Daymond John can recognize an opportunity. And the prolific investor who has built a legacy on his business sense and shrewdness can certainly recognize the vast potential in the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
But the “Shark Tank” star and founder of hip-hop apparel brand FUBU pushed back on any notion that crypto is a remedy for systemic inequality.
“I wouldn't call it a great equalizer,” John said. “Until people acknowledge a problem about systemic issues that have been created a long time ago, then you can’t change and come up with a solution, right? You can't come up with a pill and then not know the diagnosis.”
An Edelman survey of 1,500 U.S. adults from last August found that a majority of Black Americans reported experiences of “systemic bias and discrimination” across financial industry sub-sectors — such as mortgage and auto lenders, credit card companies, and insurance agencies.
That same study found that Black and Latinx households are around five times as likely to be unbanked as white households.
“Crypto will empower people, but they still are going to want to put their kids in better communities,'' John argued. “How will they get into those communities? How will they get into those schools? When they want to take that crypto and move it into other businesses, how does their credit look?”
Olayinka Odeniran, founder and chairwoman of the Black Women Blockchain Council, dove into the burgeoning sector after over 15 years in regulatory compliance and risk management. She echoed the motivations behind the rise of crypto trading in the community.
"Historically, we've been institutionally kept out of certain things, or restricted,” Odeniran said. “The laws haven't always been on our side when it comes to building financial wealth.”
But she also argued the confidentiality granted when utilizing blockchain can help reduce those discriminatory practices, noting that the nature of the technology can level the playing field.
“This particular space that we're creating affords us to enter it without our identity,” Odeniran said. “So we're stripping away the fact that we're Black. We’re stripping away the fact that me, as a woman, is a woman, right? We’re stripping all that away, and we're minimizing it to a series of numbers.”
But while Odeniran sees the value that’s attached to this growing industry, she encouraged newcomers to learn about the sector before opening their wallets.
“There's a lot of education that’s out there for individuals, but you’ve got to have the dedication of time to do that,” Odeniran said.
“I think it's one of those industries or sectors that you need to really understand, educate yourself about, and figure out how you want to navigate through the space.”
John understands the power of ownership and self-reliance. The name of his flagship company, FUBU, stands for “For Us, By Us,” and that slogan served as a rallying cry for the apparel brand’s mission as it became a cultural symbol of Black fashion before the turn of the century.
He knows the value of getting in at the ground floor of a movement, but like Odeniran, he also asserts that it’s vital to know what you’re getting into.
“Before you ever take a dime out of your pocket, you do your homework on it," he says. "If you want to get into this space, don't let other people tell you what the space is.”