Lightning Sharks Exposed: The Secret BSV Marketing Machine
BSV has been in turmoil for almost its entire existence. The Bitcoin Cash fork led by Faketoshi Craig Wright has been marketed by its participants as the real Bitcoin, and their efforts have only hurt BSV's future.
After seeing an r/BSV post by an insider who detailed how Calvin Ayre hires paid shills from an obscure marketing agency called Lightning Sharks, I decided to investigate.
With Craig Wright known around the world as a conman pretending to be Satoshi Nakamoto, Calvin Ayre has begun to ramp up his marketing machine in a desperate attempt to keep the BSV scam alive.
The first clues of a BSV shill agency
Lightning Sharks, at first glance, appears to be a normal business operating in London with international branches. However, once I began to dig under the hood, this front of a "normal marketing agency" began to fall apart fast. After locating the Lightning Sharks Twitter account, a few glaring things began to stand out.
Right off the bat, they have an extremely low follower count given the type of work they do. This is odd behavior from a marketing agency who wants to reach new customers, which makes sense only when you realize Lightning Sharks is trying to keep a low profile to distract from the fact they only serve the BSV ecosystem.
The small samples above show the dominance of BSV in their client base. Patrick Thompson and Patrick Prinz follow them; a top CoinGeek writer and the COO of nChain, respectively. Calvin Ayre's venture firm, Ayre Ventures, is also a follower. Notably, their follower base and the people they follow are virtually the same.
Shifting focus to the Lightning Sharks website, it features many odd details you would not expect from a typical UK marketing agency.
Every company that gave a testimonial about Lightning Sharks is based in the BSV ecosystem. This page alone demonstrates that Lightning Sharks does a significant amount of marketing work for BSV.
"The Bitcoin Association" is the organization with full ownership over the BSV protocol. As such, they also control the BSV node software, which includes a new ability: freezing and reassigning coins based on court orders embedded into code.
Since the inception of the Bitcoin Association, we have worked closely with Lightning Sharks on our branding, marketing and events campaigns, PR, video production and overall communications.
That statement shows how truly close the Bitcoin Association has been to Lightning Sharks since the start; they do the Bitcoin Association's branding, marketing, event campaigns, PR, video production and... overall communications.
The Calvin Ayre drones behind the scheme didn't name it the "BSV Association" because "Bitcoin Association" is a term designed to mislead novice investors into thinking it is the organization behind Bitcoin. In reality, no such entity controls Bitcoin. Simply put, they are committing fraud by claiming their project is the real Bitcoin, when in fact, it is a centralized Bitcoin Cash fork controlled by Calvin Ayre and Craig Wright.
Tokenized is a Calvin-Ayre-funded "DeFi" app, and, naturally, has not seen any success.
Rounding up the list, we have Calvin Ayre's mining firm, TAAL, which ultimately provides the majority of the BSV hash rate. Recently, Ayre took the company private in an attempt to stay afloat and avoid the protocol collapsing. Notice how the testimonial from TAAL stated:
"We worked closely with Lightning Sharks in the rebranding of our company."
But, this story goes far deeper than some testimonials and social media followers.
Calvin Ayre's PR agency
It's no surprise to any intelligent individual that Calvin Ayre funds almost everything in the BSV "ecosystem." As a result, BSV is a Potemkin village in reality versus the image of a bustling enterprise blockchain ecosystem that Ayre desperately wants you to believe. But, did you know that Lightning Sharks is also the PR agency for Calvin Ayre?
Various online posts made by BSV companies owned by Ayre, such as the Bitcoin Association and CoinGeek, show that you must contact a Lightning Sharks PR employee, before you can formally reach a higher level employee like Kurt Wuckert Jr or Ayre himself.
Trusting a single marketing agency for all your PR needs is a pretty big gamble, unless, of course, it's run by the same people you trust every day.
CoinGeek = Lightning Sharks
Lightning Sharks posted some telling pictures on their Facebook account, but none on their website. What you find very quickly are some top CoinGeek employees, such as... Charles Miller, the documentary guy behind Ayre's failing CoinGeek interview series "CoinGeek Conversations," who you can see in the bottom left of the above Lightning Sharks team picture.
Lightning Sharks doesn't even have a problem tweeting about one of their top employees: CoinGeek reporter and producer Rebecca Liggero Fontana, otherwise known as "BSV Becky."
What this shows is that CoinGeek's production agency is indeed Lightning Sharks. This is further confirmed by a tweet demonstrating that they are also behind CoinGeek conference events such as "Bitcade."
In a vain attempt to maintain any sort of neutrality, the Lightning Sharks social media manager put both BSV and Bitcoin as hashtags in the above tweet. This may fool your average BSVer, but it's obvious to anyone not involved in the project that Lightning Sharks only serves BSV.
Recently, Craig Wright appeared in a highly staged "Masterclass with Satoshi" where he made a failing attempt to teach aspiring BSV developers about the basics of the protocol, since of course, Craig Wright can't code. Another interesting fact about these events is they were produced by nonother than Lightning Sharks. This also appears to be the case with the rest of the CoinGeek conferences, as you can see.
An army of paid shills (or are they?)
In order to spread word about the BSV scam and combat opposition, an army of paid shills is needed, or at least a lot of accounts that look like it. The Bitcoin Association careers board is highly suspicious and has a wealth of information demonstrating Lightning Shark's true nature as a recruiter of shills. As it turns out, it's virtually effortless to become a paid BSV shill hired by Lightning Sharks.
In the above job listing, one can observe that Lightning Sharks is hiring a paid "content marketing writer." This is a formal way of saying "paid shill." Notice in the listed tasks for the job that the hire would be responsible for "social media copy." Given that the Lightning Sharks Twitter account is extremely bare, this job listing is clearly for another purpose, which is shilling BSV on social media platforms.
In the last year, there has been a sizable jump in random, small Twitter accounts preaching BSV nonsense. Combining this fact with the above job post and the original r/BSV post, can lead one to the logical conclusion of Lightning Sharks being the Trojan horse hiring these seemingly normal individuals.
They appear to be real people, who likely took it as a side job. Repeatedly spam the same BSV marketing prompts every day on social media? Doesn't sound like a difficult job. Or, another possibility is that the core Lightning Sharks team may be operating these accounts given their ability to avoid detection and in most cases, have strong English skills.
There's little proof any of these people are real. It's highly likely an AI chatbot like ChatGPT is being utilized for these marketing prompts. This strategy would make it effortless to replicate across these random accounts. In addition, there is now evidence that the Bitcoin Association has been exploring its own AI chatbot to shill BSV.
Here is an example of a likely Lightning Shark. The most important part of this profile is that the Bitcoin Association follows it. For a 242 follower account, with seemingly no relation to BSV, this is an obvious clue that this account is doing BSV marketing work. Notice how the Lighting Shark behind this account put "Social Media Influencer" as the professional category, since this will be important shortly.
"Glenn" writes tweets shilling for BSV as if he's been on the scene for years. He tried to claim he came from the BSV gaming scene, but there's no evidence of his existence. This is known as astroturfing, which Twitter user @Bitnorbert wrote an excellent explanation of. Essentially, accounts doing marketing work for an organization, such as the Bitcoin Association, obfuscate their involvement and try to simply appear as fans. When you press them, they deny all involvement, like our friend "Glenn."
After the release of this article, and without even being @ed, Glenn responded in a very odd way to the article, attempting to show proof that he actually existed via a Handcash profile page, which I debunked fast. You can track the various AI images this Lightning Shark has used through Web Archive.
Some of them are even caught off guard. A particular Lightning Shark deleted his/her Twitter account after pressing them on their true nature. This is confirmation that the owner of this account acknowledged the existence of Lightning Sharks before deleting their account. @Bitnorbert also discovered that this one used a stock profile picture.
Since the goal is to reach as many people as possible, Twitter is of course not the only social media platform where Lightning sharks has likely shills deployed: Enter the Reddit version.
Notice how this individual only posts in the official BSV cult subreddit, r/BitcoincashSV. There are certain Lightning Sharks which post random things in between their posts in an attempt to obfuscate involvement, but this shill has no qualms spamming BSV propaganda.
It appears the person behind this account made an original Twitter account that has been shilling BSV propaganda since October 2022, and also recently created another fake Twitter account as a backup.
Most importantly, in the original account from "Dodong," he/she lists themselves as a "Social Media Influencer" in the exact same way "Glenn" did by utilizing Twitter's professional categories selector. This demonstrates a standardization across Lightning Sharks accounts. Humorously, someone in the Lightning Sharks office thought this category selection present in multiple shill accounts would not appear suspect, when it logically indicates the complete opposite. It makes all these accounts look like cartoon characters.
Upon further investigation, Lightning Sharks has also done this for Glenn as well; enter: his second account.
Lightning Sharks has so many shills, that BSV analyst Peter Scott-Morgan made a spreadsheet tracking the various accounts, which totals over 60. It is important to remember that the insider from the original r/BSV post stated that one of the Lightning Sharks managers confirmed it to him/her with a "grin on their face."
Lightning Sharks is a shadowy Calvin Ayre company functioning as both the PR and marketing team for the Bitcoin Association, CoinGeek, and other BSV organizations. Their marketing strategy involves deceptive tactics like astroturfing to achieve a goal of mass BitCoinization (BSVers refer to BSV as BitCoin).
Luckily, the random accounts controlled by Lightning Sharks stick out like a sore thumb, leaving knowledgeable people not to fall for their scheme. In effect, this marketing strategy is failing miserably.
The lengths to which Calvin Ayre and his team will go to market a fake version of Bitcoin is truly staggering. But, it is hard to imagine Ayre can do much else, since the Faketoshi scam is running out of steam. Lightning Sharks highlights the true hilarity and desperation of BSV in its final days.
*Updated 3/18 with new developments