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Humanity Protocol Boss Terence Kwok Nearly Bankrupted “Unicorn” Phone Company Tink Labs: Will Blockchain Venture be Any Different? 

Last Updated May 17, 2024 11:09 AM
Shraddha Sharma
Last Updated May 17, 2024 11:09 AM

Key Takeaways

  • Terence Kwok-led Humanity Protocol focuses on decentralized identity with an emphasis on privacy.
  • Kwok previously founded Tink Labs which rose quickly but collapsed due to unsustainable growth.
  • The Humanity Protocol now aims to bridge the gap between online and offline identities.

Terence Kwok founded Tink Labs in Hong Kong back in 2012. The startup gained traction that solidified its status as a unicorn company. 

But, Tink Labs collapsed after claiming a global presence with 12m reported customers. Kwok is now leading Humanity Protocol, which has emerged as a Worldcoin rival, promoting a privacy-focused identity solution. 

The Rise and Fall of Tink Labs

In 2018, Tink Labs was a rising star, poised to raise at least $300m in funding. The funding pushed its valuation to at least $1.5b, according to a TechCrunch report . 

Before its collapse, Tink Labs set out to revolutionize the hospitality industry by developing smartphones for hotel guests to use during their stay.

 

Tink Labs Europe Ltd., was also an extension of the Hong Kong-based startup Tink Labs. In 2016, the company faced a compulsory strike-off notice in the region. 

With that, the rapid rise of Tink Labs soon met a stark downfall. By 2019, reports emerged  that Tink Labs had folded the bulk of its operations just months after a festive Christmas party. The startup was a well-funded enterprise in Hong Kong. It reportedly managed to raise about  $200m before its collapse instead of the $300m target.

Tink Labs’ Bankruptcy

The company’s collapse also underlines the risks associated with raising large sums of money before proving that the business model is sustainable. 

By July 2019, the disgruntled and unpaid staff reportedly left the company’s Oxford Street office “smearing cake all over the walls and floor” in protest. 

By August 2019, the company ceased remaining operations with reports of mass layoffs. FT Interviews with former employees suggest that the organization pursued aggressive growth without the requisite profitability to support it.

Humanity Protocol Waitlist
Humanity Protocol Waitlist

By January 2020, the Europe court ordered its  winding up, and a liquidator was appointed. Progress reports in winding up were filed in March 2021, 2022, and 2023, with the appointment of new liquidators and removal notices continuing into April 2024.

Despite this setback, Kwok has not shied away from ambitious projects. His latest venture, Humanity Protocol, has drawn significant attention in the vertical of decentralized identity solutions. 

The Birth of Humanity Protocol

The Humanity Protocol aims to bridge the gap between online and offline identities through a Proof of Humanity (PoH) consensus mechanism. CCN previously explained that it uses palm scans for identity verification. The project also places a strong emphasis on privacy, contrasting with the controversial iris scans used by competitor Worldcoin.

Humanity Protocol, which recently raised $30m in a seed round, now boasts a valuation of $1b.

Kwok promoted Proof of Humanity as a powerful concept, positioning Humanity Protocol as a privacy-focused alternative to Worldcoin.

By emphasizing privacy and security, Kwok could hope that the Humanity Protocol will avoid the pitfalls that led to Tink Labs’ downfall by building a sustainable business model.

Humanity Protocol Needs to Build Sustainability

Tink Labs tumultuous journey serves as a reminder of the challenges startups face in balancing growth with sustainable business practices. 

As Kwok ventures into decentralized identity from hotel phones, only time will tell if Humanity Protocol can live up to its promise and avoid the fate that befell Tink Labs. As a Worldcoin rival, it also needs to address privacy concerns that might emerge following its launch. 

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