Helium logo

Helium is commonly heralded as one of many largest success tales in the Web3 space, even touchdown a coveted article in The New York Occasions earlier this 12 months. Since 2019, the decentralized wi-fi community service, which payments itself as a peer-to-peer community for the Web of Issues, has touted rideshare company Lime as one in all its marquee purchasers, claiming the corporate makes use of its service to geolocate rentable escooters. There are quite a few mentions of this partnership on its web site, together with the presence of Lime's firm emblem, and in press protection with numerous information retailers.

There's only one downside: That partnership by no means actually existed.

"Past an preliminary take a look at of its product in 2019, Lime has not had, and doesn't at the moment have, a relationship with Helium." Lime senior director for company communications Russell Murphy mentioned to Mashable.

In accordance with Murphy, there was a "transient take a look at of [Helium's] product that didn’t final past a month or two" in the summertime of 2019. There was no contact between Helium and Lime since then. Particulars surrounding what the take a look at really entailed are unclear, as Helium's main contact at Lime left the corporate greater than two and a half years in the past. Nonetheless, Murphy says that, as a situation of the trial, Lime had requested that its title not be utilized by Helium in promotional materials.

Helium's website
Lime is listed as an lively consumer on Helium's web site.
Credit score: Mashable Screenshot

On Helium's website, Lime is featured prominently, alongside Salesforce, as one of many largest firms that makes use of Helium's service, and positively the most important within the IoT house. Past merely stating its service "is utilized by" Lime, Helium additionally boasts that it's "trusted by" Lime on its "Enterprise" webpage. In a publish on Twitter from Could 2021, Helium mentions how it's "trusted by customers" and, once more, consists of Lime's emblem on a listing of its clients — however curiously omits instantly tagging Lime's Twitter account.

Regardless of the omnipresence of this supposed partnership, executives at Lime, who had been conscious of this misrepresentation, had declined to take motion, authorized or in any other case.

"Helium has been making this declare for years and it's a false declare," Murphy mentioned.

Now, nevertheless, Mashable has discovered that Lime is making ready to ship a stop and desist to Helium over its use of Lime's title and emblem on its web site, and in its advertising and marketing.

Helium tweet mentioning Lime
A tweet from 2021 listed Lime as a consumer of Helium.
Credit score: Mashable Screenshot

Based in 2013 by CEO Amir Harleem and Napster's Shawn Fanning, Helium has dubbed itself "The Folks's Community." Ostensibly, Helium is hoping to construct a community for Web of Issues units — principally something that requires connectivity to the web, akin to sensible fridges or the Ring doorbell — in locations with shoddy or non-existent WiFi, or 5G protection. Helium's decentralized mannequin requires it to broaden connectivity by a number of impartial units, quite than rely upon a centralized infrastructure.

How does Helium do that? By promoting hotspot units, priced as a lot as $500 every, to budding investors and hopeful entrepreneurs. The hotspots additionally act as crypto mining {hardware} and reward the house owners of those units with Helium's $HNT token, which it launched in July 2019, when a person accesses Helium's community by way of their hotspot gadget. $HNT is at the moment valued at roughly $9.

As of mid-2022, Helium's wi-fi community seems to have very few precise clients. As an alternative, the overwhelming majority of Helium's income comes from people that buy the corporate's hotspot units in hopes that they may earn cryptocurrency when firms, like Lime, make the most of the community service. Helium has used Lime's picture to show the community has main purchasers. However, Lime doesn't use the service.

Lime's scooters are available in almost 250 cities all over the world. And, in line with Lime spokesperson Murphy, the corporate has now logged greater than 300 million rides on its scooters.

Helium has been written about extensively by cryptocurrency-centric retailers, like Coindesk, however has additionally obtained mentions in mainstream press retailers, akin to Axios. Most lately, in February 2022, Helium and its COO Frank Mong had been the topic of a glowing profile in The New York Occasions by tech columnist Kevin Roose titled "Possibly There’s a Use for Crypto After All."

Lime was the primary of two firms named within the Occasions article for instance of Helium's largest purchasers.

"Anybody can use the Helium community, though most of its customers to date are firms like Lime (which has used Helium to maintain tabs on its related scooters)," wrote Roose. "It’s an actual product utilized by actual individuals and corporations on daily basis."

In accordance with Lime, The New York Occasions didn't attain out to the corporate to verify the partnership. Mashable tried to verify this however the Occasions mentioned it doesn't talk about sourcing. Because the article's publication, Helium has continued to put it on the market extensively. Helium CEO Amir Haleem has even pinned a Feb. tweet in regards to the piece to the highest of his Twitter profile.

These claims a few supposed Lime partnership are made even more attention-grabbing by an August 2020 video webinar interview, uploaded to Helium's YouTube channel, with Lime's former central operations supervisor Eddie Li.

Within the video, host Oliver Bruce of the Micromobility Podcast asks Li if Lime ever used Helium's community. 

"Did Lime ever find yourself adopting it and placing it out in any of their scooters?" asks Bruce.

"I do not know now, however I believe there was simply quite a lot of tasks happening," explains former Lime worker Li. "After testing with Frank [Mong], there was undoubtedly one thing that would have been there. However there's simply a lot happening at the moment…there was simply quite a lot of issues that didn't come to fruition with Helium."

COO Mong, who was one of many three individuals featured on the video podcast together with Bruce and Li, then chimes in. Mong recalled how Li had informed him in 2019, when Li was nonetheless working at Lime, how Helium's monitoring gadget would not work on Lime's scooters.

"Dude that is too huge, we will not use that on a scooter," Mong recalled Li saying. Mong mentioned that by the point Helium was capable of get a tool sufficiently small for the scooter, Helium now not had a contact at Lime as Li had exited the corporate.

Helium YouTube video on Lime
Helium COO Frank Mong exhibits simply how huge Helium's monitoring gadget was when Eddie Li (pictured: higher left), previously of Lime, determined to forgo attaching them to Lime's escooters.
Credit score: Mashable Screenshot

"We nonetheless hope we are able to get again in with Lime," Mong mentioned within the Aug. 5, 2020 video. In accordance with Lime spokesperson Murphy, Li has not labored at Lime for over two years. And, although the 2019 take a look at fizzled, Lime stays a central a part of Helium's advertising and marketing to this present day.

"I imagine [Li] was the one one who had any significant interplay with Helium," mentioned Murphy.

In November 2019, on Helium's official subreddit neighborhood on Reddit, Mong was questioned in regards to the Lime partnership by one other person within the discussion board. 

"We have now labored with Lime's operations staff in SF and we're in discussions to broaden," he replied. "They're an ideal group of parents! I am guessing 'company' would not find out about us as a result of quite a lot of our authentic sponsors are now not on the firm."

Whereas Helium was based in 2013, its wi-fi community enterprise mannequin floundered till it launched the crypto-earning facet into the service. In July 2019, Helium would begin minting its $HNT token and roll out its plan to promote hotspots in return for cryptocurrency rewards. One month earlier, in Helium's official weblog, CEO Haleem would first start mentioning a relationship with Lime. In one post from June 2019, he particularly categorized Lime as a "companion."

Helium CEO tweets about Lime
Helium CEO Amir Haleem reminisces a few testing part "earlier than we began working with Lime" in an Oct. 2020 tweet.
Credit score: Mashable Screenshot

Greater than a 12 months after that brief testing part in 2019, Helium's CEO would, as soon as once more, publish a few relationship with Lime, this time on Twitter. In an Oct. 5, 2020 tweet, Haleem shared how Helium "acquired" Lime scooters off the road in Oakland, CA with a view to equip them with the corporate's GPS trackers.

"earlier than we began working with @limebike we needed to get artistic," Haleem tweeted, insinuating that the 2 firms' involvement, which by no means lasted past that preliminary trial, was nonetheless in existence greater than a 12 months later.

When reached for remark, a spokesperson for Nova Labs, Helium's mum or dad firm, offered Mashable with the next assertion:

"Nova Labs labored with Lime operations out of their San Francisco HQ. They trialed Lime scooters with the Helium Community utilizing LoRaWAN monitoring units to seek out misplaced or stolen scooters, and had been impressed with the accuracy of the sensors and huge protection. Lime has since restructured and the staff members we labored with are now not employed there."

Eddie Li, who has exited the tech trade altogether and is now a restaurateur, informed Mashable that whereas he was employed at Lime he was instructed to "assist decrease depreciation of scooters and [find] a greater approach of monitoring."

Li was launched to Helium COO Mong by a mutual buddy and colleague. He confirmed that he was concerned within the June 2019 testing part and did stroll away pondering Helium's monitoring tech was "distinctive" and "fairly correct." His supervisor at Lime was conscious of the testing, however he believes information of the trial did not transcend his Central Operations division.

After June 2019, Li mentioned he was moved to a brand new staff inside Lime and his contact with Helium ceased. He additionally confirmed that no contracts had been signed and no cost was exchanged through the testing. Li mentioned he is not sure why Helium would've put the Lime emblem on its web site.

Helium's enterprise page
On its "Enterprise" webpage, Helium claims it's "trusted by" Lime.
Credit score: Mashable Screenshot

Within the Web3 house, Helium has been held up as a "unicorn," a typical VC time period to explain a startup firm with a worth of over $1 billion. The Web3 darling has raised greater than $364 million up to now from enterprise capital giants akin to Andreessen Horowitz and Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX Ventures at an over billion-dollar valuation.

Andreessen Horowitz called Helium the "quickest rising wi-fi community ever" when it invested within the firm final 12 months. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian by his VC agency, Seven Seven Six, can also be an investor. In March, Helium rebranded its firm title to "Nova Labs" with a view to differentiate itself from the Helium community service that it runs.

Whereas Helium boasts on its homepage about having offered almost a million hotspot crypto mining units to budding entrepreneurs, the precise individuals utilizing "The Folks's Community" have but to materialize. A recent profile from the tech publication The Generalist reported that Helium is simply making $6,500 a month from information use on its decentralized wi-fi community.

Earlier this week, Helium was thrust into the highlight after a Twitter thread criticizing the corporate's enterprise mannequin by angel investor and Web3 skeptic, Liron Shapira, went viral. Within the thread, Shapira makes the case that its $6,500 a month income exhibits that there is no such thing as a buyer base for Helium's wi-fi service. As an alternative, Shapira argues, the corporate's revenue mannequin is definitely based mostly round promoting the hotspots to speculators who're making an attempt to earn cryptocurrency, thus placing Helium's enterprise way more according to a multi-level advertising and marketing, or pyramid, scheme.

In response to Shapira's thread, Helium CEO Haleem and Helium investor Kyle Samani, a companion on the agency Multicoin Capital, confirmed the income particulars.

"The @helium community generates round $2M/mo in charges. most of that is within the type of Hotspot onboarding charges," tweeted Haleem. He proceeded to verify the $6,500 per 30 days income generated by precise information use.

"I do not dispute the numbers," Samani replied.

Together with Helium's points with getting clients for its wi-fi community, Helium's token — the reward for its hotspot house owners — has taken a success over the previous few months. $HNT has now dropped roughly 83 % from its earlier excessive of slightly below $53 in Nov. 2021. On Helium's subreddit, hotspot house owners have complained about earnings dropping to as little as $0.10 a month.

"My metropolis is simply too overloaded with miners. I make about 0.03$ a day," one person complained.

"I get like .10 a month so I unplugged that piece of crap," one hotspot proprietor mentioned.

To ensure that these investing within the hotspot units that Helium sells to revenue, Helium wants purchasers to actively use its wi-fi service. Having a high-profile checklist of purchasers would probably entice these on the lookout for a enterprise alternative to spend money on. Although, having a high-profile checklist of company purchasers repeatedly utilizing Helium's service would probably end in information prices amounting to greater than $6,500 a month.

The Web3 wi-fi community as soon as marketed Nestlé on its web site because it mentioned the corporate's ReadyRefresh water supply service utilized Helium. Nonetheless, Nestlé tells Mashable that it offered off the service together with its regional spring water manufacturers final 12 months. Helium has since eliminated Nestlé's emblem from its web site. Salesforce, an organization at the moment featured on Helium's homepage, didn't reply to an inquiry from Mashable about its use of Helium.

Helium additionally prominently options an Oct. 2021 press launch a few partnership with DISH on its web site homepage. When tech outlet PCMag (owned by Mashable’s writer, Ziff Davis) reached out to DISH, the corporate's consultant confirmed a partnership however appeared confused as to what it really entailed. DISH additionally didn't reply to an e-mail from Mashable about Helium.

Nonetheless, it seems that it was clear even to lots of Helium's hotspot clients that Lime was promoted as one in all its most outstanding purchasers.

"Aside from Lime, what different firms use the Community?," asked one Reddit person, who had simply invested in a Helium mining gadget, within the firm's official subreddit in Could 2020.

"We have now a bunch of bulletins coming," replied Helium COO Mong. "New clients, new partnerships, and extra! Thanks to your persistence. Please join our publication and comply with us on Twitter @helium and @fmong for breaking information."

Nonetheless, Mong failed to say one essential element: Lime wasn't and nonetheless is not a consumer.

UPDATE: Jul. 29, 2022, 2:11 p.m. EDT This text has been up to date with an announcement from Helium's mum or dad firm, Nova Labs.

UPDATE: Jul. 29, 2022, 6:01 p.m. EDT This text has been up to date with remark from Lime's former central operations supervisor, Eddie Li.

Moreover, an replace was made to make clear language concerning the $6,500 determine from Helium's information community. It's income not revenue.

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