Puertopia, is what the crypto world they’re creating was initially called. Then someone finally realized the Latin translation of this term means, “eternal boy playground”. So they just call it, Sol.
A new world is about to emerge; a crypto utopia in Puerto Rico, where tons of people, including entrepreneurs and investors, are seriously planning to settle. Wealthy individuals who found success in blockchain and cryptocurrencies are heading to Puerto Rico this winter. These people live in the US, and have started selling their homes, cars and properties, so they can transfer to their Caribbean dwellings to avoid the state, and the federal taxes on their mounting wealth, which some have grown into billions of dollars.
These people have a bright vision for the future. With their immeasurable wealth, they are planning to create a crypto utopia built in a Puerto Rican city, where money is virtual and all contracts are available to everyone. Their aim is to show the world what a crypto utopia looks like – the future. The basis of cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, can change how society works. Puertopians are taking the initiative to prove that to the world.
Why Puerto Rico? We asked that same question, too. For more than a year, the entrepreneurs looked for the best location to establish their paradise. In September, establishments in Puerto Rico got devastated by Hurricane Maria. During the same time, cryptocurrencies began to soar. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in these events, and felt a sense of urgency.
In just a short time, the crypto community flocked into Puerto Rico, and started their mission. Since then, the entrepreneurs are looking for properties where they can build their own docks and airports. They bought hotels and a museum called, Old San Juan. The entrepreneurs said they are near to getting the Puerto Rican government allow them to have their first cryptocurrency bank.
“What’s happened here is a perfect storm,” said the founder of the news site CNET, Halsey Minor, who is moving to Puerto Rico this winter together with his new blockchain company called, Videocoin. Referring to Hurricane Maria and the projects that pursued, he added, “While it was really bad for the people of Puerto Rico, in the long term it’s a godsend if people look past that.”
The most enticing perk about the Puerto Rican land is its unparalleled tax incentives. The government offers no federal personal income taxes, it has no capital tax gains, and offers favorable business taxes; most especially, they don’t require renouncing your American citizenship. For now, the Puerto Rican government seems docile to the entrepreneurs’ plans. The governor will speak in the upcoming blockchain summit conference, called Puerto Crypto.
Giovanni Mendez, the go-to blockchain tax lawyer of Puerto Rico, expected the expats to decrease in number after Hurricane Maria, but instead it has grown larger.
“It’s increased monumentally,” said Mr. Mendez, who handles about two dozen crypto clients. “And they all came together.”
The flock of new entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico alarmed the earlier expats. One of them is hedge fund manager, Robb Rill, who handles a social group for those who are taking advantage of the tax incentives.
“They call me up saying they’re going to buy 250,000 acres so they can incorporate their own city, literally start a city in Puerto Rico to have their own crypto world,” said Mr. Rill, who had been on the island since 2013. “I can’t engage in that.”
The Puertopians haven’t yet decided on how the new utopia would look like. Some of them wants to build a city; others said it’s enough to move into Old San Juan, while a few want to move fast.
“You’ve never seen an industry catalyze a place like you’re going to see here,” Mr. Minor said.
Puertopian Base: The Monastery
The soon as the Puertopians landed, they settled on the Monastery, a 20,000-square-foot-hotel that they leased as their base. The Monastery was barely touched by the hurricane.
Matt Clemenson and Stephen Morris were drinking on the rooftop of the Monastery one Monday afternoon. They wanted to make one thing clear: they want to help Puerto Rico after the hurricane, and they come in peace.
“It’s only when everything’s been swept away that you can make a case for rebuilding from the ground up,” Mr. Morris, 53, said.
“We’re benevolent capitalists, building a benevolent economy,” said Mr. Clemenson, 34, a co-founder of Lottery.com, which is using the blockchain in lotteries. “Puerto Rico has been this hidden gem, this enchanted island that’s been consistently overlooked and mistreated. Maybe 500 years later we can make it right.”
More Puertopians went to the roof. Most of them just got back from a property hunting bus tour. One of the pack was the leader of the Puertopia movement, Brock Pierce, 37. Mr. Pierce and the others reached the island last December.
“Compassion, respect, financial transparency,” Mr. Pierce said when asked what led them here.
Mr. Pierce is a major figure in the crypto community. He’s the director of the Bitcoin Foundation, as well as the co-founder of Block.One, a blockchain-for-business start-up.
Block.One has sold more than $200 million EOS, a custom virtual currency in an initial coin offering. Now the value of EOS token has mounted to around $6.5 billion.
Mr. Pierce is a child actor. He began his crypto journey as a professional gamer, where he mines and trades gold in the video game, World of Warcraft. Mr. Pierce has a controversial history where he has been sued for fraud, among other matters.
“The U.S. doesn’t want us. It’s trying to choke off this economy,” Mr. Minor said, while lounging on an alcove chaise. He was referring to the tough challenges that crypto investors have dealt with the US banks. “There needs to be a place where people are free to invent.”
The entrepreneurs were chatting that day in the same room where Mr. Pierce paces with his hands in fists. Mr. Pierce frequently plays a video on his phone with portable speakers for the group. Several times a day, he puts on Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 “The Great Dictator.”
“I’m worried people are going to misinterpret our actions,” Mr. Pierce said. “That we’re just coming to Puerto Rico to dodge taxes.”
Mr. Pierce shared that he plans to create a charitable token, he calls, ONE using $1 billion of his own money. “If you take the MY out of money, you’re left with ONE,” Mr. Pierce said.
“He’s tuned in to a higher calling,” said scion of the Canadian clothing company Nygard and crypto investor, Kai Nygard. “He’s beyond money.”
Mr. Pierce’s personality and spirituality have a huge impact to the crypto community, whose large part is agnostic. Mr. Pierce regularly does rituals, just like when the group was looking for property, and they had stopped at a historic Ceiba tree, known as the Tree of Life.
“Brock nestled into the bosom of it and was there for 10 minutes,” Mr. Nygard said.
While everyone stopped at the tree, Mr. Pierce walked around it, and said prayers for the Puertopians while holding a rusted wrench he found somewhere. Mr. Pierce has also kissed an old man’s feet, blessed a crystal clear water, and played Chaplin’s speech to everyone and to the tree.
Later that day, the group had dinner in a nearby restaurant, where they debated whether to buy Puerto Rico’s Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. It’s a 9,000-acre property adjacent to the airport, and has two two deepwater ports. The catch: the place is a Superfund cleanup site.
The entrepreneurs, in fact, have started turning their vision into reality. They began with a big pink building in an old town square. It was once a children’s museum, but they plan on turning it into a crypto clubhouse and outreach center, which will serve as the link “to bring together Puerto Ricans with Puertopians.”
Crypto Land: The Vanderbilt
The Condado Vanderbilt is an old hotel that Puertopians are working on. Bryan Larkin, 39, and Reeve Collins, 42, are working on this property occasionally with their laptops on a pool bar with frozen piña coladas.
“We’re going to make this crypto land,” Mr. Larkin said.
Mr. Larkin, the chief technology officer of Blockchain Industries, has mined about $2 billion in Bitcoin. Mr. Collins, has mined over $20 million from an initial coin offering for BlockV, an app he created which tokens are worth about $125 million. Mr. Larkin, also an internet veteran, co-founded Tether which tokens are worth about $2.1 billion.
“So, no. No, I don’t want to pay taxes,” Mr. Collins said. “This is the first time in human history anyone other than kings or governments or gods can create their own money.”
Mr. Collins moved to Santa Monica with just a few bags, and now he has started a local cryptocurrency incubator called Vatom Factory.
“When Brock said, ‘We’re moving to Puerto Rico for the taxes and to create this new town,’ I said, ‘I’m in,’” Mr. Collins said. “Sight unseen.”
As soon as they got back to work, they checked Coinmarketcap.com, a site where anyone can see the price of cryptocurrencies.
“Our market cap’s gone up $100 million in a week,” Mr. Collins said.
“Congrats, man,” Mr. Larkin said.
Is this the start of the Puertopia?
Locals have different insights about the flock of these crypto expats. Some welcome the arrival of infusion and ideas.
“We’re open for crypto business,” said chief business development officer for the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, Erika Medina-Vecchini. During her interview at her office, she said they are creating an ad campaign that targets the crypto expat swell. They came up with a tagline, “Paradise Performs.”
While others are concerned about the island being used for experiments, and a probable “crypto colonialism.”
Richard Lopez, 32, owner of a pizza restaurant, Estella, in the town of Arecibo said at a house party in San Juan, “I think it’s great. Lure them in with taxes, and they’ll spend money.”
On the other hand, 33-year-old worker at Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, Andria Satz, who also grew up in San Juan, disagreed.
“We’re the tax playground for the rich,” she said. “We’re the test case for anyone who wants to experiment. Outsiders get tax exemptions, and locals can’t get permits.”
Mr. Lopez believes Puerto Rico needs something to kick-start its economy.
“We have to find a new way,” he said.
“Sure then, Bitcoin, why not,” Ms. Satz said.
Mr. Lopez and Rafael Perez, 31, his childhood friend are trying to setup a Bitcoin mine in their hometown. However, the electricity is a major obstacle in their goal due to its inconsistency. Mr. Lopez said, mining a single Bitcoin requires tons of power