May 2, 2024

BronxCrypto founder and CEO Julio Barrios joins "First Mover" to discuss the financial challenges faced by the Bronx community and how crypto education can provide solutions to those issues.

Video transcript

In a New York Borough. Two crypto believers are working hard to educate and on board their community to help them both grow their wealth and combat inflation here to unpack the challenges that the community is facing and why crypto poses some solutions is Bronx Crypto founder Julio Barrios Julio. Welcome to the show. Hello Jennifer. Thank you so much for having me. Of course, thanks for being here. Now, let's just start at the beginning. Um Tell me a little bit about the community in the Bronx that you're working with and what kind of drove you to offer this type of education to those folks? OK. So Bronze crypto is a community uh platform that I created when I got into crypto. About 8 to 10 years ago, I realized that there wasn't enough inclusion, there wasn't enough representation and I wanted to see that. And when I got deeper and deeper into crypto and understanding the technology, I saw an opportunity, I saw uh an opportunity where people from the Bronx in my community which are underserved and disenfranchised, could really own up to this and change their lives. Tell me a little bit more about that, you know, for folks who have never been to the Bronx, what's going on in these communities? Why is crypto a solution that could change their lives? So, um if you, I don't know if you noticed, but in 2021 the office of New York City Consumer and Workers Protection Agency, they had a study and they found that 306,000 households in New York City were unbanked and I found that that was uh unacceptable. And I feel like with Cryptocurrency, one of the basic things and fundamentals of Cryptocurrency is accessibility, right? So as long as you have an internet connection, you can have access to financial services. So I think that's something um very important that we need to capitalize here in the Bronx and in New York City. It's interesting you bring up that statistic. I think when people think about unbanked, they don't often picture big metropolitan cities like New York. And you're saying in 2021 more than 300,000 people who are living in New York, um didn't have a bank account were operating outside of the banking system. Talk to me about, about crypto education because I asked that it feels seemingly easy to set up a bank account or, or set up an application where you can manage your money. But even people who have those things find it hard to operate in, in crypto. Talk to me about onboarding education is it easy. What are the challenges that you're facing? So, one of the biggest challenges that I face as the founder of Bronze crypto is destigmatize the space. There's been a lot of scams, there's been a lot of rug polls like for instance, FTX with the major collapse. So uh some people are weary and some people are, are not sure. But with Bronze crypto, we try to give them trust when they get information from someone that looks like them, they seem to let their guard down and actually taking the information better than they would just looking up youtube and getting information from strangers. That's really interesting. It sounds like they can, they can relate. They see someone who comes from their community has the same problems, has faced the same challenges growing up and, and they feel like I can uh trust this person. What kind of feedback are you getting from them? Are you, you know, like what, what are they saying? Take me inside of the minds of one of the people that um you're working with. So one of the things is, you know, some people think that crypto is a getting rich quick scheme, right? And sometimes a little bit more complicated than that, right? We have to learn the technology first, le learn how these digital assets work and where the potential and the investment opportunity lie. So um one of the things that I'm working on is working with my government officials to make the crypto space safer. I don't want anyone to get hurt. Like many people who got hurt with the collapse of FTX. That's why I reached out to Congressman Richie Torres. And we together uh passed a article of legislation called the Crypto Consumer Investor Protection Act and the Crypto Exchange Disclosure Act to make sure that these crypto companies, number one are solvent that they do have these assets and this capital in their balance sheets to prevent run on exchanges. And also to uh the Crypto Exchange Disclosure Act is to make sure that if these crypto exchanges are gonna do something with your funds, they have to give you, uh you have to give consent, they have to disclose that to you. So the relationship between I and my broker should be sacred. It should be just as sacred as my relationship with my physician. Uh When did you work on this, uh bill? This was in 2021 and what's the progress been on it? It's still being discussed in Congress. You know, there's a lot of things going on in Congress, but I'm optimistic that it will pass what makes you optimistic that it's going to pass? And the reason I ask you that is because we are yet to see any crypto legislation be passed in Congress. There was a glimmer of hope at the end of last year and that seems to be gone. Now, a general consensus is we're not going to get any crypto legislation this year. What makes you optimistic that this is going to get some attention? I think number one is the, uh, the recent passing of the ETF S. It's a good sign. And another thing is we need to be vocal, right? We elect these people in power in politics so we need to hold them accountable, accountable and make sure that they work for us because we're the ones who put them in these positions. So we need all of us in whatever city you are, whatever state you are. If you, if crypto matters to you, you need to let your voice be heard. And that's what I've been doing. And if you notice the space is evolving, the space is maturing and um I just came back, I was here in NFTNYC and the projects, the growing, the building, the community is here, it's thriving and it's not going anywhere. It's just getting bigger and bigger. So that's what makes me optimistic. I want to come back to the Bronx now and talk about the people that you're working with. And the reason I want to talk about this is because, um I think about, I think about my mom, you know, she, she is banked who's not unbanked, but she really just loves cash. Cash is king to her. It's something that she prefers over anything else. That's, that's what she puts her trust in, you know, she feels like that's her version of being her own bank. Are you finding that same? I called it a barrier to crypto on boarding, especially when we're talking about people who deal in cash and who, who see that as like who put their trust in that over anything else? Yes, that def definitely sounds like an argument from the baby boomers. I def definitely understand. But if you see how technology is moving, look at all the methods of payment that we have, we have Venmo, Google Pay, Apple, Pay square, paypal. All these things are leading to the digitalization of money. And one of the things and this is why I got into Bitcoin is because I wanted to preserve my wealth. And if many Americans don't really know what's going on out there. And what's happening is that our money is devaluate, devaluating. We're losing our purchasing power because of inflation and irresponsible monetary policies from our government. So I think people also need to be aware, it's OK to be liquid, right? You need cash, but it's also good to start allocating into this space and taking matters into your own hands, be accountable and take responsibility. I mean, I work in crypto so I'm very, very receptive to what you're saying are the people you're working with, receptive to this. Yes, it's about 70%. Yes and 30%. No, there's still a lot of people that don't trust it and um just to go back of, of the question you asked me previously. We're all waiting on Jerome Powell's speech. What is the Federal Reserve gonna do? Are they gonna cut the rates? Are they gonna leave the rates the same? Are they gonna raise them? And it seems like even if they leave the rates as they are, it's only gonna strangle the middle class. It's putting so much pressure on the middle class that it's not sustainable. There's just so much debt on top of the system and there's no way that we can change this with a march or rally. That's why the invention in Bitcoin is genius. What do you think needs to happen to? Oh, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Go ahead. No. Um And then going forward to the original question that you asked me. Um I think the Gen Z, the millennials are, are, are in tune, they're interested. They want to know what's on the frontier of technology. So that's the, that's the 5050 split where we have the young youth ready to take this on and learn this and use this. But then you still have the baby boomers who are just so fixated with cash and real estate. Now, what do you think needs to happen for true mainstream adoption for what you're doing for communities in the Bronx to be widespread across all unbanked communities across all communities in general. So one of the things I, I believe need to happen is we need to start using the technology and solving problems. That means one of the things I'm doing personally is reaching out to merchants, reaching out to Bronx businesses and explaining them, teaching them of how they can have more access to capital or uh more access to customers if they on board via web three and use Cryptocurrency as payments. So that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to sound the alarm. We have to start using this technology and empowering each other with it. And on the back of that question, what do you think needs to happen to start uh knocking away some of that stigma you spoke about earlier? I think we have to get some common sense regulation from our government. We can't have the laws to be so strict and so tight that they exclude the little guy. We need to have some common sense regulation where yes, there are some true potentials like money laundering and, and things like that, but we also have to allow enough skin in the game so that the little guy could participate. And I want to stay on the little guy for, for just a second. Let's say that regulation in the United States gets more strict. We see the sec regulating by enforcement. Let's say, let's say that clear legislation doesn't come for a number of years. Let's say that crypto companies start to move offshore. We're seeing that happen already. What does that mean for the little guy do you think? Yeah, that's actually, uh, terrible. It's gonna push jobs and it's gonna push innovation away from the United States and we need to keep that here. So, if the United States wants to remain on a playing field and stay ahead, they're gonna have to embrace these technologies. And we've heard the art email about Bitcoin and it's environmentally unfriendly, but that's not the case. There's a lot of companies using green energy that are mining these cryptos. So that's what we need. We need everyone all hands on deck on board approach to make this thrive Julio. It was such a pleasure getting to know you and what you're doing for your community. Thanks so much for joining first mover. Thank you so much Coin Desk. I hope to see you guys in Austin, Austin, Texas at consensus.

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