developer, as well as a third ICOBench advisor. None of these individuals could be bothered to respond. As of publishing, we’ve received no response from any of them. You can see here how multiple attempts to contact their brand manager and one of their developers went unanswered.
What are the ICO rating sites saying?
Now let’s continue to the ICO rating websites out there. While my research team was analyzing the ICO mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, they discovered the following:
ICO rating websites – stop assigning higher ratings to the projects that pay you. Doing so greatly impacts our industry in a negative way. If you can’t put in the effort to properly and professionally review ICOs before rating them, it’s better that you go offline rather than hand out fraudulent ratings.
ICOBench continues to disappoint
I wish I could say that falsely inflated ratings were the only problems my team found on ICOBench in the course of their research. They found failures to provide accurate information about ICOs and failures to catch obvious scams. Let’s look at a couple examples.
For Ink Labs Foundation, ICOBench listed the wrong exchanges. As seen in the images above, CVProof’s coin is available on these two exchanges. Our research and discussions with members of the community suggest that this is an issue with ICOBench’s methods of collecting exchange data.
In order to save time, ICOBench uses a bot to crawl the various exchanges to see which ones are offering a coin with the ICO’s symbol. The problem arises when the ICO has chosen a symbol that matches one that is already in existence. An easy example of this is the ICO BitChord. They chose BCD as the symbol for their token; however, BCD is already in use for Bitcoin Diamond, which would lead a bot to believe that any token offering Bitcoin Diamond is actually offering BitChord.
While this is a good reminder for ICOs to make sure that they’re choosing a unique identifier for their token, it also highlights the importance of not over-relying on automation. It’s one thing to have a bot crawl the exchanges to save you the time of manually checking them yourself, but there should still be some human oversight. Before this information is added to an ICO listing, it should be checked and confirmed to avoid such mistakes. I would suggest taking an extra step in cases like BitChord/Bitcoin Diamond, such as making notes of tokens with identical or similar symbols; in this way, we will be able to avoid investor confusion.
More concerning than this issue, however, is the instance of Veio, where ICOBench failed to spot an obvious scam.
Some scams are difficult to see coming. Some broadside experts who should know better. Some, like Veio, think they can fleece investors by creating a team populated entirely by stock photos.
It’s ridiculously easy to investigate this; just do a Google image search and you can trace an ICO team member’s photo back to its source. This isn’t the only example of scams making use of stock photos or other people’s social media profile pictures to create a team out of thin air. We’re not sure how much longer ICOs will try to use this easy-to-spot method, but in the meantime, there’s no excuse for rating sites not to do this quick and easy research into the identities of the projects they’re rating.
While ICOBench did eventually catch on to the fact that Veio was a scam, for a time this ICO was listed on their site with a 3.5 rating.
ICO ratings should never be done for payment. ICO rating websites need take extreme measurements to avoid corruption. Don’t get me wrong – I am not against profiting financially, but there are red lines that should never be crossed. Paying for advertisement, including premium listings, is fine and is a common practice. To build brand awareness and exposure you need to pay for your marketing efforts. However, paying for ratings is completely different and doing so is misleading ICO investors, especially the inexperienced ones. The crypto industry has enough problems with world governments and banks, we don’t need to add to these issues by perpetuating the reputation that the industry is filled with scams and fraud. We need to do everything we can to protect ICO investors so that the industry will continue to grow and continue to change our lives for the better.
The community has had enough!
I’m not the only whistleblower! A quick tour of the crypto experts on LinkedIn will turn up many others directly calling out ICOBench, fraudulent raters, and the pay-to-play mentality rearing its ugly head in the crypto community.
Hosam Mazawi called this issue out back in April, pointing out a couple of blatant examples of ICOBench advisors giving a scam a good rating, only to hastily revise their ratings when other, more vigilant sites spotted the truth.
I enjoyed Hosam’s article so much that I reached out to him for his opinion about Cremit. He provided this insightful quote:
It doesn’t make sense to see ICO’s rated 4.9/5 or 9/10, when you compare them to ethereum ICO.
Let’s assume that ethereum is 10/10, now compare every other single ICO to ethereum as benchmark, what rating would you give Cremit ICO with their “top star” ICO bench advisors?
Steven J. Bodnar spells it out clearly. “Web crawling does not equal due diligence.” It takes actual research to provide ratings of any value, and this combination of slap-dash effort and bribery is pulling the entire industry down into the mud.
Bruno Skvorc seems to believe that the writing is on the wall for ICOBench. He doesn’t think that they are going to be able to recover from this damage to their reputation, especially not since so many experts refuse to be associated with them, as seen here:
You’ve got to respect Jen Buakaew. She doesn’t pull any punches about the steamier side of the blockchain industry. She could have just stopped at ICOBench, but her other points have some real merit even if they’re outside of the scope of this blog post.
Other people seem optimistic. Sophia Ha Ho is refusing to take sides, and rightly pointing out that this is an embarrassing situation for all of us to be in. She’s holding out hope for ICOBench to turn things around, which may make her a minority in the crypto community.
In the meantime, those who still believe in the value of ICOBench’s ratings may find themselves ridiculed on social media, as happened to Zhazira Lepess, founder and CEO of ZAZA.
Getting a 4.9 out of 5 rating on a legitimate site would be something worth crowing about, but if you’re proud of your rating on ICOBench, people will be happy to drag you back down to reality. I especially like this pointed comment from Robert Herman:
A “pointless rating meaning nothing”. How much longer until it goes beyond meaning nothing? At this rate, anyone sharing their ICOBench rating may risk facing suspicion that they paid to get it.
The fact that you can pay for a better ICOBench rating is an open secret, to the point where it’s no longer shocking when you hear about it. Well, Markus Hartmann, co-founder of Alethena, might have some insight to share about that. You see, like me, Markus is concerned about the current state of ICO lists and ICO rating, so he decided to see what would happen if he tried to improve the ranking of his own ICO.
There’s a lot of great stuff in Markus’s article, but this really brings it full-circle.
This needs to stop.
This behavior we have seen with ICOBench, Cremit, and others cannot continue. My team, and those who share our convictions, will continue to fight scammers. We will fight the ICO teams who believe they can fool investors and get away with it. We will call out the corrupt ICO advisors who join projects without conducting their due diligence.
We advise all crypto experts and ICO advisors to stop thinking about making a quick buck, and instead consider their own integrity and the future of the crypto community. The blockchain can accomplish great things, but not if it’s being held back by greed and dishonesty.
Cointelligence on the FutureTech Podcast
In June, our co-founder and CEO On Yavin spoke with the FutureTech podcast about Cointelligence. Over the course of the twenty-minute interview, he crafted a pretty good picture of what drew him to cryptocurrency, and what role he sees Cointelligence taking in the continued growth of the crypto sphere.
Perhaps the biggest take-away from this episode isn’t what our company is doing, but what the blockchain is doing. This technology, and the cryptocurrency backed by it, has the power to change the world. It can help the unbanked, streamline financial transactions, and so much more.
There are two basic kinds of people who are drawn to the crypto community.
The first group is just in it for the money. I think we all have a few of these in our lives, the people who as soon as they hear that we work in cryptocurrency, their first question is, “So, should I invest in bitcoin?” The community needs financial backers, and so we welcome these people with open arms and send them in the right direction to find investment advice.
But then there are the dreamers. The people who read about the blockchain and ask “What if…?” The people who see a problem in the world, and craft a blockchain-based solution. The people who go out and tell all of their friends about cryptocurrency, because they just want someone else in their immediate circle to be as excited about it as they are.
We’re the second kind of people here at Cointelligence.
The work we do here allows us to highlight exciting developments in the crypto world, from EOS Airdrops to the Vegan Nation ICO. We’ve always got an eye on the news, to see which country has introduced crypto-friendly legislation, which celebrity is talking about cryptocurrency, and which big banks are suddenly adopting the blockchain.
FutureTech’s purview is “technologies poised to transform our lives for the better.” We believe that cryptocurrency is one such technology, and we can’t wait to see the changes that it will make within our lifetimes.
Panel discussion: building blockchain ecosystems
The Blockchain Day conference took place this past June and was hosted online, enabling participants from all over the world to “attend”. The conference, which focused on the benefit of blockchain technologies in various industries, hosted many distinguished speakers from numerous different countries. Each speaker was an experienced thought leader, bringing years of knowledge and wisdom to the lectures and panels.
On Yavin, Cointelligence co-founder and CEO, participated in a panel discussion in which he spoke about how blockchain and cryptocurrencies will positively affect the future of all countries. The panel can be seen in the link below:
How ModulTrade is changing the global trade market, one step at a time
Global trade has grown remarkably over the last few decades due to the inception of internet and other technological innovations. With an increasing number of exporters and importers participating in international trade, the need for a safer and more economically efficient trading platform has become obvious.
Current trade markets like Amazon and eBay make billions from their international sales. Other similar businesses bring in even more money but there is a gap in the trade industry for businesses of smaller scale.
The history of international trade and its current conditions shows that only large companies could receive all of the benefits and leave the smaller ones on the side of the large road. The main reasons for that are the inability to access the international markets and difficulties to acquire trade finance solutions (like a letter of credit and banking guarantee).
Here come the statistics: according to one estimate, only about 7% of multinational corporations’ trade finance proposals are rejected. On the other hand, for smaller enterprises, this number is 56%.
This occurs due to a number of reasons like lack of trustworthy counterparties, complex trade-related processes and high entry costs for smaller businesses.
Thankfully, ModulTrade is working on a solution that will make international trade easier, cheaper, and accessible for any company, no matter the size.
ModulTrade – a blockchain solution:
ModulTrade offers a trading platform that allows small-to-medium-scale parties to communicate and execute trade efficiently and easily. Blockchain integration serves to build trust in B2B deals, to simplify complex trading operations, and to bring down overall trading costs.
The ModulTrade ecosystem makes use of smart contracts (now based only on the Ethereum network) to ensure transparency and scalability of the network. Smart contracts will replace lengthy and complex trade-related processes while introducing a number of relevant trade-related services. The use of smart contracts will also lower the cost of searching reliable counterparties and connecting with a network of businesses.
The platform’s utility token, MTRc, is an ERC-20 Ethereum-based token. It functions as a means of payment. The use of MTRc as a complementary currency is aimed at achieving real-time and cost-effective trade on a global level.
ModulTrade is based on a multi-sided platform. With its blockchain token, it offers access to world-wide trade to any business with a smartphone. Trade-related service providers will also be able to use our solution to offer their services to trading parties.
ModulTrade is an ecosystem of several products, that make entrance to global trade easier and faster.
MT Wallet – a next-generation e-wallet, which allows users to store, transfer and exchange cryptocurrencies. The MT Wallet makes blockchain payments easy, cheap, and secure for everyone.
MT Market – blockchain based marketplace where any small business or individual can trade internationally, efficiently, and securely. Now you can buy and sell goods using MTRc and ETH. You can try trading here.
What makes MT Market unique
In addition to the aforementioned features, there are a number of other functionalities offered by ModulTrade that will distinguish MT Market from existing popular trading platforms.
– Multiple legal addresses verified to one account
Consider the e-commerce giant Amazon Inc. Amazon only allows one address to be added to an account made on its platform. Other similar platforms like Hamster, eBay, AliExpress, also support only a single address per user account. ModulTrade, on the other hand, proves to be more user-friendly as it allows multiple verified physical addresses to be used for a single account or party.
-Sale of electronic devices for mining purpose
Another service that only ModulTrade is currently providing is the distribution of mining gadgets. Only this platform gives sellers a marketplace to offer their mining electronics up for sale and gives interested buyers a site to purchase mining devices.
-Availability of seller’s contact information and customer experience
ModulTrade – along with AliExpress, eBay, Populous and Debitum – gives buyer the access to seller’s contact information while making a purchase. Similarly, the platform also facilitates sellers by providing customer experience data to make a global trade. Hamster, Populous, and Debitum also offer this service.
– Vendor-controlled website
Sellers have the opportunity to manage the platform’s website themselves. This gives them a chance to be able to customize and modify the website as required, resulting in a more user-friendly platform for both the seller and the buyer.
– Goods’ cost in different currencies
MT Market platform allows the cost of goods to be made available in different currencies, depending on the user’s location. This creates a more user-friendly shopping experience for the buyer and saves one from the hassle of currency conversion.
-Verified feedbacks only
Goods being traded on ModulTrade’s platform are only allowed to be reviewed by authentic buyers. There are no fake reviews as each feedback statement is first verified, before being added to the website.
With its smart-contract and digital token containing Blockchain-based ecosystem and unique functionalities, ModulTrade aims to democratize the trade finance industry.