Reality Sticks a Pin in His Hot-Air Dreams

Taking lessons from Napster, Helium Systems CEO envisions a peer-to-peer network powered by the blockchain. The company's market cap rose to $2.5 billion on hopes and promise, but has now fallen. That’s why Amir Haleem is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 12:40 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2023 at 2:28 p.m. UTC

Amir Haleem is the CEO and co-founder of Helium Systems, a San Francisco-based wireless network and blockchain company developing a peer-to-peer wireless network. The company is famed for its proprietary “hotspots,” which are wireless devices powered by the Helium Blockchain. Users mine Helium’s native token, HNT, as an incentive for expanding and strengthening wireless coverage for devices.

Haleem co-founded Helium Systems in June 2013 with Shawn Fanning and Sean Carey, and he also serves as chairman. According to Haleem, Helium Systems resulted from many conversations with Napster founder Fanning after the two met in 2005. They wanted to recreate Napster’s peer-to-peer model with wireless networks but without the pesky legal problems of copyright law.

Hosts receive HNT whenever their hotspots provide coverage and transfer device data. In February 2022, the Helium cryptocurrency had a market cap of over $2.5 billion and close to 600,000 Helium Systems hotspots.

Stretching reality

One of the broad themes in crypto this year has been insufficient due diligence. Three Arrows Capital and, most recently, FTX, both fell because of misplaced trust and insufficient hard questions being asked.

The Helium peer-to-peer wireless network protocol, which promised users payouts if they ran nodes, claimed its technology was used by the likes of mobility companies Lime and Salesforce. Neither of these companies are Helium clients.

A partnership with Dish Network also was not true. Helium claimed its hotspots would be incorporated into Dish’s growing 5G network to help provide coverage where it wasn’t yet economical to build a full tower. But Dish denied it had any involvement.

Does anyone use the network?

Like many other crypto projects, Helium’s network has been rife with scams. It is unclear how much of the network’s activity is legitimate, and how much involves people setting up devices to exchange junk data to and from their Helium hotspot and earn tokens in the process.

Earlier this year Fortune reported that the value of legitimate data transfers on the network appeared to be in the thousands of dollars, not the millions that Helium said hotspot owners were collecting.

With the bear market, the Helium HNT token’s price has plummeted. As CoinDesk reported, the largest owners of Helium hotspots are only earning a few dollars a day despite spending thousands on equipment.

While Helium has received praise for its usefulness, it resembles other projects that seemed pragmatic but failed to find a sizable following. Helium has yet to prove itself beyond theory while creating the illusion of greatness. Haleem’s exaggerations about Helium’s partnerships will offer yet another artifact from 2022 of the flippancy that cost crypto investors heavily and hammered the industry’s reputation.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.