The gorilla in the room: Yuga Labs investors pretend to care about the planet. They don’t.

Yuga Labs, the startup behind the popular Bored Apes Yacht Club project, finally got its long-rumored investment from venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz. It now has plenty of funds to transition into a game company — and create the illusion that its newly launched Apecoin is something other than an unregistered securities offering. 

Apecoin, an ERC20 token that lives on Ethereum, is a path to liquidity from Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, of which many more are soon to come in the form of virtual land. “Blue-chip” NFTs are too expensive for the average Joe, and you can’t buy a fraction of an NFT, the way you can a fungible token.

As with the Bored Ape NFTs, Apecoin has zero intrinsic value. The money you get when you cash out comes from new investors buying in. Unlike virtual land or ERC20 tokens, the supply of suckers in the world is finite. Eventually, the tokens will crash in value and retailers will get stuck holding the bag.

After acquiring the IP for CryptoPunks and Meebits, Yuga Labs now controls three of the most popular NFT collections. All three live on Ethereum, a proof of work blockchain that consumes a country’s worth of energy. Each transaction on Ethereum is equivalent to the power consumption of an average U.S. household over nine days, according to Digiconomist. 

Destroying the planet, one NFT at a time

Other participants in Yuga Labs’ $450 million round, which valued the company at $4 billion, include Animoca Brands, The Sandbox, LionTree, Sound Ventures, FTX, and MoonPay.  

Animoca Brands is the Hong Kong-based outfit behind the play-to-earn game Benji Bananas, which plans to incorporate Apecoin — an attempt to give the token utility and avoid regulatory scrutiny. P2E games have received criticism for being digital sweatshops. Players, often in poor areas of the world, are required to purchase an NFT, worth several months’ salary, to start “earning” tokens they then have to sell to recoup their initial investment in the game.  

The Sandbox, a subsidiary of Animoca, is the creator of a play-to-earn game that sells virtual land as NFTs. The company bills itself as “one of the pillars of the open crypto metaverse.” As of September, The Sandbox — ‘The’ is part of its name — owned 31 different BAYC NFTs. 

According to a leaked pitched deck, Yuga Labs plans to create a gaming metaverse and raise another $455 million selling virtual land NFTs. In a recent tweet, Yuga Labs hinted at a new project called “Otherside,” which will accept APE and launch in April. Yuga Labs can create as much virtual land as they want, so maybe they’ll create virtual forests for their virtual primates? 

In the real world, the one we all live in, great apes are running out of natural habitat. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are already endangered or critically endangered. A combination of the climate crisis and the destruction of their natural habitats is threatening their very existence as a species. 

By promoting Web3 and Ethereum-based tokens, Yuga Labs is speeding the demise of these creatures. To compensate for this evil, Yuga is throwing chimps a banana by donating 1% of the Apecoin supply of 1 billion to the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation. (I wrote to Jane Goodall to see how she feels about this. If I get a response, I’ll post the comments here.)

Investment bank LionTree is headed by Aryeh Bourkoff, who told investors in his 2021 year-end letter that climate change is something we should all care about: “Widening our gaze, as the market chases growth, the climate crisis is reminding us that infinite growth on a finite planet is irrational and that we must commit to a long-term outlook guided by purpose rather than short-term gains.” 

Bourkoff appears blind to the hypocrisy of backing an NFT project — or maybe he cares more about the money. Investing in tokens that resemble securities is a lucrative business. Just ask Marc Andreessen, who recently bought a $44.5 million house in Malibu down the street from the $177 million home he bought in October. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.7 billion.

Sound Ventures is a fund controlled by Guy Oseary and actor-turned investor Ashton Kutcher, who also pretends to care about the planet.

Kutcher was a founding member of World War Zero, an American coalition launched by John Kerry in 2019 to fight the climate crisis. He and his wife bought a Hummer EV, and they live in a Los Angeles home powered entirely by solar energy.

“Ashton and Mila are concerned about the quality of the soil, the purity of the food they eat, and the water they drink. The ideals of sustainability and regenerative farming aren’t just abstract concepts to them,” the house designer told Architectural Digest.

Crypto exchange FTX is one of Tether’s biggest customers. (If you are not familiar with Tether, its web of lies, and the role it plays in the crypto economy, read my Tether timeline.) The company’s answer to the climate problem is to purchase carbon credits.

Finally, MoonPay is the company behind all the strange celebrity purchases of Bored Ape NFTs, where nobody is quite sure if the celebrities are buying the NFTs themselves, or if they are playing a part in promoting the project, without fully disclosing their motives.

MoonPay’s response to Ethereum’s waste is a similar greenwashing. It claims the media exaggerates the impact of crypto mining on the world and points out that Ethereum has plans to transition to a more energy-efficient proof of stake. Ethereum has talked about shifting to a proof of stake system since 2014. It has yet to make the big move.

These are the backers of Yuga Labs, full of contradictions. On one side of their mouths, they talk about saving the planet or they preach exploitive play-to-earn games as a way for players to “own their digital assets.” (They don’t, the assets are stored in central servers.) And on the other side, they promote Web3 and the metaverse, fuzzy marketing terms that point to ways to justify the creation of new tokens.

It all gets a little tough to stomach when you read reports that climate change is already worse than expected and see actual images of an ice shelf the size of Los Angeles collapsing in Antarctica. 

Another celeb joins the circus

On Thursday night, Madonna announced on social media that she now owns a bored Bored Ape NFT. It’s not clear if she bought the token — or if the token was gifted to her by a certain someone who is using her celebrity status to promote Bored Ape Yacht Club.

The material girl’s manager, Oseary, has known her since he was 17 years old. He’s probably been talking her ear off about Bored Apes since October when he signed a deal to represent Yuga Labs. Now he owns a chunk of the company via Sound Ventures as well. 

Oseary has a history of tapping into his celebrity connections to shill cryptocurrency. He also has a history of investing in alleged unregistered security offerings. 

He and Kutcher previously invested in Ripple. In 2018, they donated $4 million in XRP, the token widely associated with Ripple, to “save the gorillas” on the Ellen Degeneres show. Degeneres has a wildlife fund.  

Two years later, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ripple and two of its execs for conducting a $1.3 billion unregistered securities offering. The firm is still battling the lawsuit in court.

History repeated?

Yuga Labs likely never contacted the SEC before launching APE — and there is good reason for that. If they had, the regulator probably would have told them, “No, don’t do this.” So they went ahead and did it anyway, figuring they could get away with it, or worst-case scenario, pay a multi-million-dollar fine years later.

The APE DAO or decentralized autonomous organization, which supposedly launched Apecoin, is not a legal entity. It is also neither decentralized nor autonomous. The Ape Foundation — the committee that enforces decisions made by the DAO — is registered in the Cayman Islands. 

The Ape Foundations’ five members get paid $125,000 in Apecoin for their six-month terms. The Apecoin community votes on whether they get reinstated. Votes are weighted by how many Apecoin you own. Since Yuga Labs and its investors hold the majority of Apecoin, ultimately, they decide who gets reinstated and what proposals get passed.

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian serves on the Apecoin Foundation. (The other four members are Amy Wu, who leads a venture fund at FTX; Maaria Bajwa, a venture investor at Sound Ventures; Yat Siu, the cofounder of Animoca Brands, and Dean Steinbeck, cofounder of Horizen Labs, one of the companies that partnered with Yuga Labs in developing Apecoin.) 

Like all the others, Ohanian also talks a big story when it comes to combatting climate change. He recently launched the 776 Foundation, a fellowship that will give $20 million to young people over the next decade to work on climate solutions.

People who care about the planet, don’t back massive NFT projects. They just don’t. Every NFT transaction on Ethereum comes at a destructive cost to the environment.

Bored Ape Yacht Club is about creating perceived value where there is none to pump tokens. Not only do retail investors risk losing money, but the project itself is contributing to our last remaining chances at escaping climate disaster — all in the hopes of making a few grifters rich.   

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NEWS: Wormhole hit by exploit, BAYC and its tangled celebrity web, HitPiece’s dirty dealings 

Software is inherently unforgiving. Stupid mistakes render stupid consequences. Recently, this led to one of the largest thefts in a DeFi protocol.

Wormhole, a bridge for connecting Ethereum and Solana and other DeFi blockchains, was hit by a hacker, who stole $326 million in cryptocurrency.

An exploit in the code allowed the attacker to mint 120,000 wETH (wrapped ether) on the Solana blockchain out of thin air. The hacker then exchanged 93,750 wETH for ETH on Ethereum and the rest for SOL, the native token of Solana, and USDC. (Elliptic, Cointelegraph)

Cross-chain bridges allow you to stake crypto (generally, ETH) so you can spend it like the native crypto on another blockchain. In the case of Wormhole, wrapped ETH, an ERC-20 token that represents ETH one-to-one, serves as a sort of I.O.U. The hack resulted in Wormhole sitting on lots of unbacked wETH. 

Wormhole developers offered the hacker a $10 million bug bounty for the return of the funds. Why the hacker would want to relinquish $326 million for $10 million, I’m not sure.

Security researcher Sam Sun explained how the thief carried out the heist: “Wormhole didn’t properly validate all input accounts, which allowed the attacker to spoof guardian signatures and mint 120,000 ETH on Solana, of which they bridged 93,750 back to Ethereum.” (Twitter)

How did the hacker even know about this vulnerability? According to DedmundFitzgrld: “The fix was pushed to GitHub a couple weeks ago but not deployed. So the attacker found the exploit by scanning the commits to GitHub. The vulnerability was out there for all to see.” (Twitter)

Jump, a high-frequency trading group with crypto ambitions, stepped in to save the day. The Chicago-based firm somehow came up with the funds to replace all of the 120,000 ETH. Apparently, it had a spare $326 million sitting around? (Twitter, Fortune)

What do we know about Jump? Last August, it bought Certus One, which helped develop the Wormhole bridge. Jump also executes some crypto orders for Robinhood. 

Jump holds a heavy bag of Solano tokens. It can’t risk a lack of confidence in the market, so it likely borrowed a pile of ETH to fix the problem. Who did it borrow the funds from? One guess: Tether, who last year issued the firm $1.1 billion in USDT, according to one analysis

Qubit also hacked

Days before Wormhole was hacked, Qubit Finance was breached for $80 million in crypto. Similar to Wormhole, Qubit operates a bridge between Ethereum and the Binance Smart Chain network.

In this case, the hacker was able to exploit a security flaw in Qubit’s smart contract code that let them send in a deposit of 0 ETH and withdraw almost $80 million in Binance Coin in return. (Verge)

Qubit has been trying to convince the bank robbers to return the money. They started by offering a bounty of $250,000, and eventually upped it to $2 million — still, a piddling amount compared to what the hackers stole.  

Now, they are resorting to threats:

“If you don’t come forward to claim the generous bounty and return the funds, you will face lasting consequences that vastly outweigh the benefits of holding onto funds that you can’t readily access,” Qubit said in a tweet.

Bored Ape founders revealed

Buzzfeed just identified the two main founders of BAYC — Greg Solano, a 32-year-old writer and editor, and Wylie Aronow, a 35-year-old originally from Florida. The pair don’t have any dark pasts, as far as anyone knows. (Buzzfeed)

“These 2 amazing partners of mine,” Guy Oseary tweeted with a pic of them at Apefest. Oseary is the music industry veteran who represents them. He also represents NFT project World of Women. And he is a buddy of Jimmy Fallon, so that explains a few things.

Oseary says the founders were “doxxed against their will,” which is a bizarre statement given you are talking about the founders of a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

As Buzzfeed puts it: “This reveals a unique problem with the idea of a billion-dollar company run by an unknown person: How do you hold them accountable if you don’t know who they are?”

A16z mulls buying a chunk of BAYC

Yuga Labs, the startup behind Bored Apes Yacht Club, is in talks with Andreessen-Horowitz (a16z), who is considering buying a major stake in the startup, which would value it at $5 billion. (FT

I’m losing count of all of the NFT projects a16z is funneling money into — over a dozen, for sure. The VC firm is a major force behind the frothy NFT market. 

Celebrities are shilling Bored Apes left and right to the point where it is downright nauseating and rumor has it the Bored Apes will make an appearance in the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 13.

The problem with investing in high-value NFTs is they are not easy to dump on retail. You have to find that special buyer with loads of disposable ETH. Fungible tokens, on the other hand, are much more liquid — especially if you can get them listed on Coinbase

This is why DAOs (with their ERC-20 governance tokens) and fractionalized NFTs are becoming the thing. It’s like the 2017 initial coin offering craze all over again. Only now we’re talking about Web3 and “democratizing” companies and JPEGs.

Sometime soon, expect Yuga Labs to issue an ERC-20 token with a huge pre-mine for investors. The token will likely represent its NFTs in some way or else give holders special access to future Yuga Lab NFTs — something like that. Bored Apes have been heavily pumped, so at this point, it’s just a matter of creating a fungible token to lure in suckers at a much greater scale. At the end of the day, it is all about creating the illusion of exclusivity or having access to something special.

Yuga Labs has talked about issuing ERC-20 tokens in the past, saying the plan was to work with law firm Fenwick and West and Horizon Labs — issuers of the ZEN token, which is already listed on Coinbase. So this is nothing new. It’s been in the works all along.

What a tangled Web we weave

We’ve been wondering a lot about why celebs are hyping Bored Apes. Who is talking them into this? What’s the deal? 

Max Read did the smart thing — he followed the money trail, and mapped out the celebrity NFT complex. Jimmy Fallon (who was shilling his Bored Ape on National TV) is represented by talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency. Lo and behold, CAA is an investor in OpenSea and recently signed a deal to represent the NFT collector 0xb1, who owns NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club and World of Women. There’s more. Lots more. Take a look at the map. (Substack)

Last week Justin Beiber bought a Bored Ape NFT for $1.3 million (500 ETH), as one of several purchases he made on OpenSea within a short period. As Dirty Bubble Media explains, all of the NFTs were gifted. They were bought by the InBetweeners project, a collection of NFTs owned by artist Gianpiero D’Alessandro, who has designed merchandise for Bieber, Snoop Dogg, and others. 

Bieber never disclosed any financial relationship between himself and the inBetweeners project. As Dirty Bubble points out, this is a big no-no, according to FTC rules. (Substack)

Gwyneth Paltrow also has a Bored Ape, thanks again to MoonPay Concierge. Every time someone buys a Bored Ape via MoonPay, they seemingly have to announce it on social media. (Twitter)

HitPiece and its shady founder

A new project called HitPiece appeared out of nowhere and started scraping Spotify and “staking” songs as NFTs — without the artists’ permission. 

Naturally, artists found out and started hurling obscenities at the project via social media. 

“Yo a bunch of industrial scene acts (including me) have NFTs for sale on the site hitpiece.com I did not put it online and I assume you probably didn’t either, fucked up,” Choke Chain tweeted.

“Each HitPiece NFT is a One of One NFT for each unique song recording. Members build their Hitlist of their favorite songs, get on leaderboards, and receive in real life value such as access and experiences with Artists,” Hitpiece said on its website. (NNE)

The brains — or lack of brains — behind HitPiece turns out to be music industry guy, Rory Felton, who has a history of shady dealings. (Twitter thread) 

Felton launched HitPiece in December along with music exec and former rapper Michael Barrin (aka “MC Serch”), and venture capitalists Ryan Singer and Blake Modersitzki. (Festival News)

Anyhow, Hitpiece.com has been taken down. If you go to the website, all you get now is a message that says, “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening,” whatever that means. (archive)

Gamers hate NFTs!

Gamers want nothing to do with NFTs. They see NFTs as a cash grab and forcefully push back on any game company’s efforts to incorporate NFTs in anything.

Clueless to that trend, GameStop has teamed with Immutable X to launch an NFT marketplace. They’re also creating a $100 million fund for grants to build on the platforms. While Gamestonk investors might think this is great, it should thoroughly piss of GameStop customers. (Verge)

Team17, the outfit behind the many Worms games, pulled the plug on its MegaWorms NFT project (they wanted to create NFTs of all the Worms games characters) only 24 hours after announcing the project, due to extreme backlash from customers, fans, and teamsters. (IGN)

Notice the editor’s note on the IGN story: “The subject of NFTs is currently a very controversial topic in the gaming community. IGN urges community members to be respectful when engaging in conversation around this subject and does not endorse harassment of any kind.

Electronic Arts, another game publisher, is also backtracking from earlier NFT enthusiasm. (Eurogamer

Other NFT news

Nike sues online sneaker reseller StockX for selling NFTs of Nike shoes. (Reuters) 

How did OpenSea take over the NFT trade and become a multibillion dollar company? (Hint: they got lots of help from a16z.) (Verge)

One of the founders of Larva Labs, the project behind CryptoPunks, sold all of his v1 Punks for 260 ETH. In response, Larva Labs released an official statement saying the v1 Punks are worthless, because the project re-released all the Punks in 2017 to fix a bug.

The NFT community feels differently. They are saying that v1 Punks are the originals! What’s on the blockchain, stays on the blockchain. (NFT evening)

Coachella is selling lifetime festival passes for the first time — but you have to buy an NFT to get one. The music festival launched an NFT marketplace built by FTX US, with three collections of NFTs going on sale on Feb. 4th. (Verge)

This is part of a trend, I mentioned before. NFTs are being used to give people special access to clubs, events, restaurants, breweries, and whatnot. Wanna be part of the exclusive group? Buy our NFTs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is retiring after 22 seasons with the NFL. His business ventures, including NFT platform Autograph, will keep him busy moving forward. (Fortune)

Last year, a16z-backed Meta4 Capital created a new fund to invest up to $100 million in NFTs. In a twitter thread, Meta4Capital justifies spending money on “historically significant” or “iconic” NFTs, as if any of this means anything. It doesn’t. At the end of the day, an NFT is just a number in a database.

A racist project called “Meta Slave” offered NFTs made from photographs of Black people (all algorithmically-generated). After a swift backlash, the project rebranded to also feature “white, Asian, etc.” NFTs. The project’s Twitter and Instagram accounts have been deactivated. The collection has also been removed from OpenSea where the NFTs were being auctioned. (Vice)

Artist bayneko airdropped NFTs of microscope pictures of SARS-COV-2 to all 96,186 users of NFT platform Hic et Nunc (HEN) who hold at least one NFT. The NFT description read: “Your wallet has been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19… in an act symbolic of the invasive and ubiquitous nature of the virus and its psychological effects.” (Twitter thread)

Elsewhere in cryptoland

Quote of the day: “So much dumb stuff happens in crypto, and if you are a smart intermediary that dumb stuff is your profit margin. Crypto markets are lightly regulated and brutally Darwinian, and every day the smart find exciting new ways to take money from the dumb. The returns to smart are very high.” ~ Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

On that note, another day, another rug pull. Realux promised to democratize real estate at a “very low cost in a very easy way” using a complex system of tokens backed by real estate investments. After collecting everyone’s money, the project shut down and its creators vanished. (Motherboard)

Riot Blockchain, a large crypto miner located just outside of Austin shut down ahead of a cold blast. Bitcoin miners have been drawn to Texas because of the state’s cheap electricity. They’ve been lobbying Governor Greg Abbott to make things even easier for them. (Bloomberg)

How Facebook’s Diem died. A post mortem. (Washington Post)

Jeremy Allaire’s Circle, the company behind USDC, is running ads in everything. (Twitter)

The IRS is coming for you. Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi warned that Americans who invested in crypto or NFTs, and actively traded equities on commission-free websites, could be dumbfounded when they learn how much they own in taxes because “they were in essence gambling with their money.” (Bloomberg)

In a podcast, Sohale Mortazavi talks about his piece for Jacobin that went viral: “Cryptocurrency Is a Giant Ponzi Scheme.” (Youtube)

The CEO of US-based crypto exchange Cryptsy, Paul Vernon, was indicted on 17 counts, including tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud, tampering with records, documents, and other objects, and destruction of records in a federal investigation. (IRS

This has been a long time coming. Cryptsy shut down in 2016, after announcing 13,000 BTC and 30,000 LTC were stolen two years prior. It was later discovered that “Big Vern” stole the money.

According to the indictment: “Between May 2013 through May 2015, Vernon used his control over Cryptsy’s accounts, known as wallets, to steal over one million dollars from Cryptsy’s cryptocurrency wallets. Once Vernon stole his customers’ funds from Cryptsy’s wallets, he deposited the funds into a personal cryptocurrency wallet and then transferred the same funds into his personal bank account.”

Sam Bankman’s FTX got a $400 billion funding round, valuing the company at $32 billion, as investors, including Softbank and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, hog piled into the madness. (I mentioned earlier that the exchange’s US arm also got a $400 million round.) (Bloomberg)

Taylor Monohan’s MyCrypto joined the Metamask team. ConsenSys acquired MyCrypto for an undisclosed sum and plans to merge MyCrypto with the MetaMask wallet. (Taylor appeared in the QuadrigaCX documentary “Dead Man’s Switch” along with me and David Gerard.) (Coindesk)

On the subject of QuadrigaCX — my review of Jennifer Robertson’s “Bitcoin Widow” was reprinted and is getting lots of attention. (Saltwire)

Steven Kimber, the Halifax author who helped author “Bitcoin Widow,” was interviewed on CBC radio about the book. He spent 50 hours listening to Robertson, he said. (CBC radio)

Douglas Johnston, a Winnipeg lawyer and writer, also reviewed “Bitcoin Widow.” His review was more critical than others. “This is autobiography, so it’s told in the first person. But Robertson puts herself at the forefront of far too much of the narrative.” (Winnipeg Free Press)

Also on the subject of Quadriga, Michael Patryn, the fraudster who was recently voted off his latest Ponzi scheme Wonderland, has been laundering his crypto. According to his wallet, he has been sending thousands of ETH through mixer Tornado Cash(Coindesk, Etherscan)

Crypto risks destabilizing emerging markets, says the International Monetary Fund. (FT)

Binance builds a $1 million insurance fund. (Bloomberg)

El Salvador’s Chivo wallet keeps breaking. (The Block)

Silvergate Bank is paying $50 million in cash and 1,221,217 shares to buy Facebook Diem’s “intellectual property.” Silvergate wants to do a stablecoin running on the Diem blockchain. (press release, CNBC)

USDC, the second biggest stablecoin next to Tether, crossed 50 billion in circulation. (Circle)

Meanwhile, Tether is still sitting at 78 billion USDT. No new prints in 2022 yet. (Tether)

Bitcoin has climbed back to $41,500 despite no new Tether prints. (It was down to as low as $34,000 recently.) Retailers who bought BTC for $69,000 in November are still hurting.

Corey Doctorow on the great crypto crash event looming in the future: “If you think Coinbase is looking shaky and take your money out, you’d better hope they last for at least three more months, or you might have to give the money back to the bankruptcy trustees.” (Twitter thread)

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest launched a criminal case against Facebook, alleging the company failed to prevent scam ads that used his image, and breached Australian AML laws over the spread of crypto fraud. (BBC)

The search for a crypto use case continues. (One Zero)

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News: Chaos in Wonderland, celebs shilling Bored Apes, how VCs get rich on Web3

It’s the end of January 2022, and everything in crypto land keeps getting nuttier. The news is filled with so much crypto and NFT stuff, I can barely keep up anymore.

BTC is at $38,000, after losing nearly half its value since its all-time-high of $69,000 in November. Tether has yet to save the day. It is still hanging around 78 billion, with no recent prints. 

Shares of crypto exchange Bakkt (BKKT) are down 90% since the company went public on NYSE in October. Shares in Coinbase (COIN) are also at a low, down 50% since its debut in April 2020. (Bloomberg)

The VCs and insiders have already made their money. It’s the retailers getting burnt once again. Paul Krugman calls crypto the new subprime. (NYT)

Things are not so wonderland in Wonderland

It’s been a tough few weeks for Wonderland. The drop in crypto set off “cascading liquidations” in the DeFi project after its TIME token sunk to record lows.

Wonderland’s founder Daniele Sestagalli and its chief developer “Sifu” also suffered liquidations — $15 million and $1.6 million respectively. (Crypto Briefing)

Following the calamity, Sifu — aka 0xSifu — was doxxed. Lo and behold, it’s Michael Patryn, the fraudster who helped launch QuadrigaCX. Patryn’s been watching over Wonderland’s treasury. Don’t worry. Your funds are SIFU! I wrote about this, as did David Gerard. (My blog post, David Gerard

The Wonderland DAO voted Sifu out of the project. Now they are considering winding down the whole big silly mess. Once you’ve been uncovered, best to move on to another Ponzi. (The Block)

What’s up with celebs and BAYC?

Jimmy Fallon was hyping his Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT on national TV, along with Paris Hilton, who also owns a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. (LA Times)

In case you were wondering, Fallon and many other celebs get their Bored Apes via MoonPay.

Justin Bieber also recently purchased a Bored Ape, for $1.3 million. (Benzinga)

It looks like Bieber didn’t buy that Bored Ape himself. All of the ETH in his wallet came from a single transfer of 916 ETH from the @inBetweenersNFT project. (Twitter thread)

We’ve lost a bunch of celebs to NFTs — Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Edward Snowden, Tony Hawk, Matt Damon, William Shatner, and more. (Gizmodo)

The founders of BAYC are so far a mystery. Nobody knows who they are.

A blog post has been circulating suggesting that the BAYC was started by a bunch of Nazis. There are a lot of ugly things about BAYC, but this is not one of them. 

“That blog post trying to argue that the bored ape nfts are a Nazi project is the kind of thing no serious researcher of the far right should be sharing at face value. Getting bad QAnon-ish vibes from parts of the theory argued there,” Jared Holt said. Holt knows his Nazis, so I’ll take his word for this. He studies extremism at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (Twitter)

Twitter launches hex PFPs

Twitter will allow you to display your NFT in your profile pic in a hexagon — if you subscribe to Twitter Blue for $3 a month, you have an iOS device, and you use a supported wallet (Argent, Coinbase Wallet, Ledger Live, MetaMask, Rainbow, or Trust Wallet). (Twitter

The good news? You can easily mass-mute everyone with a hex-profile on Twitter. (PC Gamer)

For some reason, the Twitter PFP feature works with any NFT in a collection, not just verified ones. Justin Taylor, Twitter’s head of consumer marketing, encourages people to use unverified NFTs — plagiarize someone else’s work just to create an NFT and get a hex badge! (Twitter)

YouTube wants to capitalize on NFTs, too. It’s exploring new opportunities for revenue. YouTube’s CEO says she is looking to Web3 “as a source of inspiration,” noting crypto, DAOs and NFTs. (CEO’s letter, Verge)

OpenSea will refund, ask them

OpenSea is reimbursing users who lost money via an loophole on the platform. Hackers were buying NFTs previously listed for much less even though those listings didn’t appear active to the seller — if the seller neglected to delete the listing. The hackers then flipped the NFTs for huge profits.

OpenSea has so far reimbursed $1.8 million. However, many NFTs are still vulnerable, leaving the door open for bad actors, including one account named “opensee_​will_​refund_​ask_​them.” (Twitter)

On Jan. 27, OpenSea announced limits on free NFT minting — a feature that let you create NFTs without a gas fee, which you only had to pay if you sold the NFT — then reversed the decision hours later, after revealing that nearly all of the items created through the feature were either spam or plagiarized. (Vice)

Elsewhere in NFT land

MetaMask admitted last week that it neglected to patch an IP leakage issue that has been “widely known for a long time.” The issue exists in many wallets and NFT marketplaces, including MetaMask and OpenSea. (Alex Lupascu explains why this is so dangerous in a blog post.) Some researchers are now creating NFTs that grab a viewer’s IP and display it back to them, just to illustrate how NFT marketplaces like OpenSea allow attackers to load custom code when someone simply views an NFT listing. (Verge)

Neil Turkewitz interviewed “Bor,” a member of activist group @NFTtheft. The group hears from a lot of artists who claim they’ve made “life changing” money selling NFTs. But an inspection of those artist’s accounts on NFT marketplaces tells a different story. “Many times, they’ve only made a single sale. Most of the time, they haven’t sold any NFTs yet.” (blog post)

Another day, another NFT rug pull. Blockverse was a planned NFT Minecraft project, with access restricted to those who owned a particular NFT. The initial supply of 10,000 NFTs, priced at 0.05 ETH, sold out in minutes. A few days later, the founders deleted their website, Discord server, and game server, and took off with all the money. (PC Gamer)

Someone just came up with the idea of selling NFTs of colors. Why? Because you can. Behold the Color Museum, another example of how ridiculous some of these NFT projects have become. (Twitter thread)

LooksRare is a new NFT platform. It’s doing gangbusters! In fact, it’s the biggest rival to top NFT marketplace OpenSea. There’s just one thing — all of the buyers and sellers are the same people. CryptoSlam identified $8 billion sales on the platform that were wash trades. (Decrypt)

A German museum lost two CryptoPunk NFTs, worth $400,000 in crypto. Last spring, while trying to move them to another wallet, a cut-and-paste error sent the Punks to the wrong wallet address. Oops!(The Art Newspaper)

Melania Trump’s NFT auction didn’t go as planned. The sale came in under 30% of its starting bid, due to a crash in SOL, the token of the Solano blockchain. Sad! (NYT)

A disturbing trend is developing in the NFT world, wherein promoters seek to destroy physical art, so items only exist in the digital world. New Zealand auction house Webb’s is selling two NFTs of historic photos along with the glass negatives. If you buy the NFT, you get the glass negative along with a hammer to smash the artifact. (Webb’s auction portal, Newshub)

A French surgeon faces legal action after he tried to sell an NFT of an X-ray without the patient’s consent. The patient was shot in the November 2015 Paris attacks. The image was up for sale on OpenSea for $2,800. (Guardian)

Game developers have zero interest in NFTs, according to a survey by the Game Developers Conference. The comments at the end of the article are gold: “Burn ‘em to the ground. Ban everyone involved in them. I work at an NFT company currently and am quitting to get away from it.” (Kotako)

Crypto NFTs are rife with fraud. “We’re just seeing mountains and mountains of fraud in this area,” a special agent at the IRS’s criminal investigation division, said. (Bloomberg)

How VCs cash out on Web3

Fais Kahn wrote a blog post a few weeks ago on how VCs dump their shitcoins on retail by getting the coins listed on Coinbase. A16z is a Coinbase backer and holds a seat on the company’s board. Coinbase also has its own investment arm — Coinbase Ventures. Kahn’s post has gotten some attention! 

As a follow up, Ed Zitron wrote “Crypto, Web3 and The Big Nothing.” Most startups fail, and a liquidity event, if it does happen, can take years. “What Web3 allows founders to do is create companies that might do something and immediately capitalize on those promises. Instead of having to provide a service to users, you incentivize them by involving some sort of token — fungible or otherwise — that will theoretically increase in value as the company grows and does the thing it theoretically might do.”

Also referencing Kahn’s work, the FT wrote: “The Coinbase model, profit from companies it lists.” The FT did its own research. It found 20 tokens that Coinbase listed while holding an investment in a related project. Of those 20 projects, Coinbase disclosed only 12 as holdings on Coinbase Ventures.

“In the securities world, conflicts of interest have to be identified, disclosed and managed,” Tyler Gellasch, executive director of Healthy Markets, an investor focused nonprofit, told FT. “In crypto, it seems to be a free-for-all.”

Regulations

The SEC is taking a look into Celsius Network, Voyager Digital and Gemini Trust, companies with high-yield product offerings. These firms offer rates on tokens of 3% to as high as 18%. The question is whether these tokens are securities. The answer is, probably. (Bloomberg)

Alexis Goldstein has joined the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau, a federal agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In her previous position as financial policy director at the anti-monopoly organization Open Markets Institute, she has been a vocal critic of crypto. (Read her Senate Banking Committee testimony on stablecoins if you haven’t already. It’s full of good info.) (Bloomberg)

Other news worth noting

Jennifer Robertson is getting criticized for “Bitcoin Widow.” Folks keep asking how she could have been so oblivious to Gerald Cotten’s shenanigans. Stephen Kimber, her ghostwriter, wrote an an entire article defending her. He points the finger back at Quadriga investors — the ones who actually lost money and are still waiting, three years later, to get a tiny portion of it back. “And yet no one asks them what the hell they were thinking, trusting this scam artist with their life savings?” (Halifax Examiner

FTX US gets a $400 million Series A with an $8 billion evaluation. Paradigm, Temasek, Multicoin Capital, and SoftBank led the round. The crypto exchange plans to use the funds to “accelerate its growth,” so it can leave Coinbase in the dust. (CNBC

Bermuda-based FTX also announced a $400 million Series C round, valuing the company at $32 billion. Existing investors included Japan’s SoftBank and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. FTX is one of Tether’s biggest customers. (FT)

The International Monetary Fund wants El Salvador to remove bitcoin’s status as a legal tender, dissolve the $150 million trust fund it created when it made BTC legal tender, and eliminate the $30 incentive for people to start using the digital wallet Chivo. It suggested there could be benefits to Chivo, but only if it uses actual dollars, not BTC.

The IMF warned President Nayib Bukele of the risks crypto poses — money laundering, corruption, etc. — and stressed that it would be difficult to get a loan from the institution. (IMF, Bloomberg 

Facebook Diem is having a fire sale, so it can return some money back to Diem’s investors. The project is officially dead. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the body. (Bloomberg, David Gerard)

Tether’s new accounting firm is the same as the old one. Moore Cayman is now operating under the MHA Cayman name. Also, the firm’s parent, MacIntyre Hudson, is under investigation in the U.K. (MHA announcement, Coindesk)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott thinks bitcoin miners can save the energy grid. (Decrypt)

In her latest blogpost, “Abuse and harassment on the blockchain.” Molly White says that in order to responsibly develop new technologies, we need to ask: “How will this be used for evil?” (Molly White)

Frances Coppola has returned to writing again after a break. She has taken a look at the Bitcoin ETF applications the SEC keeps rejecting. The problem isn’t the applications, it’s the market. (blog post)

This is fascinating. Ponzi schemer Stefan Qin was interviewed days before heading off to prison. The 24-year-old ran a crypto hedge fund until it imploded in late 2020 and lived in a posh $24,000/month NYC apartment — with extra bedrooms for all the sugar babies. (Youtube)

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