Inside the World of the Paid Crypto Shills

Ashley Duncan has worked as a business analyst at a software firm and as a realtor, and even did a bit of time in banking, but she’s never come close to loving a job as much as her newest one: She’s a full-time online crypto and NFT promoter. “I get to tweet and talk to people for a living. Who gets to do that?” Duncan told Motherboard. 

Duncan, who is 30 and lives in Texas, became active in the energetic cryptocurrency community on Twitter early last year, when she quickly started to grow her follower count through a combination of memes and jokes. She soon figured out she could monetize her following by promoting crypto projects to her growing audience, and by October she was making enough money to quit her full-time job. Today, Duncan says she’s earning more than she’s ever made in her life, pulling in more in two months than she used to make in an entire year by creating NFT projects, performing occasional consulting work, and pumping crypto. 

“It’s crazy,” she said. 

One of the companies Duncan has worked with is Dank Bank, a startup that recently raised $4 million to develop an NFT marketplace dedicated to famous memes and viral moments. Harry Jones, the founder and CEO of Dank Bank, told Motherboard that he’s spent money on crypto promoters like Duncan because “traditional advertising just doesn’t work in crypto,” as the community isn’t “interested in buying things because they saw a paid ad.” Instead, he said, potential customers are looking for advice from online influencers they already trust. 

“That’s why influencers are having this insane moment in Web3, because all of these projects need people to sort of buy authenticity from,” Jones said.

Duncan is just one of hundreds of people recently named on lists of purported paid crypto promoters first leaked to the pseudonymous independent crypto investigator “Zachxbt.”  Motherboard investigated those lists and discovered a great deal about the inner workings of the…

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