My previous piece on this topic was rather sentimental and emotional fuelled by the unexpected nature of the developments and the disappointment they cause. Today, I return to the story to shed some more lights into issues, with less emotion and more facts.
As the dust begins to settle we have been able to gather additional information on the ongoing disaster story regarding the sudden collapse of the Neo & Bee venture, which was aiming at introducing the usage of Bitcoin to the general public in Cyprus.
The last public appearance of the company’s CEO Danny Brewster was on 18 March when he attended a special session of the Parliamentary Commerce Committee at the Cyprus House of Representatives. Ever since it has been confirmed that Brewster has deserted the company and the country and has announced his decision to sell off his share in the venture, citing as reasons the fact that he and his family were threatened, by unknown people. He even claimed that he had informed the authorities of these threats and that it was at their advice that he decided to leave and cut all contacts.
However, the information that keeps pouring in paints a different picture of events. Sources at the Cyprus Police say that Brewster has never contacted them in order to report any kind of threats against him or any of his family members.
This story is indeed weird and shady because even members of the company management say that they do not know where the capital funding the operations of the company in the past five months came from, also mentioning that the company did not even have an active bank account. Moreover, besides the eleven people making up the management team, Brewster appeared until very recently to be keeping his enthusiasm about the whole project, as he proceeded into hiring another 15 employees to staff the company flagship branch and the call centre.
All these employees have now being left hanging as, according to sources, they have not been paid their salaries for March, while some of them have also proceeded into investing into Bitcoin with the personal guarantee of Brewster himself. Moreover, due to the rumours and the uncertainty and because they could not get hold of Brewster himself, eleven members of the company staff and management team have already submitted their resignations, including one of the company’s legal advisers.
In an interesting twist of events, we have learned that two complaints against Brewster have been filed with the Cyprus police from two associates/clients of the company, who claim to have given Brewster money for him to turn into Bitcoin, which he never did. The first person claims to have given Brewster €20.000 and the second €15.000 and the Cyprus police is currently investigating the two cases to determine the nature of the offences committed if any.
Another complaint agaist Brewster was filed with the police by the advertising company, which had conducted the Neo & Bee campaign in Cyprus. The owners of the company pointed out that until recently Brewster was prompt with payments of bills but a significant amount is still outstanding and the company reported the case to the police following Brewster’s “disappearance”, without being able to be contacted.
Although all of this information paints a bleak picture, perhaps there is also a glimmer of hope. Negligence, miscalculation, excessive spending and the recent sharp fall of the Bitcoin value have all led to the demise of the Neo & Bee venture. Nevertheless, the company’s biggest asset remains the software system which was created by its developers, purposely built to serve its operations and Bitcoin transactions and exchanges. As the company never actually functioned fully and properly, the software remains intact and it appears that an American investor has shown interest in buying it. All those to whom the company owes money, including employees and associates, are hopeful that the sale of the software will enable them to obtain their compensations.
On another front, the collapse of Neo & Bee is not necessarily detrimental to the future of Bitcoin in Cyprus as a whole. One of the first supporters of Bitcoin usage, the University of Nicosia, that began to accept bitcoin as a payment method for tuition fees in November 2013, becoming the first university in the world to take such a decision, continues to do so, has already received a few bitcoin paying students and it is now offering a 5% discount for any student paying with bitcoin. Moreover, it has announced the opening of the enrolment procedure for a 6 week long, free and open online course entitled ‘Introduction to Digital Currencies.’ This massive open online course will begin on 15 May 2014 and it is aimed at anyone interested in gaining a better grasp of the fundamentals of bitcoin and digital currency. The course will be taught by the university’s computer science and finance professors, as well as resident bitcoin expert Andreas Antonopoulos, who was also a technical advisor on the Neo & Bee venture.
As expected, the University of Nicosia did have talks with Neo & Bee, but since the company’s bitcoin exchange platform never made it into fruition, the university accepts bitcoin payments via the American bitcoin platform BitPay.