Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies have become increasingly hard to ignore. Case in point: It will be front-and-center at the upcoming lunch between legendary investor Warren Buffett and blockchain company founder, Justin Sun, for which Sun paid a record $4.6 million this year.
Each year, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) - Get Report chief Buffett auctions off a lunch with himself in an event that garners nearly as much attention as his company's annual shareholder meeting. Proceeds from the lunch go to support the Glide Foundation, which helps the homeless population in San Francisco. The $4.6 million paid by the 29-year-old Sun this year surpassed last year's record of $3.3 million bid by an anonymous winner (the first lunch with Buffett in 2000 went for a mere $25,000).
Sun, who founded the roughly$2 billion market cap cryptocurrency Tron and whom we profiled earlier this year, and Buffett couldn't have more different views on crypto. As recently as this year's Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, Buffett likened flagship cryptocurrency, bitcoin, to a seashell that "just sits there" and in the past Buffett has likened it to "rat poison squared."
In an interview with TheStreet, Justin Sun explained that he'll make his case for cryptocurrencies to Buffett at the lunch, whose date is as yet unscheduled.
TheStreet: Why meet with Buffett at all, given his skepticism towards cryptocurrency?
Justin Sun: I see this as a unique opportunity to help give not just Buffett but the world a better understanding of the potential for cryptocurrency and blockchain. The industry is relatively young, so it's pretty likely Buffett will not have had as much exposure to it as he has for, say, food and beverage.
TS: What role could Buffett play in cryptocurrency investment or adoption?
JS: He could play any role he wants, really. He could invest or endorse investment in the industry. He could be neutral about the industry or he could continue to be negative on it. I firmly believe that over time, when the use cases are there and as the industry matures, he will be more positive about blockchain.
TS: Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Apple (AAPL) - Get Report and JP Morgan (JPM) - Get Report , among others, seem to have turned the corner on their view of cryptocurrencies. Do you foresee Buffett making that turn, too?
JS: I think many companies have always seen the utility in blockchain. That's the big difference -- they see it in blockchain. They, and we in the industry, have also seen the scam side with cryptocurrency. There's that fear still today even with people in the community.
TS: What nugget about blockchain do you think Buffett is missing that you think might convert him?
JS: There's really no nugget. Like many new technologies, blockchain is about taking a leap of faith that what you're using it for will be successful. Once you get past that hurdle, you have to settle down to do the real work.
TS: How do you think an investor such as Buffett should value cryptocurrencies?
JS: It's probably more a question for Buffett. I personally would value it like all my other investments. Clearly, he has said he doesn't see how it fits right now into his long-term value investment strategy. But the more input you get to make informed investment decisions, the better the outcome.
TS: If there is one thing you'd want Buffett to ask you, what would that question be?
JS: Why [do you believe in] BitTorrent and TRON? I think BitTorrent with its 100 million active users is a major use case for blockchain. That question gives us the opportunity to really talk about blockchain initiatives instead of crypto scams.
TS: Who are you planning to bring with you to the lunch?
JS: We'll be announcing more on that in coming weeks. I mentioned that we want to bring other leaders in the blockchain community, but we'll also be looking at people who are big blockchain supporters and asking our community who they think we should invite.
TS: Why did you think that lunch with one person was worth $4.6 million?
JS: To be clear, the $4.57 million goes 100% to benefit the GLIDE Foundation, which is a San Francisco-based charity that helps the homeless and needy. As you might know, I'm a big voice for using some of the money I earn from crypto to give back to the needy around the world. I've worked with Binance Charity and given money for ALS. And I encourage others in the blockchain community to give to charity too.
Of course, we got a great benefit in giving this time by having lunch with Buffett, who sponsors the charity auction. So that's two big benefits for the price of one: we help the homeless and we help the blockchain community.
TS: How high were you willing to go?
JS: Let's just say it was a little nerve-wracking. I saw early on that the auction was entering record territory. And when I started bidding, previous bidders clearly wanted to win, too. It's an in-the-moment thing, so you don't know how high you'll go until the bidding ends.
TS: How did you raise the money for it -- or did you just sell some of you crypto?
JS: It's my personal money.
TS: I know from our last dinner together that you like steak. What are you planning to order at Smith & Wollensky?
JS: We actually haven't committed to having the lunch at Smith & Wollensky. The winner gets to pick the place and location in coordination with Mr. Buffett, so stay tuned there.
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The author holds stock in investment holding company, Leucadia (Jeffries), and remains a partner in an emerging-technology fund. He holds no positions in cryptocurrencies nor in any companies that invest in them.