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Balaji Srinivasan

Balaji S. Srinivasan is an angel investor, American technology entrepreneur, and executive well known for his work in . He previously was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of .

Balaji was also the co-founder of Earn.com (acquired by ), Counsyl (acquired by Myriad), Teleport (acquired by Topia), and Coin Center. He also served as a Board Partner and General Partner at . [1][2]

In April 2021, Srinivasan donated $50,000 in to aid in Indian COVID-19 relief during a resurgence of the virus in the country. He also pledged to donate another $50 for every time his post was retweeted, up to $100,000. [6]

Education

Balaji Srinivasan holds an MS in Chemical Engineering, MS/BS in Electrical Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from Stanford University. During his time as a graduate student, he worked mainly on genomics research where he authored and co-authored papers on various topics such as, microbial and human genomics, pharmacogenetics, genetics of complex diseases, population genetics, and Mendelian disease. [4][11]

Career

Early beginnings

From 2008-2012, Srinivasan was the Co-founder and CTO of Counsyl, where he developed a new pre-pregnancy genomic test for a variety of heritable diseases. Counsyl’s test won The Wall Street Journal’s Innovation Award for Medicine, was named one of Scientific American’s Top 10 World Changing Ideas, and was the basis for Balaji’s MIT 35 Innovators Under 35 award. Srinivasan took the company from inception in a Stanford dorm room to testing ~3% of all births in the United States. He was responsible for the scientific codebase, marketing, design, public relations, recruiting, training, fundraising, and technical vision as we grew from an idea on a napkin to one of the largest clinical genome centers in the world. Counsyl was ultimately sold for $375 million to Myriad Genetics. [11]

In 2013, joined Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner where he helped Andreessen Horowitz move into biomedicine, , and . He made investments in companies including Axoni, uBiome, Omada Health, OpenGov, Benchling, TradeBlock, SolveBio, HumanAPI, and Medisas. In 2015, he stepped back from his full-time role and became a Board Partner.

In 2014, Srinivasan alongside, Sten Tamkivi and Silver Keskkula, co-founded Teleport, a search engine for digital nomads which was acquired by Topia in 2017.

In 2014, Srinivasan co-founded Coin Center, one of the leading non-profit organizations focused on resolving policy issues regarding cryptocurrencies, with Jerry Brito and Alex Morcos.

FDA

In January 2017, Balaji Srinivasan met up with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss the potential future of the FDA. Srinivasan was being considered for the position of FDA commissioner as he is an expert in the subjects of digital payments and computational biology and has experience in health regulation through Counsyl. Jim O'Neill, the managing director of investment firm Mithril Capital Management and a former advisor to top players at Health and Human Services, was also being considered for a position in the FDA. Both Srinivasan and O'Neill have been critical of the FDA and its regulatory controls in the healthcare industry. The discussions with the Silicon Valley insiders were part of the incoming Trump administration's efforts to transform healthcare and prioritize innovation in the industry. [31]

“big bad pharma does exist, but is only half the story. FDA sets the incentives.” - Balaji Srinivasan

Coinbase

In 2018, Srinivasan left Teleport, Andreessen Horowitz to join Coinbase, after his company, Earn.com was acquired by Coinbase for around $120 million. In April 2018, he was onboarded as the first Chief Technology Officer of Coinbase. [10]

During his time at Coinbase, he helped source and close deals worth over $1.5 billion for Coinbase Custody, collaborating with Sam McIngvale and Juan Suarez. He oversaw the integration of Earn.com into Coinbase, which subsequently expanded to over 100 countries, with John Granata and Ada Yeo. Balaji also sourced and closed deals worth over $300 million for Coinbase Earn, including over $120 million from the Stellar Foundation, with Zach Segal, Dave Bean, and Max Branzburg. [11]

Balaji also played a crucial role in launching the , which now has a market cap of over $33.4 billion. He led both the business and technical sides of the launch, collaborating with Jim Migdal, Jacob Horne, Miha Rebernik, Maksim Stepanenko, and the Circle team. Balaji prepared and gave presentations for Coinbase's $300 million Series E raise, with Shan Aggarwal. He also contributed to the addition of new assets to the Coinbase platform across all products. [11]

Lecturer

Since 2006, Srinivasan has been a Lecturer in the Departments of Statistics and Computer Science at Stanford University. He has taught courses in data mining, statistics, genomics, and blockchain courses at Stanford, as well as an online MOOC in 2013 which reached over 250,000 students worldwide. [11]

Predictions

Coronavirus Prediction

Srinivasan was one of the first to warn people about the potential severity of COVID-19. In an interview on November 26th 2019, Srinivasan recalls his thoughts, "This look actually very serious, and it is not being covered enough", but he kept his opinion to himself for a while as he was afraid he would be judged. [29]

“I actually hesitated to tweet about it for a while, simply because it was going to be seen as, you know, ‘paranoid’ or whatever.”

However, as he noticed multiple different news outlets stating that the situation is under control and releasing articles saying things like, "Don’t worry about the coronavirus, worry about the flu”, he felt the need to speak up. [29]

“Normally, when you trust this stuff, you just lose money. Here, you literally could have lost your life.”

So, on January 31st, 2020, he posted a thread on twitter, pointing out the potential changes that would occur if the situation worsens, backing it up with evidence he had at the time. [29][30]

Going viral
What if this coronavirus is the pandemic that public health people have been warning about for years? It would accelerate many pre-existing trends.
- border closures - nationalism - social isolation - preppers - remote work - face masks - distrust in governments

Community Response

As COVID-19 was so new at the time, the initial responses were mixed, however as the virus continued to spread exponentially, Srinivasan gained more supporters as well as respect from the community. His predictions were later proved correct as the pandemic progressed and in December 2020 CoinDesk called him "The Man Who Called COVID" . [29]

Bitsignal

On March 17th, 2023, Srinivasan tweeted that he is "putting up the BitSignal" by betting $1 million on Bitcoin (BTC) stating that it would be worth over $1,000,000 in 90 days - stressing that hyperinflation was inevitable due to the insolvency and ignorance of the bank system and financial regulators in the United States. He claimed that central banks, banks, and bank regulators have bankrupted everyone and that they are about to print $2T to hyperinflate the dollar. Srinivasan is also behind an initiative to spread awareness about the devaluation of the U.S. Dollar where he offered $1,000 per tweet, for the best 1,000 tweets, to alert Twitter users about the collapse. [16][21][22]

"The BitSignal
How do you ring the fire alarm on the internet? How do you show it’s not a false alarm?
I am putting up the BitSignal. $1M in BTC to alert us to the stealth financial crisis. $1000 per tweet, for the best 1000. Reply with your charts, graphs, stats, memes! Bring attention to what is happening! Because the central bank, the banks, and the bank regulators have bankrupted all of us. They hid their insolvency from you, the depositors. And they're about to print $2T to hyperinflate the dollar. In the digital age this will happen very quickly. So buy Bitcoin *now* and get your coins off exchanges."

$1 million Bitcoin bet

Srinivasan's tweets about hyperinflation generated huge responses where on March 18th, 2023, Srinivasan agreed to the $1 million bet with James Medlock, after Medlock tweeted that he was willing to bet $1 million that "the US does not enter hyperinflation". The terms of the bet were that for Balaji to win Bitcoin would hit $1 million per coin within 90 days otherwise Medlock would win $1 million in USD. [12][13][14]

He then moved $2M in USDC as over collateral for the $1 million bet.

“I am moving $2M into USDC for the bet. I will do it with Medlock and one other person, sufficient to prove the point. See my next tweet. Everyone else should just go buy Bitcoin, as it'll be much cheaper for you than locking one up for 90 days.

Terms of the bet: ideally someone can set up a smart contract where BTC is worth >$1M in 90 days, then I win. If it's worth less than $1M in 90 days, then the counterparty gets the $1M in USD. HYPERBITCOINIZATION We have to define hyperinflation in BTC vs USD terms because all other fiat currencies can and will be inflated away. That is hyperbitcoinization. This is the moment that the world redenominates on Bitcoin as digital gold, returning to a model much like before the 20th century. What's going to happen is that individuals, then firms, then large funds will buy Bitcoin.

Community Response

Criticism

This prediction has been met with criticism from some, who speculate that the bet is a marketing ploy or a pump-and-dump scheme. Srinivasan has also been accused of encouraging bank runs and fiddling while the financial system burns. Financial analyst Demetri Kofinas has responded saying that Srinivasan's claim that the Chinese banks are booming is wrong and that his claims are "ignorant". [24]

"Balaji's claims about the US banking system failing while Chinese banks are "soaring" is a lie. His claim that the USD is about to go into hyperinflation is both ideologically-driven and ignorant. " - Demetri Kofians

Podcast host and bitcoin investor, Layah Helipern has responded by saying that she thinks Balaji's prediction was just a smart publicity stunt. [23]

"Balaji betting $1M that #bitcoin will hit $1M in 90 days is genius. If he’s right he’s made the call of the decade and will forever go down in history. If he’s wrong that’s $1M spent of smart advertising for him. It’s a win win." - Layah Helipern

Cryptocurrency critic Molly White has also criticized venture capitalists in the space for amusing the depiction of the fall of traditional banking and finance for their self-interest. [27][28]

" "it's not like we can put the genie back in the bottle! " – VC who stands to profit massively from the release of the genie, and who has worked tirelessly to release said genie " - Molly White

Supporters

However, others, including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, have echoed Srinivasan's concerns about hyperinflation, which he believes is happening now. Srinivasan sees bitcoin as a hedge against hyperinflation, monetary debasement, bank freezes, and wealth seizure. Despite his prediction being considered a long shot, Srinivasan's extensive experience and expertise make him a respected figure in the industry. [16][17]

BitMEX co-founder, Arthur Haydes has shown that he also believes that the central bank management system will fail and instead has more faith in cryptocurrencies. [25]

“Given the Fed has no stomach for the free market in which banks fail due to poor management decisions, the Fed can never remove their deposit guarantee,” he wrote. “Long Live BTFP.”

“Instead, what crypto did was once again demonstrate that it is the smoke alarm for the rancid, profligate, fiat-driven Western financial system.”

Strike CEO, Jack Mallers had a similar response, predicting that hyperinflation is upon us and that it could cause Bitcoin to pump. [26]

“Money printer is going brr, the only thing that’s clear to us, and clear to our customers, is that you cannot hold and save in dollars anymore.”

Balaji's Response

On March 21st 2023, Balaji responded to all the backlash in a long tweet beginning with responding to Jason Zweig's recognition of the difference between reporting on the Federal Reserve's crisis and causing it. Srinivasan then goes on to address some inaccuracies in reporting by Matt Levine and to a lesser extent by Joe Schreck, regarding the bet. Srinivasan clarifies that he did not propose the bet, but only accepted it, and that the bet is a "Simon-Erlich" style bet that is purely ideological and not a money-making bet. He also commits to never selling any Bitcoin for USD unless legally compelled to do so and asserts his belief that Bitcoin should be the reserve currency in case the USD fails. Srinivasan concludes by stating that he is an ideologically driven person who believes in Bitcoin and that he has already been proven right about the printing of the US currency. [15]

"In short, the hyperbitcoinization bet is a Simon-Erlich style bet that is purely about settling an ideological matter. I did not propose the bet but only accepted it, I have absolutely zero profit motivation, I am never selling Bitcoin for USD unless legally compelled to do so, and I am holding Bitcoin until the US dollar is no longer the reserve currency of the world, again unless legally compelled to do otherwise. " - Balaji Srinivasan

Balaji's Stance

On March 22nd, 2023, Balaji was featured on podcast where he explains what his intentions were with the way he presented himself publicly and what he sees in the near future. In the podcast he explains that the tweet regarding the bet was a way to draw as much attention and was ultimately an attempt to lead as many people as possible to his thread, in order to warn them. [32][33]

"This was a bet thread but the point of it was actually get people to read this okay just as in 2008 the bankers lied we forgot how much they had lied to us because you know that was that was obviously a huge thing in 2008 they basically almost bankrupt the world economy lying to us lying to themselves some competence combination of greed and competence malice"

He goes on to urge viewers to invest in Bitcoin and advises users to move their coins off exchanges as they might "close the doors". [33]

"get Bitcoin get your friends or family to get Bitcoin get your coins off exchanges and do that now because they might close the doors"

He argues that banks and regulators have been lying to dollar holders and depositors, and that the banks are now insolvent due to their investment in long-dated US treasuries and other bonds in response to the Fed's guidance. He states that the printed money from 2020 has caused the normal flow of loans to break, and instead, the banks put enormous amounts of cash into bonds. Srinivasan advises people to buy Bitcoin, move their coins off exchanges, and go to a crypto-friendly jurisdiction inside the US or outside the US, like El Salvador or Singapore. [33]

"all the printed money from 2020 sloshed around the economy and it cut off the normal flow of normal loans"

In the video he also claims that he is acting as Paul Revere, warning the whole world that "THE PRINTING IS COMING", which he reiterated in a tweet on March 21st, 2023. [33][34]

Investment

Balaji is an early investor in many successful tech companies and crypto protocols, including , Ava Labs, , Cameo, , Clubhouse, Dapper Labs, Deel, EPNS, , Instadapp, Lambda School, Mighty, , OnDeck, , Replit, Republic, Roam Research, , Soylent, Superhuman, Synthesis, XMTP, and .

Balaji's latest investment was Seed Round in Magna on Sep 15, 2022, when Magna raised $15.2M. [9]

The Network State

On July 4th, 2022, Balaji Srinivasan published his own book titled "The Network State: How to Start a New Country". In the book, Srinivasan discusses his ideas on how like-minded individuals can form new societies by building communities on the internet and eventually coalescing in real life, powered by cryptocurrencies. He proposes a concept of going "cloud first, land last" by starting with an online community and eventually materializing it into the physical world, creating discontinuous outposts stitched together into a "network archipelago" using mixed reality. The book has sparked conversations and gained significant popularity, ranking highly in several categories on Amazon's bestsellers list. [18][19]

The book proposes a new form of governance. In the book, Srinivasan argues that the world needs an entire nation of tech-oriented individuals, whom he calls "subscriber-citizens." He claims that these people will connect over the internet, accumulate real-world assets, pool their land and eventually bargain for recognition as a discontiguous sovereign nation. This group will form the world's first "Network State," which Srinivasan believes will be the sequel to the nation-state. [18][20]

While some powerful figures in tech have endorsed Srinivasan's book, it has also received criticism. Critics have stated that the book suffers from a technologist's blind spots, such as reducing religions to utilitarian organizing principles that can be swapped wholesale for cryptography and oversimplifying the distinction between people who focus on what is true, and those who care about what is popular. [18][20]

The Network State Podcast

The Network State Podcast is a podcast that focuses on network states and various topics related to them, such as cryptocurrency, politics, and other real world problems. The podcast aims to feature conversations with interesting guests, including tech people, policy people, and others, with a focus on injecting levity into the proceedings. [36]

Episode 1: Vitalik Buterin

On February 8th, 2023, The Network State Podcast's first episode aired, featuring the founder of the Foundation, . The first half of the podcast was Ethereum centered, with Vitalik briefly talking about the history of Ethereum; the DAO hack, where around 14 percent all of ETH at the time was in the DAO; and the Devcon 2 attack, where a bug in the Ethereum implementations was being exploited. Vitalik talks about the crisis right before Devcon 2 where he had to get up at 5:15 am to try fix the bug as fast as possible, describing the chaos that takes place during an emergency. [35]

"5 15 a.m uh Shanghai time on September the 19th when I was staying in the hotel where the Devcon 2 was literally about to start in three hours and 45 minutes, I got this military style wake-up call but just woken up by a call, I picked it up and someone from the Ethereum Foundation had said 'hey you know we have a situation you need to come down now'. So I pretty much stood up grabbed my computer and put my get computer in my computer bag I walked out of the hotel room an elevator down walked over to this room where I was supposed to go and I saw about you know 20 Ethereum developers gathered in a room and at that time they were still trying to figure out what was going on" - Vitalik Buterin

They then moved on to talk about the recent merge, where Balaji expressed his initial concerns on "switching over the whole consensus".

"everything that isn't tested is usually where bugs arise"

Both Balaji and Vitalik were surprised and impressed that the merge went so smooth and Vitalik brought up that "some people were describing as changing the engine of a jet while the jet was still flying". After discussions on the merge, they moved on to talking about Ethereum's roadmap and the potential future of Ethereum and what may come after that. [35]

They then move on to a broader discussion of network states, including what they are, how they can be formed, and what their potential benefits and drawbacks are. They discuss the potential for new countries to be formed as network states and how technology can play a role in enabling this. The conversation also touches on a variety of other topics, including cryptocurrency, biotechnology, drones, nuclear power, and the policies needed to support these technologies. And the podcast ends with the two discussing personal growth and development advice, with Vitalik sharing his own experiences learning Chinese and offering tips for others who want to improve themselves. [35]

Episode 2: Tobi Lütke & Kaz Nejatian

On February 15th, 2023, The Network State Podcast released their second episode that featured Tobi Lütke, the founder and CEO of Shopify; and Kaz Nejatian, the COO of Shopify. They begin the podcast by discussing the size of Shopify and its internal economy, with Tobi saying that depending on how one approaches the method of calculation, Shopify's economy is similar to a small country. [37]

"Shopify is internal economy is actually on the scale of a small country on par with Greece or New Zealand depending on how you calculate."

Later on in the video, Tobi and Kaz also discuss the strategies behind the success of Shopify. They explain that one of the main ways of scaling a business with multiple merchants like Shopify was through incentivization. [37]

"creating incentives for people to harness people's enlightened self-interest for the betterment of the entire community." - Tobi Lütke

Towards the end of the podcast, they talk discuss how Shopify could be used as a dashboard for the global economy and Balaji also starts conversations about balancing centralization and decentralization and how it may affect Shopify. A the very end, they dive into what kind of small country Tobi and Kaz would build if they had the opportunity, and also explores the idea of Shopify building a new kind of Hanseatic League. [37]

"it's a voluntary system for merchants they can decide for themselves if it's good for them or not so it's become a very um I think it's actually allows us to aggregate their wishes in a way that is totally voluntary and opt-in rather than like this like weird thing that happens where which like you must take this closed thing or not, it's a new Hanseatic League"

Episode 3: President of Palau & William Wang

On February 25th, 2023, The Network State Podcast's third episode was uploaded, featuring the president of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr; and the founder of rns.id, William Wang. The podcast starts with the president giving a brief overview of The Republic of Palau and goes on to explain how the use of and is rooted in the history of their traditional currency. The President explains that the value of their traditional currency, which was in the form of large limestone discs, was based on the effort it took to mine and transport them. However, Palau recognized that the large size of the discs made them difficult to transport and decided to innovate by creating smaller currency in the form of beads and the recorded history of these transactions was their version of a blockchain. The President also talks about his background and how he was a former executive and used his background in tech to get into presidency, as well as his parents' background. [38]

"they would carve them out and then they could put them on you know these big discs some very big some small uh but the value had to do with how many lives how much effort went into making them and then transport them back and some of these discs are eight feet in diameter"

"that value, a lot of it had to do with what funeral took care of what house it bought what canoe had bought and so that recorded history was also our blockchain"

The podcast then shifts focus onto rns.id and William Wang explains what it is and how it is being used. William explains that RNS.ID is a digital identity program that improves the diversity of its economy without mass immigration. RNS.ID offers both physical and digital IDs on-chain, providing enhanced security and reliability. He also explains that it can be used for various purposes such as residency, voting, and financial transactions and that Palau uses this program to improve the diversity of its economy without having to follow the Singapore model of bringing millions of people to the island. [38]

They then talk more about Palau's diplomatic relations as well as policies within the country and the podcasts ends with the president explaining how Palau became a sovereign country. [38]

"what kind of set us apart so we have different languages it was hard but the US said no you should just all be lumped together one one country and but you know we're glad that they recognize that we our sovereignty and we're able to be on our own"

Awards

Balaji won the Wall Street Journal Innovation Award for Medicine and was named to the MIT TR35.
In 2018, Fortune ranked him 26th on its "The Ledger 40 Under 40" list. [7][8]

Personal Life

On December 6, 2015, Balaji Srinivasan married Boonsri Dickinson Srinivasan, an independent filmmaker, digital artist, and journalist, in San Francisco, California. [5]

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Balaji Srinivasan

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Edited On

April 11, 2023

Reason for edit:

correction

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