The voice sounds groggy, like he just woke up. “Hello?”
It’s 1:30 p.m. where I’m calling from in Denver, but 3:30 a.m. in Hong Kong, at the crypto offices of Sam Bankman-Fried, or “SBF.” He’s already at his desk. He’s always at his desk.
“Did I wake you up?” I ask.
“No, I woke up a little before.”
SBF is a Wall Street trader-turned-crypto-trader-turned-CEO of FTX, a crypto derivatives exchange, which describes itself as “built by traders, for traders.” He’s always at his desk is not a figure of speech. SBF literally lives in the office, mainlining work, sometimes sleeping on a nearby bed, and sometimes sleeping under his desk. A recent photo on Twitter shows SBF slumped over two beanbag chairs, eyes shut, with the caption “A rare photo of @SBF_Alameda when he ‘goes home’ to sleep.”
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SBF is happy to chat at 3:30 a.m. Time doesn’t mean the same to him as it does the rest of us. The crypto markets are open 24/7, and therefore SBF is on call 24/7. “This time works,” he cheerily assures me. I can hear the clacking of SBF’s keyboard through our call, and I’m guessing this has something to do with the price of bitcoin plunging $1,000 in the past 48 hours. (Note: This was in early September, months before bitcoin’s gallop to $15K and well before it was revealed that SBF was the second-largest donor to the Joe Biden presidential campaign, trailing only Mike Bloomberg.) “It’s been pretty busy,” SBF calmly says. “But I mean, so many days have been busy at this point, that … you know.” It’s not his first rodeo.
When SBF worked on Wall Street, his eyes were glued to the screen from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. He acknowledges the non-stop cycle of crypto is “one of the exciting, but brutal, parts of the industry,” but considers it a necessary sacrifice. Sudden price movements could trigger opportunities, headaches or financial fires that must be snuffed.