It wouldn’t take long to get familiar with the so-called “pump and dump” scheme in the crypto space in China –– that is, to pump up the price of crypto tokens in order to attract retail investors and after they ramped up the price, to sell the tokens and leave. In most cases, such crypto projects or the investors behind them would take their money and leave quietly; but one investor, who was allegedly accused of doing so, decided not to be low-key about it at all.
On Nov. 7, Yang Ning, a well-known angel investor, wrote a post on his WeChat, a popular social media platform in China, declaring his departure from the Chinese crypto sector.
“It feels great to leave the crypto world that’s full of liars and gamblers. I was going to leave quietly but had to go against the whole crypto sector. I have deleted all the group chats and people [on WeChat]. If you are still in the crypto world and are able to read this post, it only means you are not ‘well-known’ enough. I have already lost my trust in the concept of the decentralized blockchain. Blockchain can only grow under the centralized structure of laws and regulations. [This is] the last time I commented on this decision.”
The post has received widespread backlash centered upon, surprisingly, Yang and his very own project: Commerce Data Connection (CDC).
Born in early January this year, CDC claimed itself to be the first blockchain-based decentralized global consumer sharing network. Not long after the launch, a total number of 10 million CDC tokens were issued and were listed on Huobi, the third-largest crypto exchange by trading volumes, in May.
Yet the party was also over too soon –- about six months later on Nov. 5, Huobi Global published a community post, announcing that CDC tokens were suspended from all trading and deposit services on Huobi, after the crypto exchange found that the project team “have violated the rules of Huobi Global whereby the total locked amount of tokens of the project team was inconsistent with what was promised in the white paper.”
During several interviews with China-based blockchain news sites such as 8btc, Yang admitted that he also has lost $2 million with his CDC project and about 20% of the tokens are being controlled by “bad actors.”
At press time, the official website of CDC has removed all information except one statement as following:
“Due to discovery of some community members who have been maliciously manipulating the token price, [the team] has decided to dilute the value of tokens held by these bad actors. This move will lower the cost to hold tokens by the community and stimulate the market to grow healthier”
Meanwhile, this long-time angel investor failed to answer many other key questions around CDC, for example, who the “bad actors” are. After his very high-profile declaration to quit crypto on WeChat, many, including investors of CDC, are still waiting for him to answer these questions.
According to a chat history of a WeChat group message that still had Yang listed as a group member on Nov. 7, several other group members sent the same messages to Yang, initiated by one WeChat user named Dovey Wan.
“Mr Yang, [will you consider] publishing the financial documents of the project [CDC]? Won’t you explain the fact that the team locked the tokens and then pumped them? To be honest, since tokens and codes are returned to the community in order to leave the project to develop independently, does that also mean the money should be returned to the community as well?”
Yang did not respond.
One person, who previously invested in Yang’s CDC project and declined to be identified in the story, said that the project had failed to fulfill its goals that were listed on its original white paper since the beginning.
“The market at the time [earlier 2018] was more of a ‘help-yourself’ situation,” the person said, explaining his own failure to recognize the problems around Yang’s project during an early stage. “As long as [the project] got a story to tell and the story looked plausible, it could make a profit. That was how [crazy] the market was at the time.”
From a renowned investor to an alleged scammer, Yang’s case raised one question: should traditional venture capitalists like Yang jump into the crypto world… at all?
While Yang’s case may potentially put a question mark for many investors with similar backgrounds, Emma Liao, another early investor of the internet industry, could, however, offer a much brighter path for the hesitated upcoming investors.
Similar to Yang, Liao also isn’t someone that can be described as “low-key.”
When this 32-year-old investor introduced herself, she began her sentence with the fact that her great-grandfather was Liao Yaoxiang, a high-ranking Kuomintang general who successfully fought against the imperial Japanese army during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
In China, when you come from a “red” family – a family that’s associated with the communist party – the association often opens more doors to you.
Though Liao said she didn’t think her family background put her at an advantage, from cross-border mergers and acquisitions to the founding of China’s first professional ice hockey club team, Liao’s past decades of experience across several sectors look impressive.
The almost perfect-looking resume has not stopped her from dreaming even bigger.
As she entered the crypto landscape, Liao came in with one ambitious goal: to take the blockchain technology mainstream.
This dream, ultimately, is what separates people like her from Yang, especially during a bearish market, according to an interview with Liao.
Liao, who said she knows Yang personally, refused to comment on his case specifically. But she agreed to speak at a much broader level where she found incidents like Yang’s case very upsetting.
“I would say the mistake they have is that they underestimated the wildness of the crypto world,” Liao said. “[…] you were tricked because you were getting into a battle, a wild battle that you were not used to – that’s not anybody else’s fault.”
According to Liao, before she picked up Ultrain, the project that she co-founded with several former employees from Alibaba, she had spent tons of time and money learning about the blockchain and the cryptocurrency.
And the hard work is paying off.
Ultrain, a project that hopes to provide public infrastructure for the future of decentralized business on the blockchain, also presents an almost perfect resume like Liao herself: it has gathered some of the top talents in the crypto field in China, including core cryptographers and technicians from Alibaba and Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba. With the support of the strong technology team, it has made innovations and optimizations across several areas such as consensus, smart contracts, and development frameworks.
With that being said, by far, Ultrain was able to raise $20 million from some of the most notable venture capitalists and token funds in China including Morningside Venture Capital, BlueRun Ventures, Draper Dragon, Aplus Capital, DHVC, FBG Capital, NEO Global Capital, and Ceyuan Ventures.
Beyond the successful round of funding and a recent product launch in October, Liao said that what truly makes Ultrain outstanding is the team behind it, a group of people who hold a firm belief of a future that is built on the blockchain.
“They [core members at Ultrain] were offered stock options at Alibaba along with high salaries.,” Liao said. “They jumped out of Alibaba, the comfortable platform, and joined us [only] because we want to make the [blockchain] technology work and to actually build a business ecosystem.”
“We are not in for short-term money,” she added.
Indeed, as Liao’s answer implies, in an industry that’s still considered as nascent yet fast-growing, the reasons that have brought the people here matter deeply. For anyone who is here to chase after “a fad” or a quick profit, their projects may have been doomed to fail from the beginning.
Of course, during a time when bitcoin, the No.1 cryptocurrency, plunged as much as 78% from its record high of around $20,000 last December, only time can really tell who the final winners are or if there is a winner at all.
But for now, the comparison of Liao and her Ultrain with Yang and his CDC may have revealed one good thing about a bearish-looking market that many may have missed: it also has become a real test for the crypto projects that rushed out during the bull market earlier this year. And only the really good ones may survive the cold winter.