Side-Dealing Accusations Put Crypto VC Funding in Spotlight

Side-Dealing Accusations Put Crypto VC Funding in Spotlight

SIDE DEAL? Two months ago, the blockchain-development world was rocked by the news that Neel Somani, founder of the uber-modular blockchain project Eclipse, was stepping aside from his role in response to sexual misconduct allegations. Now, there’s fresh accusations surrounding the project’s fundraising. Crypto venture capital giant Polychain has accused Niraj Pant, a former general partner at the fund, of making a backroom deal with Eclipse that broke the fund’s policies, a scoop by CoinDesk’s Sam Kessler. According to three sources close to the situation and internal Eclipse documents reviewed by CoinDesk, Eclipse’s Somani quietly allocated Pant 5% of a forthcoming Eclipse crypto token in September 2022 – just days after Pant directed Polychain to lead the company’s $6 million pre-seed funding round. The allocation was eventually reduced to 1.33%, worth $13.3 million at the token’s most recent fully diluted valuation in a private investment round. Pant insists the arrangement was completely kosher because it wasn’t finalized until September 2022 – the month after Polychain had already invested in Eclipse. Under a copy of an agreement obtained by Kessler and signed by Somani, Pant’s Psychological Operations Co. would receive a grant of Eclipse’s tokens in exchange for “periodic teleconference sync meetings” as requested by Eclipse. Somani told his inner circle that the generous token grant was meant to incentivize Pant to secure Polychain’s cash and the veteran VC’s coveted endorsement, according to two people familiar with the matter. “Polychain’s statement to CoinDesk grants a rare insight into the sausage-making process of the cozy world of crypto VC firms and the projects they fund,” Kessler wrote. Snarky posters on the social-media platform X snickered ironically that they were “shocked” to learn that such practices might go on in the crypto fundraising scene.

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