Marvelstone silent on progress of its plans; web page blank; Lattice 80 UK dissolved

Marvelstone silent on progress of its plans; web page blank; Lattice 80 UK dissolved

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Fund company reported no AUM from investors over two years; has ceased being a regulated entity
5 -min read
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Singapore

MARVELSTONE Group has previously said that it makes fintech investments, and builds hubs in artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies, with founder Joe Cho Seunghyun and his wife Gina Heng making appearances at international tech conferences as representatives of Marvelstone.

But there has been little update on these stated plans. BT's checks show that Marvelstone's fund company reported no assets under management from investors over its two years of being a Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC), and has ceased being a regulated entity.

When asked for updates on its plans, Marvelstone Group said: "We are not obliged to disclose our business plans, any changes made to our plans, or the progress of such plans."

In 2016, Marvelstone Group opened a "not-for-profit" fintech hub Lattice80 in Singapore, with then- deputy prime minister and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) chairman Tharman Shanmugaratnam as guest of honour.

Ms Heng said at the time: "We have been working closely with MAS, which has made great strides in shaping the local fintech ecosystem."

MAS told BT it was approached by Marvelstone Capital in 2016 about its plans to launch Lattice80 as a physical innovation space in Singapore dedicated to supporting fintech.

"In line with MAS' support for initiatives that help the growing fintech community, MAS agreed to its request for MAS chairman, then-DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, to be the guest of honour at the launch of Lattice80. Apart from this, MAS had no other connection with the company," said its spokesman.

In 2016, Marvelstone Capital - which is a part of Marvelstone Group - was regulated as a RFMC by the MAS, having been set up with US$500,000.

A year later, Marvelstone Capital launched Miss Kaya, calling it a robo-adviser for female investors. As of early this year, its "how it works" webpage was still in "coming soon" status. By April 24, following queries from BT on Miss Kaya's assets under management, the "how it works" webpage was removed. So was Ms Heng's photo.

In January this year, Marvelstone's Lattice80 said it began trading of its KAYA token, a token issued out of its initial coin offering (ICO) project. But a BT-commissioned analysis by Singapore-based cryptosecurity platform Uppsala Security suggested that the ICO may not have taken off.

Narong Chong, chief operating officer of Uppsala, pointed to broken weblinks of the ICO project, and the thin trading of KAYA tokens as indications that the ICO may not have succeeded.

"In the post by Lattice80 on Nov 22, 2018, they claimed to have successfully raised US$52 million... For an (ICO) that successfully raised US$52 million in the crypto winter, there has not been a lot of marketing or promotions of their projects."

Blocktrade.com said in a Medium post that it delisted the KAYA token on Feb 6, 2019 over due diligence concerns - a detail that was also verified independently by Uppsala.

Marvelstone said in response that it had "voluntarily decided not to list the KAYA token on the Blocktrade.com platform". Days later, Lattice80 said it launched futures on its KAYA token.

In March 2018, Marvelstone's Lattice80 said it would move the Lattice80 global headquarters to London from Singapore. But a check on the UK companies registry shows that a Lattice 80 UK was dissolved on Jan 9, 2019, with the first notice of a compulsory strike-off made in October 2018. The registered address on Google Maps points to a row of mail and courier shops that send out parcels.

In response, Marvelstone told BT that Lattice 80 UK was a "representative office" in London.

MAS said that in Marvelstone Capital's time as a RFMC from August 2016 to September 2018, it did not report any assets under management from investors.

"The firm voluntarily ceased its registration as a RFMC on September 11, 2018. Other companies within the Marvelstone Group, apart from Marvelstone Capital, were never regulated by MAS," the spokesman said.

Despite the apparent lack of business activity and assets, Marvelstone said Lattice80 is the world's largest fintech hub, and as late as April 2019, said in its newsletter that "the most important IP (intellectual property) we wanted to build was a database". It issues reports on fintech influencers.

BT asked Marvelstone if it could reasonably be regarded as a genuine fintech business, given the circumstances. It replied: "Marvelstone Group is a private holding company which is structured to incubate Singaporean startups. It is not uncommon that resources for such companies are allocated to technology development, manpower and marketing which may not result in profit-making from the outset."

Amid repeated questions from BT, Marvelstone Group has in recent weeks changed its website to a blank page with only its logo on it.

Marvelstone Group maintains it is still based in Singapore; and so is Mr Cho, who "travels often".

Mr Cho has, in recent days, deleted photos from his Instagram account that used to have his full name as its handle. The Instagram username has been replaced. It now says: @reaching.the.unreached.

READ MORE: Man behind fintech hub Lattice80 locked in legal disputes in Seoul, Singapore