Juan was born in Bogotá, Colombia and moved to Miami with his family when he was 8. Arriving to the US, Juan didn’t speak any English, but by the 5th grade he was fluent and had already been accepted into his school’s gifted program. Juan began experimenting with computers and coding when he was 13. He delved into website and application development and even programmed a basic app to help him beat a video game.
When Juan was a sophomore in high school, he and a few other friends went to the guidance counselor’s office to ask about every student from their school who had ever been accepted to MIT. There had been about 8–9 students accepted in recent years, and Juan and his friends studied everything they could about them. They made it their mission to do more activities, take harder classes, and get better grades than those students to increase their chances of being accepted into MIT. Ultimately, Juan and two other friends accomplished their mission.
Although Juan had primarily been focused on coding in high school, he decided to study Mechanical Engineering at MIT. “I thought I was going to do robotics,” said Juan. In high school, he had participated in autonomous robotics competitions and enjoyed programing the robots. However, Juan was not pleased by the lack of coding courses available to engineering students, and he decided to switch to Computer Science.
At MIT, Juan became involved in student and volunteer activities. He organized a makerspace for his living group and worked with NGOs and activists seeking to engage the immigrant community in Boston. In 2012, several lucrative private sector opportunities led Juan to take a leave of absence from classes to focus on his consulting projects. He helped a number of early stage startups build network infrastructure and scale their services to support more users. “I was the guy you called when you realized your software couldn’t support more than a few hundred users,” said Juan.
Juan eventually returned to classes, but he never fully left the private sector. In 2015, Juan started Cloud Poker Casino, an online bitcoin poker venture. Realizing the need for greater privacy in bitcoin transactions, Juan built a program to process anonymized payouts. He ultimately decided not to pursue the project due to complexities surrounding compliance, but Juan’s exposure to cryptocurrency led him to his next venture: exchange rate hedging for customers in Venezuela. Due to the hyperinflation in Venezuela, Juan realized that he could implement an effective wealth management strategy for Venezuelan clients using bitcoin, despite its volatility. He successfully found partners and flew to Caracas to close his first deal, but the Venezuelan government shut down his operation shortly after.
Following Juan’s first two forays into blockchain and cryptocurrency, he was convinced that he wanted to work in the space. He began shopping for blockchain startups at MIT and was introduced to Can Kisagun and Hope Liu, who were working on Eximchain. “I could immediately see that the case for blockchain is extremely clear in global supply chain,” said Juan. As Juan read through the hundreds of interviews and supply chain pain points Hope and Can had documented, he became convinced that he wanted to work with them. “They had by far the most ground covered,” said Juan. “I realized that the idea of having a decentralized database to share information is extremely useful when you’re trying to trade across borders.”
Hope brought Juan on board as a co-founder, and in June 2017, they both graduated from MIT and began working on the project full-time. As the CTO, Juan is involved in all aspects of development, but he is primarily focused on governance and the consensus layer. He is most excited at the prospect of bringing quadratic voting to bear as a consensus mechanism, and he is proud of Eximchain’s focus on providing blockchain technology to small-and-medium-sized businesses. “We want to put SMEs on the blockchain and make these offerings actually possible at a broader network scale.”