There is an innate human desire to get inspired by an underdog winning the day, a la David versus the Goliath story. Yet there is also a darker side of the human psyche that loves the story of the high and mighty falling flat on their face. Thus, the story of a mighty crypto mover who becomes a leading figure in the industry, before losing it all and now trying to make a Rocky-ish comeback, makes for an interesting read.
Back in 2017, Ian Balina was the toast of the crypto town after all his keen observations were highly regarded and by the end of the year, he was a millionaire. Then, in the middle of 2018, the man lost almost all his personal wealth just as the market had slowed down. Since then he has been trying to climb back up, with little success.
Germinating The Seeds Of Success
The one-time prolific ICO influencer started small but smart. While working for IBM he had his hands in many pies, from blogging about freelancing to having a Youtube channel. His well-paying corporate job allowed him to explore other avenues of side money; one such venture was the blockchain.
The market hype around cryptos was climbing in the last quarter of 2017 This convinced Balina to take up punditry as a full-time role. His data-driven scientific approach to cryptoanalysis was surprisingly lacking in other similar channels. His due diligence – a detailed account of the team, the advisors on board the project and details of the plan/prototype – before recommending a project was quite novel. As expected the projects he recommended and invested outperformed everything else.
Then Balina started to post his works on social media, creating hype as his investments and predictions began to visibly show astounding results. The “Diary of a made man” had the community follow his every step as his investment reached its zenith at $5.6 million worth. A mere mention by Balina started to show strong growth for that project. This led to a scramble to get him on board as an advisor or just to help promote a particular ICO. However, this was not to last.
The Coup De Grace
His unlikely success story came to an abrupt end, at a time when the crypto markets had already taken a dive. Projects with less stable plans and implementations quickly got liquidated in the heat of the dying market. New ones entering the market were no longer guaranteed success, even with backing from known and established names.
This directly affected Balina’s fortunes, which quickly dropped with the rest of the market. Through all the turmoil the investor still had over $2.5 million worth of holdings. In one fell swoop, on the 18th of April, during a live stream, hackers cleaned up all his assets. Later it was found that this was down to lax security procedures implemented by Balina. All the encrypted private keys of the accounts were stored in Evernote. The hacker simply accessed this contact and the top trader found himself cryptoless.
Die Another Day
As the world came crashing down, rather admirably, Balina refused to be buried under the rubble. He started by trying to set up a more professional firm, a blockchain advisory company, 100X Advisors. Talking about the endeavor he said,
“I knew I had to make the money back [following the hack,] so we had to turn this into a real business, and we had to think like a business – get corporate sponsors and get partnerships.”
Unfortunately, the love he presumed from sponsorships was much harder to find than anticipated. He finally found a willing partner in KuCoin, a Singapore based exchange, in the hopes of resurrecting his career.
After this, the story takes a left turn into weird territory. According to reports published by theblockcrypto.com, who have sourced a document from one of the exchanges contacted by Baline, he has made many advertising suggestions and a host of demands. While the adverts are fairly standard; the site notes with interest the other aspect of the deal. The proposal requests $250,000 per episode and $75,000 per World Tour stop. Yet the one that catches one's eye is at the very end.
“All Ian Balina Projects available on [the] exchange for trading.”
This is thought to be a major reason why he has had such a torrid time finding a backer, as this runs opposite to almost all exchange’s listing policies.
Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship: Balina And KuCoin
By the end of last year, Balina confirmed a sponsorship deal with KuCoin. As their first Global Titan Ambassador, he will be promoting them on his social media platforms. In compensation, he will receive an undisclosed amount for content creation and team travel.
When asked for clarifications in relation to this clause, KuCoin confirmed that no automatic listing requirement was included in their partnership arrangement. In an interview with The Block, a spokesperson for Kucoin stated:
“We have signed an NDA and agreed with all the ambassadors that our project review process will be conducted independently and objectively by our internal project listing committee. KuCoin will, at its sole discretion, decide whether to list a token or not. And there is no guarantee implied or granted that a token suggested by any ambassador will be listed.”
It was further pointed out
“[Balina] has recommended a couple of projects to us and most of them have not been listed on KuCoin.”
As the new year starts, a fresh start is expected. One can but hope that Ian Balina story has one final chapter of a triumphant return. Yet this is also a cautionary tale of security ( or the lack thereof) and over-reliance on an industry that is yet to find its feet.