Ethereum start-up seemingly runs away with investors' money Pixabay/Creative Commons

The Prodeum Project seemed like just another blockchain start-up raising money via ICO crowdfunding. It had a white paper. It appeared to have fans on Twitter. It had a logo. Its aim was simple: to "revolutionise the fruit and vegetable industry" with Ethereum.

In hindsight, that last one should have been a major red flag to investors. On Sunday (28 January), Prodeum's website went offline. In its place was one simple, concise, word: Penis.

In a now-viral update, Twitter user @thelateempire wrote: "A sh*tcoin startup called Prodeum just exit scammed with millions of investor dollars and left them the following message on their site."

He added: "Some extra background on Prodeum: their project claimed to be 'putting produce on a blockchain' (whatever the f*** this means) and so they also scammed a bunch of hippies and vegans in the process too."

The tweet racked up 12,000 likes.

The start-up claimed to be based in Lithuania and had been set up to use an Ethereum blockchain to create an advanced Price Look-up (PLU) labelling process for purchasing goods.

Even on paper it was weird, but in a world where even Kodak has a coin, anything seems plausible.

Of the little detail online about the project, a short press release is still in circulation.

Touting its ICO – how most crypto-start-ups raise capital funds - the release claimed that a beta application was in the works for "late 2018 or early 2019". It said the project would first run on a trial basis in Lithuania and then launch in the US "later this year".

"It's an idea whose time has come," claimed a so-called Prodeum product manager called Rokas Vedluga. At the time of writing, it remains unclear if Rokas Vedluga even exists. Other digital fingerprints of the crypto-team's former existence are being scrubbed from the web.

TokenDesk, a website which lists a number of active ICOs, now states "Sorry, the page you are looking for has not been found" on the one-time Prodeum Project page.

A LinkedIn profile for alleged founder Petar Jandric has been taken down. It remains unclear how much money was stolen via the alleged exit scam. One thread online claiming to be from the culprit said that he earned $3,000 from the scheme.

"Remember that all ICOs are scams," the unverified user wrote on Saturday (27 January). He or she claimed to have also managed two other fakes, called BitFlur and Magnalis.

A blog post on Medium once titled "Making Leaps and Bounds: Blockchain Tech is Revolutionising Fruit and Vegetable" is also gone. Until Monday (29 January), all that was left was a Twitter profile, named Prodeum Project.

At around 9am (GMT) that also disappeared without explanation. "We're glad to have all of you on board with Prodeum!" its final update read. In the end, it had fewer than 200 followers.