As early as 2016, Eve had pro-consumer, pro-transparency slogans plastered across its website.
A tale of three Eves
Karatsevidis and the rest of the Eve team kept the community updated on the many delays, but despair was running rampant through the forums. Nearly all of the customers who contacted Engadget purchased their Eve Vs in late 2017 or early 2018, and when Eve eventually responded offering full refunds, they jumped at the chance. Those refunds never materialized, and as far as Eve-Tech was concerned, it wasn’t its responsibility.
What wasn’t immediately clear to outside observers was that Eve-Tech had always intended to be more of a licensing company than an actual hardware maker. Karatsevidis laid things out in a 2019 forum post, noting that the company had entered into three-year ‘licensing’ deals with vendors that would ultimately handle the V’s production and distribution.
“Our Helsinki team and company invested funds into the R&D, design, brand, and marketing,” Karatsevidis wrote at the time. “In this business model sales partners are able to use our brand, toolings, motherboard designs, et cetera for a fraction of the cost by paying us a license fee per unit sold, taking care of manufacturing, shipping, replacements and so on.”
Unfortunately for everyone involved, one of the companies Eve-Tech inked a deal with was a Hong Kong firm called Fortress Tech Distribution Limited, which was meant to operate the company’s online storefront and manage orders and deliveries. Karatsevidis went onto note that Eve-Tech’s relationship soured with Fortress because of “issues with the supply chain, funds frozen by payment processors and untimely deliveries, causing frustration among the community and direct damage to our brand.” By Eve-Tech’s spurious logic, because Fortress was the entity that accepted people’s money and handled order distribution, the responsibility of returning that money fell to them. (Note: Karatsevidis didn’t respond to multiple requests for an interview before publication.)
At this point, it’s unclear to what extent that company still operates. According to records obtained from the Hong Kong Integrated Company Register, Fortress Tech Distribution was incorporated on December 2nd, 2016, and its main office is a single room in an office rental building in the city’s Wan Chai district. We contacted the building, but the staff wouldn’t confirm whether that room was still in use, and we have also been unable to contact Chi Wai Liu, the person named in the filing as company director.
While Liu may be Fortress’s current director, someone else was responsible for actually incorporating the company. According to documents first spotted by r/EveV’s Miller, the paperwork was originally filed with Hong Kong’s Companies Register by MianZe Zheng in November 2016, and that same name appears in minutes of Eve-Tech meetings as a minority shareholder who controlled about 20 percent of the company’s total shares. That curious reoccurrence of names has sparked speculation that Eve-Tech actually owned Fortress Tech Distribution, but the exact nature of their relationship is still unclear.
Interestingly, the forum post in which Karatsevidis spelled the problems with Fortress ended with two bits of ostensibly good news. First, he announced a new corporate structure that would pivot from the existing ‘licensing’ model and allow the team to launch a new online store and handle international sales internally, with the help of a “top-tier” supply chain partner later revealed to be PCH International. What he didn’t mention was the fact that, as part of this plan, control of the brand would be sold to Eve-Tech CFO Tuukka Korhonen, who spun up a new Hong Kong company called Eve Holdings Limited in early 2017 and took a position as managing director of another, called Eve Distribution Limited that was meant to handle the manufacture and sale of Eve products going forward.
The second bit of good news was that, at long last, customers who purchased their Eve Vs from Fortress could directly appeal to the newly reorganized brand for a refund. As one might expect from a company so frequently troubled by delays, this development was added to the forum post two months after it was originally published. Still, the end appeared to be in sight.
And what of Eve-Tech? The company that set all of this into motion? We’re not entirely sure. What we do know is that, while he continues to act as an advisor to Eve Distribution, Konstantinos Karatsevidis is no longer CEO of Eve-Tech.
According to minutes we obtained from an Eve-Tech shareholder meeting from October 2019, the first order of business was to officially install Eve-Tech employee and current Eve Distribution business development manager Velimir Elezovic as chief executive. From what we understand, his tenure as CEO so far has largely been taken up by another corporate restructuring that would see the company formerly known as Eve-Tech become a firm called Veleventures. The problem is, that process was at least temporarily put on hold because an outside audit found (among other things) a string of late and inaccurate financial filings and little evidence to suggest Eve-Tech/Veleventures would be able to generate revenue to sustain itself through a restructuring.
So, to sum up: Eve-Tech is under someone else’s control, has tried to change its name a few times, and doesn’t appear to have any money. Fortress Tech Distribution was designated the scapegoat and barely seems to exist anymore. The only entity left actively engaging with the world is Eve Distribution. The problem is, while it has made overtures to the community about repayment, it’s still not clear when — or even if — it will be capable of giving people their money back.