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Ambisafe owes $200k in salaries to dozens of developers

The Ambisafe IT company that develops blockchain projects owes salaries to its 30 ex-workers since 2019: developers, DevOps, Team Leads. The total debt exceeds $200,000. The management has remained silent on this issue since summer 2021. However, now the company started to hunt workers again. AIN.UA reveals details of this story.

Why such an enormous debt?

In 2018-2019, Ambisafe developed several cryptocurrency-related products, especially with Ether: the Orderbook exchange with smart contracts, a cryptowallet, and complement SaaS services. One of its projects was asset tokenization. For example, Ambisafe planned to tokenize SpaceX shares through the Unicorn Equities fund.

Their idea was to turn USPX tokens on the Ethereum blockchain into fund assets, then purchase SpaceX shares for received money to turn token holders into stakeholders of the fund that owns SpaceX stocks. But the project didn’t succeed, and in January 2022, members of the fund’s official chat asked the administrators why SpaceX disappeared from the fund’s website and Orderbook’s website.

After the ‘crypto winter’ 2018, when the value of most cryptocurrencies fell (Bitcoin, after a good race in 2017, lost 50% just in a month), the company shrank from 150 down to 15 persons. Some of them were fired, the others left, and some worked with a lower salary for a while.

Now the company recruits new specialists for its cryptocurrency products, including the Orderbook platform. At the same time, dozens of people who left the company in 2018-2019 are still waiting for their salaries. The debts vary from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per person. And the total debt is about $200,000.

What do the ex-workers say?

The AIN.UA editor had conversations with a few ex-workers of Ambisafe who are still waiting for their wages. The company executives first created a private chat on Telegram for all non-paid 35 persons to inform them about updates. But after July 2021, there are no new messages about money from the management.

During interviews with AIN.UA, most professionals asked for anonymity. That’s why we publish some comments with hidden names. We had a separate conversation with every ex-worker, but in general, details are typical for all stories: they worked for the company in 2018-2019, then started delays with payments, some of them left earlier, some later, but most of them haven’t seen their money yet.

Artem Yushkov worked at Ambisafe as a Senior DevOps Engineer from February 2018 until July 2019. On January 1, 2019, he said, the management announced decreasing salaries for all workers, but with a promise to compensate everything in a few months. Instead, at the beginning of 2019, the company started to delay payments, and soon after that, they stopped paying at all by constantly postponing the payments. Finally, the leaders explained that they would pay all debts in a month thanks to new clients, but it never happened.

–         Andriy cannot answer because of Burning Man, I think.
–         Burning Man started on August 25. Andriy doesn’t respond longer.
–         Preparty.
–         When should the investor come? Yes, that’s how the business works, exactly!
–         Hi, please help me with updates.
–         I think Johnny is also there.
–         There is no money, but you must stay strong!
–         After August 1, I am no longer a part of Ambisafe. I have no updates; they denied all my accounts.
Here is the work chat about payment delays (Andriy is CEO, Andriy Zamovskyi).

“The last promise was in summer 2021 that they would start pay debts in parts [Editor’s note: see the screenshot below — editor]. But there was no payment, and CEO [Editor’s note: Andriy Zamovskyi] has remained silent since then. And I have wondered reading positive feedback about the company on DOU,” Artem said. According to our sources, the company owes him $12,500, which is not the highest debt amount.

–         No plus, no response, no hello.
–         I read the message just recently. I cannot afford an assistant who would be answering all the messages in chats yet. Hereby I inform you that Ambisafe is alive and doesn’t deny its responsibility for debts.
–         I have an interesting question for you: Let’s assume that Ambisafe will be able to spend $5000 per month from the next month to pay debts. There are 35 of you here. $5000 / 35 = $142 per person.
–         Would you like to get $142 each month, or would it be better to pay debts in higher amounts but for selected persons (from smaller sums to bigger ones)?
Survey: How to pay debts?
50% — everyone gets the same $100 a month;
50% — selected people get $1000 every month.
Screenshot of a Telegram chat dated July 2021, here and below — from private sources of AIN.UA

Similar stories tell other ex-workers. One of them, remaining anonymous, said that he joined Ambisafe in 2018 and was fired in May-June 2019, together with most essential staff. He remembers that problems with payments have begun even earlier — in winter 2019, and after the new year, they paid only a half of the salary. The company’s debt to him also hits about $12,000.

–         Hi, last time you wrote that the new date of receiving funds from USCG was August 20. Is there any news?
–         I will be thankful for any answer.
–         +1 to the previous message.
–         Can you please give me an answer, including “there is and will be no money”? I need some certainty. Just not ignore me, OK? Thanks.
–         Please, give an honest answer about whether should we wait for payments or not.
–         If we succeed, all given promises will remain effective. If not, there would likely be no chance to pay from such a deep shit hole where everything is going.
–         Succeed with what? Finding a new investor? Monetizing the product?
–         Any way to earn money — investment, product, 800 bitcoins forgotten in 2015 on an old server.
–         800 BTC is a good bonus for a startup.
–         Just 800 bitcoins.
–         I can’t imagine that if I owed someone money, I would say so calmly that “there is no chance.” I think I would find another job and earn it or take a loan to pay my debt.

Another Ambisafe’s ex-employee, Ivan, worked as a Technical Project Manager for a few years before the discharge in 2019. When the problems with payments started, he remembers that the CEO of the company with almost 150 employees organized a general meeting and fired 70-80 people just during a day.

Another ex-team member provided more details about this moment: “The culmination happened in May when they called an all-hands meeting and said that they failed with an investor, and most employees will be fired. The company promised to pay debts as soon as they had funds. After off-record conversations with the leaders, it was clear that the investor they negotiated with had no money and wanted to attract third-party investors to earn a bonus for this deal as an intermediary.”

Ivan was fired among the last. Leaving the company, he took a chair and an old MacBook as compensation for the debt. It was less than 20%, and the company still owes him about $5500, he said.

He also wondered at positive feedback about the company and the information about hunting new staff: “Sure, we all wanted to get our honestly earned money. And we didn’t want other professionals to get in the same situation as well,” he added.

A Python developer who worked for the company at that time agreed to comment on the situation anonymously. However, he remembers that the company allowed people to take work devices as payment during the massive discharging. He had taken a laptop, but then the managers asked him to pay for it. After a chat with the CEO, they revoked their claims.

–         Hi. What did Dima say? Why can’t you agree? I agree about the bonus; you earned it. And thank you that you stayed until the USPX launch.
–         Dima demanded that I pay for the laptop.
–         OK. I will speak with Dima.
–         Thank you!
Screenshot from the private sources of AIN.UA

Recently, a recruiter offered the developer a job at the Orderbook exchange for $2,000-4,500 per month. This is the project of the same company that didn’t pay him his salary for already two years.

–         If you’re interested, I will send more details.
–         Hello! What is the salary range? Is there a sign-in bonus?
–         The salary range is $2000-$4500. There is no sign-in bonus.
–         What can you say about the team? Is there a roadmap?
–         The project https://orderbook.io/ is live long, and we are working on improvements and new features. The team consists of 1 architect, 2 seniors, 2 middle/junior, QA, PM, DevOps. We use MacBook.

What do the company reps say?

The AIN.UA editorial board asked the company’s CEO, Andriy Zamovskyi, about the current situation. He confirmed that the company has debts to its ex-workers. He said that the main reason for those problems was the ‘crypto winter’ in 2018.

“It happened at the time that all remember as the ‘crypto winter’ 2018. The same year, the big ICO bubble exploded. Most cryptocurrency companies didn’t survive it,” he added.

Zamovskyi confirmed that the company shrank from 150 to 15 within a year. A part of employees agreed to continue to work with lower wages with a late compensation, considering the business will go up.

“Unfortunately, the business didn’t go up, and we needed to fire all of them. Everyone knew that the company was not doing well, and there were certain risks. As CEO, I decided not to declare bankruptcy and try to develop a new business line and pay debts while most companies just closed, saying “sorry.” We pay our debts, but the income generated by 150 and 15 people is not comparable; that is the cause of such a low temp of payments,” summarized the CEO.

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