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Crypto is changing how humanitarian agencies deliver aid and services

The primary use case for cryptocurrency in most wealthy countries is acquiring it and holding it, trading it, or using it in various other ways to make…

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The primary use case for cryptocurrency in most wealthy countries is acquiring it and holding it, trading it, or using it in various other ways to make more money. In the developing world, where access to financial and banking systems is limited or nonexistent, innovative humanitarian organizations are piloting micro-blockchain ecosystems.

In the summer of 2021, Hope for Haiti was ready to launch a cryptocurrency pilot program to provide 150 mothers with cellphones, digital wallets and payment cards that use near-field communication technology. Each mom participating in its community nutrition program was set to receive $50 per month in cUSD for six months to spend on family essentials. A select group of local vendors was trained to use the system and poised to accept the cryptocurrency payments. On Aug. 14, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked Haitis Tiburon Peninsula, decimating the area.

Hope for Haiti had to delay the project and immediately shifted to disaster relief. The organization received thousands in cryptocurrency donations in short order. Skyler Badenoch, Hope for Haitis CEO, tells Magazine: We probably brought in a hundred grand in crypto to support our earthquake relief efforts. Whether it was $50,000 in Bitcoin from Binance Charity. [..] We were getting Ethereum donated to us. We got $10,000 in Dogecoin donated to us. It came from all over.

 

 

 

 

Just a year earlier, Sandra Uwantege Hart, who at the time was Oxfam Internationals blockchain innovations and cash transfer lead, was preparing to launch a cryptocurrency pilot in the south Pacific Ocean country of Vanuatu. After a successful first effort in the region, Uwantege Hart was hoping to scale Oxfams UnBlocked Cash solution fivefold for this ambitious phase-two project.

Then, just days before launch, Cyclone Harold slammed into the island nation. The category 5 storm decimated parts of the archipelago, an island chain economically dependent on tourism that was already reeling from COVID-19 lockdowns and an active volcanic eruption.

 

 

 

 

Almost overnight, Oxfam and its local partners brought to scale a blockchain lifeline, originally tested with 200 participants and 27 local vendors, to nearly 5,000 households and 357 vendors. They worked with the local chamber of commerce to issue cell phones to merchants and train them on the UnBlocked Cash system. On the ground, a network of about 15 charitable organizations enrolled affected citizens and managed the system. In a conversation with Magazine, Uwantege Hart says that Its almost like the whole idea of a decentralized, distributed model is exactly what worked in terms of how we operated and deployed the system. She adds:

Lets decentralize, lets provide a really good automated tool to deliver assistance and decentralize the way that tool is deployed across multiple organizations in multiple locations concurrently, to make sure that we can scale as quickly as possible.

Uwantege Hart went on to co-found the global technology firm Emerging Impact. Partnering with the Celo Foundation, Kotani Pay and Polish Humanitarian Action, Emerging Impact soon facilitated efforts to integrate DeFi tools into a cash reward program in Kenya. Celo, the donor, built a dashboard to deposit funds directly into Kotani Pay wallets. In the field, Kotani Pay recruited Maasai women to participate in the pilot while Polish Humanitarian Action monitored transparency. According to Uwantege Hart, I cant even tell you how much time that saves.

 

 

 

 

She clarifies further that to make it happen, multiple players from all over came together: “This is between Celo, based in California; Polish Humanitarian Action, based in Poland, with some offices in Somalia; and the implementing partner in rural Kenya, and Maasai women who are building rural infrastructure, building dams to conserve water, so that they can start to increase their agricultural output.

Umoja

The experiences gained and lessons learned in these pilots led to the development of Emerging Impacts Umoja solution, an all-in-one humanitarian assistance suite. One of the first projects to utilize the system was CAREs digital cash and voucher assistance pilot in Ecuador, initiated in September 2021. CARE Ecuadors monitoring coordinator, Ronald Pisco, tells Magazine the pilot provides electronic vouchers and NFC payment cards to 250 women who dont have access to public services.

The participants, primarily migrants and refugees from Venezuela, can use the cards to purchase health services, medicine and hygiene products from 10 participating vendors. The cards are loaded with $50 to $100 in cUSD, with the vendors cashing out and converting the stablecoins into local currency on a weekly or monthly basis.

 

 

 

CARE USAs senior director for market-based approaches, Christian Pennotti, tells Magazine that The end recipients, […] theyre getting handed a card that they can pay for goods and services. [..] They dont have to download a special wallet. They dont need a 17-digit-long key.

Although there can be a high technical barrier to entry into the crypto space, such as access to the internet and cell phones and the need for technological literacy things currently inaccessible to the programs participants Pennotti believes this exchange is pretty straightforward for the women who are participating: On the back end, theres a whole bunch of really incredible things happening. But in her experience, CARE is able to hand her a card, and she gets what she needs.

CARE wanted to test a blockchain-based, easy-to-use, cashless solution to replace an inefficient paper-based voucher system. According to Pisco, it can take weeks to pay back vendors. CARE staff would have to keep track of all the paper vouchers, collect them and send them back to the office. The process is expensive and time-consuming. Uwantege Hart shares that preliminary metrics from the pilot suggest delivery times have been shaved down by more than 50%. Costs have gone down, and ease of monitoring has gone up.

 

 

 

 

Umojas other debut deployment is back on track, as the temporarily delayed Hope for Haiti pilot is currently in progress and recently doubled in size and scope thanks to Coinbase. According to Badenoch, when Coinbase heard about the pilot just after the earthquake, it contributed $150,000. It saw the project as something that would continue to help victims of the earthquake, long after everyone else had gone home.

Badenoch believes that This is the next iteration of our work in our collaboration with important players in the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem. He adds further:

We think that its going to help us tell the story about the value and the power of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and the ability of crypto and blockchain to help alleviate poverty.

According to Badenoch, Coinbases role in the project is the difference between piloting something that is temporary help and piloting something that actually shifts the way a household economy functions. Hope for Haiti integrated Digicels mobile cash solution into the cash-out process for participating vendors, which means there is a local off-ramp within Haitis financial ecosystem. That is huge. That is the difference between financial inclusion and giving money, according to Uwantege Hart.

 

 

 

 

Financial inclusivity

Uwantege Hart believes that humanitarian aid is ultimately short-term assistance. She says that one of the challenges for all humanitarian agencies is how to responsibly transition people from receiving a bunch of stuff or payments for free into a scenario more focused on recovery, where they are able to connect the assistance received to regular access to goods or services in their everyday lives.

Progression out of poverty, or the risk-prone situation that has exposed them to poverty, is the primary objective. Emerging Impact hopes to eventually segregate wallets, still attaching them to payment cards but also to payment apps and individual savings accounts.

Following that same train of thought, CAREs other crypto pilot worked with village savings and loans associations in western Kenya adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Siaya County, a rural area dependent upon agriculture, CARE asked savings group members what they needed to make them whole. According to Pennotti, they all said they needed more funds to sustain current group businesses or startup funds to facilitate income streams generated from new group businesses.

 

 

 

 

Although nearly 85% of the people CARE works with in Kenya are unbanked and dont have full access to the financial system, many have mobile wallets. Binances Blockchain Charity Foundation funded this project by directly depositing BUSD, a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar, into participants Trust Wallets. The groups then use those funds to purchase goods and services from local vendors.

 

 

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Helen Hai, executive vice president at Binance and head of Binance Charity, tells Magazine, Our pilot project working with CARE and village savings and loans associations was new territory for Binance Charity, but one we found hugely exciting because if successful, it would provide a solution for delivering cash assistance and reaching many financially vulnerable people with a much lower cost compared with traditional methods.

She explains how the process works: All transactions are recorded on the public ledger, which is trackable, immutable and offers 100% transparency to the public. Hai adds:

Our aim was to promote the economic recovery of VSLA members from the impact of COVID-19 and associated vulnerabilities, through the provision of stablecoins offered via blockchain technology. Crypto education was a key part of the success of this project, which meant we were also able to provide a new skill as well as financial assistance.

According to Pennotti, one of the objectives in Kenya was to understand if the tech would work in these communities. Would it be accepted, and what might the benefits be for CARE and for donors?

The other objective was to build institutional awareness around the potential for financial inclusivity. Pennotti was looking for a DeFi project that would help on-ramp these groups to crypto, potentially then taking advantage of staking and other sorts of wealth-generators like yield farming in a way that is accessible. You dont have to understand how it all works, just what the financial benefits are, Pennotti said.

 

 

 

 

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Crypto

Is Bitcoin Going to Make New Lows? Let’s Look at the Chart

Bitcoin is again under pressure, as bulls worry about a break to new 2022 lows.

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Bitcoin is again under pressure, as bulls worry about a break to new 2022 lows.

Bitcoin prices are again under pressure, as the cryptocurrency space faces more losses.

As of midday Thursday, June 30, bitcoin is down 5% and ethereum is down almost 7%. At today’s low, bitcoin was back below $19,000, while this year's low sits near $17,594.

Many investors were hoping that last week’s flush would mark the low and that the cryptocurrency could begin the long road to recovery.

With this week’s action — as bitcoin is now down in five straight sessions — those hopes are beginning to fade. Yet not everyone is completely discouraged.

For one, Microstrategy’s  (MSTR) - Get MicroStrategy Incorporated Report co-founder and CEO Michael Saylor continues to buy the dip. The company recently added another $10 million to its stake, as it now holds almost 130,000 bitcoins.

So far, the cryptocurrency has seen a peak-to-trough decline of 74.5%. This hardly marks its first large decline, though.

From its 2017 high to the 2018 low, bitcoin fell 83%. From the 2019 high to the covid-19 low in March 2020, bitcoin fell 72%.

The question now is, will bitcoin recover again?

Trading Bitcoin

Weekly chart of bitcoin.

Chart courtesy of TrendSpider.com

For what it’s worth, I do believe that bitcoin will recover, I just don't know where the low is. There’s a place for digital currencies in our world, but there’s not a need for dozens and dozens of them, most of which were created solely for speculation with little to no real-world functionality.

Bitcoin is different and is the most widely known and largest cryptocurrency in the world.

Notice the weekly chart above, which highlights the two major corrections that preceded this year’s pullback. Both times, the 200-week moving average has been support.

In addition to the 200-week moving average, I thought we would see a stronger bounce off the $19,500 zone, which marked a huge breakout over the prior all-time high in December 2020.

The cryptocurrency enjoyed a modest bounce off this area, but has struggled to reclaim the 200-week moving average. As you’ll notice on the daily chart below, bitcoin continues to break below uptrend support (blue lines), while active resistance — the 10-day moving average — continues to squeeze it lower.

Daily chart of bitcoin.

Chart courtesy of TrendSpider.com

As bitcoin struggles with the prior all-time high near $19,600, the 2022 low remains vulnerable down at $17,600. If that level breaks and bitcoin can’t reclaim it, there’s not many key levels to focus on.

Perhaps most notable is the $13,800 to $14,000 area, which marked the 2019 high and can be seen on the weekly chart. Bulls are hoping it doesn't come to that, though. 

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Bitcoin nears worst monthly losses since 2011 with BTC price at $19K

Bitcoin price action will seal monthly losses over 40% for the first time in 11 years if it closes at $19,000.
Bitcoin (BTC) drifted…

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Bitcoin price action will seal monthly losses over 40% for the first time in 11 years if it closes at $19,000.

Bitcoin (BTC) drifted further downhill into the June 30 Wall Street open as United States equities opened with a whimper.

BTC/USD 1-hour candle chart (Bitstamp). Source: TradingView

U.S. dollar returns to multi-decade highs

Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView followed BTC/USD as it abandoned $19,000 to hit its lowest in over ten days.

Bulls failed to preserve either $20,000 or $19,000 at the hands of limp U.S. stock market moves, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index down 1.8% and 2.6% respectively at the time of writing.

At the same time, the U.S. dollar once again staged a comeback to fix a trajectory toward twenty-year highs seen this quarter.

The U.S. dollar index (DXY) was above 105.1 on the day, coming within just 0.2 points of its highest levels since 2002.

U.S. dollar index (DXY) 1-day candle chart. Source: TradingView

"The US dollar (DXY) looks set to test highs last seen in December 2002 as the short-term downtrend is broken convincingly amid risk markets' continued crumble," researche and trader Faisal Khan summarized on Twitter.

Data on inflation meanwhile once more suggested the worst could be behind the market.

As Cointelegraph reported, however, central banks began to acknowledge that the low rates seen before COVID-19 may never return.

Bulls' worst month in 11 years

With the majority of on-chain metrics now at historic lows, price data hinted how far BTC could theoretically go in a bear market increasingly unlike the rest.

Related: No flexing for Bitcoin Cash users as BCH loses 98% against Bitcoin

Should it close at current levels of $19,000, BTC/USD would seal monthly losses of over 40% for June 2022.

That would make it the worst June ever and the heaviest monthly losses since September 2011, data from TradingView and on-chain monitoring resource Coinglass confirms. 

Even March 2020 and the 2018 and 2014 bear markets were less severe on monthly timeframes. 40% drops were last seen when BTC/USD traded at $8.

BTC/USD monthly returns chart. Source: Coinglass

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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Thailand’s Crypto Utopia — ‘90% of a cult, without all the weird stuff’

The story of how a Bitcoin OG set up a Libertarian crypto community and commune for digital nomads on beautiful islands in Thailand three times and why…

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The story of how a Bitcoin OG set up a Libertarian crypto community and commune for digital nomads on beautiful islands in Thailand three times and why he hasnt yet given up on the dream.

Its a wild tale involving unchecked merrymaking, crypto-influencers, police grillings, seasteading, a reported $20,000-a-month burn rate, rumors about shamans and drugs and a major collision between idealism and reality. It was also, by all accounts, a whole lot of fun.

 

 

Cryptopia
Cryptopia became the House of DAO, and a new version is planned.

 

 

The spectacular Cape Residences in Phuket, Thailand are a world away from the bohemian backpackers and Full Moon parties of Koh Pha-ngan where Ive spent the past few weeks researching Part 1 about crypto digital nomads living in paradise.

If youve ever imagined how a Bitcoin OG lives, Kyle Chasses villa probably fits in the bill, nestled in between residences housing members of the Royal Family of Dubai and early Apple investors.

There are four cars in the driveway, including an electric BMW charging up. Chasse is a big friendly bear of a man who greets me warmly and takes me on a tour of the seven-bedroom mansion where many of the 85-strong Master Ventures team does business, from social media videos to planning investments and Paid Network launch pad projects.

The beds are so large you could get lost; theres an indoor golf driving range; and as we take a look at the outdoor entertaining area, Chasse flips a switch, and a waterfall starts pouring from a great height into the pool. This is my favorite thing, he says.

This place is like a hub. Everyone comes here, they have lunch, eat and talk and hang out, play basketball. We have movie nights and dinner and stuff like that.

This is the latest and most scaled-back version of his dream to create a crypto commune for like-minded Libertarian dreamers. Hes tried twice before on Koh Pha-ngan, once on Coconut Island, and dabbled with setting it up as part of the ill-fated viral Cryptoland project the internet mercilessly destroyed.

 

 

 

 

The first and, so far, most successful version saw Chasse and friends take over the Utopia resort on Koh Pha-ngan for eight months. We had 35 villas and 70 people, he explains. We changed it to Cryptopia in 2018.

I think someone said that it was like 90% of a cult, without all the weird stuff.

 

 

The boys
Tone Vays, Kyle Chasse and Didi Taihuttu on Koh Pha-ngan.

 

 

But despite high-profile residents and visitors, including Tone Vays, Willy Woo and Didi Taihuttu of the Bitcoin family, the whole thing fell apart with furious locals, police grillings and a nasty falling out between Chasse and his business partner who saw him fire the entire Master Ventures team at once.

The Thai Board of Investments backed the next version, also planned for Koh Pha-ngan called House of DAO, which was promoted with flashy videos and an impressive-looking website before operations moved to the 700-bed Coconut Island resort in Phuket.

The big mystery is why he moved out of Koh Pha-ngan which Chasse has loved since he was a young backpacker to the more sedate Phuket?

Chasse explains that Phuket has a lot more infrastructure and transport links, a less transient population, and is a much better place to conduct business. But he refuses to comment on rumors Id heard on Koh Pha-ngan that once the local authorities became aware that a bunch of wealthy crypto folk had set up shop, they had started making all too frequent visits.

A year ago, the cops started visiting frequently, asking for donations for covid relief, a former Utopia resident tells me. The potential for this to escalate scared the House of DAO away from Koh Pha-ngan: Whereas Phuket is a rich area, so they dont stand out as much.

 

 

Willy Woo
Willy Woo and Tone Vays featured in promotional images.

 

 

Kyle Chasses story

Chasse grew up in Ventura County in California and never wanted to live a conventional life. Instead of college, he spent months backpacking around Europe before a friend started emailing about how amazing Thailand was.

I just had massive FOMO. I came over here in 2004 and started in Bangkok, he says. And then to Koh Pha-ngan for the Full Moon Party, and then just ended up island hopping for five weeks.

He spent nine months in Thailand on that trip and returned numerous times before making it his home in 2018.

In between, he discovered Bitcoin via media coverage of the legendary Silk Road. A regular on the Bitcointalk forum, he started up his own Bitcoin lottery in 2013, and by 2016, he had become a wealthy man. Bitcoin hit 1,000 bucks each and, in my mind, like, Okay, now Im good. Im never gonna have to work again in my life, he says.

At that point, I kind of took a bit of a step back from hustling, and I became very obsessed with just adoption.

 

 

 

 

People in the real world were not that eager to listen to Chasse extol the virtues of Bitcoin adoption, however. I always felt very, very isolated. I was only able to talk to people online, he says. The exception was at crypto conferences where everyone was on the same page:

All of a sudden, you step into a conference or even the city where its being held, and now suddenly, you feel immersed in crypto, and its a really amazing experience and feeling.

He became addicted to the optimism and energy of crypto conferences and would literally fly out to attend them in various locales every three to five days. That was super unsustainable, he says. So, then I decided that I really wanted to be able to have that environment (at home).

Instead of going to crypto conferences, why not bring the crypto community to him? He dreamed of creating a crypto commune that digital nomads could work from, where projects could be nurtured and incubated, and everybody could live and breathe crypto all day every day.

It would be a mecca on the planet for crypto entrepreneurs to come to and that just propagates throughout the cryptoverse, he says.

I figured that if I felt this way, there must be other people out there that feel this way, too. And so, I looked all over Koh Pha-ngan for a good place to set up.

 

 

Cryptopia
The gang took over Utopia resort and renamed it Cryptopia.

 

 

The concept of the Crypto Utopia recalls the mystical Beach from Alex Garlands novel of the same name a mystical place that everyone wants to find, but once they find it, everything starts to fall apart. Fittingly, the inspiration for the novel is said to be one of the beaches on Koh Pha-ngan.

Chasse has long been a fan of seasteading. Thats where you create a permanent home base in international waters with like-minded folk where you can do what you like and create your own little sovereign state. Libertarian Bitcoiners, in particular, love the concept and keep making attempts to realize it, including an abandoned attempt to turn a cruise ship into the MS Satoshi, and a Bitcoiner couple who set up a floating home 15 miles off the coast of Thailand and declared their independence only to get hauled in by the navy and charged with violating Thai sovereignty.

Jessica Gonzales, who is Chasses partner and chief marketing officer of Master Ventures, explains:

The ultimate goal of House of Dao is were going to be a small nation. Were going to be our own nation. Thats where its going: micronation. And thats our alliance with the Seasteading Institute.

Chasse clarifies its not a formal alliance but says the guys behind the institute have agreed to mentor them.

Given how difficult it is to make seasteading work in reality and who wants to live on an oil rig anyway the island of Koh Pha-ngan thats only accessible by ferry seemed the next best option. A bohemian wonderland of days-long parties, magic mushrooms and yoga enthused spiritual egoists, the normal rules dont apply here. At Full Moon Parties, they soak chains in petrol and set them alight to use them as giant skipping ropes for drink and drug-affected tourists to burn themselves on. So, its a whole heap of fun, but you can get yourself into serious trouble.

Koh Pha-ngan, its a bit more of the wild west than it is here, he says from the comfort of his Phuket villa. You dont really ask for permission for anything. You just always assume that theres gonna be some type of fee you have to pay to somebody.

 

 

Utopia
The view from Cryptopia

 

 

Chasse looked at every single resort and available piece of land on the island. If youre thinking about starting a new government structure and having room to experiment with what that looks like would need privacy. And so, that was really important to me.

And finally, Utopia (resort) is where I decided to do it because its really amazing. We called it Cryptopia at the time. You travel up this steep hill for a while and then youre in a kind of beautiful serene place.

Perched atop the hill at Haad Thong Lang Bay with fantastic views of the Gulf of Thailand, he made a deal to buy the resort for 17 million baht (about $510,000 at the time), and took over 35 villas, paying for everything himself.

Reality bites

Unfortunately, of course, Chasse admits he had no idea how to manage a resort. On the day all the responsibilities for the staff, utilities and everything became his, the water went out.

The water came from a waterfall nearby, and sometimes, an animal or something knocks the pipe out of the stream. And suddenly, there was no water. So, it was an interesting first day.

Once a Bitcoin miner
Available at all good book stores, and plenty of bad ones too.

Around 30%40% of the Cryptopia residents were on the Master Ventures payroll, but word spread far and wide, attracting high-profile visitors, such as Bitcoiner Tone Vays, on-chain analyst Willy Woo and Carl the Moon Runefelt.

There were people from China who ran the George Bush family fund, and not to mention The King of Viral Media, Dose media founder Emerson Spartz. Didi and the Bitcoin family, who stayed for months, he agrees to speak with me about it but then ghosts me for some reason.

Just incredible people came through. A lot of people invited their families to come out, too, which was kind of what I wanted.

One resident was author and occasional Magazine contributor Ethan Lou, who described a very similar sounding commune on a Thai island but doesnt actually name Cryptopia in his book Once a Bitcoin Miner. So, it was probably a totally different one.

I lounged by the penis shaped pool During the incubators crazier days, people used to have orgies in the water, I was told. The big boss who funded everything was an early Bitcoiner and had made a fortune, but he had little experience or perhaps even the will or desire to run an incubator. People had come and gone, staying for free, indulging in unchecked merrymaking. At least once, they had allegedly brought over a shaman. The ‘burn rate,’ what was needed to maintain the facilities alone, was $20,000 per month.

Lou writes that he had planned to write off his residency as a business expense for tax purposes but later realized he couldnt point to a single business matter that arose from that trip.

The longer I stayed, there the longer I had no idea what I was doing on that island.

 

 

 

 

Hard Forking founder Sean Stella stayed for months at Cryptopia and made a short documentary about his time there.

Didi gave me a call when I was living in Singapore and said, Check this out. So, I jumped on the plane the next day, met Tone Vays and Willy Woo at the airport, and we all jumped in a taxi together and went up there and hung out. I made friendships and connections through Kyle and what he was doing that have lasted to this day.

I was there for three or four months, and it was fantastic. It was some of the most interesting months of my life. He basically took over a whole resort and financed the whole thing. I didnt have to put my hand in my pocket.

 

 

Pool
Does this pool look penis-shaped to you?

 

 

Stella reports that plenty of work was actually completed and scotches the idea that it was some sort of non-stop party.

There was certainly fun to be had, but no, it wasnt, he says. The funny thing with a lot of the crowd was they werent drinkers. Very intellectual.

Is that a euphemism for everyone was microdosing LSD, I ask him?

Oh, I have no idea, he says with a grin. Drugs are illegal.

Lous recollection of life at the resort was more candid, and he writes of looking out at the incredible sea view one day in wonder and how the remnants of Ecstasy, speed, mushrooms and LSD coursed through my system as I welcomed the dawn.

I will never forget how, for a few fleeting moments that day, the world looked like perfection.

Cointelegraph Magazine contributor Elias Ahonen was also a resident while writing his book Blockland. He suggests that the dosing that may or may not have occurred was probably more macro than micro.

Of course, any drug use by visitors was entirely incidental to the point of the Cryptopia it was more just part of life on Koh Pha-ngan. As described in Part 1, the island is the kind of place where people go out for one drink and then wake up four days later in a field with a headache pounding in time to a hardcore psychedelic trance.

It’s fun until its not: one digital nomad who lived elsewhere on the island told us of a good friend and colleague who ended up getting so immersed in the non stop partying lifestyle that he had a psychotic break, and they had to rush him off for treatment before he was deported. Another digital nomad said they were leaving the island, in part due to the negative aspects of the drug culture.

Chasse says that while he doesnt condone that aspect of life on Koh Phangan, he believes everyone has the right to do what they like with their own bodies.

Like, Im not going to judge you for that as long as you get your work done, he says. Looking back, I think whether we maybe we turned a blind eye to it, I think maybe we would have been, some of the team members might have been more productive out of that environment. Because, you know, maybe they were hungover at work or something like that.

I mean, definitely on Cryptopia 1.0, that was a huge problem.

Ahonen, who managed business operations for a short time, says he found the team generally hardworking and ambitious but says that the utopian dreams of new forms of governance seemed more trippy than anything else.

There were appeals to a fantastical utopian future that wasnt entirely grounded in reality, which is perhaps very true to the crypto brand.

Kyle had a vision of using blockchain, decentralization and Libertarianism to transform the worlds basic organizational structures he once seemed to suggest that I could perhaps rule over a private country one day, when the new order came.

The ideals of the crypto-Libertarian vision brought some political tensions, as the vision of a community-run enterprise conflicted with the fact Chasse was in charge, and many of the residents were either his staff or projects he was funding and helping.

I think part of it was my fault for misleading people in the way that things would be governed there, I think, maybe alluded a little bit too much toward the fact that, like, I wanted to convert this into a DAO, he says.

I think a lot of people who went there with the idea that, like, they would have significant say in what would happen, but I wanted people to work on the things that we had to work on. So, this is why some people left and some people stayed

 

 

Master Ventures
A nice drone shot from the House of DAO video.

 

 

How it ended

There are a few different accounts of how Cryptopia fell apart. Stella thinks market conditions and a disagreement over the resorts ownership were to blame. Foreigners cant directly own Thai real estate for one thing except in a complicated setup through a company sponsored by the Board of Investments.

It was crypto winter. The price of Bitcoin plummeted, while I was living there, and youll have to ask Kyle, but my understanding was he wanted to buy the resort, and it seemed to boil down to a negotiation over the purchase of it.

Chasse says the miscommunication with the owner… wasnt handled in a civil way.

He was clearly wrong in trying to sell me property he couldnt sell me. But he was able to have the police set up in front of Utopia and eventually come up and get me and take me to the station and question me and try to get me to sign a confession for something I didnt do.

It didnt shake me too much. I dont really get too scared. But some people left after that event happened; some people just left Master Ventures altogether they were terrified. And some of our core team were also pretty freaked out about it.

He also had a nasty falling out with a really terrible business partner that led to the end of not just Cryptopia but that incarnation of Master Ventures, too, in early 2019.

I fired the entire team, like, a month before I left Utopia. My partner was horrible and tried to take over the whole thing in a coup dtat, and so, I just told Lex, the guy who was helping me on the ground, to kick everyone out.

 

 

Jessica and Kyle
Jessica Gonzales and Kyle Chasse Source: Twitter

 

 

House of DAO

Six months later, he met Gonzales on a dating site in the United States. She was attracted by his lifes purpose.

Its quite unconventional, right? she says over drinks in their impressive living room, a world away from Koh Pha-ngan.

He wanted to transform the world with cryptocurrency as the way, and Ive always known my whole life, my parents instilled this into me since I was a little girl basically brainwashed me believing that I had a huge role to play in helping transform the world.

 

 

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They resurrected Master Ventures, launched Paid Network (which grew from a dispute resolution service to also encompass a crypto launch pad) and rebranded the crypto commune as the House of DAO.

The blockchain smart village had an expensive-looking website and slick video ads promoting Asias premier blockchain hub where:

Blockchain startups from around the world come together under one roof to accelerate their decentralized visions uniting the worlds best advisors to turn startup visions into reality.

The House of DAO was all set to launch at The Cabin Resort in Haad Rin the same location of Leela Beach where Chasse had stayed for his first Full Moon Party all those years ago. But at the last minute, they pivoted to Coconut Island off the coast of Phuket. All the websites and marketing materials still said Koh Pha-ngan (which is how I stumbled across this whole story) perhaps in an attempt to fly more under the radar at their new home.

There were several events that led to, ultimately, the desire to escape from KP for a while, says Chasse.

 

 

 

 

The authorities apparently werent too enamored with their ads featuring jet skis, attractive women and digital nomads working hard and partying harder as they conflicted with the official COVID-safe narrative of the time. And after trekking to every resort on Koh Pha-ngan, Chasse also thought none of them offered enough privacy. That wasnt a problem on Coconut Island, which has just one resort, a couple of restaurants and a small village.

 

 

 

 

While it seemed like a great idea at the time, having just 20 people from Master Ventures take over a deserted 700-bed resort, with little chance of attracting new residents due to the pandemic, wasnt ideal.

At first, it started out really great. Like, it was a beautiful location perfect for what we wanted to do.

There were a few times when family and friends were there it felt like it was supposed to feel when it was more sociable and more full. We looked at each other and thought this would be amazing and it felt right. It was super encouraging to carry on.

At the time, they thought the pandemic was just about over, and Thailand was about to reopen to the world. They were wrong.

It was just quite lonely there and quiet. If you had 400 people, and theyre all in crypto, it would have been fine, he says. It led to a lot of people feeling really down because they felt super isolated.

The second, or third, iteration of Cryptopia/House of DAO shut down around September last year.

 

 

 

 

Cryptolands House of DAO v1

Meanwhile, Chasse had been sent an early cut of a promotional video for the Cryptoland project that Max Olivier and Helena Lopez had been working on for three years. Their idea was to crowdfund the purchase of a Fijian island to set up a crypto community by selling NFT plots of land. Impressed with their vision for a 600-acre complex, which theyd negotiated to include the next House of DAO, Chasse bought the first plot of land.

We get the House of DAO infrastructure included in it, and it solves a lot of our problems, he says. Wed still be on a private island but next door having a poppin-like crazy resort with tons of entertainment and things to do.

Unfortunately, Web3 Is Going Greats Molly White got hold of the promo video in January, and it went viral for all the wrong reasons. It has a talking Bitcoin, groan-inducing references to memes like shitcoin casinos, cutlery-based jokes, such as Im not a fan of forks, and theres even an ill-advised musical number.

The internet tore it apart.

 

 

 

 

People say any press is good press, but this was really, really bad, he says, adding that the founders were defamed as scammers despite having the noblest of intentions.

They never took a dollar from anyone. It was one of the worst things Ive ever seen happen to such nice people, he says. Its amazing how much effort they put into this thing, he says. And then all of a sudden, when they decide to reveal themselves vulnerable, they just get smashed down.

After it went viral, the Fijian government reportedly contacted the project via their lawyers and discouraged them from proceeding.

Chasse says hes still a big supporter of Cryptoland, which is now looking at different locations from the Bahamas to Dubai.

 

 

HOD
The House of Dao website pays tribute to the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

 

 

Lets do it in the metaverse

Chasses plan, for the time being, is to watch how decentralized governance models experiment and iterate in DAOs and the metaverse before trying again in the real world.

Im really excited about the whole idea of DAOs and metaverse and these things hypothesizing and delivering and failing and succeeding. And so, this is going to expedite the whole process of trying to physically do it with real people and real families.

The twist in the tale is that now that Chasse and Gonzales have stopped trying so hard to construct a crypto community, one has grown around the Master Ventures hub anyway. Around 40 staff and their family members orbit around the villa now.

I think that in building a community, theres an element of it that has to happen organically, Chasse explains. Chief technical officer Ben Stahlhoods wife and kids have joined; Gonzales brought out her parents and four sisters; and Chasses mom has visited and is now thinking of selling her beach house back in Ventura to move over permanently.

Its interesting because ever since v2 shut down Coconut Island and we all kind of found our own places, people started to bring their families, flying in their kids, the communities continue to grow, maybe not under this official flag anymore, he says.

Gonzales agrees:

What I think weve realized is that we are the House of DAO. Our team, were the heart anyway. Like, its our team members. Its their families.

Read Part One here:

Thailands crypto islands: Working in paradise, Part 1

 

 

 

 

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