Huculak’s Discord announcement stated that Neso’s remote status and pseudonymity meant Gem’s leaders did not know about Thompson’s history and sexual abuse allegations prior to the recent investigation, and he did not elaborate in a request for comment. It’s unclear if Gem’s cofounders performed any due diligence to verify Neso’s identity when bringing him onto the team. BuzzFeed News confirmed Joshpriest’s full name through an employment verification request.
Because the name Josh Thompson was rarely used in connection with Joshpriest or MethodJosh, Gem’s leaders may not have made the connection. Despite all of the founders’ names being on the incorporation document, Neso’s real name was never publicly disclosed by the company’s other founding members.
Some of Gem’s core staff also go by pseudonyms or nicknames, a common practice within the NFT space. But Hernandez, who goes by Cmonies, and Saini, who uses the name Vasa, are nevertheless discoverable on Twitter and LinkedIn under their real identities.
Huculak’s Discord announcement refers to Neso as an anonymous developer, but three people with knowledge of Gem operations told BuzzFeed News that he was a cofounder. A now-deleted Twitter account belonging to Neso only states that he was doing “nft stuff” at Gem, and BuzzFeed News was unable to verify his actual title. However, in a January YouTube interview with the blockchain analytics platform Nansen, Neso — who kept his video turned off the entire time — describes Huculak as “one of my cofounders” whom he met in 2021, shortly before joining the Gem team.
No additional details have been publicly provided about Neso’s exit, according to three Gem sources. “After they made the Discord announcement, one of us remembered that he was a professional gamer who played World of Warcraft,” one source said, adding that Neso had tweeted about gaming in the past. Curious about Neso’s identity, these sources searched for World of Warcraft players who’d been accused of sexual harassment and discovered the controversy surrounding the streamer Joshpriest.
Huculak declined to comment on specific questions regarding Thompson’s termination and current status at Gem. It’s unclear if Thompson will be removed as a shareholder. On Tuesday, two days after Thompson’s departure was announced, transaction ledgers show that a crypto wallet that appears to belong to Neso transferred the domain name gemdotxyz.eth to an anonymously held wallet. The domain was originally registered in January by neso.eth, which is linked to Neso’s deleted Twitter account.
That an alleged sexual abuser was able to obscure his identity behind a new moniker exemplifies the harms posed by crypto’s culture of pseudonymity. Even the founders of NFT projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club, which has raised millions of dollars from investors, did not publicly disclose their real names until BuzzFeed News did it for them. Other pseudonymous actors in the NFT space have made off with millions. To prove their trustworthiness, the creators of some NFT ventures are now voluntarily “doxxing” themselves, a term the Web3 space has co-opted to mean everything from revealing names to verifying one’s physical identity.
“The craziest thing about all of this,” one Gem source said, is that “he could literally just reinvent himself and come back because he was pseudoanonymous.”●
Katie Notopoulos contributed reporting to this story.