Our Grade- 4/10
Kodak is a photography company founded in 1888 by George Eastman. A dominant force in the inexpensive camera market, Kodak flourished for over 100 years. As the technology boom took us into the new millennium, Kodak began to show signs of antiquity. Phones became the new cameras, and digital photography replaced the need for developing film. In January 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As part of the agreement, Kodak sold off many of its businesses to pay creditors, including many lucrative patents. In total, $525,000,000 of intellectual property was sold to Silicon Valley giants. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 and tried to focus on an array of different products, including movie film development and a Kodak smart phone.
The unexpected happened in January 2018. The beleaguered company announced that they would be launching a cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency (KodakCOIN) would be used on their image sharing and licensing platform on the blockchain. This sent the price of Kodak stock skyrocketing. As we all began to look into KodakONE (platform) and KodakCOIN, we noticed that there wasn’t much information to go on. Was this another Riot Blockchain? Or Long Blockchain?
We gave this ICO a rating grade of an 4/10. We don’t recommend investing into this ICO, but there is something unique about this platform. The KodakONE team is almost all patent lawyers, and they are building something that does not exist right now. If we can all think of the different images we have used for projects, websites, or on social media, we didn’t pay for them. Someone designed these pictures and was not paid for them. Kodak, having a history of lucrative patents, saw blockchain as an opportunity to level the playing field for all those who are participating in the new internet marketplace. Companies like Fiverr and Up work are examples of how labor around the emerging world now stands on level ground with their developed world counterparts. KodakONE aims to be the Fiverr for images, and have its cryptocurrency as the method of exchange to purchase/receive royalties in the image marketplace.
In conclusion, this is not an Iced Tea company trying to be Google. Kodak’s business is image rights, and they are setting up shop on the blockchain to start a global image marketplace where people can monetize their work. Does it need to be on the blockchain? Absolutely not. That is why the grade is 4/10. However, we simply can’t discount the level of legal IP that is going to go into the network.
We will be discussing the components of each part of their business, as well as the targeted ecosystem of buyers they are looking to attract. If you have any questions on this ICO or want us to review one for you, don’t hesitate to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
George Eastman was born and raised in Upstate New York. The son of a farmer turned business school president, George was able to see the world through a different lense. Rochester, New York was a boom town in the newly industrialized America of the 1850s. As machinery jobs brought more wealth into the city, George had his own plans to revolutionize American life.
In 1885, George bought the patent for roll film, which was uniquely designed to be loaded even in the daylight without disrupting the quality of the pictures. This patent was the beginning of Kodak, which was incorporated in 1888. Roll film would eventually go on to be the primary ingredient for motion pictures and cameras that the public could afford to use on a much broader scale. No longer would amateur photographers have to dwell in dark rooms and spend money on expensive development equipment. In 1900, the Kodak development machine became one of the most widely used motion picture tools that directors had at their disposal.
In 1932, George took his own life after enduring life-altering pain from his spinal cord. He left a note “My work here is done. Why wait?”. It is truly a shame, because one of the most important parts of his legacy came only 3 years later. In 1935, Eastman Kodak came out with Kodachrome. Color motion pictures. The technology has since been updated, but it will forever be the building block of modern color film.
The period after Kodachrome was where see the beginning of our ICO… over 80 years ago. Although pictures were Kodak’s business, it’s specialty was patents. Kodak was now an American Institution with over 50 years as a thriving company. They were listed on the Dow Industrial Index in 1930 (and remained until 2004), and this was the size and scale that George knew could keep him on top of the mountain. The film industry as a business requires Intellectual property. Without buying up known processes to develop motion pictures, there was no leverage to conquer new technology and keep out new entrants. With Kodak especially, the legal history of the picture/film industry is a symbol of just how nasty the fights between film developers can get.
By 1976, Kodak controlled 90% of the film and picture market. Their profits were soaring to new records, and the stock was continuing to perform strongly.
Then came Fujifilm.
Fujifilm was founded in 1934, and was working in a parallel, un-globalized market with Kodak in Asia. Their technology was even less expensive than Kodak’s, and was catching up rapidly to Kodachrome Motion picture quality. 1984 was when Kodak truly needed George. The sponsorship for the 1984 Olympics came up, and Kodak, the American film giant, passed on it. This left a void for its Japanese peer, Fujifilm, to take the spotlight. Those Olympics were known as the beginning of the end for Kodak’s monopoly on the picture/film market in America.
Fuji set up their own US film processing plant shortly after the Olympics, and their technology was simply the better product. The film was more granular, and it was actually cheaper than what Kodak could produce. Kodak was also not given any favors in the Asian market. Their sales abroad dwindled, and the Japanese market simply couldn’t be penetrated by Gaijin. In 1995, the US Government, on behalf of Kodak, filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization that Fuji had “unfair business practices”, which led to an unjust advantage in the global film market. The WTO came back with a sweeping rejection of this complaint, and inferred that this was just the lifecycle of business innovation.
It only took 9 years for the pain to truly show. In 2004, Kodak announced it would stop selling cameras in Europe and North America, and cut 20% of its workforce. The stock was de-listed from the Dow Industrial Average for the first time in 74 years. The time between 2004 and their bankruptcy in 2013 can be summarized by rapid expansion and contraction through IP-related mergers, acquistions, and forfeitures. Kodak rapidly acquired new technology companies that would enhance (or compete) with their core businesses, but would then be forced to sell/spin them off for a variety of financial reasons. In 2013, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The way to understand film companies is to understand patents. Over their 100 years of operation, they acquired rapidly. Their incumbency allowed them to buy up American start-ups, and then use or sit on their technology for themselves. This stockpile of patents was what kept the company alive for so long. In 2014, the majority of that stockpile was sold to a consortium of Silicon Valley giants with a vested interest in liberalizing the free market of images and development.
KodakONE and KodakCOIN
In January 2018, Kodak announced KodakONE. This was a blockchain platform that was going to be for “photographers rights management”, as the company described. The premise was straightforward. KodakONE would use an encrypted distributed ledger to validate and confirm the rights of artist’s registered work, and then use “crawler bots” to constantly scan the internet to see if any of those images were stolen or used without licensing. The crawlers would then offer a way for the “infringer” to pay for his rights to use the image.
Overall, the idea was more well-thought out than people gave Kodak credit for. With other companies completely unrelated to technology coming out with blockchain announcements, Kodak was unfortunately grouped in with many bad and fraudulent actors. However, given the history of Kodak in patent and image law, the blockchain did seem like a viable opportunity for the failing camera company.
The ICO was planned to be offered on January 31, 2018 to US and Canadian investors. Their announcement on January 9th made it seem like they had this all planned out, but clearly the patent company didn’t research anything about cryptocurrency or offerings. They had not taken the proper steps to prepare themselves for a Regulation D Offering, which you need to validate accredited US investors prior to investment.
On top of that, their coin is a utility token built on Ethereum. If the token is offered as a security under regulation D, there is no way for the coin to be shared and used by the target market they intend to focus on. People who share images aren’t all accredited investors, and the transfer of private placement securities requires lawyers. Their website has since delayed the project to make sure that all relevant investors can get an opportunity to invest in the network. In other words, they are looking for utility token offering country.
I first decided to do some research on the information that the company released via their website. There was little to none. It was a scroll-down website with a pop-up offer in the beginning to be sent their “Lite-paper”. We still have not received the lite paper.
The website was not related in any way to the main Kodak site. The website, kodakcoin.com, had brief information on the platform, the team members, advisors, and some news articles that were written internally about their partnerships. Overall, next to nothing.
Even the information in the news was scattered and differed in what was known and not known about the ICO and its launch date. Okay, we’ve seen this all before. Either Kodak gave them no capital to market or it’s a quiet parking spot until regulations are figured out. As of April, 2018, we have seen next to nothing on what’s going on.
Website and Content Analysis
The first frame of the website is a post made by the company dated February 5th, 2018. That is like 1900 in cryptocurrency terms. The post said they were making the pre-sale in “short order”, but did address the ICO. They did NOT say they would be doing a Regulation D Offering in the United States. They left that open. This makes this ICO available to an entire globe, and their European division visibly is the strong hold of this Rochester, NY company. As of now, everyone but the United States can read on. Ironic isn’t it?
The next portion explains “About KodakONE”. It is a revolutionary image rights platform, they say. It makes an image have perpetual value by its registration on the blockchain. Let’s say you have a photo of a wonderful rainforest. The mood was just perfect, and there was a baboon blowing you a kiss. In the past, this was a relic you shared within the family. Now, with the internet, people have been showing it for free in different mediums like Facebook, Instagram, etc. KodakONE wants you to upload it, register it, and share it within their platform of pictures for hire.
The network insures that the images will only go to someone that’s that verifiably transacted for them, and they will also scan the internet and “Robo-charge” for the copyrighted image. This is the very interesting part. They will charge you quickly, they say. A window pops up, asks the infringer for a sum in KodakCOIN, and the artist/entrepreneur will pay the fee as a common cost of doing business. I am not going to deviate to another company here, but this industry is $1.78B from Shuttershock alone. Licensing images and work is a large niche, but this gets pretty good.
The intended advantage is their ability to trace the internet and charge people. They are going to be doing this automatically with the investment into their business. I checked Shuttershock’s website. If you think your image has been infringed…you can email them about it. That means there have never been commercial hunters for infringement quite like what they are saying.
The next sliding frame pane was more information on the use cases of registering your image on the chain. Definite proof of internet ownership, with the legal means to swiftly handle infringement. The blockchain specializes in this. I am hoping there is more information on just how that happens.
Wenn Digital is “providing digital asset management assistance” on the blockchain by monitoring user’s IP right violations if spotted off of the chain.
W.E.N.N " About Us this is Wenn Media, a UK-based media paparazzi company that deals with many copyright infringement issues on their images. This is the parent company to Wenn Digital. The Wenn Media software for copyright infringement is apparently the IP of Wenn Digital, and they wanted to commercialize it. They have no website, and their Crunchbase simply says “Active”. Very investor friendly, Wenn!
Kodakcoin was introduced to us. This is the ERC-20 cryptocurrency that would act as the global police department for the image internet. Kodakcoin would be the method of exchange for the internet police to come after you if there was image theft. This is important to note: how does the internet bug collect the money in this quick fashion? What if the person doesn’t have Kodakcoin? Are they then forced to buy it on the spot? None of these questions could be answered on their website.
(Note: Next Pane was latest news pieces that we incorporated into the report)
Jan Denecke-CEO- A patent lawyer with his own law firm in Berlin, Germany. Jan has fought over 25,000 copyright infringement cases. He developed the “Ryde Platform” for his infringement cases, but wanted to commercialize it. Wenn Digital was born, they acquired Cover Media, and their new target was the blockchain. Jan is the leader of Wenn Digital.
Matthew Walker- President- Matthew is the CEO of Wenn Media, the UK image paparazzi company, and has been at the helm since 2016. In 2010, Matthew founded Cover Media, which licenses entertainment images and videos. Cover Media was bought by Wenn Media/Digital, but still continues their work in tandem.
Volker Brendel- CTO- Works on behalf of the Deloitte Analytics Institute (wait…what?) and as a member of NOT Wenn Media, but the Ryde Project that is taking place at Jan’s law firm. So a Big 4 Accounting firm has some sort of consultant that is working on artificial intelligence to go with the legal aspect of it all. I believe he may be setting up the bugs.
Fabian Moritz- CFO- Accountant for hire that works for many different projects and business at the same time.
Philip Kohn- COO- Has a background with BMW, McKinsey, and others, which makes me think he is in the business of running project sites. I am not sure the defined role of that is. This is not technology based role.
Benedikt Von Dohanyi- Advisor-Chief Commercial Officer- A sports marketing agency head with experience at IMG in Florida. He currently has major clients that I am assuming would be very interested in licensing their work.
Cameron Chell- Lead Strategic Advisor- Giving the team start-up advice as a serial entrepreneur of over 4 companies himself. He has written a book on how to manage costs. Here we have a our first red flag. “Cameron is a lead advisor on two projects- Central Coin and Wenn Digital”. There were rumblings Wenn Digital had launched an unsuccessful ICO, and Kodakcoin may be a remnant of their re-branding. This wouldn’t be a red flag if we weren’t talking about one of America’s oldest and once-prestigious industrial companies.
There are other listed advisors. Experience is not relevant- Moving on
Website and Content Conclusions
This is a bad website. If I had to grade it out of 10, it is a 4 as a standalone and 1 as the ambassador of an American company. There is no information, the website was last updated in February, and the people within this web have no information on themselves. The team has about 4-5 different business and projects going on at the same time, all while they took over Eastman Kodak of Rochester, New York, and plan to launch an ICO under their name. I have no idea who at Kodak allowed this, but there must be some sort of connection between UK paparazzi and Kodak. Oh, and German lawyers too.
The ecosystem is the reason the score isn’t low. If there is still any magic dust IP left at Kodak, and they have invested into a company that can help them leverage their IP, we may have a great market. If Shuttershock can have a 1 Billion market cap and all they can do is have you send in an email, how could KodakONE not be 10x better for buyers? I would say the ecosystem for this type of licensed content sharing is easily a $3B/year industry. There is very little public information on this industry.
The ecosystem can’t be explained without specifics on what the coin is classified as (security vs. token), where it trades, what it’s supply is. All of this information we don’t have. The lite paper has not come, and all we had is a crummy website to go off of.
There have been no talks of relationships, other than the relationship between Wenn Digital and Kodak. Wenn Digital seems to be a mish-mash of entrepreneurs who got a big break when a big-time company called them, and wanted a piece of the action without getting their hands into hot water. Once again, this section is devoted toward corporate relationships, internal relationships, etc. But, there is nothing. There is no information as to who this company is working with, how much they are funded, and who they are funded by.
Technology Team- 2/10
There is one full-time CTO that is working with the German Lawyers. How much time is he spending on developing this gigantic system for photo licensing that is unrelated to his contract work for Jan’s legal clients? I can’t tell you. There is no information on the team, and who has built what.
Conclusion – 4/10
Kodak is a storied institution that was considered the next evolution of Edison’s work on electricity. It was American Index royalty for 74 years, and it has all come down to a German team that doesn’t seem focused on the project until it’s paying them. Has Kodak simply given away their last piece of IP, their name, in exchange for virtual tokens during the ICO? It doesn’t seem like there is much funding going on here. I have yet to understand how Kodak fits into all of this. This seems like another investment on their growing list of companies that they don’t want to compete with.
The German lawyers clearly have a piece of technology that has made them a lot of money, and they would like funding to launch it upon (yes…upon) all images on the internet. If this takes place, and the supply isn’t 1 Trillion, there might be some movement that takes place. But having said that, this is a black eye for Kodak. If this takes off, it’s certainly not what America’s picture company put together.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.