Business Insider/Oscar Williams-Grut
Dan Wagner, the CEO and founder of collapsed payments unicorn Powa Technologies, is already working on his next company, which will likely do something very similar to Powa’s flagship product.
Powa Technologies once claimed to be worth $ 2.7 billion but collapsed into administration in February after blowing through over $ 200 million of investor money.
Wagner has gone to ground since then, refusing to speak to the press, but has this week changed his position and begun speaking out.
As part of his rehabilitation tour, Wagner gave a 10-minute talk on “Being an entrepreneur” at the EntrepreneurCountry Forum event at the Royal Institution in London on Wednesday. Wagner was billed in the event programme as “arguably the most successful tech entrepreneur in the UK.”
In his talk, Wagner confirmed that he is already working on a new company, Rezolve, saying: “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). But Wednesday is the first time Wagner has publicly acknowledged the new venture.
Wagner also dropped strong hints that Rezolve will develop a product similar to PowaTag, Powa’s consumer app that lets people buy anything by scanning QR codes, iBeacons, audiowaves, and other real-world queues. Here’s a video of PowaTag in action:
The FT reported that staff at Powa staff were warned by administrators Deloitte not to pass any intellectual property to former management shortly after being appointed.
Wagner told the EntrepreneurCountry audience: “But the point is, those sort of visions require time for adoption. Entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurial endeavour and trying to create something [sic] is full of pitfalls. You just need to get on with it, pick yourself up, have another go, which is exactly what I’m going to do. And I will continue to do probably forever.”
“What happened at Powa was a shock to me”
Powa collapsed in February after Wellington Management, which provided the bulk of Powa’s funding, called in loans. Deloitte’s insolvency report shows Powa lost over £65 million over the last two years on revenues of just under £6 million.
On the collapse, Wagner said: “We built the platform PowaTag. That platform was a new way to engage the device. As we went around the world building momentum on this thing, it consumed a lot of capital on the way and unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, we didn’t have enough capital to get us through to consumer adoption.”
“I really don’t want to get into the Powa story because what you may have read, is not the story at all. Until that story comes out — I’ve got some legal and other sort of gagging orders — I can tell you that it’s a very different story to what’s out there. This is not about blindly driving this into a wall.
“What happened at Powa was a shock to me, a shock to the board and a shock to everyone else. It went down in a very bad way over a period of about 10 days. Until that comes out I don’t think there’s much I can comment on.”
Wagner also hit out at press coverage at Business Insider and elsewhere of Powa’s collapse, saying: “The press coverage to me has been very pointed and very aggressive and ridiculous actually from respectable sources, quote unquote, like the FT and the BBC who’ve reported on this. Elsewhere in the world, there’s not a word. In the United States, we were very high level and there’s not a word, no coverage. I think that illustrates a lot.
“What you see is what you get with me, I’ll answer every question, I have no ability to lie to anyone. I have no ability to be sly and conniving, I’m just who I am. That works against you sometimes and it works for you in other times. Some people like my openness and honesty — if I’m angry, they know I’m angry — but I’m not very capable of hiding my emotions and that doesn’t work to my advantage.”
Asked about the ease at which he appears to have bounced back from Powa, Wagner said: “Anywhere where a business fails, where people lose their jobs, it’s soul destroying. More so for me than anyone else, because I embodied that company, I lived it, it was my vision and for it to dissolve is crushing, totally crushing.”
At least 75 people lost their jobs in the collapse of Powa and around 110 former employees are making claims for around £150,000, a figure that includes unpaid wages.
Approached by BI after the event, Wagner said: “It’s all rubbish. I don’t want to comment on anything. You’re being fed a load of rubbish by a load of people who’ve got issues. You’re not doing proper journalism.”
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