The dizzy heights and plunging lows of the finance world have taken their toll on some of its star players over the last few months. One victim in the recent rash of ten deaths – all labeled suicides – was Autumn Radtke, 28, the American CEO of the finance firm, First Meta. Her company acts as an exchange for the Bitcoin digital currency. Radtke’s death is part of the tower of bad news piling up around the Bitcoin currency. The Japanese-based Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange crashed after the disappearance of $400 million and then there was the closing of Canada’s Flexcoin bank after hackers robbed it of $600,000.
There is no doubt that the mysterious world of Bitcoin is twisted around the story of Autumn Radtke’s death, but its exact role is very hard to untangle. Officials called the death “unnatural”, as Radtke was found dead on the roof of a ground-floor trash collection point at the base of her apartment building. Everyone agrees that Ms. Radtke’s death was a suicide but they disagree about whether or not the suicide was connected to the current tribulations of the Bitcoin.
According to Singapore News, one of Radtke’s associates, Wayne Soh (business development manager at a Singapore firm that invested $500,000 with the National Research Foundation in First Meta in 2012), said Ms Radtke seemed increasingly stressed about her firm’s business.
“We’ve always told her business is business and she shouldn’t take it personally,” he said. First Meta’s revenue grew 20 to 30 per cent from 2012 to last year, he added. “She was saying she missed home. She’s been in Singapore for the past two years.”
Another associate, Steve Beauregard, had lunch with Radtke the day before her death. Beauregard founded the Singapore Bitcoin payment platform GoCoin, used by First Meta. Beauregard said, “She was clearly stressed. She talked about… challenges with her business.”
What can’t be ignored or misconstrued is the fact that Bitcoin has suffered a number of setbacks in Asia, where Radtke both lived and did business. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced a short while ago that it will soon regulate brokers for virtual currencies such as Bitcoin to prevent them from being used for money laundering and terrorist financing. This makes Singapore only the second country to bring in such rules, after the US.
MAS deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee stated, “Consumers and businesses should take note of the broader risks that dealing in virtual currencies entails and should exercise the necessary caution.”
The Bitcoin, still really in its toddlerhood, is rife with controversy, misconceptions, and murky investment returns. Warren Buffett called Bitcoin a “mirage.” Even the identity of Bitcoin’s ‘father’ is shrouded in mystery and mistaken identity.
But it is a very persistent mirage. It does seem like it’s here to stay – at least in some form.
Google’s Bitcoin Wallet app is striding forward with barely a blip after all the current shaky news.
And the firm Robocoin is planning to debut its new Bitcoin ATM at an upcoming industry conference and then move it down the street to its permanent home. The company already has some Bitcoin ATMs in Canada, in Texas and has just shipped several overseas.
So was Autumn Radtke crumbling under the pressure of this unsteady virtual currency, not able to see it’s long term outcome? Maybe. On February 10, Radtke posted a link to an essay entitled ‘The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship’ and commented obliquely that ‘Everything has it’s price’.