Winklevoss Brothers form cover band Mars Junction as crypto startup Gemini falters

As headlights came on earlier this month in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Tyler Winklevoss clutched a microphone, closed his eyes, and complained the lyrics to Do not stop believing-stood next to his identical brother, Cameron, as always. It was a fitting song for two of Krypto’s main mascots, a movement that relies on epic sums of blind faith.

But as the crypto market collapses, the brothers appear to have lost some of their interest in the industry and their struggling startup Gemini, leaning towards their “hitting rock band” Mars Junction instead. They embarked on a 10-stop cross-country tour and launched a series of accompanying NFTs.

Meanwhile, Gemini employees polish their resumes.

Just days before the Asbury Park concert, on June 2, the Winklevii – a nickname made famous by their portrayal in the 2010 Facebook drama The social network— announced in a public statement that they would be laying off dozens of workers to make cryptocurrency exchanges “better in the long run.”

Based on interviews with nine current and former employees, this sequence of events doesn’t go down well.

“They laid off 10 percent of their staff,” said an offended former employee, “and then they went on tour with their rock band.”

Another recently departed employee said Gemini employees were caught off guard by the layoffs. More than a dozen have reached out to him for advice or a job recommendation. “They say, ‘Yeah, I did it, but I’m really nervous now,'” he said. “,I am really scared.'”

For years, the Winklevosses have been held up as crypto heroes, traveling the world as evangelists and promises not for sale their stocks. “Bitcoin is not just an asset. And it’s not just a technology. It’s a movement that offers the blueprint to dismantle traditional power structures,” Cameron said tweeted in May. (The 40-year-old former Olympic rower is familiar with traditional power structures, having graduated from prep schools in Greenwich, Connecticut, Harvard and Oxford.)

Last fall, Gemini — which declined to comment on the story — raised $400 million from its first outside investment, and the company said it was weeks away from profitability. forbes sets the twins’ net worth at $3.2 billion apiece.

But even these numbers were not enough to prevent layoffs.

A new employee of the founders said: “Wow, you guys really talk about keeping and keeping and keeping, but you don’t keep your own employees.”

Geminis don’t just have internal problems. On the same day the layoffs were announced, the company was hit by a lawsuit from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, alleging that its leadership had informed the FTC about a bitcoin futures contract and its efforts to prevent manipulation misled. The agency said it is seeking civil penalties and forfeiture of any “illegally obtained profits.” (A Gemini spokesman said in a statement that for eight years the company has been “asking for permission, not forgiving and always doing the right thing” and that it “looks like it will[ed] I look forward to finally proving this in court.”

Four days later, the company was sued again — this time by one of its trading partners, crypto annuity provider IRA Financial Trust. The company claimed Gemini’s inadequate security protocols were responsible for a $37 million security breach on many IRA financial client accounts on February 8. Gemini denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying its safety standards are “among the highest in the industry.” The company is currently attempting to force the lawsuit into arbitration.

Whatever becomes of the legal entanglements, there’s clear reason to believe Tyler and Cameron are distracted. In recent weeks, they removed references to Bitcoin from their Twitter bios and swapped out a link to Gemini’s website for one promoting their Mars Junction tour.

And the brothers, who used to tweet about Gemini several times a month, haven’t posted anything about the company since May 22 — except to respond to news about the FTC lawsuit. (“I might reply to that nonsense when I have some free time,” Cameron tweeted about the suit. “But I don’t know, maybe not, we’ll see.”) During the same period, they’ve tweeted about Mars Junction a 35 times combined.

Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss pose at a Christmas party in Los Angeles in 2012.

Todd Oren/Getty

The brothers founded Gemini in 2014, six years after they received a $65 million payout from Facebook over allegations that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for the social media site from them. At the time, bitcoin was only worth a few hundred dollars, and they were among the few public figures who threw their full support for crypto.

The volatility of the crypto markets made for an exciting place to work. “You definitely noticed that the mood of the people there was determined [by] the price of Bitcoin,” said Harrison Leggio, a software developer who left Gemini in 2021 and enjoyed working there. “We had screens with price charts and stuff all over the office. When bitcoin was booming people were super hype.”

The founders also maintained an atmosphere of secrecy. As with other tech companies, employees signed non-disclosure agreements, several people familiar with the matter said, and employees were afraid to openly criticize the company.

A former employee who declined to speak for the record for this reason said he was concerned about Gemini’s aggressive efforts to increase sales and felt the company was “saving our customers’ lives, their financial… welfare or [serve] the public.” But he found few opportunities to air his concerns within the startup. “I would have panic attacks,” he said.

Beginning in 2020, as bitcoin price recovered from a major price drop known as “crypto winter,” Gemini accelerated its hiring plans, former employees said.

Nick Fuhrmann, who left Gemini in late 2020 and had an overall positive view of the business, said there is industry-wide growth pressure that has led to “a lot of overstaffing”.

Another former employee, who left the company late last year, complained that in a rush to hire new employees, Gemini was hiring people who “really didn’t know what they were doing.” The startup’s leadership also didn’t seem fully prepared for the volatility of the crypto market.

“I think the management was very young, [with a] kind of a financial office mentality,” said the former employee. “I think leadership was really just walking around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.”

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Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss walk out of the US Circuit Court of Appeals on January 11, 2011 as they seek to overturn a 2008 agreement with Facebook.

Justin Sullivan/Getty

Still, the recent layoffs came as a shock to the grassroots, which believed Gemini’s leadership had braced for a market downturn. Obviously not.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the company has gutted most of its quality assurance team and raised concerns that future product launches will have bugs.

Current employees have vented their frustrations on Blind, a social app that allows employees to anonymously review their companies.

“The company is barely afloat, it’s a sinking ship,” wrote a verified employee late last month. “The management/leadership in all areas is rubbish. Most had like a year of work experience and [were] Nobody before they got to Gemini.”

It certainly didn’t help the optics that in the midst of the meltdown, the twins decided to go on tour. After the Asbury Park debacle went viral, Tyler tried to blunt the criticism with a lengthy, emotional Medium article.

He explained that the brothers used the band to honor their sister Amanda, an accomplished high school actress who died in 2002 at the age of 23. I’m resigned to the fact that this makes me feel closer to my big sister,” Tyler wrote. “And even if I can’t hold a candle to her on stage, at least I can be with her.”

The essay was moving, but it failed to disprove a valid criticism: Two billionaires played cover songs while their employees panicked.

Finally, the Winklevosses seem to care little about critics’ opinions.

“I think what we identify with is this idea that you’re crazy,” Cameron said last year, invoking the ubiquitous “first they ignore you” quote, often misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi and used by Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is shamefully paraphrased.

“And honestly,” he added, “we’ve been crazy a lot of times.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/winklevoss-brothers-launch-cover-band-mars-junction-while-crypto-startup-gemini-flounders?source=articles&via=rss Winklevoss Brothers form cover band Mars Junction as crypto startup Gemini falters

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