Rarestone Founder Charles Read Talks Crypto Fundraising & Charity

Not yet 30 years old, the Englishman has helped turn crypto-centric VC fund Rarestone Capital into one of the industry’s true bellwethers.

(Charles Read)

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On the face of it, Charles Read leads a charmed life. Not yet 30 years old, the Englishman has helped turn crypto-centric VC fund Rarestone Capital into one of the industry’s true bellwethers; he’s happily married with three young children; and he divides his time between home (UK), Portugal and Dubai. Beneath the projection of prosperity and ease, however, there lurks an altogether more complex figure.

Abandoned by his father at the age of 5, Read grew up quickly, freighted with the responsibility of helping his mother raise his kid brother Harry. It was an exigent experience that left him with a definite chip on a shoulder, but a desire, too, to help others in the same situation. In the often cutthroat world of crypto trading and investing, Read is eager to pay his success forward.

The Rise Of Rarestone

While Read maintains a relatively low profile, the company he co-founded with longtime friend Camron Miraftab in 2020 has been one of the most active in web3, financing close to 100 projects and expanding to a team of 12 in 2021.

Over the last 18 months Rarestone has garnered a reputation as a shrewd investor, having cut cheques for a slew of well-known crypto startups. Successes include cross-chain protocol Qredo—recently valued at $460 million—and Spectral Finance, a protocol for assessing creditworthiness, recently valued around $250 million. Of late, Rarestone’s investments have increasingly been made in the booming gamified finance sector, with play-to-earn and metaverse projects accounting for an ever-larger slice of the portfolio.

When quizzed on his investing philosophy, Read makes the process sound rather simple: “Knowing emerging market trends early is really all there is to it,” he says. “Identifying market gaps and demand patterns, then making early bets. We had it last cycle with DeFi, when it was highly profitable just to use a protocol due to the likelihood of receiving an airdrop at some point, though the product market fit matured over time. At a certain stage, there’s an opportunity cost to ignoring a trend—the same thing happened with play-to-earn, kicked off largely by Axie Infinity and the whole guild angle with Yield Guild.”

Having grown up playing immersive games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy, Read is fascinated by the evolution of blockchain-based releases, the sort that give players the chance to interact, earn and play on an entirely different scale. However, he believes play-to-earn is something of a fad: “Not every game needs to pay people to play it. Games cost money and we play them mainly because they’re enjoyable and entertaining.

“It’s very apparent that nobody has figured out the play-to-earn model yet, but I expect it comes in the form of a similar system to points schemes in existing Triple A games that have free-to-play and premium skin models; where you can eventually convert your earned tokens or points into real money.”

Paying It Forward

Aside from financing the next wave of innovative web3 projects, Read’s passion lies in philanthropy. “I tend to look back at my roots when it comes to charity,” he explains. “If it wasn’t for some people taking a chance on me when I was younger, I could’ve had a very different life. Some of my teachers at school and college were really important in my development, and I’m thankful for their patience and support when I was at key stages in my life.”

One such stage was during Read’s stint at Aylesbury College, an institution to which he now regularly donates. “I support the college’s action programs to help with things like knife crime, which continues to be a big, dirty problem throughout the UK,” says Read.

“Five people were stabbed in the town square I grew up in this year alone, mostly involving teenagers. I want to do what I can to assist young, smart people to stay on the right path. I also donate to a charity for single-parent families, which comes from wishing my mum had more support when she was raising us. She had to work so incredibly hard just to keep food in the fridge.”

Read is not the only successful figure in crypto to support worthy causes. Because the IRS classifies digital-asset donations as property—meaning they are tax-deductible and immune to capital gains tax—we have seen hundreds of millions of dollars flow into the accounts of charitable organisations over recent years. Indeed, the Ukrainian government has raised over $60m since the Russian invasion, with funds subsequently spent on items like bulletproof vests, medical kits and humanitarian aid.

“The dire situation in Ukraine is something I feel a deep sadness over; it’s great to see the crypto community rally around. Above all though, I think charity starts at home. People are struggling—my friends and family included—and things don’t look too bright for the next few years, so I try to help where I can. It’s a lot of responsibility and sometimes I feel ashamed that I have it ‘easy,’ so to speak, as others struggle. I suppose that just makes you more determined to give back.”

The donations that have flooded into Ukraine may hint at a future in which blockchain becomes a favored fundraising method. After all, the benefits are self-evident: transparent fund tracking, low processing fees and an apolitical, censorship-resistant blockchain. Because distributed ledgers are borderless, they also let NGOs accept donations from around the world, and without having to contend with exchange fees or banking delays.

Read, for his part, is hopeful: “I think a growing number of charities will start to accept crypto and set up wallets; the concern, of course, is the source of funds sometimes. We saw Ukraine raise millions of dollars very quickly just by establishing some deposit wallets. As the infrastructure matures and more social components are layered on-chain, you’ll be able to see exactly who is doing what and where the money is going—when it’s necessary, at least.”

While cryptocurrency prices have tumbled since global markets entered a slump, web3 startups continue to attract significant VC investment. Rarestone and Read, in any case, show no signs of slowing down. Good news for the crypto startups that need funding; and good news for the charities that offer those in need a lifeline.