The Billionaire’s Folly: The Untold Story of Ethereum and the Unicorn That Wasn’t

From the publisher:

Ever wanted to learn how to make millions off crypto tokens? Impress a venture capitalist with just a tweet? Or convince a government to buy vaporware? This is the story of the first great crypto bubble.

More than 90 million people have a Coinbase account, each one hoping to strike it big. But is there more to cryptocurrency than hitting the jackpot? Could we use this technology to make the world a better place?

That was the challenge Joe Lubin, dubbed by the Financial Times as the “crypto whisperer” to Wall Street, posed to Faisal Khan across a café table in early 2017. Worth more than $30 billion at its peak, ConsenSys was founded by Joe with the aim to do nothing less than to rewire the internet itself—by using Ethereum, a new cryptocurrency posed to upend Bitcoin.

ConsenSys operated the gateway to the most exciting technology since the internet, and Khan was a 27-year-old Pakistani American MBA burnout ready to take a leap of faith. Within weeks of accepting Joe’s challenge, he found himself on a journey around the globe, pitching board rooms in New York and celebrities in Los Angeles on how the magic of the blockchain would help us fight the excesses of Big Tech and Big Banks.

As the first crypto bubble began, fawning profiles in The New York Times quickly convinced the world Ethereum would replace Bitcoin, reinvent financial services and bring banking to developing nations.

Thousands of bright-eyed millennials like Khan joined the company and were promised the world—equity, funding and freedom. Many made tens of millions as Ethereum reached dizzying heights (everyone but him, it seemed).

Rivals soon sought to crush them, from IBM to Wall Street. Would they succeed in “flipping” Bitcoin? Or be steamrolled as corporations swept in? ConsenSys minted hundreds of millions in a few short months, but it turned out their own greed was the greatest threat of all.

In fact, the turmoil within ConsenSys—backstabbing and anarchy as employees ran amok with wild experiments from music streaming to asteroid mining—brought them to the brink of ruin.

It’s more than a startup story, though: It’s the personal journey Khan went through, seeing ethics thrown out the window in the pursuit of millions and the roller-coaster ride of building a unicorn, from pumping out tweets to convince venture capitalists he was a genius to gossiping over the hottest speculative cryptocurrency.

This is the world of crypto beyond Bitcoin, illustrating why developing countries need a new monetary system as he haggled for wedding jewelry in the bazaars of Lahore with one hand and checked crypto prices with the other. Through ConsenSys’ rise, Khan’s story probes the zeitgeist of a time when young men with too much money and too much power worked to create a future they hadn’t fully thought through.


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