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KODAKOne / KODAK ICO Blockchain Refuses to Pay Its Staff

20th November 2018 in Blockchain, Startups

I go straight to the point, this article details how Ryde, Wenn Digital and KODAK are using the blockchain hype to scam investors and employees of hundreds of thousands of euros.

In January 2018, KODAK made an announcement at CES that it would be venturing into the field of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies. All the media outlets jumped on the news and it like wild fire. I remember reading an article from Bloomberg about KODAK’s planned ICO, which brought more credibility to the scam. After the announcement, Eastman Kodak shares went up by more than 500%.

At the time of the announcement, no one really understood the partnership arrangement between all the parties involved. Eastman Kodak was the company fronting the news and reaping the immediate benefit.

By the end of January 2018, an agency (IFindTech Ltd) which is working on behalf of KODAKOne contacted me to lead their blockchain project. At the time, I was consulting at Channel 4 in the UK. Like most people interested in blockchain, I was aware of KODAK’s ambitions and was excited to be part of it.

In February 2018, Jan Denecke (CEO of Wenn Digital) and Matthew Walker (President of Wenn Digital) met me in a coffee shop in the Brick Lane area of East London. We discussed the project at length and this created even more excitement at what could be achieved. I had a couple more video conference calls with Volker Brendel (CTO of Ryde GmBH). Wenn Digital and Ryde GmBH were mentioned in the context of the agency building the platform for Eastman Kodak, what I came to find out later to be inaccurate.

March 2018, I travelled to Berlin to meet the team. I was employee number one for the blockchain team; well I was the only one until they recruited more people. The team grew from 0 to 4 within two weeks. Just like myself, the team was excited to work on the project and we started experimenting with various distributed ledgers. The team was made up of experienced developers. I tried to gather some requirements in the context of the blockchain application. I was working closely with Volker Brendel. It quickly become clear that blockchain was an afterthought as they were not real requirements at this time. I decided to go through some of the marketing documents which were produced to try to understand the business goals. As an experienced tech lead and architect, I was able to devise some requirements pertinent to blockchain. The management team quickly approved it. We then started building a more concise proof of concept which was demoed to and approved by management. We were then requested to demo the PoC to the investors which we did and it went smoothly.

We were now entering May 2018, I had been working on the project for 2 months and I hadn’t received any remuneration as yet. I approached Volker Brendel as I was reporting directly to him. He told me that everything was in order regarding payment and that I should get in touch with iFindTech back in the UK, which I found out later to be a lie. They finally made a payment for the month of March. I did not pass on any of my expenses to them was only charging for my normal daily rate.

Volker Brendel requested that we prepare a user centric demo for the investors which would show how an end user would use the platform. As we did not have a user friendly front end, I asked a good friend of mine, Adebayo Dada, to help out. Within two weeks, we had a workable MVP product with a sleek user interface. The demo went down pretty well with the investors.

After the MVP, the blockchain development was no longer a priority for Ryde GmBH, Wenn or whatever name they go by. The company kept on hiring more stuff in admin and big data but invoices were going unpaid. My April 2018 invoice was still outstanding and that of May 2018 had already been sent to them. We are now in June 2018, and had only been paid once in the 4 months that I had been working for them.

It seemed that Ryde / Wenn / KODAKOne had a very unsuccessful ICO. Investors were not interested in the platform. KODAKOne had spent money buying celebrity names such as Fernando Alonso (the F1 driver). They initially had Lionel Messi (Barcelona) but this fell through as Messi’s team asked for money. They also spent money by preferential deals with the likes of the Oak View Group without any clear business goals. After the failed ICO in the US, the team moved their focus to raising capital from South East Asia by flying the whole management team and staying in 5 star hotels while their employees’ salaries and invoices remained unpaid.

July 2018, I received a payment for my May 2018 invoice. I was in constant contact with Volker Brendel about the arrears of the invoices. He always laid the blame on the CFO and he, Volker, kept giving me guarantees that I would be paid every single penny that they owed me. He also confirmed that the ICO was a shamble and no one subscribed to it. Therefore, they would try to open to all investors across the globe.

August 2018, I still hadn’t received any more payments. My contract with Ryde / Wenn Digital / KODAKOne would be up by month’s end. I decided not to renew until all is owed was paid in full. They offered me to go permanent on a reduced salary with bonuses and KODAK coins. I am the architect of the KODAK coins and I know they are yet to be released so, what exactly am I getting? I let my contract run out and I did not return to the project in September 2018. I was still in touch with them and providing guidance, why was I still providing them support? Because I had some good friends still working there.

September 2018, it came to light that I was not the only one in that situation. Ryde hadn’t paid their permanent staff, their outsourcing agencies and other contractors since June 2018. I was still in direct contact with Volker Brendel who was still adamant payment would be made in the coming weeks.

October 2018, the full blockchain team had now resigned, the big data team left and the partner agencies had stop working with them. No one in the company was answering emails or calls.

There are rumours of multiple lawsuits against Ryde / Wenn Digital / KODAKOne, I have received confirmation of at least 3 of them. The lawsuits all have the same goal, to get their invoices paid.

November 2018, still no payment from Ryde to any of the invoices. Instead the company is publishing fake information on the internet that they are launching their platform in beta mode. This is a lie as the person working on it confirmed that he’s keeping the code as a ransom to the money they owe him. The company is in free fall and they are publishing on LinkedIn that they are hiring. Why hire when you have not paid your current and previous members of staff? Which poor souls do they want to torment now?

The team at Ryde / Wenn Digital / KODAKOne do not care about their staff or the platform they are building. They are looking for a fast way to get rich and then bin the whole project. Nothing has been built there since August 2018. Volker BrendelJan DeneckePhilip KohnCameron Chell and Matthew Walker should not be trusted to work or do business with.

In my follow up post to this, I will be publishing communications between Ryde / WENN Digital / KODAKOne and myself with regard to my invoices and all the rubbish about loyalty. I will publish the PR stunt that they are running in order to dupe investors and the threats they have been sending me.

Stay tuned for more.

5 Reasons Why UK Gov.UK Verify E-Identity Project Should Adopt The Blockchain

10th October 2018 in Blockchain

The UK government has announced that its struggling e-identity platform will close within 18 months. The government will invest in transitioning whatever they have built so far to the private sector. The suppliers which have won the contracts are Barclays, Digidentity, Experian, Post Office and Secure Identity.

I first came across Gov.UK Verify when I was working on the common platform project for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and later with London Borough of Enfield’s council.

The move comes after the Cabinet Office’s major projects watchdog, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, recommended in July that Verify should be terminated because Whitehall departments had lost confidence in the system and were unwilling to fund further development.

What is Gov.UK Verify?

GOV.UK Verify is a secure way to prove who you are online.

It makes it safe, quick and easy to access government services like filing your tax or checking the information on your driving licence.

When you use GOV.UK Verify, you don’t need to prove your identity in person or wait for something to arrive in the post.

Quick explainer video

So what are the 5 reasons why the program should be moved to the Blockchain?

  1. Citizen should be in control of their personal data (self-sovereign)
  2. There are Open Source initiatives well underway to help establish a cross-border standard such as Hyperledger Indy and Sovrin
  3. £130 millions of tax payers’ monies spent so far to be written off and handed to the private sector with additional cost for the transition. Companies are profit orientated and history has anything to tell us is that they cannot trusted with sensitive data
  4. Self-sovereign identity platforms on the blockchain provide both security and privacy
  5. Self-sovereign identity increases the trust that citizen puts into third-party applications. Citizen will also be in control of what data they want to share with third-party developers

Decentralized Identity (DID) standardization is currently a work in progress and the more governments can invest into it, the faster the adoption will be.

Here is good short video explainer of how a decentralized identity would work.

Why You Need a Centralized User Management For Your Blockchain Application

9th October 2018 in Blockchain

The first decentralized apps where built to prove the concept that application could be run in a decentralized manner without any central authority.

What would be the real purpose of such application?

If we build decentralized applications, how do we know the number of real (a user can have multiple addresses or wallets) users using it.

How does the application restrict certain functionalities from a group of users? Remember there isn’t any central authority with a list of users and permission controls.

Let’s take the popular example of electing our politicians through voting on the Blockchain. Let’s have a simple list of requirements as follow:

  • First of all, only citizen of a country can vote
  • We have to make sure that they only voted once
  • They should be able to see their voting history
  • Other voters should not be able to see other people voting history

The above can be easily built using a centralised application but this is for another discussion.

If the above requirements where developed as DApps on Ethereum, everyone can see who voted based on their voting account address. By now we know that the address are not anonymous and they could be traced back to the actual owners. Anybody can create an account on Ethereum (or most public blockchains) as this is a very cheap. Malicious users can create multiple accounts and vote multiple times.

How do we stop people from voting multiple times without a central authority?

Simple answer is we cannot.

How can we guarantee that all voters are citizen of that country?

We cannot.

Basically, it is impossible to create a DApps which can handle our simple requirements. There are some solutions but none of them are decentralized. Let’s not forget that blockchain networks have no idea of what’s going on in the external world.

Oracles and side-chains are centralised

Any process which occurs outside the blockchain are controlled by a central authority; such as validating users, check the weather, polling stock quotes, etc…

How can we fix that issue?

First of all, we have to understand what role would the public chain play in our application. We need to step away from the Let’s save the world through blockchain rhetoric. What value does the blockchain brings to the application? There are governments’ laws and regulations on the use of people data. Also, not every transaction should be run in a trust less manner as in voting to elect our leaders.

In order to fix the issues with user management, a centralized user management authority needs to be put in place. Something that can allow for a seamless know your customer (KYC) process. In the context of election, the process can assign a PKI to each user which has no meaning to the outside world. The voting process can will be handled by the DApps on chain by recording users voting activities. In theory, the central authority will be able to tell who each voter voted for? Other measures can be put in place to prevent it.

Implementing a user management for the decentralized world is not a small feat. Stakeholders will spend more time about the security of their users’ data for fear hackers compromising or stealing the data. Just as banks go to extreme measures to protect their users’ data, applications with centralized user management should go through the same rigorous security testing process.

This is the subject of research we are currently conducting with the hope that a decentralized user management such as Hyperledger Indy can evolve to solve this issue in the future.