Back in early 2017, You were not the only one feeling that Lattice80 was odd.
The “world’s largest FinTech hub”, which opened its doors in Singapore a few months earlier, looked more like a three-quarter empty co-working space than anything else.
Tenants there would tell you that they only paid half the rate other co-working spaces would charge (this was even before WeWork entered the market); and investors would tell you that the Founder, Joe Cho, borrowed aggressively to expand his business.
Joe Cho was also Chairman of Marvelstone Group, whose name drew parallels with some of the best-known outfits in the investing world.
Alas, you could hardly find any report casting doubt on its business model. Why would anyone? Chairman of MAS was the guest of honour at Lattice80’s official opening.
Within a year, the landlord decided to take back the premises. Soon, the updates of Marvelstone became highly erratic: biggest AI hub, crypto tokens, relocation to the UK (yes when Brexit uncertainty was brewing) etc.
Then it went quiet, until early this week, when Singapore’s Business Times ran an exclusive on Joe Cho being sued in South Korea and Singapore by investors.
Fraudster or unlucky entrepreneur
People knew this would happen. However, the question is: was Joe Cho a fraud, or just an entrepreneur who had some bad luck (which most entrepreneurs do, unfortunately)?
Judging from the report that 33% annual return was “guaranteed” to individual investors by Marvelstone, we thought the former was more likely.
Or, perhaps, the person was just not smart (or prudent) enough at the beginning to know that this was not sustainable.
Many entrepreneurs have that problem (over-optimism), too.