Blockchain Investor Charles Read Talks Crypto, NFTs and Giving Back
As co-founder of web3 investment firm Rarestone Capital, Charles Read is intimately familiar with the unsettling nature of the crypto market: the euphoric highs and crippling lows that regularly produce both eulogies and obituaries. But the 28-year-old is the antithesis of the wired investor who burns the midnight oil while endlessly obsessing over candlestick trading. A father of three, the quiet Englishman says the secret to his success is keeping his head on straight and striving for balance.
“This industry is truly remarkable, the talent at work is on another level, but you can definitely get too caught up in it if you’re not careful. Like others in the room, I have an addictive/compulsive personality and I get carried away and overwork at times. But I make a point of decompressing. For me, the best way to do that is to travel – I find it hard to think about crypto when I have my music on and I’m moving around the world taking it in. Exercise is also great for disconnecting and de-stressing.”
Rarestone, which began life as an accelerator before evolving into a focused investment vehicle, has funded close to 100 projects since launching five years ago. Read started the company with long-time pal Camron Miraftab, former chief strategy officer at Korean blockchain startup Blocko, and most of their investments to date have been in DeFi, GameFi and NFT ventures. Read also sits on the advisory panel of several crypto startups such as Caduceus, a blockchain dedicated to metaverse development. But how did he get involved in crypto in the first place?
“Gaming was my first passion, so it’s been really cool to see blockchain games and tokenized digital goods emerge. My involvement in the industry obviously precedes the entire movement.
“Before I found my way into the space, I spent a lot of time in college bouncing around different subjects—medical science, art, photography, graphic design, English, sociology, psychology—but I never followed through with anything because I didn’t stay. in love with them. The last time I paid was as a headhunter, recruiting for defense and government organizations. I was reasonably good at it, but I wasn’t paid enough, in my humble opinion,” laughs Read.
Before Rarestone was formed, there were also assignments with the wallet company Zumo, as well as consulting for blockchain venture funds and high net worth investors. A Rarestone prototype in the form of Servamps then flourished during the 2018 crypto winter before Read and his partners decided to shut it down and go their separate ways. “Rarestone really boomed at the start of DeFi summer 2020 and we were exceptionally well positioned at that point.”
DeFi summer seems like a lifetime ago. But as frothy market conditions gave way to bearish sentiment amid the Terra crash, an energy crisis and creeping inflation, Read says those in it for the right reasons just put their heads down and kept working. “The pump-and-dump and spray-and-pray salespeople will always do their thing, some will have phenomenal success while others will crash and burn spectacularly, but I’m more interested in longevity. The skilled and driven teams who are constantly working to improve the industry and make it safer, stronger and more user-friendly. Those who build games to make money, cross-chain bridges, NFT platforms, wallets, academies, DAOs, data unions and decentralized identity solutions are my kind of people… If it’s not sustainable – if it doesn’t solve a genuine needs and move us further down the road – that does not interest me as an investor.”
A crypto-funding boom
The industry’s movers and shakers have had mixed fortunes during the latest downturn: financial services firm Galaxy Digital reported a Q2 net loss of $554.7 million, more than three times what it was in the same period last year. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Block Inc., meanwhile, saw YoY profits rise 29% in the same quarter. While some NFT and gaming initiatives have stalled, other projects have continued to rack up milestones, especially in raising capital.
A new report from Messari shows that the crypto sector has raised $30.3 billion so far this year, surpassing 2021 with several months to go. Rarestone’s own investments have remained steady despite the market downturn, and the company has backed around 10 devices so far this year, mostly in the web3 stack.
“One of the things I’m most interested in right now is the open metaverse, web sites instead of websites. The development of VR/AR will obviously accelerate this trend massively in the coming years, and more creative world builders will begin to offer unique base-layer interactive experiences provided by the likes of Somnium Space and Decentraland. NFTs will have applications in these massively multiplayer game worlds, as well as in real life.”
NFTs are one of Read’s passions, which should come as no surprise given the company’s track record. His personal collection includes 1/1 pieces of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, as well as a CryptoPunk that was recently redeemed for a Tiffany necklace and nearly 100 CryptoDickButts.
Read is particularly optimistic about the synergies between NFTs and the world of entertainment. Earlier this year, he bought a token dedicated to the late mother of pioneering hip-hop producer DJ Premier, resulting in the pair becoming friends. Read picks up the story: “DJ Premier worked closely with my friends at Animus, an artist collective home to the most talented artists I have ever had the pleasure of working with, many of whom are dear friends now. They built their first NFT compilation featuring original sounds created by Preemo and visual effects by Animus – true New York feelings and a multitude of artists came together to bring different elements together.
“Interestingly, the 1/1 piece from the collection was a tribute to Preemo’s late mother, and that was obviously very important to him. I grew up listening to Preemo and he has been a great inspiration to me as someone who never seemed to slow down. We threw a party for Bitcoin Miami 2021 and celebrated the decline by calling the event Golden Era Future, after his collection. Preemo came through and performed a set for it, which was really cool.”
As an avid gamer and art collector, Read clearly loves the direction the sector is moving in. But he is keen to emphasize that perspective on the industry is key – there is life outside the blockchain.
“There are a lot of investors out there who are like gamblers who refuse to walk away from the blackjack table. I think it’s important to sometimes divert your energy elsewhere. I try not to talk too much about charitable activities, but it’s important to me that young people are given the opportunity to build entrepreneurial spirit. Because of my own upbringing, children of single parents will always have my support, and of course I like to give to educational institutions that will train the next wave of technology builders.”
Whatever this crazy industry has in store, Read clearly has his head on a swivel – and his seat belt firmly fastened. “I’m incredibly excited about the future, not only seeing the web3 projects we’ve supported develop, but seeing blockchain technology disrupt industries like engineering and real estate. The next ten years will open a lot of eyes.”