September 26th, 2018
Alex Tapscott’s Crypto VC Firm Going Public With $100M CAD Falsely Touted 4 Blockchain Stars As Advisors
Forbes | Laura Shin | Nov 2, 2017
NextBlock Global, a venture capital company investing in digital assets that is going public in Canada and raising $100 million CAD ($77 million USD), falsely named four blockchain stars as advisors in an investor document.
The company’s chief executive officer, Alex Tapscott, is known for coauthoring, with his father Don, a book on blockchain technology, “Blockchain Revolution: How The Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business And The World,” which was a Globe and Mail bestseller.
An investor deck sent out by a broker via email Thursday, October 19, which touted its “access” and “unparalleled relationships” as its top selling point, listed eight advisors, including former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor and current Coinbase Board of Directors member Kathryn Haun; serial blockchain entrepreneur Vinny Lingham, CEO of blockchain identity startup Civic and a shark on South Africa’s Shark Tank; Dmitry Buterin, father of Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin; and Karen Gifford, a special advisor for global regulatory affairs at Ripple who was previously counsel and officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“I’m not an advisor and I never have been,” Haun told Forbes.
“I’m not an advisor to his fund,” said Lingham by phone.
Buterin confirmed he had been approached to be an advisor but had declined.
Through a press representative, Gifford stated that she is not an advisor and that she never spoke with Tapscott about becoming one.
When Haun found out Tapscott had listed her as an advisor and confronted him, she says he claimed that the deck listing her as an advisor hadn’t gone out electronically, though Forbes has learned of at least four investors who received it that way. He then promised her he would issue a correction to potential investors who had received the misleading copies. The following Monday, Tapscott forwarded to Lingham a deck labeled “final” that no longer contained the falsely identified advisors and at least one investor received that deck, but three investors who received the previous deck naming Buterin, Gifford, Haun and Lingham as advisors confirmed that they never received the updated version.
When reached by phone and asked about the four falsely named advisors, Tapscott said, “None of those people have appeared in the deck with the exception of Kathryn Haun.” When told Forbes had a copy of a deck naming the other three, he said, “They were listed in a draft version of a deck.” The “draft” including them was labeled version 5 and was circulated just two business days before the final.
Tapscott also told Forbes the inclusion of Buterin was “another misconception,” and said of the listing of Gifford and Lingham, “Karen and Vinny were in a draft version of the deck which never got used because I was not able to confirm with them. I had conversations with them. They seemed open to the idea but when I couldn’t confirm them, I took them out of the deck, I did not use their names to market my transaction.” As mentioned above, at least three investors never received a deck that didn't name them as advisors.
Lingham confirmed he was approached, but as stated above, Gifford had no such conversation with Tapscott.
The inclusion of Haun, the former U.S. prosecutor and Coinbase board member, was especially egregious because the San Francisco-based startup, which is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, the New York Stock Exchange and Union Square Ventures, is the first crypto unicorn and probably the most recognized brand in the space. A source in both the traditional investment and blockchain communities in Canada said, “You don’t know how many people I know who run hedge funds told me they were investing [in NextBlock] because he had someone from Coinbase involved.
Canada is a very parochial market. On Bay Street — Canada’s equivalent of Wall Street — Coinbase and Kathryn have star power. The Canadian institutions said, Oh wow, this is the best deal because this guy has all these contacts. They invested based on that representation.” He said in Canada, Tapscott had an aura from his book and other blockchain activities that he had gotten close to crypto heavyweights in Silicon Valley and therefore had the best deal flow.
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