Why Balaji and Justin Are Two Peas in a Pod

Hint – it’s not because their surnames begin with S

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fran_kie/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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Tiresome marketing stunts are hardly new in crypto. 

So it was no surprise when last week, two men notable partly for their dubious achievements (yet primarily for their capacity for inserting themselves into trending narratives) did what they do best.

They got lots of people to talk about them.

Balaji Srinivasan threw a million bucks at a silly bet. Predicting US hyperinflation and a price of a million dollars for one bitcoin within 90 days, he put his $1M up against some lucky rube’s 1 BTC. (Naturally, one of crypto’s biggest celebrities was chosen to hold the stakes.)

Justin Sun, meanwhile, made the alarming — and nonsensical — claim that he would buy Credit Suisse for $1.5 billion, shortly after UBS’ billion-dollar offer had been rejected.

Balaji Srinivasan was the CTO of Coinbase at one point, an exchange not noted for its technical prowess during busy periods, while Justin Sun’s TRON ripped off other projects’ innovations. Neither man has a resume that most people would consider entirely admirable, but both have made a very, very, large sum of money.

And it’s the grotesque flaunting of this cash that is the first hint that the two men have more in common than they might like to admit. A million here, a billion there… tweeted with barely a concern in the world, despite representing life-changing money to 99% of the people on this planet.

Without getting deep into the abject silliness of Balaji’s bet itself (as commentators noted, the least of your worries would be the price of a bitcoin, in that war-torn world) or the fact that no self-respecting bank would ever consider Sun’s proposal, both are perfect examples of carnival-barking pitchmen making headlines rather than sense.

Srinivasan is a bold prognosticator, a self-appointed tech Nostradamus, whose apparently prescient analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic’s early stages conferred upon him some sense of mystical power among a certain subset of the Twitterati.

He certainly sounds clever. He probably is clever. But above all, Balaji is a critic, a Trumpian media character whose calling seems to be to inject chaos into every system.

He’s adept at inserting himself into narratives, making controversial proclamations regarding crypto, or AI, or inflation, or whatever happens to be the trending topic of the day.

With this latest stunt, questions have abounded regarding Balaji’s intentions: Is he serious? Is he concerned? Is he shorting bank stocks? Is he heavy enough into Bitcoin that a small movement up could offset his wager?

Who knows. Who cares? It’s a silly gambit that got him lots of attention on Twitter, and even write-ups from serious media outlets like Fortune and CNBC.

Meanwhile, Justin Sun’s $1.5 billion offer for Credit Suisse was met with ridicule rather than astonishment.

Because this is the same Justin Sun who promised to give away a Tesla in an early marketing stunt (the giveaway was a complete flustercluck, and it’s not clear he ever gave the car to anyone).

The same Justin Sun who canceled on Warren Buffett (although to be fair, that lunch eventually happened).

The same Justin Sun who “missed the launch” of the trip to space he won with a $28 million bid, promising instead that he’d take five people with him in 2022. (He didn’t.)

The same Justin Sun who bowed out of a $1M bounty he promised for anyone who identified the Twitter hacker in 2020… who exploited the FTX drama with a stunt to “rescue investors” that only allowed withdrawals of Tron (TRX) tokens.

That list can go on and on.

Justin Sun was never going to buy Credit Suisse. Justin Sun can’t give away a Tesla without ballsing up the entire operation.

No, Justin Sun inserts himself into these conversations to fixate media attention on himself, and his cryptocurrency projects.

Which is precisely why Balaji and Justin are so similar, even though Balaji is the beneficiary of an adoring ensemble of fans who hang on his every five-dollar word, while Justin is roundly mocked by those accustomed to his antics.

Their currency is currency. They need to be part of the conversation. Their brands are, very specifically, tied to their adjacency to the national debate.

To what end?

Whatever it is, you can bet it’s not to make themselves poorer. 

And you can safely ignore them. That ‘mute’ button on Twitter is there for a reason.


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