has passed its way to the top. Then the market collapsed. Now what?


But the coin I ended up owning the most was the one from Cronos— Marszalek’s app guided me subtly but emphatically to betting offers from Cronos. To access’s higher Visa card reward tiers, I had to buy at least $400 of Cronos and then hold onto it for at least six months. It was a risky proposition: Cronos had traded between $0.09 and $0.90 in the 12 months prior to my purchase, and was down more than 50% from its post-launch high. Damon’s ad. But in return I received a brand name prepaid debit card.

For a $400 wager, will send you a “Ruby Steel” tier card, pay for your Spotify subscription each month, and reward you with cash back on all purchases. (Cashback is denominated in Cronos, of course.) For a $4,000 stake, will send you a “Jade Green” card, cover your Netflix subscription, pay interest on your stake, and increase your cashback. silver. For a $40,000 wager, will send you an “Icy White” card, and for a $400,000 wager, the company will send you an “Obsidian” card, each with increasing benefits. Bet enough money and at some point you might even meet Kris.

In addition to cards, the app has a gamification element, where users complete “missions” to earn “diamonds”, which can be exchanged for “mystery boxes”, which contain Cronos. also offers to trade small batches of other cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, for Cronos for free. I felt like the longer I used the app, the more likely I was to end up owning Cronos, perhaps even inadvertently.

Cronos is one of the top 20 most valuable cryptocurrencies by market cap, with a current total value of around $5 billion. Admittedly, there is more money stored in Dogecoin than Cronos, but given that over 18,000 cryptocurrencies have been launched since 2009, ranking in the top 20 is a commendable achievement. And even though Cronos is not the most used blockchain, seems to have the most used crypto-linked prepaid card. Visa recently announced that it processed over $2.5 billion in crypto card transactions in the first quarter of 2022. “I would say about $1.7 billion of that was our card,” spokesperson Matt David told me.

One of the good things about cryptocurrencies is that most of them use public ledgers, which allows nosy users like me to monitor even the biggest wallets. While using the Etherscan analytics platform in April, I saw a few single-signature wallets, each with over US$1 billion worth of Cronos hidden inside. I wondered if maybe one was Marszalek’s wallet, but when I asked him he wouldn’t tell me. When I asked him again, he still wouldn’t tell me. When I asked him, directly, how many Cronos he personally owned, he replied: “Just a few”.

Cronos has a controversial history and has gone through two brand changes. It started life as a Monaco token and attracted a small early user base. After Marszalek acquired the domain name, the company introduced a new token, called the coin, which traded under the ticker symbol CRO. For a time, sponsored the two currencies, but, after saying he would keep the two tokens separate, Marszalek eventually downgraded Monaco, effectively forcing outraged Monaco holders to swap their holdings for CRO. More recently, the coin was renamed Cronos, after Marszalek pulled it from the Ethereum network and ported it to his own blockchain.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

So, Cronos, like most cryptocurrencies, was advertised as “decentralized”, but for a time Marszalek acted as a central banker. Lacking expertise, I turned to Rich Sanders, the co-founder of CipherBlade, a blockchain analytics company. “There’s a common phrase in the industry: ‘Token not needed,'” Sanders said in an email. “I can tell you that CRO doesn’t need to exist.” ( maintained that there were over 700,000 CRO-connected blockchain addresses and over $4 billion of value locked in CRO as of April 2022.) Sanders also reiterated a common criticism of crypto exchanges in general. – that they were exploiting unsophisticated suckers like me. “Companies of this nature specifically target new investors,” he said. “They just know that a lot of people have gotten rich quick with cryptocurrency, and they want to do the same.” (“Our mission is cryptocurrency in every wallet,” David said in response. “To achieve this goal, we need to create a trusted and secure platform for everyone.”) Sanders’ biggest concern with, however, was aggressive interest rates. he offered on Accounts Receivable: “The only way these companies can offer these high rates is because they are doing a higher paying (albeit much riskier) activity.”


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