When we spoke on March 2, coronavirus had already put a dent in the San Francisco-based Tamara Frankel’s travel-heavy lifestyle (the array of places she says she’s been in the last year is dizzying, including Odessa, Vienna, Barcelona, and Seoul, with Singapore and Hong Kong as staples). But at that time, her immediate worry was with her Chinese business associates and friends in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea – not about those in Europe or the U.S.
Not that Frankel, who was talkative and upbeat on our phone calls, hadn’t been preparing for the pandemic since early January. That’s when she’d started buying masks, “because I knew how bad it was in China,” she says. By the time we spoke again on March 27, three weeks into her self-isolation at her house in the San Francisco suburbs (she’d left her apartment downtown), she mentioned several friends who had contracted the virus from all over the world, including in Brazil, at the EthCC conference in Paris, and in San Francisco.
Frankel is a crypto investor, whose all-female firm Azoth Group includes her and two Chinese partners. She regularly juggles between being awake for the Asian markets in the evening and the European markets that wake up after midnight her time. Having spent time with just about every “generation crypto” stereotype – from the original bitcoin anarchists to early meet-ups with tech bros and the “utopian dreamers” in Ethereum – she realized a while back that her place was with the “based Asian traders” who were able to manipulate markets. She studied up, connected with the right people, and that more or less became her tribe.
Before Covid-19 swept the planet, Frankel lived like the world had no borders. From the sky, cities look like “toy cities,” and “it starts to become obvious that the whole concept of nations is pretty arbitrary,” she says. “Why can I travel freely here and this person needs to get this visa or they’re not allowed in? So much of what we’re doing is virtual that having nations trying to govern it makes no sense.” These principles drove the strategy of her trading business. Finding crypto to be siloed in various closed communities throughout the world, she worked to connect crypto markets in Europe and China to make a profit.
“There are lots of ways you can shake things up when you view the world a little bit differently and realize we’re all connected,” she says.
In spite of her current trader status, Frankel still identifies with the “older bitcoin culture” she came up in, that of privacy, individual freedoms, and “disintermediation from the state.” Like her friend Soleimani, she listened to the voices in the Doomsday Preppers Telegram group instead of government-backed institutions when it came to coronavirus prepping, and as a result she has been watching “traumatizing” footage of the pandemic playing out in Wuhan, China for months and now owns an oxygen compressor, just in case.
Among crypto enthusiasts, “there’s a distrust of the government and the media, and also a fierce independence that no one is going to take care of you,” Frankel says. “It’s not a total coincidence that all of us who saw the potential of crypto also saw the potential of coronavirus to exponentially grow.”
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