EA, FTX, and SBF

One of the side-stories in the FTX saga is the fawning portrait of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) that Sequoia Capital published less than 2 months before the collapse of his financial empire. The part that has already raised eyebrows comes toward the end:

After my interview with SBF, I was convinced: I was talking to a future trillionaire. Whatever mojo he worked on the partners at Sequoia—who fell for him after one Zoom—had worked on me, too.

But to get the full flavor and to pick up the element that probably deserves more ex post consideration, read the initial paragraphs, including the one that starts:

It was his fellow Thetans who introduced SBF to EA …

This portrait is the only piece of writing I’ve ever encountered – outside of Scientology – that describes people, with no irony, as “Thetans.” The reference here is to members of his MIT fraternity. But still. Especially in the context its reverence for Effective Altruism. The author repeats the phrase seven times, then uses the EA acronym another 34 times:

Fortunately, SBF had a secret weapon: the EA community.

“All the employees, all the funding—everything was EA to start with.”

The portrait is gone from Sequoia’s website, but of course, still available at the Internet Archive. You can read it here.

The Chronology of the Portrait

  1. The portrait was published on the Sequoia website on Sept. 22, 2022. We now know that Bankman-Fried faced a dangerous cash squeeze and was desperate to raise additional funds for FTX. The portrait was presumably intended to reassure potential investors.

  2. Until Oct 27, at 18:08:47 GMT, the card linking to the SBF portrait was still on the Sequoia homepage. That day, Sequoia published a new article that pushed the card for the portrait below the fold (for anyone reading on a widescreen device):

  3. The card and link for the portrait were gone from the homepage on Nov. 09 at 19:19:14 GMT (11:19:14 PST):

  4. The link for the page with the portrait was still working on Nov. 10 at 08:05:31 GMT (00:05:51 PST):

  5. You can verify at this link that in all subsequent scans, the page with the portrait was gone because queries to its URL returned a 3xx redirect: