Running his fingers through his halo of dark hair while bouncing like a kid with the right answer, Tarek Mansour explained the derivation of his company’s name. “Kel shi” is Lebanese Arabic for “everything,” he said during a recent Zoom call from San Francisco. It’s why he and his co-founder Luana Lopes Lara named their company Kalshi—because they believe just about everything that happens in the physical world should be bettable in the digital world. Things like natural disasters, awards ceremonies and someday, maybe, midterm congressional elections.
Kalshi is a marketplace for futures trading, a sort of Nasdaq for making educated wagers on real-world outcomes. Currently, Kalshi customers can bet on whether a hurricane might hit Miami in the next year, or how high the Fed will raise interest rates, or the results of Harvard University’s affirmative action case before the Supreme Court. Now Mansour wants to give Americans the ability to purchase option contracts—some call them bets—on which party will control Congress. The only thing standing in his way is the federal government, which has long balked at the practice.