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2018-02-16 The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy - The flops of the Zug

The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy -

The flops of the Zug Crypto-Pioneer

Johann Gevers, chief thinker of the Crypto Valley, stages himself as a genius entrepreneur. If you look, you will find internal criticism, failures - and paranoia.

you will find internal criticism, failures - and paranoia. Finance Minister Ueli Mauer (center) was informed

Finance Minister Ueli Mauer (center) was informed by Johann Gevers (left) about crypto-finance. Photo: Urs Flüeler (Keystone)

On August 25, 2017, Minister of Finance Ueli Maurer (SVP) goes on an excursion. He visits start-ups to learn where the Swiss financial center is heading. Mason stops in Zug at the company Monetas. A photo of that meeting shows founder Johann Gevers in conversation with Maurer and Matthias Michel (FDP), the economics director of Zug. The native South African Gevers has a lot to tell: his company wants to change the global financial system. In the future, everyone should be able to process their payments with their smartphone. In the eye Gevers has especially Africa, where large parts of the population have no bank account.

What Ueli Maurer does not know during his visit: Gevers' company will soon go bankrupt. She is struggling with serious financial problems and has left most employees behind. Three months after the meeting, on 5 December 2017, a court in Zug declares Monetas bankrupt. Only six days earlier, Gevers announced in an investor update that it would reach breakeven by the second quarter of 2018. "Onward and upward!" Stood as a greeting among his lines, "forward and up!".

The 52-year-old Gevers, who immigrated to Switzerland from Canada in 2013, was one of the first to see an ideal base for cryptographic companies in Zug.


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The 52-year-old Gevers, who immigrated to Switzerland from Canada in 2013, was one of the first to see an ideal base for cryptographic companies in Zug. On the job platform Linkedin, he calls himself «creator of the Crypto Valley ecosystem». He lectured on lectures, gave dozens of interviews - including this newspaper - and enthused about the location in Zug: legal security, decentralized structures, financial center tradition, low taxes. Gevers is the "chief thinker" of the Crypto Valley movement, says Zug City Mayor Dolfi Müller (SP).


The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy -

The idea ignited. Well-known start-ups like Ethereum or Xapo installed themselves on Lake Zug. When Stadtpräsident Müller called the "New York Times" and Asian TV stations to report on that Swiss town in which the authorities accept Bitcoin. Even Johann Schneider-Ammann adapted the marketing coup: "It does not have to stay with the Crypto Valley, it should become the crypto nation," said the Minister of Economics recently the "Tagesschau".

So who is Johann Gevers, the mastermind who himself is listening to Federal Councilors?

Half professor, half pastor

When he performs publicly, he often wears black. He lectures in a gentle voice, half Pastor, half Professor, jumps from the invention of printing to the Internet to Bitcoin, to come to his thesis: the current financial system? Outdated. Blockchain and crypto-finance? The future. He himself? In the middle.

A research of this newspaper shows that behind the image of the ingenious visionary

hides a second image: that of a power man, call the ex-employee as "not critical". His projects crashed. And some specialists see this as a risk for Zug's financial center.

Gevers is a descendant of German emigrants, grew up on a farm near the South African town of Vrijheid, in English: Freiheit. He is considered an admirer of the

libertarian author Ayn Rand. In his CV, he describes himself as a "rare combination

of experience in portfolio management, business consulting and finance"; he has

"extraordinary international experience".

Court documents from Canada qualify this representation. On 4 December 2009, Johann Gevers filed for bankruptcy in Vancouver. At that time, as a job, he stated:

"Massage / odd jobs". The dossier lists debts of 267,000 Canadian dollars. Among other things, Gevers covered eleven credit cards.

Behind the image of the ingenious visionary hides a second image: that of a power- man. Which some specialists see as a risk to the Zug financial center.

He brought the company Monetas from Canada to Switzerland. Former Goldman Sachs analyst Katalin Tischhauser worked from 2015 to 2016 as a board member and manager for the start-up. The Englishwoman accuses Gevers of poor management and squandering of around 10 million francs on investor funds.


The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy -

of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy - Applies to employees as "not critical": Geevers in

Applies to employees as "not critical": Geevers in 2015. Photo: Urs Jaudas

Gevers was in control of Monetas through a mailbox company on Anguilla, but at the same time provided software developers with only "vague visions" and changed his instructions over and over again. "Outwardly Johann was great - he can inspire people," says Muharem Hrjadovic. The current Google engineer was chief developer at Monetas from 2014 to 2016. "But for your own team, it takes more than visions, namely transparency and plans, which are also implemented." In addition, Gevers was not criticized: "If anyone criticized him, Johann said of 'dark powers', which is his work wanted to destroy, »says analyst Tischhauser.

Not in the office for weeks

The seed capital melted away. According to Tischhauser and Hrnjadovic, Gevers employees repeatedly misled as to when the months-long salaries would be paid out. He did not tell newly-hired developers how bad the company was, but talked about positive prospects. "As a boss, he sometimes did not come to the office for weeks," says Tischhauser. Financial statements were delayed by years, which led to problems with the tax office and interested investors. Externally, Gevers oversimplified the state of the Monetas system - "as if it was about to be completed," says Tischhauser. "He did not seem to be aware of the true state of the platform."


The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy -

It is normal that at a start-up wages are sometimes not on time in the employees' accounts, says Muharem Hrjadovic - "but you have to communicate it early enough and inform employees about the situation". At the end of 2016 almost all employees left Monetas, also Hrnjadovic left. Tischhauser was fired.

Johann Gevers is the "public face" of Crypto Valley, but has done a lot of damage with Monetas, says Hrnjadovic: "This represents a considerable risk for the Crypto Valley, for Zug and the Swiss financial center."

On request, Johann Gevers writes that the mood at Monetas has been excellent, under his leadership the start-up has built up a 30-member team and received wide recognition. But then Monetas had run out of funds, many start-ups got into this "death valley". This led to the departure of a large part of the team.

Crypto war

The criticism of Muharem Hrnjadovic is not only aimed at Monetas. The developer, like many other crypto enthusiasts, has put part of his bitcoin supply into a new startup: Tezos. A new decentralized platform to handle transactions like Bitcoin, only better. But: Tezos is in the middle of a controversy. And here, too, Johann Gevers is a protagonist.

In July 2017, Tezos launched a digital IPO in Zug, an initial coin offering, earning $ 232 million worth of crypto money, a record amount. The money went to the Swiss Tezos Foundation. President: Johann Gevers. The task of the foundation is to promote the Tezos platform - for example by investing in software development. In the fall, however, founder Arthur Breitman and Gevers quarreled. Since then, a war raging for the control of the foundation and thus for the millions.

Among Tezos developers and investors Gevers became a hate character. In their eyes, he prevented the millions being raised from being rapidly pumped into development.

Among Tezos developers and investors Gevers became a hate character. In their eyes, he prevented the millions being raised from being rapidly pumped into development. In the US, disappointed investors launched class action lawsuits. Attempts were made to remove Gevers from the Board of Trustees with the help of lawyers via the Federal Foundation Supervisory Authority - they failed. In a statement that was only online for one day, Gevers reiterated his intention at the end of January to resign as soon as "things are done in the Foundation". He is currently acting as president.

The Tezos debacle led to more Gevers critics came to the public. For example, the two libertarian activists Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, and James Hogan, ex-vice president of Paypal. The duo launched a project in 2011 in Honduras of a futuristic, libertarian city. As head of finance, they hired Johann Gevers. Friedman says Gevers made a good impression first, but then did his job unreliably: "We ended up dismissing him." The reason was that Gevers had not issued an access token to the project's bank account - and thus control over had the money.

Inventor was another

Several Zug Crypto Valley exponents refused interviews on Johann Gevers. In background discussions many doubted his managerial qualities, but at the same time praised his marketing instinct. One programmer said: Actually, a young Romanian crypto enthusiast invented the "Crypto Valley" brand - Mihai Alisie, co-founder of the


The flops of the Zuger Krypto-Pioniers - Economy -

Ethereum platform. Alisie spontaneously threw in the two words at a meeting with Zug economic promoters in 2014 in the round. Gevers liked the idea - and started to promote it.

On request, Gevers writes that Crypto Valley is a "success story" based on tireless work. By now, hundreds of start-ups have settled in Zug. He did not want to comment on Tezos. At present, the Board of Trustees is working hard to reorganize the foundation.

He had never given up on Monetas either. Investors from New York had pledged new funds, he was now building a new development team.

It is true that on January 25, 2018, a court in Zug overturned bankruptcy. "Phoenix rises from the ashes," Gevers wrote in his recent investor update, he sees a "bright future" for the company, which was just bankrupt: "Onward and upward!" (Tages- Anzeiger)

Created: 16.02.2018, 06:22 clock