March 20, 2022
Ravendex: A Scam? An Investment Opportunity? Or Just Another DEX?
A few weeks ago a member of the Cardano community came to us with information regarding the Ravendex platform that is purportedly building on Cardano. This member of the Cardano community goes by the name Dr Fake and is quite the prolific scam hunter in the ecosystem.
We have been in contact with the Dr before regarding many purported, and well evidenced, scams in the Cardano ecosystem that he claims stem from a group that he has named the “Grayson Cartel”. Here he shows how he has linked all of these scams to one another and if what he has found is true then these people, or this person, may have made off with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ADA.
Dr Fake contacted us naming Ravendex as the most recent and most active scam in the long line of scam projects he attributes to the Grayson Cartel. There is also the article written by The Cardano Report on Ravendex that we will discuss too. In the time between now and our first contact with the Dr we have conducted a lot of our own research into Ravendex. First we are going to go through what the Dr sent to us, along with the Cardano Report’s findings, and then we’ll dive into what we uncovered when we delved into Ravendex.
Dr Fake’s Claims and The Cardano Report
As said, Dr Fake has been tracing prolific scammers that he calls the Grayson Cartel. The connections here cannot be verified by us and we have to take the Dr at his word. He has, it does seem, been correct about the other scams that are linked to the Grayson Cartel and we see no reason, as of yet, not to trust him.
2 other Grayson scams, Rocketpad and Verlux, put out a staking platform that didn’t work. Ravendex did exactly the same thing. The tokens for both these scams were also claimed to be listed on Bitmart - Told to us by Dr Fake on Discord.
The author of Ravendex’s whitepaper is also the author of content for other scams that Dr Fake attributes to this Cartel - Posted evidence - Interestingly when questioned about this on Twitter by SCAT DAO they did not deny or argue this statement, they just stated that whitepapers can be “written by anyone” .
In the Dr’s view in seems like Ravendex is the first and longest running in this line of scams and a previously listed community manager is where the Cartel gets the Grayson name from - Dr’s evidence here
Dr Fake contacted Ravendex on Twitter and Telegram regarding these claims and they promptly blocked him and didn't give him answers - Told to us by Dr Fake on Discord.
The Cardano Report is a source which popped up on January 25th posting an article titled The Curious Case of Ravendex Labs. Here’s a summary of the mains points they raise about Ravendex:
That their demo is a rip off of ErgoDEX’s demo - Cannot be confirmed as both demos are no longer live
A rather empty Github of forked repositories - Viewable here, and 3 months of no commits during the time approaching testnet and product releases (roadmap is discussed later)
The fact that their audits page is empty besides some claims that should not be on there, even as a joke - Viewable here
It seems like this website was created on January 25th, article was posted, and they are yet to post anything since. Ravendex told us that the website was created specifically to FUD them (and FUD is something they talk about in quite a few of their interviews). On the same day, January 25th, Dr Fake posted his article and it seems like the suggestion from Ravendex is that they’re the same person trying to amplify their FUD. Are they? We asked Dr Fake if he knew who was behind The Cardano Report but we did not get a response.
With this information in mind it is worth noting that no matter the source of both pieces of content the content itself is actually different and focused on different elements of Ravendex. One focuses on who is behind it and the other focuses on dubious contents of the site itself.
What really intrigued us and made us want to delve into Ravendex was the fact that they were hosting an ISPO, selling tokens, and selling NFTs all without having a working product, or even an MVP (minimum viable product), available to their users. So we delved into Ravendex researching all the materials they had available to see if they threw up any of the more traditional red flags that we associate with scams.
We also got in contact and had an exchange of emails with Ravendex themselves. We will say that, unlike many other scammers, they responded to our emails promptly. However there are some things from these emails that we will be pointing out and referencing as well. Here are our findings:
Claims, Design, and Wording
- Many claims of being the first that are simply not true. Including:
“First non-custodial Decentralized exchange on the Cardano Blockchain that allows swift and near instant transfer of assets.” - Medium Description
“First project on The Cardano Blockchain with unique features:
Users can Stake their NFTs to earn rewards and also lend their assets to a pool and earn interests.
Borrow by providing collateralized assets.” - Website FAQ Section
Grammatical errors and inconsistencies litter their website, published content, and even some of their press releases. (See Note 1 at the end of this article for further, more generic, commenting on this point)
Blatant design errors in their roadmap on their website’s homepage - Homepage
Their Roadmap does not even contain a prospective release period for the DEX - Homepage
They finished many of their early email correspondences with us with either “I trust you’ll do the right thing” or “I belive [sic] you will do the right thing”.
Roughly 60% of their whitepaper is disclaimers. Another 8% of it is discussing the history of DEXs and Cardano. Leaving roughly ⅓ of just under 3000 words to explain what Ravendex is and how it will function, including multiple pool types and a lending protocol. Whilst the whitepaper talks about concepts it does not lay out any of the technical elements of how they function or how these things will be accomplished. There is also a one line in the section “Constant-product pool” that says “A constant-product pool's pricing function is quite simple:” supposedly hinting at further explanation that is not present. - Whitepaper
Anonymous Team - Their team is anonymous. Which is an acceptable thing for many people in this space. Yet, in February this year, their CIO, labeled as a CMO, did a Telegram AMM with Bitmart (the exchange they’re listed on) and gave his name right at the beginning. When we mentioned this name to them” I assume this is Roman I am speaking with here?” they did not respond to the question.
They’re Ethereum not Cardano Developers - On face value this point itself is not too terrible, you can always hire Plutus and Haskell developers, which they said they have done. With governance release slated for Q2 2022 and the Ravendex testnet release slated for Q1 2022 then you would think they would have Plutus and Haskell developers on their team. Ravendex told us that they are Ethereum developers driven to Cardano by its low fees, and admitted to us that their development was slowed by the fact that Cardano does not run on the EVM model. Strange, wouldn’t you have some sort of knowledge that Cardano was not an EVM blockchain if you spent time last year making a demo for producing a DEX on Cardano? Would you not have done your preliminary research?
Outsourced DEX Development - Ravendex also told us that they have outsourced the development of the DEX to a well known and reputable company in the space and invited us to contact them and ask them. We did. They responded and told us that no agreement had been signed at the time we contacted them and that the conversation had been quiet for 12 days.
A “Partnership” - In a blog post Ravendex titled their reservation of an Earth Node for the WMT protocol as a partnership with this well known Cardano project. It is not a partnership and saying so is misleading.
Paid Outlets - All the media released and linked from Ravendex are press releases they’ve written themselves and paid to have released onto the internet that are then picked up by other more well known sites - Coin Telegraph - Yahoo Finance (via Newsfile Corp.) - investing.com (Via CoinQuora)
A Public Mouth Piece - Ravendex have employed the coinrise as their public mouthpiece and almost every single piece of content they have produced is focused on the price movements of their token - the coinrise Ravendex search
Listed and then Delisted - Ravendex were listed on both the CardanoCube and Building on Cardano, who then delisted them. We have not contacted these outlets as to why but we can assume that either Dr Fake contacted them regarding what we detailed above (which he has done about other Grayson scams before) or they did their due diligence and encountered many of the points we raise here. Why did they not try to list on Built on Cardano? It might be because the last purported Grayson Cartel scam to list was IDOWall. We wrote a viewpoint on IDOWall that displayed our site when you searched IDOWall. This viewpoint explained all the red flags for the project and why users should be wary of it. It is probable, if they’re connected, that they didn’t want this to happen again.
Technical Updates - The technical updates released by Ravendex are quite scant with their detail. They once said that they’d do an update every week, Technical update #7, but the next one didn’t come for almost a month. These updates contain screenshots of their product, that match the ones from the Cardano Report’s findings on their demo video, and those used to promote their purported staking platform. It also includes photos that seem to be taken of a small part of a computer screen of file lists - Technical Update #7 - Technical Update #8 - Technical Update #6 (#6: the image it titled #5 and the screenshots are of cloned repositories being installed, but they look technical to the untrained eye).
Hype and Promise
Quick to Market… Then Delay, Delay, Delay - The roadmap has a staking platform, a testnet release of the DEX, (and full launch here), as well as a DAO governance system, all released by Q2 2022. This is a phenomenal, but not impossible, turn around time. See “The Team” section for information that brings this into further question. A fully Functional product was originally slated for Q4 a 2021 release. Now there is no current release date for the DEX.
A Demo - The demo produced was basic and was a video showing very little functionality. See the previously stated Cardano Report segment on the comparison with a demo from another platform.
Money for Liquidity and Advertising but not for Developers - This is probably one of the biggest points, Ravendex put down 500,000ADA to support liquidity for their token on SundaSwap, and also funded multiple articles across multiple platforms focusing on their token and its price. But, even with all those funds, they didn’t employ a Plutus or Haskell developer before that to build at least an MVP to prove that their token, NFTs and ISPO were worth it.
A Staking Platform - A staking platform was released and then withdrawn due to it not performing correctly. This was then promised to be fixed in a few weeks, but this has now been extended indefinitely until “when it is ready”. You can sift through their telegram to find these changing dates.
A Launchpad - In this blog post from September 2021, their first, they claim to be using the “EMURGO protocol” to develop a launchpad. This has not been mentioned since and it does not appear on their roadmap.
A lending Protocol - This is hinted at in many articles and is even in the whitepaper, where it gets just two lines of description. This is also missing from the roadmap.
BONUS: A DYOR Report From SCAT DAO
Dr Fake isn’t the only one looking out for the community. Our friends at SCAT DAO have also been looking into Ravendex and produced a report using their handy DYOR Tool. You can read this report here. We spoke to them after they completed their report and whilst they noted many of the same things we’ve noted here they also showed us that someone else directed them to a community manager for Ravendex who does not seem to have any other presence on the internet.
They also noted that their Twitter following looks suspicious as they have almost 30k followers yet very few responses and likes on their tweets. Their Twitter feed is mainly made up of retweets and most of the stuff they have tweeted themselves is about their funding mechanisms.
So…. What’s the Answer?
Here we are collecting the facts that we can find about Ravendex that make us wary of them and their actions and are presenting them to you. Ravendex would only commit to a live text conversation and not a video or voice one. Which, if you want to stay anonymous, is fine, but words on a page are not equivalent to words coming out of a mouth in many people’s eyes and ears.
We invite you to check the evidence we have linked here with each point that we could do so and to draw your own conclusions. We always encourage you to DYOR, Do Your Own Research, and we will tell you not to trust a project’s voice until you can verify their claims, not to trust what your friends or family tell you until you can verify their claims, and even not to trust us until you can verify our claims.
Verify, verify, VERIFY. And remember: If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then… It's probably a duck!
Stay safe out there Cardano.
Note 1: This comes from my experience of researching projects in Cardano and in other ecosystems. Many projects in the crypto space are built and promoted by people for whom english is not their first language. As a result, the use of mistranslated words for descriptions and explanations is quite commonplace in their literature. But what these people almost always possess is an impeccable use of grammar and correctness of spelling, and I take my hat off to them for that!
Scams will regularly make multiple, sloppy grammatical errors and simple spelling errors which can make them a little easier to spot. Why do they make these errors? My thought is that they just don’t care. So long as the content is there then it's good enough. They may give it one pass over but they want to get it out there and promote their scam, they don’t worry over the finer details like a person working on a true passion project might.
Real projects care about their work and will comb over their material to ensure there are no errors in it. The mistranslations come from what fits best in their mother tongue and the direct translation that they know of that word. These are not careless errors, like grammatical errors are, they are just examples of how wonderful language can be and how we interpret and exchange between them as best we can.