All posts by Editor earlightswindle.com

HumanCharger: Indiegogo campaign fails, last investor pulls out

Valkee (alias HumanCharger) has had a single foreign investor since 2013: Merieux Developpement, which financed the earlight company together with Lifeline Ventures and the finnish tax payer. As the co-lead investor, Merieux Dev. had its partner Valerie Calenda on Valkee’s board. Until now.

 

According to the trade register, Calenda has resigned from the board recently. Merieux Equity Partners, which holds the active investments of Merieux Dev., no longer lists Valkee on its portfolio pages. From the french investor’s “regional partners” category disappeared Seppo Mäkinen, former Sitra director, and probably the person who lured Merieux Dev. into this adventure.

 

There is no explanation other than Merieux has backed off and written down its multi-million loss. Now Valkee’s HumanCharger operations are completely controlled by its own folks: the CEO Aki Backman, the inventor Juuso Nissilä, and Timo Ahopelto.

The struggling company had high expectations for their follow-up product to the old LED headset: The HumanCharger Wireless Headset, an ugly and hard-to-wear bluetooth device. It launched an Indiegogo campaign, which looks like a complete desaster already.

 

Featured prominently at reddit/shittykickstarters, people aren’t buying it for half the price.

One backer has left a positive comment, looks like here’s really an impressed user.

 

It’s Timo Ahopelto, the company’s chairman, who felt the urgent need to push his product. Probably it won’t help.

BEMER Group drops “Institute for Microcirculation”

Shortly after the death of Dr. Rainer Klopp, links to his “Institute of Microcirculation” in Berlin began to vanish from BEMER Group pages, and the institute’s website went offline. Time for a final visit and a reconstruction.

 

I.

Things looked bleak for swiss businessman Peter Gleim in 1995, when german police seized some of the “Clean-Cards” he sold for 179 DM per piece (750DM/380€ for a 5-pack) and analyzed these. Gleim had promised to clueless homemakers, that the cards would save up to 90% of laundry powder when put in the washing machine. Authorities found out – unsurprisingly – that the cards had no effect. It was a simple scam. Prosecutors investigated Gleim and his company Funworld GmbH for fraud.

This was not the first time Gleim had to do with law enforcement. 10 years before, the Munich district court had ruled his sales methods were “immoral and illegal”, effectively shutting down his Gem Collection Cosmetics GmbH. Gleim had used a pyramid scheme, also known as snowball selling, to sell overpriced cosmetics through ill-informed franchisees. Gem Collection Cosmetics got finally deleted from registers in February 1995.

When the dust had settled, Gleim set sail with his Innomed AG, which would later become BEMER AG. In 1998 it began to sell magnet “therapy” devices via a well-known system: The pyramid scheme, now called “multi-level marketing”. It had a striking advantage over the old-school laundry card scam. When managed carefully, the con artist at the top cannot be held responsible for actions of his franchisees. The risk is distributed widely and diluted.

 

BEMER Group would later describe this stage with “our belief exceeded our knowledge by far” – in other words, there was no proof of any kind that the devices had an effect on the human body. Basically, that is still the case up to this day. Only one institution outside of Innomed/BEMER would claim otherwise: The “Institute for Microcirculation” in Berlin, led by Dr. Rainer Klopp.

 

II.

Not much is known about the dealings or whereabouts of the “institute” in the 1990s. It only managed to produce two articles in a full decade (both in cooperation with Schering AG, a pharmaceutical firm in Berlin that has now merged with BAYER). In terms of science it had no standing at all.

From 2000 to the early 2010s, the “institute” had rented an office in Wolfener Str. 32-34 at the outskirts of East Berlin. This is where the widely circulated older videos for BEMER AG were shot.

 

 

Somehow Klopp and Gleim made contact no later than 2004. Other BEMER sources say cooperation began in 2006. Klopp was the much-needed counterpart to Gleim’s rude and often barely legal business methods. Jovial, humble, and – most important – with an academic grade. The doctor would later be upgraded silently to a professor.

During these years, the “institute” produced several papers, all but one apparently sponsored by manufacturers of alternative treatments. There are studies on mistle toe extract, a “homeopathic remedy”, and gingko plant extract. Publication of research ceased in 2014. Articles since 2011 were not peer-reviewed and are not trustable.

This decline coincides with the “institute’s” move to full obscurity, a small space adjacent to a leather shop in Berliner Str. 25, Bernau b. Berlin, and finally the desk of Klopp’s friend and wannabe-charlatan, Professor Jörg Schulz in the Negelein Haus at the Berlin-Buch campus.

Schulz had invented his own alternative method, he called it Biokorrektur. With the help of Klopp, Schulz tried to introduce it to a wider public. Schulz’ company ICP Healthcare, shortly renamed to “Noventalis, Institut fuer Biokorrektur” (!) soon got under a russian management and seems to have relocated to Russia-occupied Crimea.

 

Klopp’s “Institute for Microcirculation” fared better. Decorated twice with the BEMER AG-backed Science Award (to Klopp in 2011 for “Lifetime Achievement”, and to his partner Dr. Wolfgang Niemer in 2014), it finally got own premises in Berlin-Buch.

 

III.

When Rainer Klopp died in May 2019, Peter Gleim promised that “the work will go on … inside and outside the institute”. A month later, the link to the “Institute for Microcirculation” disappeared from BEMER Group’s homepage without further comment.

Then the website of the “institute” was driven down. As it happened, I was in Berlin in early August 2019. I had to follow up what more than 50.000 readers saw to date, and took the time to find out what’s going on. To my amazement, the doors stood wide open and not a soul in sight.

 

The lobby had clearly changed, compared to my previous visit. Inside, it was totally quiet.

There were exactly two rooms with a few microscopes and monitors, just the appliances as shown in all the promotional videos over the last 10 years.

The rest were: a conference room, restrooms, a kitchenette, and empty spaces.

I was consternated. What’s happening here? But then I found a human being.

It was Dr. Niemer, Klopp’s long-time companion and BEMER’s Science Awardee 2014. We talked for a while.

…will the Institute for Microcirculation continue to exist, now that Dr. Klopp has departed?

– no…

– it won’t exist anymore?

…nope.

unfortunately, our plans are shattered…now that the sponsor [is gone] …[BEMER] did it somehow together with him … it all was through him [Dr. Klopp], all of the contract…

– the rental contract (for the institute)?

no, the sponsoring.

 

Of course the “institute” could not and would not exist without BEMER AG, although Klopp maintained for years on their homepage, that it’d be “completely independent”. Now, in hindsight it was confirmed how the axis Gleim – Klopp handled those things.

Then there were some words about Finland and the visit of a finnish “delegation” earlier this year. The finnish athletes have been of certain importance and the “community” here is “diligent”. Niemer did not recall if he saw me then or not (article in finnish at BEMER Nordic, with the usual pictures of the equipment, written free from any competence).

I left with a sad feeling, Dr. Niemer was contagiously resignated and depressed. Gleim had broken the promise he gave upon the death of his “dear friend” and kicked the short-lived facility out. There is hardly any other conclusion: For representation, he needed Klopp, not any institute. Fortunately, it’s not a big loss for science.

R.I.P. “Institut for Microcirculation”, Berlin-Buch, 2018 – 2019.

Space Nation resurfaced in the U.S.

The former Space Nation enterprise folded in Finland in November 2018, leaving investors with a damage of more than 5 million Euro. The liquidation has been canceled, as the company’s assets do not even cover the cost of the process. It will simply be struck off the business register.

Nevertheless, the “space tourism company” announced that it was “restructured and reestablished in the US”, having “set up mission control in the country that created the Apollo Program on this 50th anniversary year of the first Moon Landing.”

To say it in their annoying way of calling everything stellar and spacy, it looks to me merely like a worm hole.

The address above is from their incorporation document in Denver, Colorado. It has a post box in downtown Denver and a share capital of US$1100.

 

Konkurssi raukeaa – Ei se mitään, SpaceNation jatkaa USA:ssa

Avaruuskonkurssiyhtiöstä Space Nation aka Cohu Experience Oy tuli viime kuussa kaksi ilmoitusta. Ensin Privanet kertoi, että konkurssi raukeaa, koska varoja ei riitä edes konkurssimenettelyyn. Tämä ei ole yllätys, yhtiöllä ei koskaan ollut substanssia. Vain heikko bisnesidea ja medianäkyvyyttä.

 

Sitten yhtiö ilmoitti, että sen toiminta jatkaa Yhdysvalloissa. Space Nation olisi rekisteröity uutena firmana. Siitä kertoi sen johtohahmo, islantilainen PR-mies Hjörtur Smárason, joka nimellä PolarExpress myös laittanut Wikipediaan firmaa kehuvan artikkelin.

Outo seikka: “Uusi firma” käyttää entisen suomalaisyhtiön nettisivua, niin kuin se kuuluisi sille. Itse asiassa tämä pitäisi olla osa konkurssipesää, ja on todennäköisesti entisen yhtiön ainoa omaisuus, jolla on vielä jonkinlaista arvoa. Se on edelleen rekisteröity Helsinkiin, Cohu/Space Nationin kotiosoitteeseen.

Yritin löytää “uusi Space Nation” USA:n osavaltioiden kaupparekistereistä, jopa SEC:n listoilta. Tuloksetta. Ei ole varmuutta siis, puhuuko tämä mainosmies totta. Toisesta asiasta olen varma: Heidän astronauttivalepuvuissa ihan jokainen näyttää idiotilta hassulta.

UK Health Department slams magnesium sellers for trademark infringement

To my surprise, I received a call from the UK Department of Health and Social Care last week. They wished to thank me for notifying the department about the “NHS” trademark infringement by Nordic Health Sprays aka Pohjoismaiden Terveyssuihkeet Oy. I had nearly forgotten that I copied a text and, as required, my phone number into a government contact formular some weeks ago.

The NHS logo must be used in support of its “core principles and values”. The UK National Health System is a very trusted brand, which stands for (examples) “quality of care, …safety, confidentiality, professional and managerial integrity, accountability” and so on.

Selling questionable supplements and magnesium sprays does obviously conflict with these values. The finnish company received a cease-and-desist order, and acted immediately to avoid compensation claims. It has not filed balances since 2016; a 5-digit claim could pose a real threat.

Its website misused several brands. Before…

…and after.

 

The original manufacturer of the magnesium products distributed by Nordic Health Sprays, BetterYou Ltd from the UK, also had to remove the NHS logo. Visitors would get the impression, that the NHS somehow stands behind the “Backed by Science” line.

 

 

Other institutional logos are still there, to milk some confidence for the flimsy magnesium health claims. Supplements and other OTC “health products” are typically marketed with such illegal or unethical methods.

I would never try to take them on systematically, because it’s a complete waste of time. One busted lie is soon replaced by another. That was just a demonstration and the result of a 5 minutes effort.

HumanCharger-Valkee’s balance 2019: Guess what?

Finnish Valkee Ltd, maker of the questionable HumanCharger earlight device, has just filed its 2018-2019 balance. It’s the same as every year: Overwhelming loss and now again a sharp drop in revenue.

And as every year, earlightswindle.com makes it available.

Valkee balance 2/2019 (valkee2019.pdf)

Turnover has fallen by 34%, thus eliminating last years somewhat surprising rise. It’s now 637.000€, i.e. even less than in 2016/17. The effect of the US launch seems to level out. Good news for them: Loss is down to 594.000 Euro. But this means, that still every Euro turnover results in one Euro loss – as last year.

HR costs are down from 411.000 to 268.000€, and with (only) 226.000€ paid out, the question is who’s still employed by this company – besides its CEO and some salespersons.

Valkee is struggling to survive, as it did since 2007 – and now it became clear, how the project is “scaling”. It will exist as long as its investors are willing to pay. The plug may be pulled sooner or later.

That’s an enduring embarassment also for Interbrand, which really messed up by calling HumanCharger a “breakthrough brand” in 2017. The only thing that will break here will be the investors’ patience.

Over & out, as I leave this rather boring news piece to the snail media, Kauppalehti, HelsinginSanomat or whatever, for those laties who have not cancelled subscriptions yet.

Update 13.7.2019: Kauppalehti did as expected and translated this into finnish as “news”. Always welcome on my blog.

Transdermal Magnesium, Fake Studies, and a Family Business

When I wrote in 2017 about Finland’s leading pharmacy chain intentionally selling magnesium spray snake oil to its customers, I wasn’t aware of the scale of the transdermal magnesium scam.  There are hundreds of manufacturers and sellers, and there are dozens of such products on sale in finnish pharmacies.

One company caught my eye: Nordic Health, which maintains websites for all nordic countries. It has “Magnesium Sleep lotion for mothers and babies“, “Magnesium butter“, and 17 (!) other transdermal magnesium products. The tagline: “Scientifically proven“.

 

According to Nordic Health, its magnesium is effectively absorbed through the skin. If true, that would be strikingly different from all other transdermal magnesium preparations. The company presents studies to bolster its claims (click to open).

 

  • #1 looks like an incomplete citation of a real, published scientific study.
  • #2-#6 are sponsored, unpublished statements about different products (Magnesium, vitamins) allegedly done by an university. Obviously it’s nothing about these specific Nordic Health formulations.
  • #7 and #8 are unrelated studies about inflammatory bowel disease (!) in eastern Europe.
  • #9-#12 are mainly unidentifiable, unpublished sponsored statements.
    I managed to find #11 online; it’s an uncontrolled questionnare test (“did you sleep better with this product?”)

 

To make it short: This is no scientific proof, this is not even science. And it’s accompanied with logos of universities and the NHS. I bet Nordic Health hasn’t any right to use the NHS’s mark to pump up sales.

Nordic Health Sprays tells it’s a finnish family business. …but what kind of family?

NordicHealthSprays Family Business

 

But wait, there was a real study at the beginning, right? The incorrect citation was

  • Watkins, K., Josling PD. 2010. A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios. European Journal For Nutraceutical Research.

 

Fake Journal, Fake Study – Good Product?

This study is widely quoted and reproduced on webshops which sell transdermal magnesium. Get it, for example, from the “Magnesium Health Institute” (PDF). It is even cited in papers in (allegedly peer-reviewed) scientific journals. Although it’s not found as an original paper in any citation database.

It is not in PubMed/MedLine, and no-one seems to know the “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research“. I’ve done a lot of research into predatory journals (soon to be published), but this one baffled me. The journal is not in the NLM catalog, meaning it has not even existed at any point in time. There’s no trace whatsoever currently on the net. Nonetheless, it’s widely used and cited by shady and half-shady businesses – like extempore, the customer magazine of the finnish pharmacists’ association.

 

Finally, I identified the “journal” through the always-appreciated internet archive. The “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research” has been a sub-blog on the defunct phytomedcentral.org website. It had less than five entries and was accompanied by other fakes, like Plant Taxonomy Journal, Plant Anti Cancer Journal, Veterinary Plant Medicine Journal, and Pharmaceutical Plant Research Journal. These were all used to push questionable supplements or “herbal remedies” by junk studies disguised as scientific journal articles.

It’s in a way a copycat of Andrea Rossi‘s method to publish his cold fusion junk papers in his “Journal of Nuclear Physics“, which is in fact only his blog.

What if I’d call my gloom blog Journal of Scientific Innovation?
(All these names are already used by scammers.)

If it wouldn’t be so symptomatic, it would be funny. The source is long gone, but the misinformation lives on. I won’t go into details of the study, the strange titles of the authors and the obscure “Herbal Research Center” where it was done.

And this is the best existing evidence for transdermal magnesium?

It is, according to this review of transdermal magnesium, which was also published through a controversial publisher. Generally, at the moment only sub-standard stuff like this exists.

 

***

ps. the address, where “Nordic Health Sprays” (Pohjoismaiden Terveyssuihkeet Oy) claims to reside, is a family home on sale:

 

Dr. Klopp dies, and BEMER confirms his “institute” had been virtual

Dr. Rainer Klopp, inventor of the BEMER method, has died. On Monday, May 6th, a sudden peak in blog visitor numbers indicated something has happened, and soon there were the first obituaries on Facebook and elsewhere.

One of these can be read on IMIN-org.eu, the website of the “International Microvascular Net”. Despite its name and self-description, it has nothing to do with microcirculation or vascular research or other scientific activities. It’s a BEMER International front-end, led by outsider physicians, fake doctors, homeopaths and crackpots (more on this on request, probably it’s self-evident to readers).

The obituary has a fine detail. It tells about Klopp’s “only recently completed Institute for Microcirculation“.

That’s clear and no misunderstanding. They, if anyone, know the truth. And that I was correct with my findings about the phantom institute. Hostile comments do not change the facts.

***

ps. Dr. Klopp is gone, but his genius lives on!

– Now in BEMERwater. I can assure everyone, it is as effective as BEMER therapy.

Social Media: “HumanCharger” is comedy gold

The Sunday Times (UK) just had an absolutely awful piece on “biohackers”, and it seems that readers have a clear favourite which one is the most ridiculous “biohack” of all.

HumanCharger is trending on Twitter at this moment, and it’s not quite the way the scammers dream of.

Some years ago, one of Finland’s leading newspapers asked its readers, which is the worst product failure ever in this country. The HumanCharger won that poll unanimously. The public reaction seems now to be the same whatever whenever.

But once upon a time, things were different, when I started the earlightswindle.com-website. It is fairly outdated, but gives a good picture of the situation then, when the media hyped the Valkee device – now renamed “HumanCharger – and there were few critical voices as mine. I’m sort of proud still, for having steered the mainstream here./-ed.

“Institute for Microcirculation” materializes in Berlin (update)

This is a follow-up to my classic post about the fake “Institute for Microcirculation” in Berlin, which still has about 100 visitors/day (the post, not the “institute”).

As expected, the Institute now got own premises at the place spotted a year ago. BEMER International obviously used a small sum to make up a physical incarnation of the phantom institute. Here is what it looked like in December 2017:

And by the end of October 2018, the “institute” was opened to some visitors (screenshot from the imin-org.eu website).

The “extraordinarily modern and competent equipment … impressive, enabling completely new possibilities” was not yet unveiled. Some machines and staff are still needed to populate the place. There has not been any “research” published for 5 years.

The institute’s website is down already for a while, probably it will resurface in 2019.*

*update: it has resurfaced 15.1.2019.
Don’t hesitate to have a look at the intro video… poor but telling. No new equipment.
The other person is Dr.W.Niemer, Klopp’s long-time companion & old-age pensioner.