Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, has surprised the world by announcing his involvement in an ICO project that has already failed.
The project was called Equi Capital. It was the brainchild of Scottish businesswoman and Conservative peer Michelle Mone in partnership with her billionaire boyfriend Doug Barrowman. Initially marketed as a way to help women invest in technology, Mone told Sky News that Equi would allow normal people to work together to “participate in an investment sector that has only been open to high-net individuals and corporations.”
I never thought I could go from being on of the best technical lingerie designers in the World, No1 woman entrepreneur to one of the biggest experts in Cryptocurrency & Blockchain #believe pic.twitter.com/RS6VR7B9QO
— Lady (Michelle) Mone (@MichelleMone) February 25, 2018
One Bitcoin and Two Ethers
Steve Wozniak is famous for co-founding Apple and building its first computers (Apple I in 1976 and Apple II in 1977). He became a wealthy man when Apple went public in 1980 but left the company in 1985. Reportedly, he personally owns one bitcoin and two ethers.
His fame means that all his comments on the subject of cryptocurrency have been widely publicised. The comments have generally been positive, despite the fact that he was once robbed of seven bitcoins (approximately $75,000 at the time) by a buyer who simply cancelled his credit card payment after Wozniak had already sent them.
Speaking at a conference in Vienna in May, he compared Ethereum to Apple in its early days, and in June he told CNBC that he would like to see Bitcoin become the single global currency, echoing comments made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Wozniak said that he likes Bitcoin because it is mathematically defined and pure, with no human or company running it. “All the others [altcoins] tend to give up some of the aspects of bitcoin,” he added.
‘Not like a New Currency, or Something Phoney’
Given this, his latest comment is surprising: “I’m involved with, very soon, my first time being involved in a blockchain company. [It’s] called Equi… Our approach is not like a new currency, or something phoney where an event will make it go up in value. It’s a share of stock, in a company.”
He made the comments in an interview with NullTX (formerly The Merkle). He spoke of Equi also at a recent event in Las Vegas: “This company is doing investment by investors with huge track records in good investments in things like apartment buildings in Dubai.”
Here Wozniak was referring to Mone and Barrowman’s September 2017 venture in which they allowed people to buy property using Bitcoin. For sale was $250 million worth of property, including two 40-floor towers and a shopping centre.
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According to the venture’s website [astonplazacrypto.com], residential units have sold out with “Over 400 apartments already sold”, despite being only “25% constructed”.
Mone told Finance Magnates in February 2018: “We were the very first in the world to sell apartments, whole developments, in Bitcoin.”
Hand-Selected by Established Venture Capitalists for Ordinary, Working-Class People
Lamenting that most ICOs have no real product, she went on to promote their new venture, Equi: “For example, my mum and dad are ordinary, working-class people. They’ve never been able to get involved, because it’s always been the venture capitalists and institutions that get involved and invest in these sorts of companies. But now, ordinary people can come in with us and be part of our success.”
The Equi project was announced with the promise: “Businesses on the platform will be hand-selected by a team of established venture capitalists, led by Doug Barrowman with his 30 plus years experience in identifying good investments that deliver outstanding returns.”
However, it was not to be. The ICO sale began in March and lasted until the end of June. It aimed to make $75 million from the sale of 250 million tokens, according to the Daily Telegraph, but in the end, raised only $7 million. In the end, it closed down and refunded the investors.
The project has been roundly criticised from all sides. According to local media outlet Wings Over Scotland, Equi hired around 3,000 people to work as promoters, promising them shares of a $2.5 million pot, but in the end, paid them only £1.40 each for 5 months’ work.
In addition to this, Equi promised to sell shares in businesses but did not register with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority despite being headquartered in London. A spokesperson for Mone said that “advice from leading counsel has been positive in supporting Equi’s views that its ICO falls outside the scope of UK regulation,” but one member of parliament commented: “You would be better going off to the bookies than investing in this scheme.”
The Equi Capital website is currently offline, but its Twitter account remains optimistic:
Only 3 weeks until our massive Global announcement. We are going from a UK business into a Global empire!
— EQUI Global (@Equi_Global) August 19, 2018
Baroness Bra to Baroness Blockchain
Michelle Georgina Mone is famous for rising from an impoverished background to become a millionaire after selling her £39 million lingerie business ‘Ultimo’. She was awarded an OBE in 2010, was a darling of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and charges up to £25,000 to speak at UK events, according to London-based keynote speaker agency JLA.
She resides with Barrowman in the Isle of Man in a £120 million mansion, complete with a helicopter pad.