Venture capital investment firm NextBlock Global has been suspected of issuing false claims to investors. The allegedly false claims include listing various crypto superstars like author and keynote speaker Andreas Antonopoulos as advisors to the company. In the fallout of the revelations in two recent Forbes articles, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) has withdrawn from backing the company.
What’s NextBlock Global All About?
The investment firm in question, NextBlock Global, is based in Toronto. They are looking to raise $100 million CAD ($78.4m USD) in an upcoming public listing.
According to its official website, the firm specializes in startups that use blockchain technologies. It also states that NextBlock “… is an active investor in its portfolio companies, protocols and networks. We are heavily involved in our investments and we endeavour to be influential in steering the direction of portfolio companies.”
The company is led by its executive team of four: chairman Dennis Bennie, CEO Alex Tapscott, CIO Charlie Morris, and CFO Ryan Roebuck. Tapscott, who co-authored a book on blockchain tech with his father Don, is central to the majority of issues surrounding the controversy.
Alleged False Claims
The false claim allegations aimed at NextBlock Global revolve around the company’s statements that they had retained the services of a number of high profile individuals in the crypto world. These include Kathryn Haun, who is a board member of Coinbase, Vitalik Buterin’s father Dmitry, Civic CEO Vinny Lingham, and Karen Gifford, who is currently with Ripple.
Further claims of false associations came up when NextBlock Global announced its creation of a Blockchain Research Institute. In the announcement, they claimed famous Bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos as part of a “proposed faculty”.
Antonopoulos on Twitter made the statement shortly after this was discovered that he “… did not agree and will not be part of the Blockchain Research Institute” and that any claims he was involved were “false”. At present, the official website for BRI does not list Antonopoulos anywhere.
Supposed Advisors Speak Out
The claims against NextBlock Global in regards to those supposedly given advisory positions are similar to the statement Antonopoulos made. Specifically, the four stated separately that they are not advisors to the firm, never agreed to be advisors, and in some cases were never even approached directly by the firm.
Vinny Lingham, founder of blockchain based identity protection company Civic, had contacted Tapscott via email earlier. According to Forbes, Lingham asked Tapscott why people were claiming he was involved in NextBlock Global. The article on Forbes then cited Tapscott as replying, “You are (obviously) not an advisor and have not been listed as one! So bizarre.”
Forbes added that Lingham replied to Tapscott’s email by saying he was looking at his photo and bio on NextBlock Global’s advisor page, writing “please don’t lie to me.”
Another interesting case in the controversey is the use of a fake picture. Advisor Dino Angaritis was listed in the final version of the investor deck. He told Forbes that he agreed to be an advisor to the VC firm. However, he did not want his photo used by them. Later it was discovered by The Globe and Mail that NextBlock Global had instead used a photo of Luke Carman, an Australian fiction author who wrote “An Elegant Young Man”.
CIBC Withdraws From NextBlock Global
After the Forbes article went live on November 1st, CIBC released an email to its investors which stated the following:
“CIBC has withdrawn as an agent from the NextBlock Global Limited private placement.” According to reporter Laura Shin, who broke the original story, CIBC has declined to comment.
Shin said the CIBC emails came from Sid Ramanathan, CIBC’s executive director of equity and capital markets, and Chung Kim, executive director of institutional equity sales.
The primary issue with this controversy is that NextBlock Global allegedly misused the good reputations of several high profile individuals. If the allegations are true, it would seem the VC firm was attempting to drum up additional investor support by increasing their apparent legitimacy. Either that, or what we are seeing is really just a sequence of highly unusual and strangely coincidental accidents and oversights.
This could potentially have a large impact on the firm and its investor relations in the near future.
Is the practice of posting fictional “advisory boards” too common in the blockchain world” Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Forbes, NextBlock Global, Pixabay