[VenturePunk #9] Get Rekt
Chris Furlong shares a chapter from his new book REKT: A Crypto Hallucination
We’ve got something special for you today. Chris Furlong is a friend of VenturePunk and a prominent DAO member and NFT collector. In this edition of the newsletter Chris shares with us a chapter from his new book REKT: A Crypto Hallucination.
Set in the bubble of 2017, REKT is a provocative page-turner that warps its characters to the destabilizing logic of life inside cryptomania. A partnership is tested as a trio of founders struggle to make their stablecoin legit, cash in & navigate what they owe to each other.
Below the sample chapter is a brief Q&A with the author.
REKT - Chapter 6
This fucking bank. This regional, basic bitch, mercantile bank thought it could crash the club and swim with the sharks. Morgan, Barclay's, Goldman, UBS. Those institutions spent decades, centuries in some cases, prowling the murky depths of money. They knew where to eat, where to shit, and how not to eat where they shit. Most of all they knew how to do it quietly, discreetly. They banked generational wealth and when they took on new business, it was good business, clean business.
This bank? These fuckers from Frankfurt. They spent their days lending to sprocket manufacturers. Good steady business, but no glitz, no glamor. Globalism changed the game. Late capitalism opened the doors to monetize the entire fucking world. The sharks were ready for it, because they erased the borders. They ran laps around the bank that stayed in Germany. That bank preached patience. Strength at home. Secure business. Steady returns.
Money filled the belly of the sharks. The Germans ate fine, but they didn't eat like the others. Silver chopsticks, silk napkins, sushi spread across naked flesh. Endless unlimited expense accounts. These were the pleasures of London, the table stakes of New York. Frankfurt ate boiled sausage on long picnic benches. That had once been enough, but not anymore. They were being left behind. Patience was at an end. There was a world to plunder, if only they were a shark.
The temptation impossible to resist, the order inevitable when given. Leave Frankfurt. Cross the Channel, cross the Atlantic. Swim with the sharks and show them that the Germans can do this too. It was the Go-Go Era of the Aughts when anyone with money could make money. Frankfurt got fat. They filled their belly. The Germans thought they were a shark, but they didn't know where to swim. They didn't know what to eat. They ended up with the leftovers. They scooped up the toxic fish others left alone. They ate down the poison, only it took them a decade to realize it.
Poison is starting to gut them, and they are retching up one bad decision after another. Synthetic Swaps. Russian Money Laundering. The Trump Organization. Ponzi Schemers. Libor Rate Fixers. An audacious display of idiocy. Staggering levels of stupidity. All banking with Frankfurt because no one else would touch them.
They were so fucking stupid, they even signed us. They took us on after paying billions in fines. I guess they were too busy to do their homework, or they hadn't fired all their idiots yet. Give credit where credit is due, Andy sold them good. How easy it is to make up an imaginary hedge fund. Especially one that handled an obscure corner of the market and only worked with family offices. Truth is, before crypto we were a convenient work around to get money into online sports books. Bettors bought coins from us that could be used to wager on games. If they had anything to cash out, they did it through a website that used PayPal, Venmo and a dozen other ways to pay them back. The ones with the real money, the online casinos, set up trusts that acted as fund shareholders. It was all so easy.
"These wire transfers, our risk desk has flagged them."
Fritz, our latest banker, holds a stack of printouts in his pudgy right hand. He is our fifth relationship manager since we opened the account. They are culling their ranks. No more Hot Shit Erica from Wharton. Her boss, the older guy that lived out on the island, is gone too. He hated this bank, but they still paid after the real sharks fired their elder middle managers. The Germans eventually caught on and let Vikram in his late fifties go. After the names left, we lived a few blissful years with interim paper pushers overseeing our accounts. Those nobodies were in so deep they barely reviewed our balances.
We should have been smarter. We should have stayed smaller. We tripped a threshold, too much money. Flagged as a risk, so the account was transferred upstairs. When everything filling turns out to be laced with poison, success becomes looked at with suspicion.
"Fritz, I’m disappointed that this is where our relationship stands," Andy begins. “It used to be that people here understood our business. We spent extensive time with Erica, then after that Vikram, explaining the unique nature of our precious metals fund. Please, tell me we don't need to do that again with you. This is not how we are used to being treated."
Andy was on the offensive. This move, all bluster and bravado. Assume we know more than he does. Use the unknown to our advantage.
"You are a commodities trading firm. I have it here in the notes." Fritz speaks in German accented English. Frankfurt keeps getting closer to home, closing ranks, sending trusted lieutenants to hold what little remains.
"Precious metals hedge fund." Andy corrects him. "Your notes are lacking."
"We don't have a code for that. Commodities are what the system accepts." Fritz was a true systems guy. I could see it on his face. Bald, smooth, slightly plump but lacking imperfection. He never needed hair. What an odd thing to be beyond.
"Fritz, why are we here?"
"Because your recent account activity is highly irregular."
I look up from my laptop. As a signatory, I'm required to be present, but this isn't my side of the house. Andy manages relationships, he rides the money train. Neither Andy nor Fritz cut over to me. I return to managing our operations.
"Nothing is regular about cobalt, palladium, or vantium. You understand what precious means?"
The balls on Andy. He's pushing Fritz, trying to find the point at which he flusters. Andy needs to know where a person crosses into the irrational. That's where he really runs wild. Get a man to stop making sense and the possibilities are endless.
"Mister Andy." Fritz is not having Andy's shit. At least not yet. Fritz is following his own script. He has a protocol to complete. I can respect that. Dump harmless errors, continue executing the program.
"It's Doctor Andy."
"I don't have that in the files. You are a doctor?" Fritz asks.
"It's an honorific, from the University of Nairobi. Our charitable work in the region is well recognized. Honestly, it is a shame we cannot bank more in places where we are known and respected. Of course, this bank used to treat us that way. Fritz, perhaps we should go out for lunch and try to get back on the right foot?" Andy asks.
Ah yes, the old let's be friends. Maybe Fritz just needs an invitation to love.
"My apologies, Doctor Andy, but my schedule does not permit lunch.”
Fritz does not want to break bread. A shame, it’s easier to kill with kindness. He continues, “Let's just get to the heart of the matter. These wires to Kinshasa, the recipient companies have connections to militia organizations. The US government has flagged them for review. We need explanations." Fuck, fuck, fuck. Our side hustle, the blood diamonds. I knew we shouldn’t have sent that from Frankfurt. Money was supposed to go to Cyprus and Nikola was going to funnel it through her people there, but it would have added three days to the transaction. Our man in Rotterdam said they’d be gone by then. Act fast or miss out. Now we are fucked. How is Andy going to talk our way out of this? Andy has that look on his face. He's changing tactics, expanding horizons.
"Fritz, have you ever purchased cobalt?"
"Of course not."
"Well you have, but you just don't know it." Andy reaches into his pocket and pulls out a silver iPhone. "It's in your phone, your computer, and television. Tiny amounts in all sorts of critical machines. Cobalt comes from precious few places in the world. That is why I asked you earlier if you understood what the word precious means. Cobalt comes from Sub-Saharan Africa and if we wish to purchase it for investment sake, then that is where our money must go. I would love to take you there, show you how it's done.”
He's acting disappointed in Fritz, gentle belittling shrouded as education. Andy goes on.
“It’s very basic stuff. They got small boys in big pits digging with their hands, trying to find blue chunks in the dirt. Those chunks end up in gold rush towns where middlemen deal only in cash. That isn’t the safest situation for our money, so we work with security firms to make our purchases. Military men all have pasts, I am sure some were on the wrong side once upon a time. Now though? They are all commercial. There is no issue there.”
Andy pauses, waits for a reaction. Fritz is playing poker, using silence as his offense. Andy continues, “Fritz, we are in competition with the Chinese. They are the big buyers in the market. One reason is that their banks don't haul them in for questioning like ours. They are free to do business where we must be hesitant. It’s a disadvantage for us. We need good banking partners to succeed, so if you wish to see us as a continued growing customer whose reserves are buffeting this bank in its time of crisis, then stop forgetting our fucking business and vouch for us to the US government."
"Doctor Andy, we apologize for any past interruptions and inconsistencies with our account management. I will endeavor to learn your business better. Still, we will need documentation on these transactions. The government needs assurances of your actions."
Ah, this is a promising line. Andy triples down now. "Fritz, I've answered these questions too many times for you people. It all ends the same way. We'll have Rotterdam send over papers verifying the metals stored on premise. They will match our account activities. Will that do or should I walk across the street to First American or someone sensible?"
Fritz is backed up, but he's not going to fold this easily. They didn't kick us upstairs to have a softie rubber stamp our shenanigans. I feel his eyes on me. He knows Andy has all the momentum, so he's going to try this guy here.
"Ryan, you have been quiet."
"Just busy Fritz. Please don’t mistake it for rudeness. There's a pricing irregularity in the Asian exchanges. Urgent matter. I need to determine if there’s bad data or an arbitrage opportunity." "Ryan, what are the fund's model parameters on vantium?"
Ha. This fucker thinks he's going to get me on technical matters. Wrong avenue buddy. Technically, I'm hard as steel.
"We accrete until the price hits eighteen dollars an ounce. Our max position is seven percent of holdings assuming the aggregate exchange volume maintains or exceeds a baseline threshold of twenty thousand metric tons."
"Is that daily, weekly, or monthly?"
"Monthly. Annual Vantium consumption is projected at one hundred eighty thousand metric tons. The market can support another twenty five percent in stockpile."
"Thank you, Ryan."
I look up from my laptop, eyes steady, but pulse up. I can feel my insides tightening, if he continues, I’ll start sweating under my shirt.
"Are you satisfied Fritz?" Andy knows it's time to get out of here. I do too. This sniffing of butts has run its course, and we aren't in a position to pee on their fire hydrant.
"Almost. One more thing, what is your performance on the year?"
I don't have to look up to know that Andy has that king of the world smile across his face. I don't have to look up to deliver the news either.
"YTD, we are up thirty-five percent."
"I see. That is very good. And this um, precious metals fund, is it open to new investors?"
Oh my God. Fritz is a fucking idiot too. This fucking bank. This regional, basic bitch, mercantile bank cannot stop shooting itself in the fucking foot. Fritz wants sushi before they call him home for sausage supper.
"Ryan," Andy asks, knowing the answer already, "when are we open to new investors?"
"October 31st. Given our relationship with the bank, I am sure we can waive any minimums for Fritz should he want to participate."
Andy smiles. "Of course, we can waive any minimums. We can always make accommodations for friends." Fritz walks us to the elevators. He is still waving his thick sausage hands as the stainless-steel doors shut. It's amazing what dominance and opportunity can accomplish. Once we put ourselves above Fritz, he began looking to benefit from his submission. Gifts for compliance. Tale as old as time. This is one of dozens of relationship dynamics Andy has taught me. He studied them all in a book, but I suspect they had been handed down to him before that. The book only codified what he'd learnt under a master, it gave name to the manipulations that propel his everyday life.
You can also get Rekt on Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.
About the author:Chris Furlong
lives in Sunnyside Queens with his wife and two children. He is a founding member of The LAO and FlamingoDAO, and is active across the Ethereum space as an advisor, investor and NFT collector. Prior to that, he co-founded Ultra Mobile and Mint Mobile. His first novel, The Last Network, is available on Kindle and in paperback.
Q & A with Chris Furlong, author of Rekt
What prompted the idea for Rekt and got you writing?
I'm naturally drawn to the intersection of late capitalism and technology as a place to write from. Some of that is from my own experience, some of that is because the combination has such a big impact on our lives today. The thing that makes it a good environment for fiction is that there's a lot of absurdist dynamism which springs up from it. You can write genre fiction that appears to be larger than life, but also believable and realistic. Crypto is a space that has both of those things in spades. On top of it there's a vibrant social element at play which makes it a more human setting in which to tell stories from than say semiconductors.
REKT came to me as a result of my own experiences in 2017 getting caught up in cryptomania. I wanted to take the ride that I went on as someone playing with coins and then graft that onto my background as a founder to try to get into the heads of people who were on the inside. Once that premise was established, the next step was to put them into extreme situations where we could explore issues like mental health and partnership while telling a drama filled story.
What was the most fun part about writing this book? What was the hardest part?
The most fun is the satisfaction of constructing a novel and seeing it get out into the world. It's a nice replacement for shipping product, which is what I used to do. You get to use the same part of your brain in terms of ideating and bringing something to life from nothing, but without the weight that comes from managing teams and budgets. Plus the act of writing itself is very enjoyable.
The hardest part is the extended isolation. You are really out there on your own for months on end, just to get to the point where you have something to share for feedback. It requires a great degree of self motivation to show up everyday and stare at a bank screen, knowing that it's on you to fill it with whatever is in your head. The reason this took three years to publish after finishing 95% of the work on it, was that at the time I was tired of working alone and wanted to be collaborating with people again. So REKT took an extended hiatus and only came back because there were so many similarities between the plot and what our space went through in 2022. It was begging to be shared.
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Next up for me is exploring how fiction and original IP can serve as a basis for networked media and collaborative creation in permissive rights environments. As trends like generative AI and CC0 take off, we'll see a need for native long form narratives that communities can use as the basis for creative play and world-building. I'm starting to explore how to make my work accessible and part of those loops at Blockstar.com. Right now, we are rigging REKT and another novel I wrote, The Last Network, to be composable legos. We are also experimenting with ChatGPT to generate backstories and augment the worlds these stories are set in. I expect that my next novel will be co-created using AI and feedback from the community. Eventually, all of this will get on-chain for others to play with and build on top of.
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Disclaimer: Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Do your own research.