Justin Sun with YouTuber BitBoy Crypto and CryptoWendyO at the afterparty for Tron Influencer Day (photo by Faran Thomason).
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Tron influencers ate Warren Buffett’s lunch and loved it

Justin Sun woos YouTubers at afterparty

It’s been a strange week covering Tron. What was supposed to be a conversation with legendary investor Warren Buffett on the merits of building the new global economy with cryptocurrency quickly devolved into a non-event. The planned $4.6 million charity lunch was abruptly cancelled due to Justin Sun’s health concerns.

Tron made extensive plans for the Buffett lunch, which was set to take place on Thursday, July 25 in San Francisco. They invited top journalists and key influencers to cover a full day of festivities, which included a media breakfast and press conference with Buffett and Sun’ a three-hour private lunch at Michelin-starred Quince for Sun, Buffett and seven crypto personalities; another press conference after lunch; and a rooftop party at Hotel VIA.

With engagement ROI as if it were a Super Bowl buy

Sun showing 1.2 million Twitter followers on June 20, 1.4 million by July 25

During the six-week campaign from the announcement to the postponement, Sun heavily hyped the event while growing his Twitter following nearly a quarter-million followers.

He racked up an impressive amount of coverage across mainstream media outlets like CNN, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNBC, CBS, ABC, Financial Times, Fox, Forbes, and The Independent and proudly retweeted a chart with stats on the reach of these outlets.

@mustachetommy Buffet coverage summary, retweeted by Sun, June 5, 2019
Sun’s tweets included an unanswered invitation to U.S. president Donald Trump.

Then on Monday, July 22, just days before the Buffet lunch, Tron postponed the event citing Sun’s bout with kidney stones. To make matters even more confusing, Sun tweeted two days later that he was feeling better and would be returning to work that Friday.

But the biggest surprise came Thursday night, July 25, when he walked right into the Tron influencer party to greet his fans. Completed unexpected as he had been too sick to attend the Buffett lunch earlier that day.

“He came in, was swarmed, then slipped out—like The Beatles,” said game developer, Faran Thomason.

Something else at play?

All week there had been rumors about Sun being investigated by Chinese authorities and the day started with him posting an apology on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, where he said, “My intention of having the lunch with Buffett was because of my admiration for him and my enthusiasm for charity. It was simple, but also with self-interest to promote the blockchain industry and my project. But my immature, naive, and impulsive conducts with my big mouth have turned it into an out-of-control and failed over-marketing hype and led to a significant series of unexpected consequences.”

YouTuber BitBoy, who interviewed Sun at the influencer party, shared his thoughts with me. 

“How is Justin feeling?” I asked. 

“He seemed tired,” replied BitBoy. “I asked if lunch will be rescheduled for sure, he said it should be but didn’t sound ironclad on it.” 

“Did he give a reason for the cancellation?,” I asked. 

“He didn’t but I suspect it has something to do with China. Maybe the timing wasn’t right,” BitBoy opined. “Maybe Buffett’s not comfortable with what’s happening and they’re waiting for it to pass. But it’s also possible that at this point the lunch may never happen.” 

A Tron spokesperson confirmed to me that the Buffett lunch is not being rescheduled for August, and that it could be months after that.

Dining like royalty

BitBoy (photo by Martine Paris)

At the party, the one thing that became crystal clear to me was that Tron is investing heavily in cultivating its influencer network. I asked BitBoy about it.

“I was contacted three weeks ago to cover the Buffet press conference and related festivities. They were organizing the first Tron Influencer Day to celebrate the one year anniversary of Tron’s acquisition of BitTorrent. Other influencers that attended included AltcoinDaily, CryptoBeadles, CryptoPointHindi, CryptoWendyO, IvanOnTech, MidEarthCrypto and FUDTVOfficial.”

“It was a great day of events. They flew us in Wednesday night and put us up at Hotel VIA right across from the ballpark where several of us caught the game. This morning began with a tour of the Tron office which I filmed for my YouTube channel. We then headed over to Quince and got to eat Warren Buffet’s lunch! They couldn’t cancel it so we got to eat all the food – caviar, duck, truffles, the whole nine yards. We took over the entire restaurant, about 15 of us—BitTorrent’s Justin Knoll, Tron’s engineering lead Cong Li, the Tron PR team and the influencers. It was awesome. We were then taken to Fisherman’s Wharf for a boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and then brought back here to the rooftop afterparty. They’re making a big commitment to the influencers and I’m excited about doing more together.”

A matter of trust

In the end, if you’re trying to convince the world’s biggest Bitcoin bear that he’s wrong about crypto being a scam, cancelling a heavily promoted $4.6 million lunch date at the last minute—but having the time and energy to go to a party—is not a great way to do it. But coming off the heels of the botched Tesla giveaway in March, much about the Buffett lunch seems to be a page right out of Sun’s playbook where intentions are just not all that clear. This black eye with mainstream media could haunt Sun in the next news cycle. But how much will that matter if his army of the faithful keeps growing?

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Martine Paris is a Silicon Valley tech reporter who follows the money across AI, robotics, gaming, crypto, and blockchain. She writes for Fast Company, The FinTech Times, Hacker Noon, Pocket Gamer, Blockchain Gamer and other Sea of Reeds publications. Disclosure: She owns an insignificant amount of crypto. Follow her on Twitter.