The Crypto Castle is a three-story home in San Francisco where young tech workers eat, sleep, party, and plot the future of money.
A majority of the millennial tenants invest in bitcoin, a new kind of payment system that allows people to buy things and send money with anonymity. There are no banks or middlemen. Transactions are recorded on a digital ledger called a blockchain.
Cryptocurrencies (of which bitcoin is the most popular) have been on a tear in 2017. Bitcoin surged in value from about $US200 per token in 2015 to above $US4,000 in August.
Some believe the digital payment system is headed for a bubble that’s destined to pop.
“Over a half-dozen people in the time they have lived in my house have become millionaires as a result of crypto,” said Jeremy Gardner, a 25-year-old entrepreneur and investor.
In 2015, Gardner, the then-director of operations at Augur, a market forecasting tool that runs on the blockchain, put down a $US20,000 deposit to rent the house. It’s become a landing pad for people working in cryptocurrency-related tech.
Here’s what it’s like to live in the Crypto Castle among newly minted millionaires.
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Not everyone who lives here works in bitcoin tech, though any resident could pitch you on its merits. Some entrepreneurs moved in simply because they needed a place to crash.
In 2015, Gardner surveyed the city to find a house-slash-office for his startup, Augur. When he found a three-story home in an upscale neighbourhood -- located about a half-hour drive from Silicon Valley -- he forked over the $20,000 rental deposit. The Crypto Castle was born.
The house has since become a 'landing pad for anyone doing cool stuff for the industry,' Gardner said. Most residents and guests, who sleep in bunks, are in their early 20s.
'I don't think you can be in this house for two hours without being evangelized,' Gardner said. His net worth has exploded since buying bitcoin at $200 a token in 2013.
Vivian Ford, head of operations at Comma, a self-driving-car technology startup, started investing in bitcoin within a week of moving in, calling it 'the best investment I've ever made.'
Now, her friends are coming out of the woodwork to ask for her financial guidance.
'They will text me like, 'I think we should meet up -- you seem to know a lot about this crypto stuff,' and it's like, ugh, do your reading,' Ford told me on a recent visit to the house.
Another roommate, Alex Voto, runs a research lab at Palo Alto's Institute for the Future. He forecasts how bitcoin might affect the social, economic, and political spheres.
Anyone who wishes to become a full-time resident must read the current issue of 'Distributed,' a cryptocurrency trade magazine. A stack sits at the front door.
The kitchen comes stocked with two beverages: Soylent (a chalky-tasting meal-replacement beverage backed by venture capital) and booze. Lots of booze.
A few tenants said living among so many motivated tech workers can be exhausting. Ford recalled coming back from a run one Saturday and being bombarded by her coworkers.
Until 2016, her employer, Comma, ran operations out of the basement. Founder George Hotz, a Silicon Valley wunderkind, built his first self-driving car in the garage.
Aaron Power-Bearden, an equities trader and a bitcoin enthusiast, said he enjoys the late-night talks with his housemates in the living room. 'Mostly it's about finance,' he said.
One house guest told me that the last time he was at the house, a random inhabitant grilled him a hot dog. 'Two weeks later, I found out it was the cofounder of Oculus,' he said.
The Crypto Castle offers prices that can't be beat in the nation's most expensive rental market. Tenants split the monthly rent. Gardner guesses the home is worth $3 million.
Over the last few years, Gardner has turned the majority of his savings and stock in public companies into cryptocurrency investments. His gains subsidise his cost of living.
'By dedicating my life to crypto assets and blockchain technology, I've made more money than I would have ever expected to make in my entire life -- by a long shot,' Gardner said.
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