Tracking Friedcat After His Missing in 2015
The story below is written by Liu Jing from AI Caijing. Full text translation may help you find some pieces of the puzzle. His last and only public presentation happened in 2014, when the Bitfountain company was baffled by exploding ASIC chips. He went missing in February 2015, which was first disclosed by a bitfountain shareholder on 8btc forum. There are many speculations from then on.
Three years after Friedcat(FC) missing, we visited his mining farm in Huai’an City (Anhui Province), attempting to solve the biggest mystery in the bitcoin circle. It is an empty factory, located in Huaian Economic Development Zone. Aside from car tracks and footprints, only three two-storey plants are standing silently, like three monsters.
Stories about Friedcat never ends. Judging from his resume, he looks like a genius in soap play. He was admitted to the teenage class of University of Technology and Science of China when he was 15 years old, ranking 11th in the whole country. After that his career seems to be taking off, he went to Yale for Ph.D. in Computer Systems.
Friedcat’s real name is Jiang Xinyu. His random and scarce public presentation was in line with his anarchist fashion. But in the cryptocurrency community, he is more than famous. He was honored as the early prophet, evangelist of bitcoin. In China, he was the first person who brought mining ASICs to the world.
During the high season, there was a waiting list for people who wants to meet him. If he were to continue his career in the crypto world, he would be the owner of unbelievable wealth, the master of legends. But the story ended abruptly on January 25 of that year.
In the year that FC went missing, Huai’an police cracked down a mafia gang. Huaian’s population density is slightly below the medium level in Jiangsu Province. Non-local businessmen joined together by regions and form a dozens of business alliance.
The food company that worked with FC was a family business from Fujian. The stage 1 mining farm of FC was located in the one of the company’s workshop, which was surrounded by dense clothing factory, machinery factory, packing plant. After FC disappeared, colleagues went to site for inquiry but eventually stopped at gate and failed to get in.
The mining farm has long gone but the final clues about FC ends here. Someone said that roasted came here alone from Shenzhen to negotiate and then disappeared. But no one even his closest friends knew nothing about the details of the negotiations. Others said that there was no negotiation at all and FC did not go to Huaian. No one knows which story is more accurate.
The only thing we know for sure is that on January 25, 2015 he disappeared. Physical disappearance.
From this year until 2018, the crypto community without FC has undergone dramatic ups and downs, the craziest adventure in human history. Speculators and adventurers gathered here, breathing air worthy of trillions. Bitcoin price have skyrocketed and plummeted twice. Fate of countless people was changed.
In Beijing, Silicon Valley, Tokyo, there is an increasing number of stories about a currency that is free from government control. The beginning of all this prosperity and destruction leads us to the first few people, who are a group of tech geeks who embrace the idea of anarchist.
In January 2018, we spent a month looking for Friedcat, trying to put together the puzzles of his missing.
Time is winter, a lake east of Huaian factory has been frozen with a wooden pavilion on top. To the west is a large empty plot. To thhe south is a row of bungalows.
Mining farm of Friedcat. Credit: AI Financial Liu Jing
This is the old bitcoin mining farm. From the outside, the walls of bungalows are mottled. Windows and the main entrance are covered by steel but with cracks. Unknown items scattered in the entrance. Now it is the power dispatch area. Peeping through the cracks in the door, we can see there were some transformer-like device.
This is not just a personal tragedy about one person’s disappearance. It is also the story of anarchist efforts to build a utopian world and its disillusionment, driven by a powerful “objectivist” mindset. In the end, this pure chase and thought-provoking adventure plunged into mud, contributing the carnival of 3-year speculators in the world.
About a week or so before FC disappears completely, Zhou Zhu (a pseudonym) saw him for the last time. It was a weekend. The noise of daily prosperity gradually dissipated and the lights of Shenzhen Coastal City was lit. They went to an usual store, where FC ordered beef noodles and dumplings. He looked no different and even asked Zhou for updates.
“There was no sign.”
But he still remembered something wrong. About a few months ago, he found some bizarre behavior of Friedcat. As a friend and colleague, Zhou has been knowing FC for many years and he understood his character. It was August 2014 that Zhou found a weibo released by Sun Xiaoxiao, operator of Haobtc’s own mining farm, which said that Friedcat was about to present in an offline meetup. Zhou knew Friedcat too well to know that FC would never show up in such offline meetup. He said:
“My first reaction is that this man is a liar.”
Friedcat delivering presentation. credit: internet
He called Sun with anger and asked:
“You are a liar, do you know you need to be responsible for such words? “
Finally, he turned to FC for confirmation and FC answered calmly:
“It’s true, no big deal.”
Feeling incredible, he wanted to read something out of the FC’s expression, but “no changes can be seen and his emotions are well-controlled in front of people.” Without notifying anyone, even his partners, FC took the initiative to contact Sun Xiaotiao in order to promote the new miners personally.
In August 2014, the summer in Shenzhen was hot and humid. In the Digital Technology Park of Nanshan District, red lanterns hang from the top of the lecture hall randomly and the coil of the microphone was wrapped around the floor. Friedcat, who had never made public presentations, was still wearing slippers, black shorts and light-colored T-shirts. Standing in front of a complicated chart, he tried to explain the relationship between electricity prices and the growth of difficulty.
That day, FC was somewhat unusual. He used to correct staff who wrote an exclamation mark. “It’s not right to express with emotions ”
In the end, he talked about the hardships of startup. Those who are familiar with him should know that he must have run into some trouble. Such unusal behavior is not in line with the FC’s idea. He was an anarchist and he always stayed behind the scene.
At that time, FC’s business was in the middle of major crisis. The new product has encountered a problem. FC realized that there were not alternative for marketing and promotion. He had to go public.
That was a tough time for him. According to a report, a veteran mine recalled that QQ group and WeChat group were dead silent. Only a few stick to the mining business.
“We used to have a meetup once in a month, now every six months and good-looking girls are gone.”
On March 3, 2015, Xie Jian, one of the largest shareholders of FC, formally issued a public statement on Weibo to explain the causes and consequences of the incident. He announced: On January 25, Friedcat completely vanished. At the end of the announcement, Xie Jian said,
“Everything is like dreams. My bitcoin career starts with Friedcat, and now seems to end eventually with Friedcat as well.”
FC’s impression is not realistic. At the end of 2013, Wang Ruixi first met FC at a tea house in Beijing. It was a private party for insiders. FC still dressed like a careless man, chatting with friends about how to be immortal and how to develop hand-held body weight meter. There was not much expression on his face.
“But he should feel good on that day,” said Wang Ruixi. “His talks more when he is in good mood.”
Wang Ruisi. Picture from the network
FC did not talk about bitcoin itself very much. FC once said that he wanted to fund a project to build a “Fu island” , which is located 12 nautical miles off the coast of the United States. It did not belong to any country and had no troops. With internet access and food supply, it is a free kingdom for anarchist.
This looks like a replica of the Proudhon trial, but it helps us to understand the mindset of FC. He clearly does not think there is a problem.
In his social account, it’s full of food, science fiction and anarchist faith. His taste of reading is good. A world of science and technology, war, robotics, outer space was structured in Asimov’s book. FC’s reading history indicates that he also a fans of Ann Land, which consolidate his belief in anarchism: absolute individualism, rational egoism and total freedom.
“In short, the woman shouts shout for life and freedom to her utmost, then destroys people who don’t love life and freedom. She eventually won. Idiots were driven home and become loser. And loser is loser.”
In the United States, Ann Land’s “objectivism” is favored by silicon elites as it is in line with the vision of technological ages. They do not understand, or are unwilling to know a more prudent ideat that country is a “necessary evil,” and the removal of this evil will wipe out everthing that we know. As Internet technology evolves, the Silicon Valley elites have gained a greater voice and are increasingly skeptical of the traditional view. They have a place to experiment. Apparently FC is the doer to unveil the curtain of the New World.
He knows that money is the key to challenging the existing international system.
For a man living in modern times, money is a flowing blood, and everything is valued by it. Whoever owns money has the power and have it all. When Satoshi Nakamoto stood up for the first time and said bitcoin “is not politically manipulated”. They all know that this is a real revolution.
“I used to be a moderate centrist and he made me a radical anarchist,”
Zhou said to me. FC scoffed at neutrality and he loved adventures. He said that when one believes in the truth and understands that truth can never compromise and tolerate lies, his neutrality is healed.
In 2011, Zhou and FC were visitting Yale. But they both dropped out of school without a Ph.D. That summer, he and FC first heard of Bitcoin and were obsessed with it. Zhou remembered that they had a hunch that it was a perfect substitute of gold. It didn’t rely on the government distribution and did not need to trust third-party agencies.
“A bunch of tramps who have left the government can rely on it to trade with each other.”
FC was completely captured by the idea. The next year in July, he posted a thread on bitcointalk with the nickname Friedcat, saying he could build ASIC miners and hope to raise 1 million yuan by crowdfunding. This was what the community had long been expecting.
While posting the thread, Friedcat registered Bitfountain Company in Shenzhen on July 18, 2012. After the successful IPO, FC divided the company’s shares into 400,000 shares and held 59% of the shares and the remaining 41% belongs to IPO investors. Shortly after crowdfunding, FC earned 200 million in three months.
During that time, “Avalon” designed by Ngzhang became the most powerful competitor of FC machine. Throughout 2012, total network hashrate doubled. The arms race for hashrate was kicked off by FC and Avalon. Chinese bitcoin “mining” business begins to take the center stage in the world.
One night after the New Year in 2013, Xie Jian wrote in his diary the following:
“I stand at the forefront of the world in this very humble place.”
According to a report, Xie Jian visited the FC’s mining farm as a shareholder in Shenzhen on that day. The plant in Shenzhen was located in Nanshan District. It hardly caught attention among garment factories and electronics factories. Noise from huge ventilation fan was like the heavy panting of a behemoth.
The contrast and excitement captured Xie Jian. Prior to this, Xie Jian has been a science fiction writer for 9 years. Xie Jian wrote about bitcoin in his online nove with the nickname “Crazy Xiaoqiang”. The fiction he wrote was titled “super brain hacker”. He invested more than 1000 bitcoin and bought 11,000 FC shares, which made him one of the board members of Bitfountain. After he finished the novel, he realized that he had become a multi-millionaire, just like his leading role in the novel.
Xie Jian’s feelings represent the madness and hassles of the 2013.
“Crazy Xiaoqiang” Xie Jian. Picture from Internet
2013 was regarded as the first year of bitcoin by many people. Bitcoin rose and rose throughout the year. Li Xiaolaid created bitfund and brought up a batch of future hotshots. The establishment of Bitkan and AICoin marked that bitcoin was born as an “industry”
Share of FC was considered the only asset that worthy of investment at that time. Li Xiaolai said that
“The reason is very simple, all other chip makers and managers are not as smart as FC.”
During that time, hashrate under FC’s control accounted for at one-third of the whole network for a long time. In April and May of 2013, the increase of FC hashrate caused the community to panic for 51% attack. FC had to point hashrate to other mining pools to calm down the community.
In July 2013, stock price of FC climbed to 5 BTC one share from its IPO price of 0.1, which meant that ICO investors had gained over 1000 times of return coupled with the rise of bitcoin against fiat. That’s when Li Xiaolai said “Buy FC stock as long as it’s below 7 BTC”. Lots of speculators followed the calling.
Wang Ruixi first heard of bitcoin in May 2013. He said: “I went to buy some on Taobao without hesitation. The price was about 500 yuan then.” Soon, he was obsessed with miner assembly and trading on exchanges. But 4 months later, the bubble burst, followed by the withering of the entire industry.
For bitcoin’s ups and downs, FC “has not been very excited.” Even when the company’s stock rose to 5 bitcoins per share, Zhou recalled:
“We all know that this is bubble. 400,000 shares times 5 means the market cap is 2 million bitcoins. A company accounted for 20% of the total market capitalization is obviously unreasonable”
More importantly, FC realized thatthat the company has fallen into some kind of crisis. It was only at that time that he could not foresee how the crisis will evolve, expand, and become irremediable as the entire industry collapses.
In October 2013, there was a bottleneck in the research and development of FC miner. Second-generation chips was lagging behind. Rivals such as Bitmain and Avalon miner had a strong momentum. To make matters worse, the third generation chip, which was successfully built in January 2014, had inherent problem of explosion. 14,000 pieces of chips were dead stock. The Tube miner was priced low with narrow margins. Previous loss could not be recovered.
But people who know FC found that he was still calm. During that time, he seemed to put his hopes entirely on the mining farm in Huaian. That’s FC’s first big data center. Zhou said the deployment was divided into two phases on an area of 2,000 square meters. 7000 to 8000 miners were planned and hashrate was expected to reach 5P.
In Zhou’s view, his cooperation with the local boss of Huai’an was a disaster. Both parties have encountered contradictions that are difficult to reconcile. On the one hand, the liaison person at that time did not have much voice in this family-owned business.
“They are in groups and are not very reliable and stable.”
On the other hand, FC’s partner signed a contract and then default. Both parties entered a stalemate.
The final outcome was frustrating. Huai’an project failed. FC’s company suffered 70-80 million loss. Wang Ruixi remembered that he met FC at a dinner party at the end of 14. FC tried to contact a mine located in Sweden through his domestic contacts.
However, Friedcat disappeared shortly after he had had dinner with Zhou Zu.
No one knows where he was going. Some suspect that he was killed. Others believe he’s just hide himself. A friend said he had depression and need drugs. All kinds of speculationwas flooded in bitcoin forum. Obviously, the anarchist Utopia he conceived has lost its support in reality.
Huaian is trying to erase all links to bitcoin. The head of the local propaganda department said that he never heard of Bitcoin
“We Huaian do not engage in things that the country do not encourage.”
We traveled along the Ning-Lian Highway to the southeast and the number of electric bicycles on the road increased. People went to work in the economic development zone, which is located in the eastern part of the urban area. Then they quietly disappeared in factories.
Wu Shunle (a pseudonym) is working in the food factory as a security guard. Sitting in the door of the security room, he was watching vehicle plates. When I asked about Bitcoin, he quickly put away his speech and went silent for a moment. He lowered his voice and said:
“In court, this is called confession by inducement.”
“I do not know the answer to this question.”
Wu Shunle is 68 years old speaks with well-trained tone. With his hands on his slightly protruding belly, he told us the experience that makes him proudest:
“My boss used a 5,000 gift card to test me, and I was unmoved. He trust me not?”
I found a phone number on the official website of the company. After getting through, the other party vaguely stated that the company had invested in bitcoin in 2014 and 2015. But in the face of my question, he hung up and stopped responding.
We got in touch with mother of Friedcat. Her first sentence is:
“Do you have contact with Jiang Xinyu?”
She still could not figure out the reason why her son disappeared. She was worried about something and stuck in the middle of searching for her son or not. But one thing is certain, she does not want to talk more about the incident.
For the staff of FC, all of the glorious and unbearable are gone with his disappearance
“At that time, no one came forward to take over.”
Zhou said he lost his intention when he was in dispute with FC’s partner on intellectual right of ASIC chips. The company soon collapsed.
Zhou seems to be vaguely aware that FC didn’t intend to operate the company in a long term.
“The entire company’s development model is very strange. Only 5% of the revenue is kept in the company’s account. The rest are distributed as dividends, This is not in line with the long-term development of a company. In addition, our company almost did not recruit people. “
In this regard, Wang Ruixin have his own understanding:
“The original intention of FC is to be a small geek company.”
But with the fierce market competition, FC had lost control of the original intention. From his public appearance, Wang Ruixi felt that FC were trying to make changes, although all of his friends could see that he was reluctant to do that.
“It was a purely technical geek era, and that era is over.”
Wang Ruixi connected the disappearance of FC to the passing away of Bitcoin’s early days.
However Zhou Zhu’s view is completely different. He thinks FC is an excellent CEO, but he lack management skills for the company’s internal affairs. He had not partner to work with him and had to deal with pressure all by himself. At that time, the management often disagreed with each other and they were confused.
“The failure of FC is just a personal tragedy.”
Zhou believes that the failure of FC can only prove that it is very difficult for a company to survive in a highly competitive market environment.
Today, Wang Ruixi turns to blockchain investment, Zhou Zhu works in another mining company. Xie Jian begin to explore integration of blockchain between online novels. Those early adopters have entered all business.
Starting in the second half of 2017, blockchain, Bitcoin’s underlying technology, has captured more attentions. One night at the end of the year, a blockchain themed private investment meetup was held in a cafe near Beijing International Trade FFC Building. The participants of the private meeting are all hot shots. Here the position is linked with wealth. With the words of a veteran in the community:
“The wealth in this industry is beyond the imagination of outsiders.”
Forbes released the richest list of cryptocurrency. FC, if not missing, would have a position on that list.
There is a saying about the earliest bitcoin adopter in China: bitcoin is a revolution and those who participate in the revolution has nothing. In real world, they are noboby and couch potato, but they are filled with the longing for utopia.
FC is such a person. His friend said he is good at food knowledge. In his social account, he posted about salad food like pumpkin rattan and purslane, and complex dishes like Indian curry, red wine, beef stew. He “like” all these contents.
“But his favorite is meat, and during our visit to the United States, we tried almost all steaks near the university.”
We could not find Friedcat. But we found another lead 12 days after his disappearance, his social media was active again on February 7, 2015, sharing a documentary ” America: Imagine the World Without Her”
The real Friedcat seems never exist in the world. Three months after FC’s disappearance, Xie Jian sent a message to Li Xiaolu on WeChat: “I have lost my passion after the incident” Li Xiao replied to him: “This is terrible. Hold on.” A classic mentor-type reply.
The world is theirs now.