New MindMeet member Jason Berlin is an internet entrepreneur from New York with expertise in digital assets and strategic marketing. He impacts the world by tackling life’s most daunting intellectual and physical challenges. As the founder of Tour de Crypto, Jason is about to set out on an incredible athletic and charitable feat: From September 14th to November 9th, Jason and his team will be cycling across the United States from New York to California—covering a total of 3,772 miles. The Tour de Crypto is designed to increase blockchain and cryptocurrency awareness for charity, and this year’s Tour specifically supports the Houston Area Women’s Center.
CS: What’s the overall mission of Tour de Crypto?
JB: Tour de Crypto is about cryptocurrency awareness and blockchain adoption for charities. And the awareness part is both for regular people and for non-profit foundations and charities throughout the world. It took a lot of effort just to find a non-profit willing to get involved with crypto. Thankfully, we eventually connected with HAWC, the Houston Area Women’s Center, and they were very open to the idea. Now we’re hoping to use this as a case study to encourage other non-profits to start accepting cryptocurrency as well. So much of the conversation around cryptocurrency tends to center on investments, markets, and regulations, but we want to highlight a more positive side of the crypto community.
Primer: CRYPTOCURRENCY—such as BitCoin—is a digital, virtual, alternative currency that is completely decentralized (i.e. operates without a central banking system). BLOCKCHAIN is the secure, decentralized digital ledger that’s used to track the crypto-economy without the need for a third party. Blockchain technology also has the potential to be used for all different kinds of digital record-keeping too, including medical records, changes of ownership, voting, and more. Both cryptocurrency and blockchain are new ideas that radically challenge the current status quo. They represent an uncharted frontier for the digital age, and, thus, both their potential and their longevity is not yet fully known.
CS: Can you tell us more about HAWC?
JB: HAWC helps victims of domestic and sexual violence. Some of the services they provide include 24-hour hotlines for women, men, and children. They also provide sheltering services, counseling services, children’s court services, and violence prevention and community education. HAWC has been around for over 40 years, and they’re the second largest non-profit in Houston, Texas. They have amazing scores on Charity Navigator for accountability and transparency, which are values that are really important to the blockchain community. Having a group as established as HAWC onboard really helps legitimize cryptocurrency.
CS: How can charities and non-profits use the cryptocurrency that’s raised for them?
JB: It really depends on the organization and what their needs are. So HAWC, for example, may not need liquid cash right away. They might have reserves, so they can hold on to their cryptocurrency. Other organizations that are building houses or providing clean water might be in need of more immediate funding. So they can take cryptocurrency donations and convert them to fiat currency, which is immediately accessible.
CS: Why did you decide to do a cross-country bike ride? Were you an avid cyclist before all this started?
JB: No! I had never even ridden a road bike before this, just a regular bike. The first day I couldn’t even clip my cycling shoes into the pedals. I fell all the time and everybody was laughing at me. Even the bike store owner was like, “Is this for real? Are you really going to be riding across the United States?” And I was like, “Yeah, we’re doing this!” I’m riding with Jovel Velasquez, who’s a great friend of mine and a super motivating person to be around. We’ve now spent a solid month and a half training on the bikes, and before that we did muscle training and cycling at the gym. But actually riding the road bike for the first time was a whole new physical and mental challenge.
CS: If you weren’t already a cyclist, how did you come up with the idea for a cross-country bike ride?
JB: I was part of a literary society at Cornell University and one of the pledge members told us an amazing story about how he road his bicycle from North Carolina to California. Listening to his story really resonated with me, so that’s where I first got the idea. And the opportunity to do it now came about because, unfortunately, of a failed business venture. I spent two years building an app for a real estate company, but ended up leaving the project after I realized that blockchain technology was going to make our patent obsolete in just a few years. After that I fell into a depression because I was so used to going to work everyday and doing whatever it took to get that app up and running. I started gaining weight and I finally looked at myself one day and said, “I can’t continue like this.” So I started going to the gym and watching what I ate and getting back into shape. That’s when I remembered that conversation from my college days about my friend’s cross-country bike ride. I wasn’t quite ready to start looking for a new job yet, so I figured this was the prime time to do something like that.
CS: Have you learned any philosophies from training that you’ll take into the rest of your career?
JB: Oh yeah. When you’re riding a bike and you look ahead it looks like there’s a huge hill in front of you. And I’m a big guy—I’m 6’2”, 200 pounds—and it’s really physically demanding for me to get up these hills. So mentally I sometimes shut down, like, “Oh great, here’s another hill.” But as you go up the hill and you get closer to the top, you start thinking, “Okay, this isn’t so bad. Keep going, keep going.” And once you get up on top of the hill, you get to go downhill and you know you can catch your breath and relax and enjoy the ride back down. So for me, it’s about breaking through mental barriers and getting motivated to reach the short-term goals that are then going to help me achieve my long-term goals. That’s one thing I’m really taking away from this whole trip.
CS: How many miles are you riding each day?
JB: We’re looking at 80-100 miles a day. We’re riding through 11 states and 9 of them I’ve never been to before. I wish we were spending more time in each one, but I definitely want to see some landmarks, take some great photos, ride some scenic routes, and meet up with communities along the way.
CS: How is Tour de Crypto planning to educate people about cryptocurrency?
JB: A big part of it will come from our documentary. At every stop we’ll be interviewing people about their thoughts on BitCoin. We’re starting with that question, but if they bring up other aspects of blockchain technology, we’ll definitely dive into that too. And we’re going to show all sides because there’s nothing to hide—that’s the whole point of this documentary. We want to hear from people who think BitCoin is a scam and refuse to invest in it. We want to hear from people who have invested money or lost money. We want to get as many viewpoints as we can.
CS: What do you say to people who are curious but skeptical about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology?
JB: It’s something that definitely does take time to explain, and, unfortunately, some people just don’t want to take the time to listen. But if people are open-minded and genuinely interested, I’m happy to sit down with them for a solid five minutes and explain the overall ideas.
CS: So it’s not a concept you can easily sum up in a sentence or two?
JB: Nope. Definitely not. But the big takeaway I want people to get from the Tour de Crypto is that cryptos aren’t just a form of investment. A lot of people are just focused on how much money people make or lose. But that’s really not what it’s about. We want people to look at it from an actual tech point of view as to how businesses are being formed around this technology.
CS: What are you most excited for and least excited for about Tour de Crypto?
JB: I’m definitely most excited to utilize what I call the Web 3.0—which is basically social media that’s connected to communities. We’re hoping to use the Tour to connect online crypto communities with physical neighborhoods and communities. I’d love to meet people I’ve only spoken to online and finally put a face to the name. That would be amazing.
The scary part is putting myself out there because we’re going to be filming as much as possible. So if I fall, you’re going to see it! The other day I had a run-in with a truck because the driver didn’t see me coming. We didn’t get that on camera, but if we did I’m sure that could’ve gone viral. [Laughs] But the whole journey is meant to be motivational. Fighting through the struggle—that’s something everybody can really connect to. The crypto part might be more abstract for some people, but we’re hoping to draw them in to our journey and then educate them along the way.
CS: What impact do you hope Tour de Crypto has?
JB: We’re hoping for a real snowball effect. Right now we have crypto communities donating to HAWC, and in time we’ll have HAWC contacting their supporters and educating them about crypto. It’ll become a two-way street. Hopefully that means other non-profits will start adopting crypto into their charity work as well.
Jason Berlin is a member of the MindMeet tribe and eager to share his experience directly with you at MindMeet. Jason has chosen the Houston Area Women’s Center to benefit directly from his fees. Schedule your appointment now, and let’s link knowledge for good.
Do you know of other people like Jason Berlin who are promoting blockchain and cryptocurrency for social good? Nominate a Blockchain Visionary by using this form.
The Tour de Crypto will be documented live on social media and also filmed for a future documentary. You can learn more on the Tour de Crypto website and follow along with the Tour on Twitter, Telegram, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
September 18, 2018