“British Bitcoin” ICO proceeds despite political storm

An ICO outside of financial oversight organizations' jurisdiction? Any investment's a gamble…
17 May 2018

Michelle Mone (C) waits for the start of the State Opening of Parliament in the Houses of Parliament in 2017. Source:AFP PHOTO / POOL / Stefan Rousseau

Since the boom and ensuing fall in cryptocurrency prices around Q4 2017 to Q1 2018, the media seems to have gone quiet about currencies based on a publicly-distributed ledger. Instead, the business community has turned its focus to other uses for blockchain.

A new investment company based in the UK has begun to leverage an Ethereum based platform into the oft-closed world of investment, with the emergence of Equi Capital. The new company is a joint venture between partners (in business and private life) Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman, both of whom have proven track records in running businesses.

Barrowman is one of the UK’s richest men (valued at over £1 billion) and his partner, Mone, was the founder and driving force behind the Ultimo bra company, which is currently winding up its UK operations after a Sri Lankan takeover three years ago.

Equi Capital opens a pre-public ICO today and is offering discounts on its tokens of 40 percent for early buyers. Token holders will be able to contribute to the company’s investment opportunities via the Ethereum-based platform, which is due to launch with a web interface next month.

A pre-sale at the beginning of March asked supporters for a minimum investment of US$100,000, but the ICO is not available to US-based investors, where the regulations surrounding ICOs mean Equi Capital’s offering would fall foul of the authorities.

In the UK, the company’s activities do not fall under the regulation of Financial Conduct Authority, which some of its competitors certainly do. The FCA provides at least a modicum of protection for investors, although, of course, investments are always speculative.

Michelle Mone was given a seat in the UK’s upper chamber by the then Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, and entered the House in 2015. John Mann, a Labour member of the House of Commons’s Treasury Select Committee, has criticised Barrowman & Mone’s company, saying, “You would be better going off to the bookies than investing in this scheme.”

Investment opportunity types have not been announced in great detail, but the company’s marketing materials mention real estate and new technology companies: specifically two opportunities, one in “Big Data,” the other in online gaming.

The investment vehicle will act as a conduit between fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies, with those wishing to trade will be able to buy into the scheme in Ethereum, sterling or US dollars.

EQUI Capital launched in the third quarter of 2017 and raised USD$7 million USD after the project’s private pre-sale, which opened in February this year. With a minimum ante of US$100,000, the maximum number of individuals registering interest is therefore 70.

The company is working with ICO management consultants CoinFabric and Blockchain Advisory to guide the investment platform’s foray into blockchain-powered trading. Both companies are based in California.