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How Big are VeChain’s (VET) Hyped ‘Big-Name’ Partnerships Really?

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VeChain is a project with some of the most fervent support in crypto. Supporters tout its links to major businesses as placing it far ahead of any competitors to become the number one business-orientated blockchain network. However, while VeChain has confirmed many major partnerships, the project has also attracted many unproven rumors and rampant speculation.

While a strong community is a huge asset in the hype-driven and speculative crypto and blockchain space, VeChain’s support can sometimes do more harm than good. Back in February 2018, all mention of VeChain was banned for one month from the popular /r/cryptocurrency subreddit amid accusations of excessive shilling by the project’s supporters. And for VeChain’s detractors, there is far more hype than substance.

Four posts that have featured near the top of VeChain’s subreddit over the past few days perfectly exemplify the blurring of lines between credible top-tier partnerships and baseless hype that have long surrounded the project:

1.     Rumors of a partnership with Delta Airlines.

2.     VeResearch partnerships with higher-education institutions including Oxford University.

3.     An article stating that VeChain has been selected to give expert advice on developing blockchain at government level in Italy.

4.     A conference speech by VeChain Singapore County Manager Sarah Nabaa outlining use cases and established partnerships.

The first of these is almost completely speculative. The second and third are highly misleading. The fourth is the only one that seems grounded in reality.

But away from these headlines, buried within the comments of a Daily Discussion thread, are verifiable and seemingly true claims that VeChain Authority Nodes are held by such major entities as Ali Baba and Prudential Investment Management Group.

So let’s sift through the rumor and hype and get to the truth. How real are VeChain’s links to major businesses? And how far will these links go to establishing VeChain’s future success?

The Authorized Truth

Sarah Nabaa’s speech from BlockShow Asia last month is a perfect primer for anyone who isn’t really familiar with what VeChain is offering or why major companies would be interested in partnering with it.

Founder Sunny Lu formerly worked as the Chief Information Officer of Luis Vuitton China, where he realized the scale of counterfeiting that affects luxury brands. As Nabaa explains, the most difficult to counteract is “grey market” counterfeiting. This refers to manufacturers contracted by companies such as Luis Vuitton to produce their goods overproducing, creating extra items that perfectly match the original product’s specifications. This is particularly problematic when luxury goods are supposed to be part of a limited run.

VeChain’s solution to grey market counterfeiting is to sew RFID tags into clothing and accessories. These RFID tags can be scanned using VeChain’s smartphone app, verifying the product’s authenticity. They can also provide all kinds of additional information. Nabaa gives the example of H&M subsidiary Arket, which promotes the sustainability of its clothing production. Arket has trailed RFID-equipped beanies in its London store, with these RFID tags providing information on the sustainable sourcing of materials used in the beanie’s production.

Nabaa lists some of the major firms to have invested directly VeChain, including DNV GL, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), and Breyer Capital. Norwegian-based DNV GL describes itself as “a global quality assurance and risk management company,” operating in 100 countries with 14,500 employees and generating revenues of roughly $2.25 billion in 2017. London-based PwC is the world’s second-largest professional services firm, with around 250,000 employees and revenue of $41.3 billion in 2018. Breyer Capital is a venture capital firm founded by Jim Breyer, who has an estimated net worth of $3 billion.

The official DNV GL press release announcing the firm’s partnership with VeChain back in January 2018 says the firms will “initially target the food & beverage, retail and fashion industries and progressively expand to cover other industries, starting with automotive and aerospace.” Nabaa’s BlockShow Asia speech outlines how they’ve already begun deploying food & beverage solutions, with DNV GL’s MyStory app now tracking wine sold in Shanghai using VeChain’s RFID chips and the VeThor blockchain platform. Beyond verifying wine’s authenticity, they envision this app providing details on minutiae such as the grape variety and soil composition utilized in the wine-making process, with scanners and chips linked to the VeThor blockchain tracking every step of the production process.

So far, so concrete. But it’s easy to see why the confirmed VeChain information has led to almost hysterical speculation about future possibilities. For example, a picture of Jim Breyer at a Chinese government function was heavily upvoted on the VeChain subreddit with the title ‘More Proof of Chinese Government Connection?’. While there’s no direct link to VeChain in the picture or the event surrounding it, Jim Breyer’s position – front-and-center, standing directly beside Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is pushed out to the periphery – caused speculation to run wild.

Blockchain and crypto is massively speculative, with much more attention focused on future potential than current adoption. Many of VeChain’s most promising use cases are still in development. During the BlockShow Asia speech, Nabaa mentions proof of concepts that VeChain has developed in conjunction with BMW, including a ‘car passport’ which would track things such as service history and even microdata on driving over the lifespan of a car to thwart fraud within the resale market.

And some of VeChain’s potential partnerships are shrouded in secrecy, likely due to non-disclosure agreements. Nabaa’s speech drew attention to six French luxury brands listed on the website of Sunny Lu’s former employers, Luis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH): Fendi, Celine, Christian Dior, Emilio Pucci, Givenchy, and Kenzo. One of these brands is already a paying customer of VeChain, with VeChain actively developing a system for tracking a limited edition luxury bag for this customer. However, Nabaa said she wasn’t able to explain which, leaving the comments section on Reddit to try and figure it out among themselves.

These tantalizing statements make speculation inevitable. But speculation about possible partnership announcements has also been a part of VeChain’s highly unorthodox approach to marketing.

Partnerships with Delta Airlines, Oxford University, and the Italian Government… ?

If we take a look at each of the speculative partnership announcements that’ve attracted recent attention on the VeChain subreddit, we see a few different sources for the speculation. The last item is the easiest to explain. The post ‘VeChain Among the Experts to Bolster Italian Blockchain’ directs to a CryptoVibe article with a misleading title. The article focuses on Renato Grattola, who is a member of the VeChain Foundation Steering committee, but primarily is a director for DNV GL. So as the comments on Reddit make clear, there is a link to VeChain, but it’s more tenuous than the article’s headline suggests.

The connection between VeChain’s VeResearch initiative and several top universities, including Oxford University, is also less than clear-cut. The source of the claim is a tweet from Ben Yorke, a China-based British VeChain enthusiast who has translated the information from Mandarin.

Following the conversation down the Twitter rabbit-hole takes you to an advertisement for a VeChain-funded research position at Oxford University, and a heated debated over to what extent this constitutes a ‘partnership’ with one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

The apparent link with Delta Airlines is the most brazenly speculative of all, but is also the most heavily upvoted. This discussion stems from a Tweet by WaZalinking Delta’s pioneering use of RFID tags for airline luggage with VeChain’s winning of an Global Scaling Award co-sponsored by Delta.

Providing the blockchain infrastructure for a major airline’s innovative luggage tracking is completely in-line with the future plans hinted at when DNV GL’s investment in VeChain was announced, but the link between Delta and VeChain is far from concrete.

Exaggerated expectations and overhyped speculation are par for the course in the crypto space. But VeChain is a project particularly linked with this type of speculation, and for very good reason.

The Coca Cola Kid Effect

Many of VeChain’s biggest partnership announcements have been preceded by cryptic tweets by a mysterious figure going by the handle of the Coca Cola Kid. This Steemit article provides an excellent primer on the Coca Cola Kid’s M.O. and incredible accuracy. Highlights include the Kid tweeting an emoji of a burning cigarette hours before an announced partnership between VeChain and China Tobacco, and this cryptic screed highlighting the words Pilgrims, Beacons, Others, and Cysts (PBOC) sparking rumors of a partnership with the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

At the height of the last bull run, the Coca Cola Kid’s tweets were an incredibly effective marketing tool for VeChain. Dry press releases detailing potentially-huge partnerships seemed to have far less effect on moving the price than CCK’s cryptic tweets. Most followers seem to think CCK’s tweets were unofficial leaks rather than a master-planned VeChain viral marketing strategy, especially given that his Twitter account has been much quieter since the PBOC tweet included the words ‘they found me’ and ‘I had to make a run for it.’

But the drip-feed of hints through the CCK’s Twitter account has conditioned VeChain’s supporters to be continually reading between the lines. Each cryptic tweet attracted hundreds of replies and sparked discussion on Reddit and other forms of social media. Whether intentional or not, the CCK has played a huge role in establishing a committed online community for VeChain.

Announcements, Rumors, & Statistics

In August 2018, VeChain moved from being an Ethereum-based ERC20 token to its own main net. At the same time, the token supply was changed, so that each VEN ERC20 token was worth the equivalent of 100 VET main net tokens. The whole cryptocurrency space has been locked in a bear market since early 2018. While VeChain has performed largely in-line with the wider market, the main net migration and token supply change has had a negative effect on its overall standing in the cryptocurrency rankings by market cap.

On December 31 2017, VeChain was ranked 45th on coinmarketcap.com, with a market cap of $578 million and a price per token of $2.09. VeChain was one of the biggest gainers during a huge altcoin surge in January 2018, moving from 45thto 16th place in the rankings, while the market cap rose to $3.2 billion and the price per token hit $7.05. VET remained at around 16thor 17th place on coinmarketcap.com  until the main net move in August, at which point it slipped to 21stplace. As of writing, VeChain is currently ranked 25th, with a market cap just shy of $229 million.

Since the main net launch, VeChain has slipped down the rankings and its price has declined largely in line with Bitcoin and the overall crypto market. This is despite a steady stream of positive announcements surrounding partnerships and a fairly consistent increase in network usage.

The main measure of activity on the VeChain Thor blockchain network is the number of ‘clauses.’ Within VeChain’s network, clauses bundle together activity involving multiple accounts and smart contracts, making the number of clauses roughly equivalent to transactions on other networks. Looking at vechainstats.com, VeChain’s highest number of clauses was achieved immediately following the main net switch in August (526,068). This activity peak is likely due to users switching VEN ERC20 tokens to VET main net tokens.

VeChain’s network activity included 183,737 clauses in September, falling slightly to 178,215 in October, and increasing month-on-month since then. November saw an increase 228,378 clauses, which more than doubled to 468,994 in December. A milestone of 1 million transactions was passed in November. 135,219 clauses have already been utilized in the first five days of January, putting VeChain well on track to recording 2 million transactions by February.

Some interesting information has been uncovered by VeChain supporters on Reddit without any official announcement from the team. VeChain has a tiered structure of network nodes, with a target of 101 authority nodes at the highest level. Analyzing the IP addresses associated with these nodes has led Redditors to uncover that authority node holders likely include Alisoft, a subsidiary of Alibaba, as well as Prudential Fund Management Co. Ltd.

Experience has taught VeChain’s supporters to continually be reading between the lines for signs of unannounced partnerships. But beyond the hype and speculation, VeChain is clearly a project with powerful supporters. Whether this will translate into rewards for holders is a matter of debate. As with Ripple, VeChain’s detractors have pointed out that ordinary token holders may not necessarily reap the expected benefits from the underlying company’s success.

VeChain is a large-scale, ambitious project with a lot of information and hype to sift through. VeChain’s committed online community seem convinced that it will prove more than worth the effort.

About Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams is a British writer based in South Korea with a strong interest in emerging technologies, cryptocurrency, and the development of decentralized apps.

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