Edwardo Jackson’s “Stage Left” Intrigue With Bitcoin
On a crisp spring afternoon earlier this year I had the chance to visit with Edwardo Jackson at a coffeehouse in the Boca Park neighborhood of Las Vegas. Having just moved to the area from Denver, I was excited to pick his brain about his entrepreneurial journey as well his flirtation with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
A graduate of Morehouse College a historically black educational institution located in Atlanta, Jackson is a man of many interests. He is a writer of screenplays and novels, amateur poker player, and theater arts enthusiast. His interest in the latter led him to start Cinema Draft, an innovative, online fantasy-sports style game for the movie industry.
Recently I had a chance to interview Jackson about his business pursuits as well as his interest in where the Bitcoin landscape is headed. Here are a few of his thoughts:
Tell us how you stumbled into the world of Bitcoin
I first heard about bitcoin in an episode of THE GOOD WIFE, starring Jason Biggs of AMERICAN PIE as the mysterious inventor of bitcoin. I thought it was made up — and promptly forgot about it. A year later, in March of 2013, I stumbled onto a clip of financial contrarian/wild man Max Keiser going off on a passionate rant for bitcoin, why it makes sense, and how it ran counter to fiat currency and central banking. For whatever reason, it made sense to me and I wrote it up as a very brief piece for Upworthy. It wasn’t one of my best viewed pieces, but the bitcoin bug got me. I got my first bitcoin May of 2013 for about $88 each.
How has your startup business CinemaDraft informed your thinking about the future of Bitcoin and distributed technology?
In creating CinemaDraft, a daily fantasy sports-style game for the movies, I witnessed firsthand how discriminatory venture capital (VC) funding is in both an intentional and unintentional way. Despite embracing a generally self-involved philosophy around meritocracy, Silicon Valley tends not to fund companies led by people like me ( a non-technical African-American founder who didn’t go to an Ivy League college or Stanford, didn’t work at Google/Apple/Uber, and lives outside of California. After 14 months of digitally panhandling traditional VCs, I can attest that the “less than 1% of founders of color receive venture capital seed funding” statistic is very real.
How did the world of crypto then restore your hope?
So with the rise of ICOs, and how innovative some of these business models and use cases were, I became very interested in potentially doing an ICO to fund CinemaDraft, creating a cryptocurrency that could be used for gaming, services, paraphernalia of the site as well as an asset to be traded on the exchanges. I am currently working with an advisor for CinemaDraft who is uniquely positioned in the ICO space to see if an ICO is in our future.
But there has been so much controversy surrounding ICO’s. What is your take on all of this?
As much as traditional VCs try and discredit ICOs as a funding class — likely due to ICO’s being seen as an existential threat to their rather stale business model — I think that ICOs with strong products and/or teams will serve as a beacon of hope to entrepreneurs like myself who don’t fit the insular business profile Silicon Valley likes to fund.
You were featured in an article a few years back about Blacks In Bitcoin. Can you share a little bit about that experience?
I believe you are referring to the article that was featured in The Atlantic? Like most people, I respect the literary chops of The Atlantic, home to great writers & thinkers like Ta-Nehisi Coates. Much like I do now, with the increased attention and interest in bitcoin, I just want to be an educator of and evangelist for bitcoin. I was happy to spend the hour or so I did talking to the writer, Kyle Coward, just to help get the word out. He asked really good questions and I feel like the general approach of the article was handled fairly.
Your thoughts about Bitcoin and your thoughts about it being a tool for economic freedom for African-Americans?
While I’d like to say that bitcoin has low/no barriers to entry, I hope that having a frank discussion of the societal and historical forces at work in the black community that reduce access to information about bitcoin helped convince more people to overcome all that and check it out.
You set up a blog called Blacks In Bitcoin?
Yes. I started BlacksInBitcoin.com (BIB) in 2014 only because I noticed most of the early adopters were white libertarian men. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I just felt that if there were a concentrated effort to educate traditionally underrepresented communities about bitcoin — like the African-American community — then it would enhance the quality and diversity of discussion in the bitcoin community overall. Not only do I feel all communities should be active in this space, I’d also like to see more women involved, too. With low barriers to entry for this decentralized technology, I want these underrepresented communities to have a seat at the table during this period of unprecedented growth for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
What are you discovering from your interactions with people visiting this site?
I find that those who reach out to me are a bit beyond past the fact-finding stage and are more in the activation stage. How does bitcoin work? Where can I get some? What can I use it for? How can me and my friends use it as a store of value in order to rely upon the central banking system just a wee bit less?
How have you been able to help them?
In addition to answering their questions and sending them to the website for information like a Bitcoin Starter Kit, I’ll usually send the newbies $5 worth of BTC on Coinbase. Coinbase is the most dead simple, highly regulated bitcoin exchange service out there. I call it “Paypal without the banks.” Occasionally, I’ll get a referral fee but more often than not, I do not. That’s fine by me because I just want to spread the bit-word whereever possible. Hell, I even gave my PERSONAL BANKER $5 worth of BTC (disrupt from within, right?)!
Also, the most enduring refrain I’ve heard over the years has been, “Am I too late” on buying bitcoin. As a true, died-in-the-wool HODLer who believes bitcoin will be worth $1M each in my lifetime, I say it’s NEVER too late!
Why do you believe it’s important for people of color to embrace the future of Bitcoin as well as the Blockchain technology that undergirds it?
It seems like underrepresented communities of color are either traditionally shut out from the avenues of wealth and financial advancement, late to the party, or just don’t know about these opportunities. This is a chance to build some generational wealth through crypto, with no redlining, predatory lending, or other exclusionary barrier in our way. Also, blockchain technology and the advent of the ethereum-based token is another exciting opportunity to allow communities to support each other economically.
In addition to innovative funding opportunities for minority owned businesses, crypto and the blockchain can provide myriad avenues to financial and cultural success, a la the young Morehouse men behind Storj, a decentralized cloud storage company like Dropbox.
What has your own experience with Bitcoin been like?
I guess you can say I’m in confidence and brag mode right now. With the huge run up in price this year, institutional money is beginning to flow in, and all of the tiny pieces of bitcoin I’ve doled out to people over the years having significant current day fiat value. So I get to puff my chest out a little while also offering a convincing case for people to get involved with bitcoin. Even though I am, by no means, an early adopter who bought BTC for pennies on the dollar, my own little buy and hold success story is very satisfying, making up for all of those early days of volatility where the threat of bitcoin going to $0 felt real. Despite every swing, I’m a true believer, as I believe that Bitcoin’s properties — and potential — is simply too great and widespread to ignore.
Where do you see bitcoin as well as other cryptocurrencies headed as we hit 2018?
For a change, it won’t be the typical cabal of the generationally super-wealthy who will horde bitcoin’s fortunes for themselves; this time POC can be the wealth, without waiting for it to trickle down. I look forward to easing into a new role as a marginally active cryptocurrency investor to close out this year.
There are a ton of altcoins out there, some with some promise. In addition to buying more bitcoin, I’m looking to get into some ETH, BAT, STORJ, WAVES, maybe even DASH. I’m not looking to daytrade crypto; I like coins with clear use cases that have real value that I can understand. That’s probably why I have zero LTC at the moment: No one I know uses it, they just trade it. Still, I may have to rectify that oversight just on its sheer profitability alone.
I’m also invested in the BitConnect platform. Although wildly controversial because of its MLM elements, BitConnect’s intriguing because of the highly lucrative lending program to its bitcoin trading bot. While I’m not crazy about all of the uncomfortable, pyramid-ish style marketing, I do admire its business model, how it’s created its own cryptocurrency (BCC) with over $2B in market cap in a year, and how there’s real, self-perpetuating value (although instrinsically linked to bitcoin’s).
Finally, your thoughts on the future vision and hope for the Blacks In Bitcoin movement?
I probably could/should be more active with BIB. I’m still trying, however, to fund CinemaDraft and manage its operations while in beta mode. I make myself available to just about every serious interview request that comes through so I can help spread the bit-gospel. I’m kicking the idea of doing a weekly podcast, perhaps with a partner. It would be cool if BIB could evolve into a hub for all to commune around crypto outside of the echo chambers of Reddit (which can still be useful in different ways). However, I encourage and enjoy conversations with people who come to the site new/curious/enthusiastic about bitcoin. This is such a huge, culturally agnostic opportunity that I want to do everything I can to enable as many people as I can to take advantage of it.