Michelle Mone’s ICO Ends in Disarray as Equi Capital Fiasco Turns Ugly

Crowdfunding

Equi Capital’s ICO has ended in acrimony, with bounty hunters claiming to have been offered a pittance of what they were promised. The project is led by Baroness Michelle Mone, who describes herself as “one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated entrepreneurs”. The fallout sheds light on the plight of low income workers who toil on behalf of cryptocurrency arrivistes such as Equi Capital’s celebrity co-founder.

Also read: Thanks to Mainstream Media the Public Clueless About Cryptocurrency

Lady Mone, Equi Capital, and the ICO That Never Was

Lady Mone of Mayfair OBE, as she likes to be known, is a familiar face in the UK, popping up at black-tie events and charging up to $30,000 for public speaking. (OBE stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an award she was given by then-Prime Minister David Cameron). Michelle Mone is a controversial figure best known for founding the Ultimo lingerie firm before rising to become a “global entrepreneur” whose “impressive portfolio has led to Lady Mone being firmly cemented as one of the world’s most in-demand public speakers”. Wikipedia states that “Mone ranks among the UK’s most successful businesswomen and her designs can still be found in department stores worldwide,” before finishing with “[citation needed]”.

Michelle Mone’s ICO Ends in Disarray as Equi Capital Fiasco Turns UglyShortly after launching her Equi Capital ICO this year, Lady Mone proclaimed to be “one of the biggest experts in Cryptocurrency & Blockchain”, despite having first tweeted about cryptocurrency only five months earlier. Aided by her her peerage granting lifetime membership of the House of Lords (the UK’s upper parliament), billionaire boyfriend, and retinue of highly paid lawyers and publicists, Lady Mone was confident that Equi Capital would be a success. From the start, however, it was unclear who the prime beneficiary of the project was meant to be: the tech startups Equi Capital would be investing in, token-holders, women, or Michelle Mone and her Equi colleagues, as the message was constantly shifting.

One group that Equi Capital wasn’t designed for was low income workers in countries such as Russia, India, and Indonesia, but over 1,000 of these agreed to promote the ICO nevertheless in exchange for tokens. Shortly thereafter, however, things began to go awry, both for the bounty hunters and for Equi Capital.

The facts of the case run as follows:

  • February 6, 2018: Baroness Mone and billionaire boyfriend Doug Barrowman announce Equi Capital, a venture capital ICO to support startups
  • MSM, UK press especially, unquestioningly publishes Lady Mone’s bold claims, including the assertion that Equi will “encourage women to invest in tech”
  • February 9: News.Bitcoin.com takes a dissenting view, arguing “Whatever her ICO may be, it has nothing do with helping women”
  • March 1: Equi Capital launches its six-week ICO, seeking to raise $75 million
  • March 30: Having raised less than 10% of its target, Equi extends its ICO for another six weeks
  • May 6: The community management company hired by Equi Capital to oversee its bounty campaign severs all ties, citing “irreconcilable differences”
  • May 24: Equi launches a new bounty campaign, promising participants 2% of all tokens, valued at $2.5m
  • June 30: The extended Equi ICO closes, having failed to meet its target
  • July: ICO investors are refunded
  • August: Acrimony breaks out as bounty hunters are informed they’ll be offered around $5 each for months of work – approximately 2% of the original total promised

Mutiny on the Bounty

As alternative UK media outlet Wings reported this week, “Bounty hunters are effectively unpaid marketers, often from developing countries, who help to raise awareness online, particularly among the cryptocurrency community. In return for their efforts, they are remunerated in the form of tokens. Some of the workers posted adverts on social media platforms and others created YouTube videos, while yet more translated Equi marketing materials.”

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