Dan Wagner, the founder and former CEO of collapsed payments unicorn Powa Technologies, is seeking to rebuild his reputation as a technology entrepreneur with a new e-commerce venture along the same lines of Powa.
Powa Technologies once claimed to be worth $2.7 billion (£2 billion) — one of London’s few tech “unicorns” — but collapsed into bankruptcy administration in February after blowing through over $200 million (£151 million) of investor money.
Powa, which made payment products, struggled to gain traction with its flagship PowaTag product, despite opening expensive offices all around the world.
Documents from the administration suggest the business left unpaid debts of over £100 million and its implosion was so spectacular that KPMG cited its collapse as a factor behind a fall in UK fintech investment. You can read BI’s full account of the company’s collapse here.
Wagner went to ground after Powa’s collapse, refusing to speak to the media for several months, before changing his position and defending himself in the press. Since then, Wagner has been quiet for several months.
In recent weeks Wagner launched a new blog where he shares his “insights and observations on technology and entrepreneurship.” He has written two posts since July 17, including one on similarities between “Poké’mon Go” and Brexit.
On the website — where Wagner describes himself as being “at the forefront of highly successful eCommerce technology start-ups” — is a link to Rezolve, a new company Wagner is helping to establish.
Rezolve’s website says it’s a “mobile image and audio recognition technology creates a whole new buying or paying experience for your customer, whether you’re a bank, Telco, public utility or merchant.
“Now your customer can buy straight off the page, or directly from any broadcast in an instant. We can even put a global smart search shopping mall in the palm of their hands,” the website reads.
The product seems extremely similar to PowaTag, an app that aimed to let consumers shop in any way they wanted, letting them scan TV ads, window displays, and adverts to get a link to a product that they could buy in a few clicks. However, the product struggled with lacklustre adoption from both consumers and retailers.
The Financial Times reported during Powa’s administration process that staff were warned by administrators Deloitte not to pass any intellectual property to former management shortly after being appointed.
Wagner told BI that there is no overlap between Powa and Rezolve despite the similarities, saying over email: “Of course there is no ‘overlap’ in between Powa and Rezolve.
“I have created something entirely new with Rezolve and wouldn’t dream of using IP that didn’t belong to me. Actually, I don’t need anything from Powa to deliver this new and improved vision anyway.”
Wagner first publicly confirmed he was working on Rezolve in April, saying during a talk: “I have a core set of people who have been with me at MAID, with me at Venda, with me at Powa, some of whom are coming over to my new thing at the moment, Rezolve.”
The Financial Times first reported that Wagner was involved in a new company under the name Rezolve, which was set up with seed funding from his father John Wagner (who was a non-executive director at Powa).
Rezolve’s website lets people register development updates and a launch date but Wagner told BI over email: “Rezolve is now ‘out there’ and making great progress.”
Wagner’s attempt to rebuild his reputation comes at the same time as reports that Powa’s biggest backer is one of the worst performing hedge funds of the year. Forbes reports that Wellington Management’s Bay Pond Partners was down by 27.9% in the first half of 2016. Wagner has blamed Wellington for Powa’s demise, saying that it was the investment house’s decision to call in loans that led to the company’s collapse.