It was only February when the founder of the blockchain sex worker platform SpankChain, Ameen Soleimani, helped throw a coronavirus-themed party at an Airbnb-ed church during the ETHDenver conference in Colorado – drinking Corona beers with his “shitcoin trading friends, protocol developers, and bitcoin OGs” – but it feels like a lifetime ago.
It was weeks before several of the conference’s attendees went on to EthCC in Paris and got infected with the coronavirus, and one week before Soleimani convinced his mom to take a mass shopping trip to Costco to prepare for a lockdown in California that hadn’t started yet. “I probably could have done more to raise awareness and make people take it seriously,” he says of the church party.
But still, he was prepared. In addition to the Costco trip, he stockpiled drugs including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – both under testing to see how effective they could be in treating COVID-19 patients, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against using them at home – and even bought an oxygen tank. “On the off-chance my mom is dying of coronavirus … I’d rather have an oxygen concentrator than $400,” he reasons.
A couple months out from moving out of the apartment he’d shared with SpankChain cofounder Wills de Vogelaere in Los Angeles’s Venice Beach, Soleimani has been isolating at an Ethereum friend’s mansion in West Hollywood. The friend isn’t there – it’s just Soleimani, two other friends, a heated pool and a steam room. “I sort of hit the quarantine jackpot,” he says.
Like many others in his industry, Soleimani was able to prepare so thoroughly thanks to a combination of a global network and shared prepper mentalities. “I’ve been in a Telegram ‘Doomsday Prepper’ group for, like, a month and a half,” he says, where members share “raw feeds from doctors’ Twitters” and the like. “It turns out to be better intel, a lot of the time, than if you listen to the World Health Organization.”
Being a young entrepreneur in the crypto space generally means avoiding the establishment ethos for a more progressive outlook. For instance, Soleimani posted his first porn video to PornHub back in January. Starring him and SpankChain adviser/adult film star Brenna Sparks, it features the pair “role playing” as themselves (a boss hooking up with his sexy adviser). It took a year for Soleimani to muster the courage to post it online but he has no regrets – it’s helping normalize the stigmatized industry his company operates in, he figures.
“The old guard is like: He’s ruined his career, he’s fucked, nobody will take him seriously,” says Soleimani. Meanwhile, younger people in the space found the move iconic and admirable.
Soleimani sees this divide as indicative of business culture moving forward, particularly in the crypto space. “Eventually the old people will die, the rules will go with them and newer generations will set the cultural norms,” he said in February. “As entrepreneurs, it’s part of our role to bring those new concepts into the world.”
In light of the pandemic, this makes for an exceptionally bleak and insensitive take. But in a world where people are only dressing from the waist up for conference calls, rolling with changing cultural norms has become inevitable.
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