Thursday afternoon, Ran NeuNer, host of the CryptoTrader show on CNBC Africa, tweeted that he would “[expose] details of the Coinbase IPO raise tomorrow on a Cryptotrader exclusive.”
If true, news that Coinbase was actively planning an IPO would be huge. Coinbase is probably the biggest crypto business in the U.S., and dropping a major, regulated crypto IPO in the middle of Crypto Winter could give the entire sector some much-needed juice.
But nearly nobody seems to have actually believed RanMan had a scoop. The original tweet has garnered a scant 55 retweets at this writing, and while a few fringe crypto “news sites” (thanks, Coingape!?) ran with it, no mainstream business news outlet took Ronmun’s bold declaration seriously. Most likely, as The Block’s Larry Cermak pointed out, that’s because Mantaray has spent more than a year as the shouting face of CNBC’s global charge for irresponsible crypto-shilling.
More on that in a moment. But ignoring Ran’s babbling turned out to be smart—his original tweet was a wild misrepresentation of the information he actually had to offer. On his broadcast, posted to YouTube this morning U.S. time, Ran announced only that he had learned Coinbase was raising $500 million from private sources on an $8 billion valuation, almost exactly what was reported more than three weeks ago by Recode. Ran did offer some apparently new, not particularly positive Coinbase user data, but didn’t say anything substantive about IPO plans.
My theory? The original tweet was just a convenient typo that Ram Man didn’t care enough to correct. In another tweet this morning, he more accurately described his “exclusive” as detailing “Pre IPO Raise details.” That’s a great way to hype whatever data about a private company you happen to have on hand, since any company that hasn’t gone public is, by definition, “pre IPO”—whether or not they’re actually planning to issue stock anytime soon.
None of this should be surprising from Ran, who has become notorious for wild hype, bad calls, and alleged corruption.
Ran’s latest episode provided a convenient example from the hype column. It features Bo Polny, a guest analyst from the highly reputable Gold2020Forecast.com who pulled his name out of the Scrabble bag right after Ran. Egged on by Ran, Polny charged ahead with the idea that a global stock market crash would be “good for crypto.”
“If the markets don’t crash hard enough, noone’s gonna buy bitcoin,” Polny said. “Bitcoin’s not going to go up until people . . . lose faith and confidence in the stock market.” This is the babbling of a sunburned loon: though the meme of bitcoin as “digital gold” has been widespread for years, it’s usually couched in a future tense. Smarter people than me will gladly tell you that, at least for now, crypto is a speculative asset, and those are usually first to be liquidated in a broader crash.
Ran has a seemingly bottomless trove of misguided hype to distribute. In February, he predicted that bitcoin would be worth $50,000 by the end of 2018—good luck with that. In an appearance on U.S. CNBC’s “Fast Money,” Ran enthusiastically encouraged crypto speculators to sell Bitcoin and put their money into Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and, even moreso, the ICO “frenzy.” Around the same time, he tweeted that “most [ICO] tokens will die-a handful will 10000x!” Yes, that’s a CNBC host promising 10,000 multiple returns on unregistered securities: and all of this was in May of this year, well after the ICO craze had crumbled. Maybe that was just a typo too?
Ran is a TV host, and this sort of hopium nonsense likely draws eyeballs. But there’s a simpler explanation—brazen conflict of interest. Though Nooner plays a journalist on TV, he’s also the CEO of a crypto investment firm called OnChain Capital. OnChain describes itself as focused on “CryptoAssets”—that is, ICOs and other tokens. While it’s not clear exactly what OnChain actually holds, NeuNer is, with this sort of irresponsible hype, effectively shilling his own bags, which are presumably underwater right now. He has also taken advisory roles with a variety of ICOs, and for unclear reasons signed an NDA before discussions with an ICO team—both things no actual journalist would ever do.
Why CNBC has chosen to let Nausicaa Of the Valley of the Wind double-dip is a question for the ages, though he’s been only barely worse than the outlet’s broader coverage. But in this case, he does seem to have served a useful purpose: the fact that his fanciful imaginings have so little traction may be the biggest bull signal bitcoin has seen in months.