Taking a Brief Lookback at Monaco

crypto.com Oct 21, 2020

We got here because we remember when Monaco used to be the 'hot shit' in the crypto space way back in 2018 - specifically for operating something that was virtually identical to what Crypto.com is proposing.

Moreover, the project had the same cash tag. ($MCO)

What's even more puzzling is that the name (crypto.com) doesn't inherently lead to the production of an "$MCO" cash tag.

Logically speaking, most projects / cryptocurrencies have cashtags that are intuitive abbreviations of their names, such as:

Bitcoin = $BTC

Ethereum = $ETH

Bitcoin Cash = $BCH

Litecoin = $LTC

And so forth. Agree with the projects, love them / hate them, the cash tags are extremely intuitive and almost common sense to a certain extent.

So, what are the chances that 'crypto.com' and 'Monaco' are bearing the same one?.

Taking a Real Look at Monaco

Okay, let's get into the real work here.

A Brief Google Search Later

The above excerpt is from 'Investopedia' (written in 2018); URL = https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/monaco-mco-cryptocurrency.asp

Notably, just two or three paragraphs down the page, Investopedia writes:

"Monaco has multiple offerings. They include cryptocurrency-backed Metal Visa cards which require varying amounts of MCO tokens to be held. The user's cryptocurrency holdings essentially back his card. All Monaco Visa cards come with zero annual fees, cashback schemes, and basic card features.

Woa!


Okay, let's go back to 'Crypto.com' again and make sure that we're not having Déjà vu here.

Quick Trip to 'Crypto.com' References / Documentation

(we literally visited 'crypto.com' in this case; that domain name must've cost a mint!)

We can see the same offer that was described on Investopedia's website (for Monaco) displayed directly on the front page.

Spoiler Alert: Crypto.com is Monaco

This is a fact that some know - but not everyone.

Yes, this fact was announced (in a relatively subtle manner comparatively when looking at how 'loud' the other advertising has been),  nevertheless - it was announced at some point.

Time Traveling: Monaco Edition

To get a better grasp on who 'crypto.com' is, we must first take a journey back in time to see "who" Monaco was.

Brief Background on Monaco

Monaco (now crypto.com) entered the cryptocurrency space in 2017 at the perfect time (virtually the height of the excitement and fervor for cryptocurrency up to this point).

Like most other projects that were born that year, they held an ICO to fund their project's idea: *Disseminate Visa-produced credit cards that grant its holders the ability to spend 'Monaco' tokens in the same way that one would expect to spend "regular fiat"

Reviewing Monaco's Official Introduction to the Blockchain 'Scene'

The best point of reference for Monaco's official entry into the crypto space can be found on 'news.bitcoin.com' (https://news.bitcoin.com/monaco-cryptocurrency-card-comes-out-of-stealth-mode-for-ico-starting-may-18th/)

Quick Footnotes (we won't be too verbose here; but this is what you should take away from their initial 'testing of the waters'):

Date: "May 17th, 2017"

Original Location: 'Zug, Switzerland' (this is worth noting for a number of reasons that we won't get into in this piece)

Parent Company: 'Monaco Technology GmbH'

Original Product Name: 'Monaco Visa Card' (and additionally, the app too)

Project Founder: 'Kris Marszalek' (introduced as 'Founder of Monaco Technology')

Date of ICO Announcement: The article stated that the 'announcement' itself would be released on May 18th.

Targeted Contributions: 150,000 Ethereum

The article also stated that contributors in the ICO would receive a, "stake in the MCO Asset Contract"

Brief Definition of the 'MCO Asset Contract (again, according to the news.bitcoin.com piece cited above):

"The MCO Asset Contract is an absolutely essential part of how value will be created for MCO token holders. Every time Monaco VISA Card users spend their BTC, ETH, or other ERC20 tokens, Monaco will charge a 1% software license fee. All these fees will be automatically sent to the MCO Asset Contract. Over time, as Monaco users spend on the platform globally, this value will accrue in the MCO Asset Contract."

A Few Initial Questions That Users Should Have Asked Themselves After Reading the Initial Proposal

How Would Monaco Re-Distribute Funds (from vendor payments 1% fee per transaction) in instances where those payments were made in a different currency? There is no 'bridge' or means of directly transferring funds from Bitcoin into the token contract address. Thus, there would have to be some sort of centralized, trusted means of making that swap occur.

How could Monaco account for fees involved in this process? As we all know, gas is necessary to 'fuel' Ethereum transactions (although, to be fair, this amounts to a very nominal sum). Likewise, Bitcoin has an associated fee with each transaction too and unlike Ethereum, that fee is significant. In fact, in the year that Monaco launched (2017), the fee for Bitcoin had stretches of days and weeks when its average soared well above $15/transaction (for a transaction to be confirmed in a timely fashion).

How will vendors account for Bitcoin confirmation delays?: Again, in this regard using Ethereum largely mitigates this issue because Ethereum's confirmation times are often less than one minute apart and their blockchain relies on 'account-based' settlement versus UTXO-transactions like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and several other Proof of Work based cryptocurrencies. As we all know, Bitcoin is designed so that it will take the network 10 minutes, on average. And any transaction that has not been included in a blog has no external guarantee of being included in a block that can be conveyed to the network or the vendor in a neutral manner. Thus, the convenience of Monaco's proposed solution could be undermined significantly by this aspect of blockchain.

How will the fees be extracted?: Cryptocurrency is largely designed to facilitate actions between one party to another through the use of public key cryptography. Transactions that involve multiple parties add a substantial layer of complication to the process and in any case - must be constructed by the sender to facilitate the manifestation of such a payment. Obviously, there is great incentive to ignore this responsibility for both the retail purchaser hypothetically using this card and the would-be vendor accepting this card. Thus, if Monaco were to ever expect this to be an enforceable fee, that would require the imposition of some sort of payment management control.

How Will Monaco Navigate Around MSB Requirements?: Assuming the project were to ever consider distribution in the United States (which they have promised and still promise under their 'crypto.com' campaign), they would more than likely be forced to register as an MSB given their assumed intervention in these payments to facilitate a custom-constructed payment remediation system that fulfills the task of connecting both vendor and customer to some sort of foreign API network that relays the request / transaction to a blockchain network (after crafting such a request manually to begin with), before eventually distributing the funds for the customer and vendor using some sort of logic that they would have to design on the backend. To be clear, this is certainly not impossible - but the heavy burden associated with such an option is overwhelming.

What is Visa's Incentive to be Involved With This?: Based on what is described, it seems that Monaco's card is actually designed to undercut Visa because Monaco is proposing that the 1% fees that they would attach to every transaction would serve as a substitute for the fee that would otherwise be paid by various vendors and commercial retailers. If that is the case, then their model does not allow for Visa to accrue any revenue from this scheme (remember, they stated that all the funds that they would be receiving from this network would be transferred directly to their contract address on the blockchain).

Do Ethereum Contracts Possess Sufficient Logic for This Undertaking?: In stating that an Ethereum smart contract would be used to 'store' and aggregate the total of all 1% fee disbursements collected from various transactions, the implication here is that the logic in the contract would be such that holders of the $MCO token would be able to anticipate exactly how much they would/should be paid out & the frequency of such payouts as well (would have to either be fixed or determined by specific calls made by the end user; for reference, the only calls that the end user can make is one on the contract itself [only after receiving the token] and calls to adjust their token balance in relation to another user [essentially amounts to a transaction ; more information and visuals can be found on "bloxy.info" - which is the top website for ERC20 token contract analysis and construction])

What is MCO's Plan For Sustainability?: Obviously, at the point that the article was written - the project was new. No one was expecting its creators / developers to have all the answers, but they should have at least had some. And if they didn't, then they undermined themselves by not providing enough information to prevent questions forming like the ones that were listed above.

There Are Many More 'Holes' in the Construction of $MCO

The 9 items that were listed above were fundamental questions that any individual with a fairly remedial knowledge of cryptocurrency shoould find themselves asking when confronted with the inadequate project outline like the 'news.bitcoin.com' article did (Quick Note: It may be tempting to waive Monaco of all responsibility since, "Monaco didn't write/publish it directly" - however, readers should know that the Monaco piece was a promotional piece, commissioned by Monaco themselves, thus, they most likely still retained granular control over the language used in the dissemination)

Monaco / Crypto.com ANN Thread

Preface (and a word of warning): Their original ANN thread is UGLY! So if you're a (substantial) investor in this project and you're afraid to read things that you may perceive as... negative or antagonistic (that's not what this is) toward your favorite project ($MCO), then you should probably close down the page here

The link to Monaco's (now infamous) ANN thread can be found here: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1926269.0

If you followed the link provided above you'll probably notice that the title of the forum post was revised to "null" and the initial forum post itself, written by a user named, 'tokenmarket', was also removed (re-edited because Bitcointalk does not allow you to remove these posts).

"Scammer" Warning / Disclaimer

Chances are you may have noticed the presence of a large, red banner at the top of the webpage that stated:

"Warning: *One or more bitcointalk.org users have reported that they strongly believe that the creator of this topic is a scammer. (Login to see the detailed trust ratings.) While the bitcointalk.org administration does not verify such claims, you should proceed with extreme caution.

For diligence’ sake, the author decided to log into his trusty old Bitcointalk account to view the claims that were made against 'tokenmarket' (alias for Kris Marszalek - the founder of Monaco).

Taking a Peak at the 'Trust Ratings' for the 'tokenmarket' Account

To see the same trust ratings for the user, 'tokenmarket.net', individuals must create a 'Bitcointalk' account. However, we already have one, so we went through the trouble in advance. But if you want to confirm for yourself (since this link obviously can't be shared), the only barrier to doing so is just creating an account, then clicking on the user's profile in question whom you want to "audit".

The 'trust rating' section on Bitcointalk is divided into two parts.

The "top half" is shows trust ratings given by 'trusted users' (i.e., those that have been in the community for a fair amount of time that also have very positive trust ratings themselves) and "untrusted users", which essentially includes everyone else.

Quick Word About 'Untrusted' Users: The word 'untrusted' is commonly misconstrued as distrusted. Please keep this distinction in mind here - the user feedback in the 'untrusted' section is just that - un-trusted.

Taking a Look at the Trusted Reviews Given to the CEO of crypto.com / Monaco

The claim made on the bottom is interesting because it gives us a fascinating lead on what else Kris (CEO of Monaco / crypto.com) may be tied to in the crypto space.

Specifically, the text of that complaint (by a very trusted user in the forums), states the following:

"Busted Merit Abuser. This guy exchanged merits with peach56 (posible [sic] alt account).
Check the reference or proof.

The action that 'tokenmarket' (Kris) is accused of is inconsequential to us (merit sharing), but what is very interesting is the allegation that 'peach56' serves as an "alt account" for Kris.

The interest compounds when considering the date that this event took place (March 2018), which was well after the ICO had taken place for $MCO (Monaco at that time).

The user in question provided documented proof for their accusation, which can be accessed without an account at this link: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=3358105.msg35171302#msg35171302

Examining the 'peach56' Account

To be clear, there is no definitive proof that 'peach56' is a sock puppet account for 'tokenmarket', but it still seems worthwhile to take a peek into the 'peach56' account.

The account profile's link is found here: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?action=profile;u=1308233

The user's post history can be found at this link (start to finish): https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?action=profile;u=1308233;sa=showPosts;start=0

Note: Bitcointalk generally does not allow users to delete their accounts and posts are generally not eligible for deletion after a small period of time has passed, too. Additionally, usernames are immutable once created on the website.

The user's posts (peach56) are not the most interesting / riveting thing in the world, but the syntax of the user's speech (capitalization, punctuation, misspelled words, etc.) seem to very closely mirror the 'tokenmarket' account.

Obviously, a statement like that, on its face, would (and should) normally be taken as a wildly speculative assumption.

However, in Kris's particular case, this should hold some weight.

Take a look at the first post (available) on the initial 'Bitcointalk' ANN thread for "Monaco": https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1926269.0

Also, while we're on the topic - let's take a look at the initial post (available) on the Bitcointalk forums for Monaco (crypto.com).

Evaluating the Actual ANN Proposal for Monaco / Crypto.com

At first glance, one clear observation that can be made here is that it is clear that Kris (CEO of the project) is entirely unfamiliar with the normal format of ANN threads in the blockchain space.

For those that do not know, "ANN" stands for 'announcement' on the Bitcointalk forums. Its significance derives from the age-old tradition (in blockchain years) of projects 'introducing' themselves to the community "officially" via an ANN thread.

Essentially, this thread is akin to writing the name of one's project down in a book of 'confirmed' pending projects that users should add to their personal list for projects that are going to launch at some point in the near future.

ANN Threads and Bitcointalk Are Taken Seriously

If you don't know the history of the 'Bitcointalk' forums, then you shouldn't be faulted for thinking to yourself that this analysis may be overstating the value of insights gleaned from the site itself.

But for those that do know - the reliability of this site allows it to serve as a beacon of light in the blockchain space.

The 'Bitcointalk' forums are descendants of the initial forum setup that Satoshi Nakamoto created to facilitate greater discussion of Bitcoin's development. As such, these forums were essentially 'ground zero' for much of the development done in Bitcoin's early days.

Also, at that time social media was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today and Bitcoin was too fringe (around its inception in '08/09) to exist in any meaningful way alongside the slew of irrelevant content /limitations imposed by external sources. So, the forums not only represented a reliable home base, but an all-encompassing platform for all bitcoin-related conversations, relationships, collaborations and ideas throughout virtually the entirety of its formative years.

Back to the ANN Post

As stated above, the post is written in such an informal manner that it would be hard to call it an 'ANN' thread if not for the clear evidence from user responses to the thread that it was designated as such (before eventually being re-named to "null" for whatever reason).

The entire message itself is encompassed in quotes, which implies that the user 'tokenmarket', may not be Kris but rather a 'proxy agent' of some sort (which is common on Bitcointalk forums for new users that are looking to launch ANN threads, due to the posting / reply restrictions on new accounts on the forums). However, such proxy posts are typically only done for the initial ANN post itself, with all subsequent replies coming directly from the owner's account that the initial poster was serving as a proxy for. In this case, the account 'tokenmarket' continued to respond to replies within that same thread (which also grew to an astounding 458 pages before eventually becoming "dead" due to inactivity and unresponsiveness once the team 'swapped' over to "crypto.com" - again, more on this later).

The initial post also states that the project was somehow able to fundraise an excess of 10,000 Ethereum in its first few hours of existence despite no one in the cryptocurrency being aware of their existence just 48 hours before the post (this is according to Chris, not us). This claim is even more astounding when considering that Kris is revealing this information in what he stated was his first post on Bitcointalk. That same post also explicitly states, "[W]e think since we had zero pre-marketing ahead of ICO launch..."

Kris also claims that the one-day advanced notice of their token sale was due to a "competitor" that he (or his team; neither is specified) at an "FX+crypto" event (again, no greater details given).

The Numerous Contradictions in Kris' Initial Post Serve as the Biggest Red Flags

Putting aside the numerous spelling mistakes laden throughout a post that Kris knew would serve as a 'first impression' to the crypto community as well as the refusal to adhere to any of the age-old standards of an 'ANN' post on the Bitcointalk forums despite having the knowledge necessary to seek out (potentially) a more senior member of the community to represent him on the initial post (another red flag), there are numerous additional inconsistencies throughout the ANN thread that should have immediately signaled to investors that something was VERY off.

Inconsistency #1

In one sentence, Kris states:

"We made a judgement call to finish working on our ICO within a week and launch, then spend the next 30 days to gradually build exposure ..."

However, in the prior paragraph, Kris was providing an explanation for why the team opted to launch the project with only a "1 day notice".

Inconsistency #2

Kris claims that his "CFO" (unnamed) was at another event on May 11th (the ANN post is dated May 20th), when said individual ran into "another founder" who, "basically told him what they're working on and their ICO is going to launch in June."

Following this misstep, Kris then proceeds to claim that he wanted to give everyone "plenty of time to get to know us and do their due diligence" despite acknowledging that the ICO was launched with nearly zero forewarning or preparation.

Taking a Look at Kris Marszalek

Kris Marszalek's history prior to launching Monaco (crypto.com) is can be simply characterized as somewhat less than savory.

A great resource that concisely summarized Kris' history as an 'entrepreneur' can be found here: https://cryptoiq.co/monaco-mco-that-raised-26-million-in-ico-and-promised-to-deliver-crypto-visa-cards-rebrands-itself-to-crypto-com-and-then-crypto-com-chain-cro-after-failing-to-deliver-cards/

Ensogo

Ever heard of 'Ensogo' before?

You aren't alone because few others have either.

For unfamiliar readers, 'Ensogo' was the name of Kris Marszalek's previous (failed) venture he was engaged prior to launching Monaco.

Curiously, it appears that Ensogo was popular enough to warrant its Wikipedia page (yes, this is the same Ensogo - we checked) - which can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensogo

As seen in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry, the company is now defunct.

What Happened to Ensogo?

By all accounts, Ensogo came to a crashing halt in 2016.

Per the Wikipedia entry (don't worry we're going to corroborate this with many more additional sources), the company ended when:

"On June 21, 2016, Ensogo announcd that it will shut down all South East Asia operation (including Hong Kong) and its CEO Kris Marszalek has resigned; it also requests ASX to suspend shares trading."

Also

"The unprecedented shutdown affected operations in several countries; workiers in Singapore found the office was closed, Hong Kong sellers call for police investigation of fraud and certain stores in Thailand rejeccting deals purchased by customers, though the Consumer Protection Board is expected to summon Ensogo for remedial issues."

Obviously, since the situation occurred a few years ago, this Wikipedia entry deserves an update if anyone decides to follow up on the situation and complete that task.

But for the purposes of this report - we'll go ahead and take up that responsibility (here only; not on Wikipedia), so that we can get a better idea of what exactly transpired with Ensogo because it appears that it came to a climactic end for no apparent reason.

"Chasing Ensogo"

The first lead we came across was the following article, written in June 22nd, 2016, in the immediate aftermath of the shutdown: https://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/11/170732/Anger-as-BeeCrazy-buzzes-off

As the article notes, it appears that 'Ensogo' was operating under the name, 'BeeCrazy' at the time after being acquired by company, "Living Social".

The article alleges that immediately after the shutdown, "Several business partners of the...website...sought help from the police, alleging fraud."

The article also affirms that Kris Marszalek's resignation coincided directly with the abrupt cessation of Ensogo's business and that:

"The website, which stopped receiving orders yesterday, has left hundreds of thousands of customers and sellers empty-handed."

Additionally:

"The Consumer Council of Hong Kong said it had received **12 complaints*8 and 163 inquiries about the closure of the online platform."

The article details the debacle even further by noting that there was so much widespread ire caused by Ensogo's abrupt shutdown that a Facebook group called, 'business owners and victims gathering zone' was created as a means of aggregating all individuals alleging they had been defrauded by Ensogo.

Monaco's Woes

As mentioned prior, Monaco introduced itself to the cryptocurrency sphere in May 2017.

Less than a day after its initial introduction, Monaco launched its first token offering - which was a surprisingly successful endeavor, netting a total of over $20 million collectively from various investors in the cryptocurrency space on the premise that 'Monaco' (MCO) would be able to manifest and distribute a physical 'credit card' capable of allowing users to make in-person payments at various vendors with various cryptocurrency coins.

Spoiler Alert: Kris Marszalek and Their Team Never Delivered

As you may have guessed by this point, Kris Marszalek and his team never delivered those credit cards as they had originally promised.

As numerous frustrated investors made clear on the 'ANN' thread that was crafted for Monaco - not only did the team fail to deliver on its original promise, there was also no accounting or accountability for the $26 million that they had received from their ICO.

Below are some responses from the community in late 2018 (before the project abruptly 'rebranded' to "Crypto.com", while simultaneously changing the title of the thread to "Null"):

Tags

cryptomedication

Happy to serve and help wherever I'm needed in the blockchain space. #Education #EthicalContent #BringingLibretotheForefront

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