In the cryptocurrency space, things are starting to get interesting; atomic swaps, interconnected blockchains and debit cards. Two of the biggest barriers in cryptocurrency are buying cryptocurrency and then converting it back to fiat. Depending on what part of the world you live in, buying and cashing out your cryptocurrency can vary in complexity.
One of the spaces heating up that I am quite interested in is the spendable cryptocurrency segment where a branded Visa or Mastercard debit card can be used to spend your cryptocurrency, behind the scenes your cryptocurrency is converted into fiat.
These debit cards solve one of the biggest fundamental problems of converting your crypto into real money, as anyone who has ever withdrawn a sizeable amount of Bitcoin will tell you it can take a long time to actually get it and those fees can kill you. Transfering Bitcoin between wallets and exchanges can also be an exercise in patience.
You have competitors such as Token Card, Centra, Monaco Card and a few others as well as the topic at hand: TenX Pay
Before we proceed, the standard disclaimer: I am not a cryptocurrency or blockchain expert, this is not investment advice, this is an opinion piece and you should always form your own opinions and do your own research before deciding to invest into any cryptocurrency.
Who is Dr. Julian Hosp?
The most prominent face behind TenX Pay is a guy called Dr. Julian Hosp. I want to focus on his history and delve into aspects of his life, past and present. Anyone who refers to themselves word-for-word from his website and other online profiles as, "The Blockchain Expert" in my opinion, immediately sets the bar quite high for themselves.
Dr. Julian Hosp comes from a medical background and is an accomplished kitesurfer, but I couldn't find any information pertaining to how Julian obtained his expert status in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency. If there is something that validates his claim of being a blockchain expert, it's missing from his LinkedIn profile and his website.
I am not disputing that Julian has probably learned a great deal about blockchain technology and if he can study and become a medical doctor, it's not that much of a stretch. I would assume that for someone to be an expert in something, they would at a minimum have at least 3-5 years experience working or studying in that specific field.
I can go and read all there is about trains in books and the internet, but that doesn't make me a train expert. That just makes me an informed train enthusiast.
Under education on LinkedIn, Julian lists the following:
- A doctor of medicine (M.D) from Medical University Innsbruck
- A high school diploma from Nashville Christian School
- A Master of Business Administration from Middelsex University
Now, I would argue that it takes someone intelligent to get into medical school and further more complete your medical degree, not everyone can get into medical school as the requirements are generally pretty high and you study for a very long time. But a medical degree and knowledge of blockchain technology, have no overlap.
Dr. Julian is a charismatic guy and a great speaker. I can also see that Julian has a passion when he speaks and he seems like a nice guy (is he just perpetually smiling?). But, his personal website reads like a TED Talk and the evidence to back up his claims of being a self-described cryptocurrency expert nowhere to be seen.
I wanted to learn more about Julian, but his about me page is light on details, and is full of self-promotional soundbites. Some notable pullouts from his about me page include:
My vision is that least 1 billion people by 2025 know and understand blockchain because of me.
My goal is to make the world #CRYPTOFIT.
I am convinced, that knowledge does not mean you have power – anyone can access almost any knowledge today. It is knowledge brought into action that is the true power nowadays.
I offer 99% of my knowledge completely free of charge. I truly believe in future technologies. That’s why I want to help the people not to be afraid of it but to know how to get along with it.
Use my success-proven methods and strategies like thousands of other people before and/or join our #crypto community to shape our future together.
I am not a fan of simply believing what I am told by media, social media, so-called experts, etc. but of thinking and considering myself.
Bringing this into action, I am running a company called I-Unlimited (www.i-unlimited.de) which is focused on shaping one's future, no matter if personally, professionally or financially. This knowledge was gained during my medical studies. the time of being a professional athlete and my experience in FinTech & blockchain.
I use a unique approach combining my knowledge out of pro-sports, medicine, FinTech and entrepreneurship which will give you a complete understanding why we do what we do, how to use this to your benefit and how you can create your future.
I don't know what any of this means. I discovered #CRYPTOFIT is a hashtag he uses to market a book he wrote. The statements Julian makes just leave me with more unanswered questions, he says a lot without saying anything at all.
Everything that Julian writes about himself and the image he portrays is that of a life coach or guru. He likes to make it seem as though he has all of this life experience, like he is the Tony Robbin's of the cryptocurrency world.
The weird thing about Julian and his role in TenX is he has essentially become the face of the company. You could be forgiven for thinking he was the CEO, but he's only a cofounder and president.
I find it kind of weird you never hear from the CEO Toby, don't you?
Julian is responsible for all of the livestreams, he answers all of the concerns the community has and regularly "meets" with people pertaining to the business interests of TenX. If there is one thing Julian excels at, it is people.
The Card Saga and subsequent cancellation of cards
To the TenX Pay teams credit, they did get some cards out into users hands before any of their competitors in the same space. But, in doing so they made a HUGE mistake by taking a shortcut that ultimately would set the Pay project back.
The Monaco Card team were always going to go the compliance route by becoming a Visa Program Manager, this means instead of using a third party you issue your own cards, with your own BIN's and the cards actually have the name of the cardholder (like a traditional bank issued debit card).
The TenX team decided to go through WaveCrest which is/was a popular choice for issuing debit cards in cryptocurrency, in October 2017 that loophole WaveCrest were using to allow global issuance was closed off and that left TenX with the ability to issue cards only throughout Europe.
The problem with using a third-party for issuing cards is the BIN number is not your own, you're dealing with a middle man and paying higher fees, you're beholden to the third-party for support queries when things go wrong.
In TenX Pay's November 7th Q&A update video Julian said that they're going to stick with WaveCrest for their Europe card program and that they were very happy with WaveCrest, turns out Julian's faith in a company that were continually taking shortcuts and exploiting loopholes would come back to haunt him.
January 2018, turned out to be not such a happy new year for TenX and other numerous debit card projects that relied on WaveCrest: Visa informed WaveCrest that all cards issued would be cancelled. You see, Visa were not too happy that WaveCrest were going against their licence terms with Visa and Visa cut them off.
I cannot say for sure whether Julian were aware of WaveCrest exploiting loopholes angering Visa, but the writing was on the wall after Visa slapped them on the wrist in October 2017 severing their unofficial global issuance.
Rewards, dividends and securities
The Monaco Card team took some heat from investors and the community as a whole a few months ago after they scrapped their asset contract feature, after receiving legal advice that holding MCO tokens in promise of profit would be constituted as a security and potentially get MCO delisted from exchanges due to financial regulations around securities.
In his November 7th livestream, Julian proclaims that their rewards scheme passes the Howey test and is definitely not a security. I am not a lawyer, but promising to make dividend payouts for holding a certain coin is the very definition of a security and it's this kind of promise of payouts that got Token Card delisted from Bittrex.
If you're not aware, in the TenX Pay whitepaper dividend payouts of monthly volume at 0.5% in Ethereum would be made to PAY token holders, cool right? Except US run exchanges are beholden to SEC rules surrounding securities and promising payouts for buying a stake in a company and expecting profits.
Since then, Julian has backed away from his promises of there being a 0.5% payout in Ethereum, and in-fact seems to be visibly angered/perplexed why people keep asking him when dividends are coming back.
The fact the whitepaper initially promised rewards and then Julian continually kept promising rewards saying the lawyers have "100% confirmed it verbally" and now appears to be backing away entirely saying there is no promise of anything, it's weird don't you think?
This has caused some civil unrest over at TenX, people are asking for a clear answer as to whether or not payouts will ever happen. Julian keeps saying there will be some kind of dividend scheme, but the writing is on the wall: payouts will not be 0.5% in Ethereum and it'll probably end up being a completely different scheme if/when they announce it.
Whenever I research a potential cryptocurrency to invest into that isn't Bitcoin or Ethereum which have established teams behind them, I always go to the official website and check out the team. I then take it further and research each individual team member (sans advisors), what are their qualifications, what is their role and how much experience do they have?
Whilst researching TenX Pay, something immediately stood out as strange to me. A lot of the team members in the core team have very little real world experience working in fintech, finance or associated field, with a few of the members graduating from university/college between 2010-2013.
Let's go from the top and dig into crucial members of the TenX Pay team. Worth pointing out that I am not saying the team isn't smart and incapable of rolling out a blockchain based debit card product, more-so on the lack of experience outside of study.
You're only as good as the people behind you and in the case of TenX Pay, there are some concerns over the collective inexperience in running a business, juggling technical constraints and working on the kind of scale that Pay are attempting to work on.
Credit where credit is due: they got an MVP out into market and for a brief period of time it worked, but in the long-run you are only as good as your team. As Apple have shown, you don't have to be the first to market to be the market leader.
I want to make it clear I don't know these people, what drives them and I mean no ill-intent towards any of these people working at TenX. This isn't personal, everything you're about to read is taken from reading LinkedIn bios and personal websites to establish an opinion.
Toby Hoenisch (CEO and Cofounder)
Toby holds a computer science degree and graduated in 2008. It appears as though he then continued on to study and obtain a Masters degree in Computer Science: artificial intelligence (cool). Undoubtedly, Toby appears to be a switched on guy and has the qualifications to back it up.
Delving into work experience, it appears as though Toby has a little over seven years experience, most of his experience stemming from businesses that he appears to have built himself.
You cannot deny that Toby appears to be a go getter and his lack of experience by no means makes him unqualified, but the kind of business that TenX are trying to build requires a team staffed with experienced people. When you look at teams working on coins like Ethereum, QTUM, Ark and OMG you realise that you need a good team to succeed.
But, I do believe that not anyone can be a CEO of a company. It's a position that carries a lot of responsibility, you're the single source of truth for developing and protecting the vision of the company, setting the course of the company and ensuring there is a clear roadmap for the rest of the company to follow. The CEO is the captain of the ship.
Michael Sperk (CTO)
Arguably, for any tech company a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) is one of the most crucial hires you can make. A CTO is less hands on in terms of actually doing work, and sits higher up in the chain of command: planning, developing and delegating.
It appears as though Michael Sperk and Toby Hoenisch most likely know each other from studying, because they have have a masters degree in computer science and appear to have graduated at the same time from the same university.
Even more weird is that Michael went from being a front-end developer working on a visual analysis tool to being the CTO of a cryptocurrency project that received millions in ICO funding. Once again, not saying that Michael is incompetent but on paper his experience just doesn't meet the expectations I would expect from a CTO.
Warren Goh (COO)
Very little information can be found about Warren, his LinkedIn profile is light on job experience and details. But Warren is the Chief Operations Officer (COO), which in many aspects has overlap with that of being a CEO. The COO typically is responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of other aspects of a company like finance, recruitment, training and more.
The CEO sets the direction/vision and the COO ensures that the rest of the organisation has everything they need to execute upon that direction and vision. The position of COO is a huge responsibility, and oddly enough Warren has no experience being a COO whatsoever or being in a position of such responsibility.
Looking back at Warren's employment history, you can see before he worked at TenX he was a User Experience Freelancer for a couple of years almost and before that ran his own company that had something to do with project management or something.
To me, Warren is one of the biggest red flags of all. He has no experience and seems to only have graduated from university with a degree in Business Administration in 2014, so four years ago. Sorry Warren, but I think you are punching above your weight here.
Paul Warrunthorn Kittiwongsunthorn (Cofounder)
Paul is another cofounder. He seems to have some interesting educational background and has done a couple of things. Once against, Paul has very little experience in the real world (a common thread at TenX) and has mostly been studying it seems.
I have no idea what Paul does at TenX, he seems to have some user experience background, so perhaps he handles the UX aspect of TenX's products? I can't really find anything on him.
Dr. Julian Hosp (Cofounder)
The enigma that is Dr. Julian Hosp. We already touched upon Julian a little bit above, but let's do it once more here for brevity, if you don't want to read about Julian again because he spoke about him in the opening of this article - skip this part.
According to Julian's LinkedIn profile his experience summary tagline is, "Co-Founder TenX, Blockchain Expert, Medical Doctor, Professional Athlete, Bestselling Author and Keynote-Speaker" - that is quite a tasty soundbite and a lot to swallow.
As many already know, Julian has a medical background. His education lists, "Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Human Medicine" there were rumours circulating that Dr. Hosp might not be a real medical doctor, but he shared his certificate online and it is pretty obvious he was an MD before he started TenX. He graduated Medical University Innsbruck in 2010 and clearly given his relatively quick stint in medicine, found it wasn't for him.
Even more interestingly is Julian was a professional kitesurfer for ten years from 2002 to 2012 (cool). I don't know much about his tenure as a kitesurfer, but to do it for ten years professionally must mean you're quite good at it.
Then Julian wrote a book in May 2012 called, "25 Stories I would tell my Younger Self", once again cool. Writing a book takes a lot of commitment and isn't exactly the easiest thing you can do in life (if you've ever had experience publishing a book, it's hard).
After publishing his last book (which is a best selling book) he cofounded TenX in 2015 where he is listed as cofounder and president. You might be asking yourself, so where is Julian's fintech and blockchain experience, he calls himself a blockchain expert and portrays himself as an all encompassing cryptocurrency expert, appearing on TV segments to discuss cryptocurrency topics and doing talks at conferences and events.
It's a valid question. Julian is a confident and charismatic guy, he is a great speaker and seems to be an overly positive and optimistic person. I can see people getting caught up in Julian's personality and clearly he has been somewhat successful in life so far. But, I ask again: where is his expert blockchain and fintech knowledge coming from?
I like Julian, but he seems to be more focused on marketing himself than he does the company he cofounded. His own personal site we linked earlier barely mentions TenX, opting to make vague statements and marketing soundbites. Once again, Julian like the rest of the team has no fintech or cryptocurrency experience.
When you look into the team working at TenX, holding important job roles you'll probably be shocked to discover that nobody has experience in fintech, card payments space, cryptocurrency, blockchain and seemingly has yet to hire anyone who has worked for the likes of Visa, Mastercard or any other known financial institution.
It is for this reason, that I would be wary of investing into TenX. Although they seemingly have achieved something, their inexperience shows through when they take one step forward, they eventually end up taking two steps back.
The TenX team are great at communicating with investors, but seem to be more focused on maintaining their public image and keeping up a persona than they are on actually delivering a functioning and decent product.
If you are looking for a decent alternative to PAY (perhaps you're an ex investor or currently displaced), I did a similar piece into Monaco Card here where you'll see the advantage Monaco has is their team and ultimately, that's all that matters in your end: the team and ability to deliver.
Invest into TenX Pay at your own peril.