In Brief
Sirin Labs Lays Off Staff as Blockchain Phone Sells Poorly

Tel Aviv-based smartphone startup Sirin Labs has laid off one in four of its staff following worse-than-expected sales of its blockchain phone, reports Israeli business newspaper Globes.

“Consumers need a product that gives them confidence their data is safe,” Sirin Labs chairman Kenes Rakishev told the Jerusalem Post back in December. But if consumers do need such a product, they must have found it elsewhere. “Sales are not what we expected,” the company told Globes.

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Sirin Labs had poured funds into making its blockchain phone, the Finney, a success. It launched in November 2018, priced at $999, and Sirin quickly opened stores in London and Tokyo to draw in customers. They brought in Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi as a brand ambassador (joining a large club of companies in that respect, from Tata Motors to Huawei). Across two ICOs, the company has raised roughly $255 million.

Bigger players than Sirin are betting on the blockchain phone market: HTC started delivering the Exodus 1 in December last year.

But the company’s tokens have lost 99 percent of their value. Ominous question marks hang over the source of Sirin Labs’ funding, too. CEO Moshe Hogeg, a serial entrepreneur, has been taken to court more than once amid claims of misappropriation of funds from unrelated ICOs.

Bigger players than Sirin are betting on the blockchain phone market. Taiwanese electronics firm HTC started delivering the Exodus 1 blockchain phone in December last year. HTC at first charged 0.15 bitcoin or 4.78 Ethereum for the device, before later pricing it at $699.

HTC had a rough 2018, laying off 1,500 manufacturing jobs in Taiwan after selling a portion of its design division to Google. Its revenue collapsed by nearly two thirdsfrom around $2 billion to around $800 million. On a brighter note, the creator of the Exodus, Phil Chen, recently announced a $50 million fund to invest in blockchain services and startups.