Korean startup Uprise lost $20M shorting LUNA

The crypto custodial service and AI trading platform managed to lose nearly all of its customers’ assets by shorting LUNA, the Terra Classic native token.

South Korean crypto investment startup platform Uprise reportedly lost around 99% of its assets worth about $20 million when it got liquidated shorting the LUNA token.

Uprise’s trading desk Heybit uses an artificial intelligence (AI) trading system that was designed to reduce the risks associated with leveraged trading.

Local news outlet Seoul Economic Daily reported on July 6 that Uprise’s AI, which it calls a robo-advisor, made a disastrous misread in May on the LUNA token as it fell precipitously from $60 to fractions of a cent. The system shorted LUNA but got liquidated during the token’s bizarre price pumps along the way, leading to $20 million in customer losses and $3 million of its own losses. In total, Uprise lost about 99% of its assets.

Most users of Uprise’s Heybit service are high net worth individuals and corporations who stake their crypto for yield generated by the AI trading on futures markets. The firm has been backed by the Hashed crypto investment firm, Kakao Ventures, and several banks and venture capital firms.

The firm has suspended services, but has not issued an official disclosure to its clients about the losses. An Uprise official confirmed to Seoul Economic Daily that:

“Due to great unexpected volatility in the market, there has been damage to customer assets. We plan to finalize the report on our virtual asset business soon.”

In addition to officially notifying its users, Uprise officials are reportedly working on a compensation plan for its customers so that it can continue to operate.

Related: Korea and US agree to share investigation data on Terra

With Uprise in the spotlight, Seoul Economic Daily pointed out that it has not registered as a virtual asset service provider (VASP). It reported that Uprise officials feel that the firm is able to skirt the law requiring it to register as a VASP because it does not collect Korean Won nor directly invest in virtual assets, only futures.

Registration helps keep crypto exchanges in compliance with the notorious Travel Rule from the Financial Action Task Force.

Uprise is the latest centralized crypto service provider to reveal significant losses stemming from the Terra incident and subsequent contagion. It joins BlockFi, Celsius, and Voyager Digital among the list of firms that have had to take drastic measures to try and stay afloat. FTX US exchange has the option to buy BlockFi, Celsius has been unwinding loans, and Voyager filed for bankruptcy on July 5.

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