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NFT startup Proof Collective navigates web3's choppy waters

Apr 26, 2022

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Ryan Carson, COO of ultrahot NFT startup Proof Collective, abruptly departed on Monday after coming under fire for personal purchases from the company's recently released NFT collection.

  • A fund he planned for investing in other NFT projects was also seen as a factor.

Why it matters: It's the Wild West in the NFT world, where the rules around the space have yet to be written and conflicts of interest abound.

Driving the news: On April 16, Proof Collective released Moonbirds, a group of 10,000 pixelated owls that quickly climbed up OpenSea's rankings of top NFT collections.

  • With a mint cost of 2.5 ETH — or roughly $7,500 at release — the price of Moonbirds has risen to a minimum of 30 ETH each (~$90,000), with at least one sold for 350 ETH, or more than $1 million.

The intrigue: Shortly after the NFTs' traits were revealed, Carson purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Moonbirds off the secondary market.

  • Then, on Sunday, Carson abruptly announced plans to launch a fund that will invest in other NFT projects.
  • Those moves were widely seen as conflicts of interest by many in the NFT community.

What they're saying: In a Twitter Space announcing his departure on April 25, Proof Collective CEO Kevin Rose said Carson had informed him about plans for a fund before the launch of Moonbirds.

  • The two had agreed that Carson would not be able to solicit funds from Proof members or get any special access or advantage when it came to Proof drops.
  • But, Rose said, "Ryan did the announcement yesterday, which caught me off guard ... So we had a very open, honest conversation, and Ryan said, 'I'll step aside, so I'm not conflicted.'"

As for Carson's NFTs, Rose said he had told staff not to make any purchases until the public understood the scarcity and rarity of NFT attributes that could contribute to their value in the market.

  • On April 14, Carson tweeted that he would allocate 165 ETH to purchase Moonbirds for his personal collection. But Rose said in the Twitter Space that he did not to know of Carson's plans.
  • Rose said Proof would institute a rule blocking any employees from purchasing its releases for some time after launch, and that the company would share details with the community once finalized.

Carson did not respond to a request seeking comment.

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