By Jeremy Wagstaff and Rujun Shen
SINGAPORE, March 6 A young American CEO who
apparently committed suicide in Singapore was involved in the
world of the bitcoin, but was also struggling with other issues
prior to her death, friends and colleagues said.
Autumn Radtke, chief executive of virtual currency exchange
First Meta Pte Ltd, was found dead on Feb. 26. Police said they
were investigating her "unnatural" death, and "preliminary
investigations showed no foul play is suspected."
Neighbours said they thought Radtke jumped to her death from
a residential apartment complex near her home.
Friends and colleagues said Radtke, 28, was wrestling with
professional and personal pressures, not least running a
start-up that was struggling to gain traction.
"She had a phenomenal network of highly successful people
around her, and here she is running this little exchange and it
just isn't taking off in the way anybody had hoped," Steve
Beauregard, CEO and founder of GoCoin, a start-up which provided
bitcoin-related services to First Meta, told Reuters.
Beauregard rented a room in Radtke's large Singapore
home-cum-office and was among the last people to see her alive.
Bitcoin is under scrutiny after Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once
the world's dominant exchange for the virtual currency, filed
for bankruptcy in Japan last week, blaming hackers for the loss
of 850,000 bitcoins - worth more than $550 million at today's
rates. A smaller, Canada-based exchange also
shut, saying hackers had stolen all its bitcoins.
Douglas Abrams, director of First Meta, denied the company
was struggling or up for sale, and said Radtke "did a great job
as CEO." But he said selling the company always remained an
option and there had been plans to save money by moving out of
its current office space, a townhouse which doubled as Radtke's
Beauregard and others said First Meta, which initially
functioned as an online trade platform for the currency used in
the Second Life online world, and then expanded to other games,
was not primarily involved in bitcoin. Last year, it allowed
users to sell bitcoins for dollars and last month signed a deal
"I'm not trying to distance First Meta from bitcoin, but it
doesn't provide two-way trading in bitcoin," Abrams told
Friends said Radtke, however, was a huge fan of bitcoin and
had invested in it personally. One said she had persuaded
friends to invest as well. Her Facebook page includes several
links to bitcoin stories, mostly celebrating last year's rise in
In one, she comments on a sharp but brief dip in the bitcoin
price last December: "The 'panic' or as I call it Christmas sale
was great! Real bitcoiners got 30-40 percent off."
"She had substantial exposure to the ups and downs of
bitcoin, and while it's not likely to be the sole reason to this
tragedy, it would be naive to think it didn't have a role," said
Others contested any role the virtual currency had in her
Beauregard said he had several conversations with her in the
48 hours prior to her death about personal and professional
issues. "Bitcoin and Mt. Gox were not part of those
conversations," he said.
Radtke, who moved to Singapore in early 2012, previously
worked at another start-up in Santa Monica, California.
Plug and Play's Scott Robinson, who focuses on Silicon
Valley bitcoin start-ups, said Radtke's years of experience in
video game virtual currencies made her an instant expert and an
asset to the relatively young, predominantly male, bitcoin
"She was a go-getter, she always worked very hard ... she
stuck out as one of the only women representing bitcoin."
Before heading up First Meta, Radtke had business
development roles at tech start-ups Xfire and Geodelic Systems,
according to information on her LinkedIn profile.