[This article is a transcript and translation of the Podcast “Krypto! – Der Traum vom magischen Internetgeld” Ep.01: “Ein Cowboy im Cyberspace (1/7)”. It was shortened at some passages. Link: https://www.ardaudiothek.de/episode/krypto-der-traum-vom-magischen-internetgeld/ein-cowboy-im-cyberspace-1-7/swr/12475755/]
Hi, I’m Max Netter and you’re listening to “Crypto”, a podcast about the dream of magical internet money.
There’s a story that describes quite well what I used to see in crypto. Picture this: it’s 2010 and you kind of stumbled across Bitcoin by accident. The very first cryptocurrency. Maybe you bought a few of them on an online forum… maybe 200 for just 60 euros at the time. You put those Bitcoins on your hard drive and then you forgot about them. So you go on with your normal life, maybe study or do an apprenticeship, have your first job and so on.
But then a few years later the price of Bitcoin suddenly starts going up, and up, and up. Suddenly your 200 Bitcoins are worth a lot more. First, 20.000€, then 60.000€€, then half a million, and then even 2 million, and you’re already dreaming about what you can do with it, buy a house, pay off your student loans, save for retirement, or maybe even stop working altogether.
So now you want to sell your Bitcoins and collect your profits. But there’s one big problem; your hard drive with the Bitcoins, you disposed of it a few months ago along with an old computer. You didn’t give it a second thought, so now it’s in a landfill somewhere. Where exactly, no one knows, and without that hard drive you can’t get your Bitcoins. They are now lost forever, and your dream of big money remains a dream.
That was crypto for me. The dream of big money, which in most cases remains just that, a dream.
But there are also people for whom this dream has not been shattered. They actually became rich with crypto. In fact, one such person is here with me now. We are here in the beginning of a completely new ecosystem. Its foundations, first appearances and blossoms are just emerging. It is the beginning of a completely new way of interacting globally. It’s speculative, but it’s already emerging as a new culture, a purely digital culture. A completely new world. For him, crypto is a technological revolution that not only made him rich, but will radically change our world, replacing the state money system, enabling a new and better togetherness, and maybe even changing democracy. For me, this vision sounds pretty wild at first, and especially very far away… and indeed, it is wild.
Let me tell you how it all started. Here’s the scenario; it’s 2022, a pandemic, you know. I have nothing to do, no assignments, so I’m sitting at home and slowly, but surely, the ceiling falls on my head. And I do what probably many have done before. I take my laptop, open it up, open the browser and type names into the search bar. I search for people I haven’t heard from in years. People from my high school days and my college days. I hit enter, 600 results. Some have started companies, many even reasonably successful with them, small businesses with two or three employees, like mine. 107 hits… Some make art and get through life that way. They post pictures of their exhibitions or report about teaching at the art university.
Then 1,320 hits on Instagram and I can see that quite a few now have children. Some have even bought houses. And then there are those for whom I can’t find anything at all. Just an orphaned Facebook profile and a rather old post on the page of a volleyball club. But then I type in the name of a former fellow student, Fabian. 42,700 hits.
I scroll down and click on a video. Fabian Vogelsteller talks about a blockchain called LUKSO. Fabian walks onto a stage. Continue scrolling and another video, another stage. This time he is talking about building a completely new internet and world, in general. Fabian speaks of a great future, maybe even of a completely new world, built on cryptocurrencies.
So in the middle of this crypto world, which is completely foreign to me, is suddenly this familiar face, Fabian. And of course I wonder how and when that happened. Why did Fabian end up there? As a seemingly pretty in-demand entrepreneur, what is he doing?
So I write Fabian a message. He actually still has the phone number from before. I write that I saw him on YouTube and if we can talk on the phone. While I wait for Fabian’s answer, I keep searching, and I have to laugh a lot at first. Maybe my crypto prejudice wasn’t so wrong after all. Fabian is in Dubai right now, I see on Twitter. He posts a photo of a sports car. A Lambo, as they say, painted gold and covered with Bitcoin logos. Shortly after, Fabian writes back to contact his colleague and she would then organize a call.
“Yo, I think that’s where you record now, right? Yeah, recording. Huh? Top. Yes.”
And that’s exactly the call I’m sitting in now.
I ask Fabian if he wants to tell me about his story with crypto and if he’s okay with me recording it all.
“Well I have a Rhode microphone, and if you get really close to it you have a radio voice like that. I mean, the problem is just time-wise we have to find that. Exactly, we just have to see when that fits. I think it’s a bit easier to interview each other when you see each other – and I wanted to go to Berlin more often in the near future anyway.”
During this first video call I’m in Weimar, in my little workspace with my old laptop, whose fan is actually way too loud for video calls.
And Fabian, he’s sitting in Berlin, in his office with exposed concrete and a good view of the Spree. I can see that much. Everything is pretty well styled. And then something happens.
“All right.” In the middle of the conversation, the door behind Fabian opens. A woman comes in. In her hand she carries two champagne glasses.
“Yes, sorry. We just had a little celebration. Yes, yes. Anything to celebrate? Yes, lets say we got one of the biggest brands in the world to invest in one of the start-ups that was built on LUKSO. Go figure – really big.”
There is indeed something to celebrate. One of the biggest brands in the world just invested in Fabian’s company. At least that’s what he says.
Really big. Okay, a little time travel. To the year 2007.
Fabian and I are just starting our studies. Same studies, same year. The early days of my studies in Weimar were pretty wild. There were illegal tech house parties in condemned buildings, or shared flats in old buildings, where even the toilet froze over in winter.
And my studies, that was absolute freedom for me. I tried out a lot, did a bit of art and finally ended up in radio. And Fabian, I don’t think he was that interested in all that back then. Instead, he did a lot of programming. He worked on his own software, with which he could easily build websites. He no longer had to write every single line of source code by hand. That much I remember about him.
Today I’m not quite sure if Fabian was just a fellow student back then or maybe even something like a friend, but somehow Fabian is definitely someone I can remember. Oh yes, there is one more thing about Fabian I remember very well… even back then Fabian was not only interested in computers, but also in how the financial system worked.
The financial crisis of 2008 was just starting, and of course I was also aware that things were going wrong. But Fabian went much further. He even bought gold to hedge against the policies of the central banks. Okay.
That Fabian from back then is now a successful crypto entrepreneur who believes that crypto will change the world forever. And by now I know Fabian is not alone in this belief. In fact, there are quite a few who see it the same way he does. There is, of course, a back story to this vision. One that leads back to the nineties, to the time when a new mass medium was in the starting phase; the internet.
[Podcast talking about the beginnings of the internet and how it resembles what Crypto is at it’s current state – we skip this part]
This probably sounds absurd at first, when you consider what the crypto space looks like today… full of scams, speculators, strange tech prophets who all seem to just want to make a quick buck.
But at the very beginning, it was all a pretty idealistic project. A means to defend the freedom demanded by it on the internet.
In this podcast we want to tell exactly this story, how the fight for a free internet became the crypto hype of today… this billion dollar, highly speculative, and still very foreign to me, crypto world. And Fabian plays an important role in this. That’s right, that Fabian, my old study colleague, whom I rediscovered on the Internet.
“Agency for the Future” – LUKSO Office
“Welcome to the Office. Second floor top right is our office.”
In the following situation I am sitting next to Fabian in his Tesla. We are driving through Berlin. Fabian wants to show me his office. Big building? Yes. The Office is located in the middle of Berlin, directly on the Spree in the Old Customs Office. We arrive.
“Press on top. Yes.” And at first I can’t get the door of Fabian’s Tesla open.
“Thanks. These are all studios of start-up projects. Oh, I see.” Fabian has forgotten the dog in the car. “That’s not possible. Shit, still new. Yes.” The dog jumps out and looks around first. “Ah yes, Wormski, you have to pee for a minute.” Looks like he’s looking for something. Yes nice pee corner.
“Hi. Hello Max, I am Valentina. Hi, we had mail contact, right?”
Fabian’s office looks even bigger than in the video call. Through the panorama windows, you actually have a pretty good view of the Spree. On the other bank you can even see the Treptow Park.
“So, a pyramid is being built here. It’s going to be an eventspace. And then there’s a marina here, a nice meadow in front of it. And that’s just going to be kind of a coworking/creative hub with eventspace, waterfront, there are architects, then this studios in here. we’ll probably have three offices here, three complete floors, that will be LUKSO.”
How many employees will that be then, I ask.
“I don’t know, fifty. But the point is that LUKSO is a community project, that means there will be a hub, kind of a place to come together and stuff and that’s uh yeah LUKSO, so to speak.”
Pyramid, waterfront, marina, and then this modern, stylish office. Quite a contrast to my life.
Fabian and his company are able to fund all this because in 2020 they began the launch of their own blockchain, together with its complementary token, LYXe. And people have bought this coin. Many people, in fact.
Of course, we also tell you how Fabian came to found his company in this podcast. But before that happens, a lot of other things have to happen; the foundations have to be laid, and that’s what the next episode is about.
In the early 90’s the internet is more and more misused as a surveillance tool by governments all over the world and how groups of activists try to fight against it with special cryptographic software.
They create the ideological and technical foundations for the first cryptocurrency Bitcoin at that time.
That was the first episode of Crypto.