June 26, 2022

Yes, Crypto Is Crashing Again. Blockchain Will Survive.

As Terra Luna’s death spiral accelerated, its supporters, known as “Lunatics,” lurched between terror and hope as Mr. Kwon shoveled more than $1 billion in Bitcoin into the system in an attempt to restore stability. “Deploying more capital — steady lads,” he tweeted.

But ultimately, there wasn’t enough cash coming in to make up for outflow, just as in an ordinary bank run, and this particular experiment in replacing trust with mathematics was at an end. Among the many thousands of failed crypto experiments, Terra Luna stands out as one of the largest, taking with it roughly $60 billion in total market value.

The vociferous opponents of crypto have been quick to celebrate the death of the blockchain, insisting that all crypto is fraudulent. These critics are a mirror image of the equally unrealistic cheerleaders at the opposite end of the spectrum: the pro-crypto libertarians clamoring for a financial world with no regulations whatsoever.

Responsible players in the crypto market have been calling for and helping to develop sensible regulatory frameworks for many years. A bedrock of crypto regulations already exists; in the United States, federal agencies such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission started weighing in on separate aspects of trade and taxation in 2013. In October, the Department of Justice announced the formation of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. The list of crypto scammers who have gone to jail already far surpasses the number of bankers jailed in the United States for their role in the 2008 financial crisis.

In the early days of the internet, the circus atmosphere made it easy to ignore the dangers that were brewing — surveillance capitalism and illegal government snooping among them — and that would have grave global consequences. In time, regulations were put in place: privacy frameworks, like some provisions of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in the United States and the 2016 General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, and speech protections like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

At the same time, the marvels of the internet multiplied, magic that by now seems unremarkable: a map of the world, street by street, in your pocket; instant translations from almost any language; a look-up service for every branch of knowledge; global, near-instantaneous news. Today’s internet is deeply woven into the world’s economies, media, politics, industry and social life, in good ways and bad.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/opinion/crypto-terra-luna-blockchain.html

New York’s Weed Rush Is Here. They Came to Cash In.

One evening, about a month later, I met C. in Midtown at a residential four-floor walk-up built in 1910. There was a free-standing A.T.M. out front and a banner for a members-only cannabis club. The building itself is home to two cannabis businesses — the club on the ground floor, run by a legacy operator who has been selling cannabis illegally for 15 years, and a “grow house” upstairs. The grow house is where C. gets their cannabis. “My main goal is to have nothing but the New York product,” he said; he wants to support the local industry, from seed to smoke, with cultivators, pickers and rollers from the city, in part because he doesn’t think that users elsewhere around the country appreciate the history of black-market grows in New York. The Sour Diesel strain, for example, is thought to have originated in New York. When it reached Miami, when C. was a teenager, it was the only kind of cannabis he smoked. “I have huge respect for New York growers and huge respect for the game out here. And it’s really an honor to be a part of all this.” Though he wasn’t sure how many places like the Midtown grow house existed in the city, he guessed the number could be in the hundreds. “Just in Chinatown alone, that’s where most of the country gets the old-school Bubba,” he said. “The black market and the underground stretches beyond anybody’s imagination.”

This particular grow house occupied the living rooms of two one-bedroom apartments. Danny (who goes by Danny Lyfe) set up the operation two years ago. He showed me the 26 plants in the back apartment, which he expected to produce 12 pounds of cannabis every 10 weeks. Each plant, about three feet tall, had its own pot, with a masking-tape label that identified its strain — Cherry Lime Runt or Joker’s Candy, for instance — and phenotype. Danny was reluctant to show me the plants in the front apartment because they weren’t doing that well: The employee who had been tending them mistakenly pruned them back too far. While C. and Danny shared a pre-roll, they were deep in conversation about the benefits of each strain and the preferred temperature (75 to 80 degrees), relative humidity (high 50s, low 60s, in the flowering stage) and light for the plants, the last two variables of which Danny controls remotely on his phone.

The grow house is only one part of Danny’s business. He owns a farm in Oregon, where he is licensed to grow medicinal cannabis, and a streetwear shop in Staten Island, where he lives. When I asked Danny and C. how they met, they both laughed. They couldn’t remember at first but then traced their connection back to a cannabis connoisseur who posted about Danny’s events on Instagram.

Danny told me his latest goal is to address a countrywide void: quality pre-rolls. “Pre-rolls are tainted in the nationwide market because most people use their garbage material — their endings, their trim,” he said. He wanted to produce 1,400 pre-rolls a day to sell wholesale for $5 each. He had just spent an entire shift that day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., working with his employees to, as he put it, “roll cannolis.” The plants, all female, would eventually be trimmed and harvested in July.

As Danny locked up the apartment, he whispered to the plants, “See you later, love you girls.” Because he is deeply invested in weed — he is 33 but has spent 18 years in the industry so far — he is eager for everything to be officially legal. “I can’t wait for my outpost to open, that’s going to be lit,” he said. Danny doesn’t mind talking about his business publicly. He is already involved in several groups applying for licenses to grow and sell cannabis, and he is confident about his prospects. One project will be headquartered in a former bank in White Plains, a nearby suburb. At one point he found himself with the White Plains mayor. “I’m Puerto Rican from New York City sitting at the mayor’s office, and I’m pushing weed,” Danny told me, describing their meeting. The mayor asked Danny what his role was in the company. Danny said he told him about his industry expertise and added, “I’m the one who checks off every box as far as social equity.”

S. and C. hope to get their own license next year, but the process has been slow (and will probably be expensive, they worry). “We’re trying to build a membership and really just go about it the best way we can without stepping on anybody’s toes,” C. says. It’s a delicate balance, he notes, trying to respect the work of the activists who helped pass New York’s cannabis legislation while also taking advantage of the market it is creating. The issue of equity matters to them. “Cannabis has a deep, dark history,” he says, referring to the racial disparities in arrests for possession of cannabis in urban areas. He has seen it firsthand. “I come from Miami, so I get it. I want to make sure we do this a certain way.”

After Danny left, C. told me that he and S. were just getting by with what they were making from their New York venture. All the giveaways, the events, the rent, the employees, taxes — it adds up. Gross sales were high, but so were the costs of expanding their business. While their 4/20 party was a celebratory occasion, they had also just paid an extraordinary amount to the government. Their business may be operating in a legal gray area, but they are still subject to state and federal taxes, and they can’t claim any write-offs.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/01/magazine/new-york-cannabis-business.html

400 Years Ago, They Would Be Witches. Today, They Can Be Your Coach.

Coaches tend to focus on a client’s future rather than psychoanalyze the past. They stress a more holistic evaluation of the client’s life than a business consultant might offer. In theory, if they encounter a client with serious mental health problems, they refer the person to a medical professional, but the line between coaching and therapy is not always distinct, and the industry is essentially unregulated. Professional associations like the International Coaching Federation offer accreditation and oversight. But anyone can call herself a life coach and — following the model of yoga studios, which have long drawn significant income from certification courses for new instructors — offer a pricey training program to make you a life coach, too. (Life coaching is like any new, unregulated profession, with its share of peddlers of false promises.)

Over the past generation, life coaching has split into a dozen subdisciplines, almost all of them dominated by women. Women account for 75 percent of coach practitioners in North America, according to a 2019 study by the federation. One reason for the demographic imbalance, Ms. Mook speculated, is that early on, many coaches came from the worlds of counseling, nursing and other caring professions that also employ many women. And as gender disparities in pay and professional advancement persist in many fields, women let down by traditional support systems may find the sustenance they need in a coach. “This may be a way that women are finding support in their lives,” she said. Spiritual coaching seems to feature the starkest gender imbalance of any coaching field.

Typically, spiritual coaches offer a mix of one-on-one counseling and group coaching, as well as certification programs for aspiring coaches. “Some people say, ‘You’re just a coach that coaches coaches,’” Drea Guinto, who runs Soul Flow Co., based in Central California, told me. “My response is, maybe coaching is an emerging trade that is filling a true need in the population, and that is the reason why people are saying, I see there is profitability in this.” She offers a lifetime-access group coaching program for $3,333, aimed at, according to her website, “soul-preneurs” who are “ambitious” yet “also spiritual” and seeking to launch their own businesses. “I see my clients as healers of different modalities, and my premise is that the world needs more healing,” she said.

Spiritual coaches face an extra dose of mistrust because they base their claim to transform lives and careers not just on self-taught psychology and dubious certifications but also on supernatural beliefs and rituals that they swear have worked for them. Coaches I interviewed told me that trusting the universe can replace chemotherapy, that healing prayers drive away chronic bladder infections, that a professional clairvoyant can read a client’s future in the universe’s “nonphysical, vibrational library,” as a recent Goop article put it, of past lives and future events called the Akashic records.

How should a skeptic think about such claims? “It would surely be pedantic and overscrupulous for those who can get their savage and primitive philosophy of mental healing verified in such experimental ways as this, to give them up at a word of command for more scientific therapeutics,” wrote the pragmatist philosopher William James when he considered testimonies of healing through supernatural “mind cure” more than a century ago. “What are we to think of all this? Has science made too wide a claim?” Perhaps such experiences “show the universe to be a more many-sided affair than any sect, even the scientific sect, allows for.”

Attention to unseen forces in the universe — especially the divine feminine — is partly a means for these coaches to counter the machismo that dominates American entrepreneurial culture. Many spiritual coaches target female would-be entrepreneurs with spiritual business accelerator programs that promise to help you find fulfillment while you make money. “Part of it is strategy, but I come more from the point of view of consciousness — what wants to be birthed through me — versus a more capitalistic, masculine approach to business,” Ms. Guinto said. “Of course we love profit, but the point is unleashing that soul purpose.”

In American culture, entrepreneurship is the highest spiritual discipline. A successful start-up requires the self-abnegation that a monastic vocation used to demand: little sleep, coming to terms with your own failure and sacrificing bodily comforts in the service of a higher cause. The gig economy is an ersatz way to open this vocation to lesser souls, but it seems to fail many seekers. Spiritual coaches are responding to this failure. And in a culture where the feeling of truthiness is more important than scientifically verified facts, it’s natural to embrace a mishmash of spiritual healing practices that just feel right.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/03/opinion/spiritual-coaches-religion.html

A Road Trip Explores Pennsylvania’s Rye Whiskey

“Tis July’s immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today!” Melville wrote in 1851, in “Moby-Dick.” “Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old Monongahela!”

Now, after nearly a century in oblivion, Pennsylvania rye is finally making a return — rye whiskey is among the fastest-growing spirits categories in the country.

There is now a Whiskey Rebellion Trail, a consortium of distilleries and historic sites around the Mid-Atlantic. And this fall the spirits giant Beam Suntory will release an Old Monongahela version of Old Overholt, a storied Pennsylvania whiskey brand it acquired in 1987.

Old Overholt is named after Abraham Overholt, whose family founded the huge distillery at Broad Ford but got their start at a site called West Overton, 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. Today, at a museum complex called West Overton Village, Mr. Komlenic, the whiskey expert, is helping build out a display on the history of Pennsylvania whiskey.

West Overton Village is getting into the whiskey business as well: Last year Mr. Komlenic oversaw the release of a very small batch of Old Monongahela, distilled and aged in one of the museum’s buildings. It’s spicy, earthy and herbaceous — a flavor that reflects Pennsylvania’s long distilling past, and possibly its future as well.

Mountain Laurel Spirits 925 Canal Street, Bristol, Pa.; 215-781-8300; dadshatrye.com

New Liberty Distillery 1431 Cadwallader Street, Philadelphia; 267-928-4650; newlibertydistillery.com

Stoll Wolfe Distillery 35 North Cedar Street Rear, Lititz, Pa.; 717-799-4499; stollandwolfe.com

Mingo Creek Craft Distillers 68 West Maiden Street, Washington, Pa.; 724-503-4014; libertypolespirits.com

Wigle Whiskey 2401 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh; 412-224-2827; wiglewhiskey.com

West Overton Village 109 West Overton Road, Scottdale, Pa.; 724-887-7910; westovertonvillage.org

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/02/dining/drinks/rye-whiskey-pennsylvania.html

Missoula’s Most In-Demand Kitchen Is Run by Refugees

Ms. Abdul Aziz sought asylum in the United States in 2014, leaving her five children — including Sohil, her youngest, who was 12 — in Afghanistan. In early March, Sohil was granted entry under a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program that reunifies families of refugees and asylum seekers. After eight years apart, mother and son embraced in a long hug at the Missoula Montana Airport. United We Eat shared the news in a subsequent newsletter, an effort to deepen customers’ familiarity with Ms. Abdul Aziz and her family.

Most customers recognize familiar chefs’ faces and look forward to specific cuisines. Their sole complaint: The meals sell out too quickly.

Jim Streeter, 72, a retired accounting and finance professional in Missoula, waits at his home computer for the Thursday morning emails. One week in February, even that didn’t work. Mr. Streeter walked downstairs to relay the coming week’s menu to his wife, Sara, but by the time he returned to the computer, it had sold out.

Customers say the meals offer culinary diversity they can’t find elsewhere. The Census Bureau estimated Missoula County’s population to be 91.7 percent white in 2021. If not for the United We Eat program, there would be no place for Missoulians to order Congolese, Pakistani or Guinean food.

Tri Pham, 49, a high school counselor who has ordered from United We Eat nearly every week since last fall, says his wife and daughters look forward to the variety. Slips of paper included with each order explain the dishes, their ingredients and the chef’s background. The biography included with Mrs. AlMasri’s meal mentioned her arrival in Missoula during a record-setting cold snap, and described how eggplants for baba ghanouj are typically roasted over an open flame for a slightly smoky flavor.

“We like exposing our girls to it so they have a broader worldview,” Mr. Pham said, “that it’s not just hamburgers and French fries.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/dining/missoulas-kitchen-refugees.html

Fear and Loathing Return to Tech Start-Ups

But what’s different now is a collision of troubling economic forces combined with the sense that the start-up world’s frenzied behavior of the last few years is due for a reckoning. A decade-long run of low interest rates that enabled investors to take bigger risks on high-growth start-ups is over. The war in Ukraine is causing unpredictable macroeconomic ripples. Inflation seems unlikely to abate anytime soon. Even the big tech companies are faltering, with shares of Amazon and Netflix falling below their prepandemic levels.

“Of all the times we said it feels like a bubble, I do think this time is a little different,” said Albert Wenger, an investor at Union Square Ventures.

On social media, investors and founders have issued a steady drumbeat of dramatic warnings, comparing negative sentiment to that of the early 2000s dot-com crash and stressing that a pullback is “real.”

Even Bill Gurley, a Silicon Valley venture capital investor who got so tired of warning start-ups about bubbly behavior over the last decade that he gave up, has returned to form. “The ‘unlearning’ process could be painful, surprising and unsettling to many,” he wrote in April.

The uncertainty has caused some venture capital firms to pause deal making. D1 Capital Partners, which participated in roughly 70 start-up deals last year, told founders this year that it had stopped making new investments for six months. The firm said that any deals being announced had been struck before the moratorium, said two people with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Other venture firms have lowered the value of their holdings to match the falling stock market. Sheel Mohnot, an investor at Better Tomorrow Ventures, said his firm had recently reduced the valuations of seven start-ups it invested in out of 88, the most it had ever done in a quarter. The shift was stark compared with just a few months ago, when investors were begging founders to take more money and spend it to grow even faster.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/11/technology/tech-start-ups.html

‘Legacy’ Pot Dealers in New York Want to Go Legal. Can They?

In 2018, Mr. Cantillo started to notice designer pot strains, sold in stylized mylar bags, gaining a kind of cult status in California. “Cannabis culture is very similar to sneaker or streetwear culture, where a certain brand has a lot of clout,” Mr. Cantillo said. So he persuaded Mr. Bronson to buy supply from some of those brands, and he set up an Instagram page to market them. The products sold out immediately. That’s when they adopted the name Buddy’s Bodega, and the business has been growing ever since.

For Buddy’s, a major benefit of legalization is conducting normal business activities — contracting creative agencies, meeting with landlords, licensing specialized software — without hiding what they do.

However, it also comes with complications. States prefer to license businesses that can demonstrate they will succeed, but Buddy’s revenue is off the books, so without an official pardon from the government, it can’t actually show its earnings — or dedicate those earnings toward start-up costs — without raising eyebrows at the Internal Revenue Service. “There’s no statute of limitations on taxes,” said Jason Klimek, a tax lawyer specializing in cannabis at Barclay Damon.

Start-up money is also difficult to come by. Mr. Bronson, who was raised by a single mother, and Mr. Cantillo, whose parents are immigrants, do not have much financial padding to put toward the business. And since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, most banks won’t give them loans — or even offer them a bank account.

If the Buddy’s owners are granted a license, they will be responsible for filing inventory records, financial statements and corporate documents, like any other licensed business. They will probably need to keep comprehensive records of each plant’s path, from seed to sale. “It’s a whole new world of information you’ve got to navigate,” said Joe Rossi, who leads the cannabis practice at Park Strategies, a lobbying firm that is working pro bono to help Mr. Bronson and Mr. Cantillo apply for a license.

Businesspeople new to the cannabis industry most likely come in with a slew of advantages, including clean cash and clean records — not to mention experience with regulatory frameworks. They are, essentially, starting new companies, just as they would do in any other legal industry.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/11/nyregion/marijuana-legalization-nyc.html

Bolt Built $11 Billion Business With Inflated Metrics and Eager Investors

Still, Mr. Breslow has become something of a legend in the Valley, for his fund-raising prowess and his outspoken behavior. Last summer, he self-published a 58-page book on fund-raising, described on Amazon as an “essential playbook” for start-ups. “Fund-raising is purely a matter of momentum,” he wrote.

Jack Burlinson, an entrepreneur who attended Stanford, said Mr. Breslow counseled him on fund-raising and introduced him to investors. “The fact that I’m tangentially related to him in some way made it easy to raise money,” Mr. Burlinson said.

Mr. Breslow moved back to Florida during the pandemic, where he has been “hacking himself,” Mr. Traina, the early Bolt investor, said. Often photographed in yoga poses, Mr. Breslow — who Forbes reported plays a buffalo-skin drum before bed — told the magazine he wants nothing to do with the “elite circle” of billionaires.

Shortly after Bolt closed its January funding round, Mr. Breslow went on Twitter to accuse Stripe, Y Combinator and top investors of conspiring to lock entrepreneurs like him out of fund-raising. He said venture capitalists would express excitement at his “game-changing” product, only to “mysteriously” back away later.

Then, Mr. Breslow decided to step down as chief executive of Bolt, but remains its executive chairman. Maju Kuruvilla, the former chief operating officer, is now chief executive. Mr. Breslow has co-founded a new company in Miami to let people fund clinical trials, Ms. Neve said.

Some Bolt clients are still trying to figure out the company’s unique proposition.

Chip Overstreet, the chief executive of Spiceology, started using Bolt last year to process the payments at his Spokane, Wash.-based spice company. Mr. Overstreet said he was satisfied with the service but was surprised that he couldn’t process orders that are gifts. Bolt has told him it plans to have the feature available by June, he added.

“They just don’t seem to be very innovative,” Mr. Overstreet said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/10/business/bolt-start-up-ryan-breslow-investors.html

For Tens of Millions of Americans, the Good Times Are Right Now

“We are very fortunate right now given the situation for many others during the pandemic,” said Mr. McCauley, 36, who works for a data orchestration company. “Somehow we are doing even better financially, and it feels a bit awkward.”

Even for those doing well, the economy feels precarious. The University of Michigan’s venerable Index of Consumer Sentiment fell in March to the same levels as 1979, when the inflation rate was a painful 11 percent, before rising in April.

Politicians are mostly quiet about the boom.

“Republicans are not anxious to give President Biden credit for anything,” said Mr. Baker, the economist. “The Democrats could boast about how many people have gotten jobs, and the strong wage growth at the bottom, but they seem reluctant to do this, knowing that many people are being hit by inflation.”

The initial coronavirus outbreak ended the longest U.S. economic expansion in modern history after 128 months. A dramatic downturn began. The federal government stepped in, generously spreading cash around. Spending habits shifted as people stayed home. The recession ended after two months, and the boom resumed.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, recently warned that there were too many employers chasing too few workers, saying the labor market was “tight to an unhealthy level.” But for workers, it’s gratifying to have the upper hand in looking for a new position or career.

“Both my husband and I have been able to make job changes that have doubled our income from five years ago,” said Lindsay Bernhagen, 39, who lives in Stevens Point, Wis., and works for a start-up. “It feels like it has mostly been dumb luck.”

A decade ago, the housing market was in chaos. Between 2007 and 2015, more than seven million homes were lost to foreclosure, according to Black Knight. Some of these were speculative purchases or second homes, but many were primary residences. Egged on by lenders, people lived in houses they could not easily afford.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/10/business/economy-boom-times.html

How Elon Musk Winged It With Twitter, and Everything Else

Kimbal Musk and Mr. Gracias, who left Tesla’s board last year and serves as a SpaceX director, declined to comment for this article.

Today, Mr. Musk oversees or is associated with at least a dozen companies, including public ones, private ones and holding companies such as Wyoming Steel, which he uses to manage real estate. His net worth stands at about $250 billion.

As Mr. Musk established more companies, he collected associates he could deploy across many of the endeavors.

One was Mary Beth Brown, who was hired in 2002 to essentially be Mr. Musk’s executive assistant. Known as M.B., she soon became a kind of chief of staff, handling media requests and some financial matters for SpaceX and Tesla, as well as helping to manage Mr. Musk’s personal life, said Ashlee Vance, the author of “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.”

That same year, Mr. Musk hired Gwynne Shotwell as SpaceX’s seventh employee. As the rocket maker’s president and chief operating officer, Ms. Shotwell has overseen the company’s growth, becoming one of Mr. Musk’s longest-lasting employees.

At a conference in 2018, Ms. Shotwell explained how she managed Mr. Musk.

“When Elon says something, you have to pause and not immediately blurt out, ‘Well, that’s impossible,’ or, ‘There’s no way we’re going to do that. I don’t know how,’” she said. “So you zip it, and you think about it. And you find ways to get that done.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/03/technology/elon-musk-twitter-plan.html