24.05.2024

The story of a crypto influencer’s attempt to bend reality

In one of the weirder moments of my writing career, Carl “The Moon” Runefelt contacted me out of the blue seeking an “update to old information” in a May 2022 article. The article had touched on his involvement with the crypto payment platform Kasta, but Runefelt felt a pressing need a year later to get the copy changed to highlight the fact he was “not the co-founder of Kasta, only [an] investor.”

An unusual request after so long — especially considering he had already made extensive comments after reading a prepublication draft of the original article. He’d argued at one point that a mention in that article of “haters” who accused him of editing YouTube video titles in order to make past predictions appear accurate was “clearly unprofessional.” He suggested it was analogous to an article about SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s rockets including comments from flat-earthers.

“I gotta focus on what’s real, what’s correct,” Runefelt said.

Runefelt is a crypto influencer known for showing off a lifestyle of private jets, supercars and million-dollar watches while making faces in YouTube videos purporting to offer crypto insights and market analysis. A high-school dropout who worked as a cashier in Sweden just a few years ago, Runefelt preaches “the law of attraction,” which essentially posits that one can bend reality by believing hard enough in one’s desired version of it.

Kasta, now called Ka.app, is the crypto app that Runefelt is apparently trying to distance himself from. As it turns out — despite his version of reality — Runefelt was indeed a co-founder.

First, let’s get back to Runefelt’s reality. He explained that the co-founder label  a result of confusion due to an online rumor. “People say many different things — people say I’m the billionaire, bla bla bla — something takes off, and then everyone just goes with it,” he remarked with annoyance.

“Even though I never told people my net worth, the same with me being co-founder [of Kasta] — I’m just trying to clean this stuff.”

The price of KASTA fell about 98% between its January 2022 launch and September 2023. Source: CoinMarketCap

“There’s three co-founders, and you’ve never been one of them, right?” I asked, referring to the three names — CEO Carl Roegind, chief technology officer Sebastian Appelberg and chief product officer Hans-Herko Lusmägi — listed on the firm’s site. “Exactly,” Carl Runefelt replied, explaining that there was likely a mix-up of identity with the CEO, whose name is similar.

After I informed Runefelt that articles “aren’t edited after the fact unless there were mistakes at that time,” Runefelt made it clear he believed a journalistic error was made — and that it needed to be rectified.

I asked Runefelt to elaborate: “The theory is that I wrote ‘co-founder’ because maybe I read some third person’s account — that I didn’t have any first-person account, and I made an assumption. So, I made a mistake in doing that, is that what you figure?”

“Well yeah, but no worries, no worries,” Runefelt replied with what I understood to be a hint of sheepish hesitation.

But there was no mistake.

Reviewing our interview notes from when I visited his Dubai office in May 2022, it turned out Runefelt had clearly recounted how he co-founded Kasta.

“Me and my best friend, two years ago we came up with the idea,” Runefelt said, “[that crypto payments should be easy], that’s why we founded Kasta.” He explained that “we” had received media attention from both Yahoo Finance and Fox Business.

I confronted Runefelt by noting that the description of “co-founder” came not from online rumors but from his own statements. He admitted, “I did help out with some brainstorming, but I may have over-exaggerated my involvement at that stage… but co-founding it, it’s not accurate. I don’t have equity in it.”

“‘Early advisor’ and ‘early investor’ — I would say that’s the most accurate thing I would say — I can’t come up with something more true than that.”

Runefelt is a fan of using exclamation marks and words like EMERGENCY, ALERT, and WARNING on his YouTube channel. Source: Screenshot

“What you say is you’ve never actually referred to yourself as co-founder or led people to believe that, which is just what I’m making sure,” I asked. “Exactly,” Runefelt replied.

Exactly?

He had done just that on both Yahoo Finance and Fox Business — the very media references he mentioned in our May 2022 office sit-down. Appearing on a Dec. 23, 2021 Yahoo Finance video clip titled “Crypto app Kasta aims to lower cost of small transactions,” Runefelt delivered this opening line after being introduced as Kasta’s co-founder:

“Kasta is my company. I am a co-founder.”

In the same video, he confirmed, “We’re four co-founders, in fact.” The statement received corroboration from an article by Flaunt that referred to Runefelt as a co-founder “alongside Carl Roegind, Hans Lusmagi and Sebastian Appelberg.”

There was no mistaken identity, nor a one-off. Four co-founders, not three.

“In a Fox Business exclusive, we have the Kasta co-founder and YouTube star Carl ‘The Moon’ Runefelt,’” Fox Business host Liz Claman said in an introduction for Runefelt three weeks later. The star again crowned himself with the title he now claims was a mere internet rumor:

“That’s why I am, like you said, a co-founder and CMO of Kasta, where we’re going to make crypto easier to spend.”

I surprised Runefelt with this video revelation. He attempted to take it in stride, saying “it was just confusion and marketing” because he was “not operational” within the company — despite his very operational role of appearing in the media. “I’m not actually a co-founder,” Runefelt said. “Nope. And they know it and they’re OK with it,” he said in reference to the three “real” co-founders.

“But you went on Yahoo Finance and Fox Business and said that you were a co-founder?” I asked incredulously, to which Runefelt replied, “Exactly. I guess I’m just changing the narrative.”

He said this matter-of-factly and without a hint of irony — as if Cointelegraph were his personal public relations agency and narratives are something changed by declaration. Not “trying” to change it — changing it.

Runefelt said that calling himself a founder of Kasta was a “mistake I did.” Source: Telegram screenshot by Elias Ahonen

“As I don’t own equity, I can’t say I’m a co-founder. Which is a mistake I did,” he said. “If you don’t have equity, how can you possibly be a co-founder?”

That view does not appear to have much to back it up.

Runefelt clearly said in the past that he participated in the early-stage brainstorming of the ideas on which Kasta was based and that he co-founded it with a friend. We’re happy to note this for the record, despite his attempts to visualize or mindset-shift inconvenient facts away.

Elias Ahonen is a Finnish-Canadian author based in Dubai who has worked around the world operating a small blockchain consultancy after buying his first Bitcoin in 2013. His book Blockland tells the story of the industry. He holds an MA in international and comparative law, and his thesis deals with NFT and metaverse regulation.

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