- On February 3, 2023, Ryan Carson, a prominent Web3 builder and Proof Collective’s former COO, announced a new Web3 fund called Flux. In a now-deleted tweet announcing the fund, Carson stated that he intended to raise $10 million through 100 investors and claimed that 21 spots were already gone. NFT community members, including those listed as investors, quickly noticed irregularities in Carson’s announcement.
- In short, Flux’s official website stated that all investors had to contribute $160,000 at minimum. If 100 individuals invested that much, it would equal a total raise of $16 million — $6 million more than what Carson said he was raising. Members of the community alleged that those 21 investors likely contributed far less than the $160,000 minimum, yet would receive the same equity share as those who contributed far more.
- Multiple investors that Carson mentioned in the tweet expressed dissatisfaction with how their involvement was communicated, stated that they had not committed the minimum investment amount, and said they would be withdrawing what they did invest as a result of Carson’s actions. Others stated that they weren’t investors at all and never made any commitments.
- This is not the first time Carson has been accused of unethical dealings in the Web3 space, leading some to question the motivations behind his announcement and allege that he is only interested in extracting value from the space.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many individuals see the Web3 space as the “Wild West” — as an ungoverned free-for-all filled with scams, rug pulls, and widespread fraud. And many established figures in the NFT community say that the way Carson announced Flux only serves to reinforce these perspectives.
In a several-hour-long AMA that took place on Twitter on February 4, Carson attempted to address questions from the community and quell those who were angered. When asked why he listed prominent Web3 figures as investors when they hadn’t actually made any commitments, Carson said that verbal commitments from investors are commonplace when fundraising, but also acknowledged that he should have communicated things more clearly.
“I assumed some things that I shouldn’t have,” Carson said in the AMA. “This is a common practice. People commit verbally or over text. I guess I could’ve slowed down the process and waited until all the term sheets were signed [to announce the investors]. I have nothing to hide. That is just the way it is.”
Those who Carson listed as investors and advisors were also pulled into the controversy. Some chose to distance themselves from the fund, while many others took to Twitter to try and explain themselves.
In a thread clarifying his involvement, Gmoney stated that he committed $10,000 to the fund. However, he added that he “[didn’t] feel comfortable with how this announcement was made,” as Carson revealed his initial investors before the fundraising was complete. Consequently, Gmoney noted that he would be pulling out of the deal. Zeneca, who was listed as one of Flux’s founding advisors, also tweeted about the matter, saying he hadn’t disclosed his involvement in the fund due to the limited scope of his involvement and added that he didn’t list Flux on his Zeneca Transparency page yet due to its “recency.”
A troubled history
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Carson has been accused of acting unethically. In recent years, he has faced allegations stemming from his work at both Web2 and Web3 companies.
In August of 2021, Carson was the CEO and co-founder of the online coding school Treehouse. Towards the end of the month, he announced that Treehouse’s acquisition had fallen through and that Skillsoft would not be acquiring the company. As a result, Carson stated that significant cutbacks were likely in the future. Hours later, Treehouse laid off the vast majority of its staff without benefits or severance pay. While layoffs are sometimes necessary, several Treehouse employees claimed that the cuts were poorly communicated — and in some instances, not communicated at all. Others stated that the company had an erratic management style that often resulted in major strategic changes being made on a whim.
Carson also has a controversial history in the Web3 space. Most troubling is the way in which he acquired Moonbirds and how he exited the Moonbirds and Proof Collective team.
In April of 2022, Carson stated that he would be collecting more than 200 ETH of Moonbirds on the day the NFT project launched. This allegedly left other collectors at a disadvantage, as Carson knew the collection’s rarity numbers in advance. This led some to speculate about the possibility of insider trading. In response, project founder Kevin Rose tweeted that an internal policy was in place to prevent rarity sniping but that he “can’t control someone clicking a button to purchase.” Rose added that better safeguards would be added for future drops.
Then, two weeks after Moonbirds launched, Carson left Proof Collective to found 121G, an NFT venture fund. Web3 enthusiasts were quick to call out the questionable ethics surrounding Carson’s exit, claiming that he made money off of collectors who purchased Moonbirds NFTs.
During the AMA, Carson emphasized that he will be putting his head down to work on Flux and continue doing his best to create value for the NFT space. However, many were not appeased. Some accused him of misleading people about his investors, while others criticized him for trying to “fomo” retail investors into his fund.
Tweets subsequently began circulating that allegedly show the deck that Carson sent to potential Flux investors. In the deck, Carson allegedly promises to use the same playbook used at Proof to make Flux a success. In response, Kevin Rose took to Twitter to distance Proof from Carson, stating, “[Carson] didn’t create the Proof ‘playbook;’ I didn’t hire him until after we launched the community.”
The future of the fund and its investors remains to be seen, but the controversy has stirred a wider conversation in the NFT ecosystem on transparency, fundraising, trust, and ethics that is likely to continue to reverberate through the community.