‘In 2014, I Tried To Send My Mom 10 Bitcoin And She Said No’: Derek Jones, On Reparations And Inspiration For Starting UnitedCoin

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
UnitedCoin
Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT. Photo provided

Derek Jones is no stranger to using the law and finances to advance the quality of life for people who have been traditionally excluded from economic participation.

He’s the son of former Florida Sen. Daryl Jones, one of the only state senators ever to secure reparations for African Americans. Twenty-five years ago, Sen. Jones helped get Senate approval for $2.1 million in reparations for survivors of the 1923 Rosewood massacre.

Starting UnitedCoin

Now Derek is the CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, a Securities And Exchange-registered company and cryptocurrency seeking to fill the market gap between the 1 percent of very wealthy crypto investors and the other 99 percent of investors.

And his dad Daryl, the former senator from Florida, sits on Derek’s board of directors.

Around 2017, I saw an influx of people of color coming into the blockchain space because they were seeing it as a way to eliminate the prejudices associated with money.

Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT.

Before UnitedCoin, Derek served as chief financial officer for other companies in Florida and is considered an expert in the financial industry. For the past two years, he and his international team of UnitedCoin co-founders — Hassan Lahlou, Ghita El Kasri, and Ghali El Kasri — have been creating a “bridge” to help average people tap into the fast-growing cryptocurrency market.

You can use UnitedCoin to sell and send cryptocurrencies and make purchases with a MasterCard debit card. Through referral and savings rewards, members of UnitedCoin can be rewarded each month with the UNIT cryptocurrency.

With the support of family and friends, the UnitedCoin team has raised a quarter of a million dollars in capital. Thanks to partnerships and connections through Plug and Play in Mexico, UnitedCoin has partnered with the NBA franchise Cleveland Cavaliers to help educate Cleveland and all of Ohio about the benefits of digital currency.

Moguldom spoke with Derek Jones about his family’s legacy, the advancement of cryptocurrency and his thoughts on what it could look like to dominate the cryptocurrency market.

For the first time, you didn’t have to know the person or their color who was sending money and a lot of people of color noticed that. They realized there was an opportunity here to be able to advance without prejudice.

Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT.

Moguldom: Why did you start UnitedCoin?

Derek Jones: We started UnitedCoin because there was a hole in the market. Getting into blockchain and cryptocurrencies is not extremely easy for the average person. When I tried to get started back in 2013, you had to have a developer-level understanding of computers to put a Bitcoin-QT wallet (most cryptocurrency core wallets are developed using QT software framework) on your Windows laptop and mine from that computer.

In 2014, I tried to send my mom 10 bitcoin and she said no. She didn’t want to deal with the public address or private key. We knew in order to make blockchain and cryptocurrencies “mom-friendly”, which is necessary in order for mass adoption, we needed to make it work the exact same way they know how to use other electronic services now. We made it so you could send and receive cryptocurrencies with an email address or phone number. My mom sends emails and text messages every day. Now she can make payments and send money with an email address or phone number. We also connected a debit card to the platform. Almost everyone uses a debit card for the majority of the purchases they make on a regular basis. People can spend cryptocurrencies like they do with a debit card.

Moguldom: It seems like the government is dragging its feet around cryptocurrency. You ended up using an international bank to run your platform and have access to MasterCard.  Has the government’s stance on regulation hindered or helped UnitedCoin?

Derek Jones: The government has known about cryptocurrency for over a decade. They have been using blockchain technology for drones and other military applications. In 2011 it was discovered that many politicians had bitcoin. It is probably the reason why cryptocurrencies were never made illegal or never made to be a security for something they owned. The dragging of their feet with these laws is not because they are trying to make it hard for others. It is because they’re trying to create an environment where they can thrive with the assets that they already own. If you were in that position, you would probably do the same thing. This isn’t new. They did this with medicine, banking, and other opportunities. They do this with everything when it comes to policy. I think in the long run it’s absolutely excellent. It solidifies a lot of us. And when I say us, I mean the blockchain and the cryptocurrency community. Instead of us being mad scientists, which we were about three or four years ago, it makes us pioneers and visionaries. In my opinion, it’s a great thing.

My greatest experience that gave me a lot of hope was when I recently went to Africa where two of our co-founders are located. The number of people using cell phone technology for digital money on a regular basis is 10 times what it is here in America.

Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT.

Moguldom: Many people have a misperception of Blacks being slow to change. The numbers show we are large users of technology. How do you view the landscape of blockchain today as compared to a decade ago?

Derek Jones: In the beginning, it was extremely sparse. Sometimes we as a (Black) culture tend to look at things we don’t immediately understand and call it a scam. I saw this happening a lot at the beginning of blockchain being talked about outside of the tech world. Then I saw a lot of people make money off of it and we said, “OK this is the way to make money.” I then saw more Blacks and more people of color involved. Around 2017, I saw an influx of people of color coming into the blockchain space because they were seeing it as a way to eliminate the prejudices associated with money. For the first time, you didn’t have to know the person or their color who was sending money and a lot of people of color noticed that. They realized there was an opportunity here to be able to advance without having those prejudices brought in front of them while they were trying to raise money.

Although I will say sometimes those prejudices are still there. But I will tell you my greatest experience that gave me a lot of hope was when I recently went to Africa where two of our co-founders are currently located. In Africa, in Morocco, the number of people using cell phone technology for digital money on a regular basis is maybe five to 10 times what it is here in America.

We’re actually behind when it comes to the use of digital currency. And when I say digital currency, it’s more than just cryptocurrency. We’re talking about trading for phone minutes, and not just Apple Pay or NFC payments. It gave me a real understanding of what this could be. Perhaps it’s a family thing for me and the enthusiasm I have for what we’re doing with UnitedCoin. My father, who is also a former State Senator for Florida and on our board, is known as one of the only state senators in the U.S. to get reparations for African Americans. He was also on the board for the bank that is recorded as getting to $1 billion in assets the fastest for a newly formed financial institution. Our family history of using regulated law and finances to actually benefit our people is something we’re used to doing. It’s something that’s in our family’s blood. That’s really what we’re trying to do with cryptocurrency. We want to use regulations, which are for the benefit of everyone, to create an environment where we can really benefit ourselves.

My father (former Florida Sen. Daryl Jones) is on our board. Our family history of using regulated law and finances to actually benefit our people is something we’re used to doing. That’s what we’re trying to do with cryptocurrency. We want to use regulations, which are for the benefit of everyone, to create an environment where we can benefit ourselves.

Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT.

Moguldom: Your team is spread across the world What do you look for when you’re trying to build a good team?

Derek Jones: I would say two things are the most important. No. 1 is expertise in an area which we need some assistance in, and where we can let people grow and blossom. People, even though they want direction, also want to be able to give their own ideas. The second is some type of emotional intelligence. Since we’re so spread out internationally, there’s a lot of different types of cultures on our team. As a result, you have to be able to adapt to this, you have to be able to be understanding of these different cultures. In the beginning, it can seem a little confusing. But once you start understanding these different cultures, you realize what you’re building is a platform and a service that is available and understanding of multiple cultures. I would say it’s a benefit. By having these international teams, it allows you to have those different perspectives so that we can create bridges.

Moguldom: What has been a memorable challenge for you in starting or scaling your business?

Derek Jones: I would say education by far. Educating people on what blockchain technology is and what cryptocurrencies are has been a challenge. That’s one of the reasons why a large part of what we do is education. That’s one of the pillars our partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers is built upon. Educating the community, their fans and the entire state on what blockchain technology is, what cryptocurrencies are, how they can be used and how they actually do improve our day-to-day lives.

Moguldom: What have been some notable wins?

Derek Jones: I would say definitely the partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers has been incredible. Being accepted into Plug and Play in Mexico in March 2018 was huge for us as well. It really opened us up to Latin America as well as the U.S. in regard to large corporations, Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies that are connected with Plug and Play. We were able to speak with their executive boards, executive teams and really iron out what tools and services these types of corporations need from blockchain or cryptocurrency companies.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are almost like Jurassic Park — these amazing animals and this wonderful place, but there’s no way to get to them. There’s nowhere to see this amazing new technology that’s come into the world. UnitedCoin is the bridge.

Derek Jones, CEO and co-founder of UnitedCoin, an SEC-registered company with a cryptocurrency, the UNIT.

I would say the other one has been bringing on our advisory board. We have an excellent group of advisors from the CEO and president of EOYDC. She is extremely connected with the NFL Player Association, the NBA, the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry. My father, Darryl Jones, for his understanding of policy, plus, our other advisors who have banking experience as well as advisors that worked for the Department of Defense that protect bases from being hacked. Having these people on our team gives us the expertise and the experience to be able to build this business right.

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Moguldom: How much have you raised in capital?

Derek Jones: We’ve raised approximately $250,000 from a friends and family round combined with a preliminary pre-sell round of our cryptocurrency unit. And now we’re going to be having a more public sale, which we’re going to be launching with a top-20 cryptocurrency exchange, as well as with an event with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Moguldom: Where do you see UnitedCoin in five years?

Derek Jones: Domination is something I always think of where you have this guy — an evil scientist somewhere — trying to take over. That’s the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do. We feel as though blockchain and cryptocurrencies are almost like Jurassic Park. There’s this island of the dinosaurs. These amazing animals and this wonderful place, but there’s no way to get to them. There’s no way to see this island. There’s nowhere to see this amazing new technology that’s come into the world. And UnitedCoin is the bridge.

All we’re doing is introducing people to the bridge by making the technology simpler for the average person. We don’t want to take over Bitcoin. We want to introduce the world to Bitcoin. We don’t want to take over Litecoin or Ethereum. We want to introduce the world to these systems, these technologies and these cryptocurrencies.

Now, at some point, will UnitedCoin be used more than all of these other cryptocurrencies? Maybe. We hope so since that’s the goal. But the whole point is to introduce people to the technology, educate them about the technology, and then allow them to use our platform to make it simple to use. There’s a saying we had when we ran track, “Second place is the first loser.” It’s not that we want to not be No. 1. We do want to be No. 1. But we don’t want to be No. 1 by sacrificing others.

Moguldom: So, in five years?

Derek Jones: In five years, we’d like to be No. 1. We want to be No. 1 by literally raising everyone’s ship at the same time.