The ‘SlumDoge Millionaire’ made it big with crypto. His fortune is now vanishing but he’s all in

“What’s going on guys? Pro the Doge here, A.K.A. SlumDoge Millionaire,” Glauber Contessoto declares to his hundreds of thousands of followers online.

Mr Contessoto has the kind of rags to riches tale that has drawn many people to cryptocurrency. 

“It took me two months to become a millionaire.”

According to his own account, Mr Contessoto grew up poor in a family that emigrated to the United States from Brazil and was determined to make money.

He dabbled in the music business, dabbled in the stock market, and then, last year, turned to cryptocurrency — specifically Dogecoin, a digital currency based on an image of a Shibu Inu, a Japanese hunting dog, a popular internet meme.

Dogecoin initially started as a joke based on a popular meme featuring a Shiba Inu.(Supplied)

“It made sense to me to invest in Dogecoin because it’s the very first time you have a meme and a cryptocurrency paired together,” he said.

“I call it the language of the millennials, memes. We send memes to each other all the time, it’s just the way that we communicate, and Generation Z.”

“So, I figured, okay, this is going to be the next play,” he said. “People are going to start investing in Dogecoin and it’s going to take off.

Glauber Contessoto sits on a car
Glauber Contessoto has become known as the ‘Dogecoin Millionaire’ to his fans. (Supplied: Rodrigo Ramos)

“Obviously, it helped that Elon Musk was also a fan of Dogecoin.”

Mr Contessoto initially backed his hunch about Dogecoin with a small investment.

Then he decided to sell his shares and go all in, as Musk – head of Tesla and Space X, the world’s richest man – got behind the cryptocurrency.

“[Musk] tweeted back-to-back… like on a rant where he’s saying, “Dogecoin is the future, Dogecoin is the people’s crypto. Everyone can own Dogecoin, it’s cents on a dollar,” Mr Contessoto recalled.

“And he posted a picture of a rocket to the moon, Dogecoin to the moon.”

A close up of Elon Musk's face. He is unsmiling and appears to be concentrating on a person off-camera.
SpaceX owner and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has backed Dogecoin repeatedly.(Reuters: Mike Blake)

As Musk ramped it up, that’s where Dogecoin headed; Mr Contessoto’s gamble paid off.

That’s when he announced that he had become a Dogecoin millionaire.

When Four Corners caught up with him, he was making a video promoting “Doge-apalooza”, a festival dedicated to Dogecoin.

“Sugarland Texas, if you guys hold Dogecoin, if you love Dogecoin come out and celebrate with us, we’re going to have live music!”

Glauber Contessoto at his computer
Glauber Contessoto has hundreds of thousands of followers online.(ABC Four Corners: Mat Marsic)

The irony of all this is that Dogecoin was meant to be a joke.

A young Australian tech marketer, Jackson Palmer, co-founded it to mock and satirise the hype about crypto. “We thought it would last maybe three days,” he said in a 2014 interview.

But somehow the punchline got lost.

Dogecoin is now among the top dozen cryptocurrencies, sitting alongside so-called “blue chip” cryptos such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

At its highest point, the value of the joke crypto hit $US89 billion (124.7 billion) – an astonishing figure, given that Dogecoin has little real-world function beyond speculation.

Fad, fraud or the future?

Some say cryptocurrency is the future of money, and the technology it’s built on is destined to revolutionise the internet and the society.

Others see it as one big fraud.

Whatever the truth, it’s impossible to escape the hype.

From Formula One to football, there is hardly a sporting code these days that’s not sponsored by the cryptocurrency industry.

At the Superbowl, the championship playoff of America’s National Football League, hyper-expensive television advertising slots were taken up by rival cryptocurrency exchanges using celebrities to encourage people to dive in.

“Fortune favours the brave,” actor Matt Damon opined.

Larry David, co-creator of the sitcom Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, portrayed a hapless doubter while the ad warned “Don’t be like Larry”.

John Reed Stark
John Reed Stark believes that crypto is “one big Ponzi scheme”.

That kind of advertising disturbs John Reed Stark, a lawyer in Washington DC who has spent most of his career at the intersection of law and technology.

He worked for decades in law enforcement with the principal markets’ regulator in the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission, specialising in online violations of law, and serving as the inaugural head of its office of internet enforcement, a position he held for 11 years.

At the time, he considered himself a “technology evangelist” — but he now proselytises against cryptocurrency.

“I believe it’s one big Ponzi scheme,” he told Four Corners.

“That’s how I feel about cryptocurrency.

“It has no underlying intrinsic value. And the main reason that people invest in cryptocurrency is because they believe that there’s a greater fool out there.

“It’s something at the SEC we used to call the Greater Fool Theory — that you believe there’s a greater fool out there who will pay more, whatever the cryptocurrency might be.”

Posted , updated 

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