“Our first Bitcoin ATM that we ever bought, we got scammed. So we lost $20,000 there.” It’s a tough way to start. But Doug Carrillo (far left in cover photo) didn’t give up. You see, he didn’t jump on the cryptocurrency train recently. Instead, he and his best friend from school and business partner, Andrew Barnard, had the idea for their Bitcoin ATM business, Bitstop, back at the end of 2013.
STARTED IN INDUSTRY: Ideation: End of 2013, Official start: Fall 2014
LATINO CONNECTION: Born in Nicaragua, Mom is Nicaraguan, Dad is Cuban
Florida International University: Bachelor’s degree in Finance (Concentration in Real Estate)
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “I’m sure I wanted to be a doctor or work with animals."
But, at the age of 8 or 9, “when I discovered computers…I knew I wanted to do something with computers. I loved building them. I loved using them…I knew then, God, I love this stuff!”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “I would like to create a company that is valuable and big and impactful enough that could be my legacy. And I think Bitstop is it. And I just want my kids to be like, wow, look what Dad built.”
Carrillo and Barnard got Bitstop officially going in the fall of 2014. Now, their goal is to make cash-only Bitcoin ATM machines widely available and accessible for customers and to also expand licensing of the technology.
After losing the $20,000, Doug says they were faced with a choice: “Do you quit or do you double down and figure it out? And the Bitcoin case just kept getting stronger.”
So, of course, they kept going. They looked for a second supplier to get a Bitcoin ATM.
WHAT IT IS
For those of you who maybe don’t know much about it, cryptocurrency is a virtual currency. It’s nothing you can touch physically. It’s only available in electronic form and it’s decentralized. That means it’s not controlled by any government and not regulated. Critics have pointed to that as to why it could be ripe for abuse with things like illegal purchases, besides its market price volatility and high energy use. Doug had heard all those things, too.
At the time, he was an insurance adjuster. He admits, at first, he was a skeptic about cryptocurrency.
But after the second and then third time cryptocurrency opportunities presented themselves, he decided he had to do a deep-dive and investigate further.
His conclusion? “Ok, wow. This is going to be forever. Change-the-world kind of technology. Disrupt every industry.”
THE LATINO INFLUENCE
His family’s Cuban and Nicaraguan background heavily influenced his thinking. Carrillo says, “They had to flee those places. It really had a tremendous impact on me to set me up for understanding the value proposition of a technology that was…so powerful that went outside of the reach of traditional government, big corporation[s]."
Doug had an entrepreneurial flair and affinity for digital even when he was around 16 years old. He and his buddy ran scripts on a game called Diablo 2 that allowed them to acquire a bunch of digital items. They then turned around and sold them on ebay.
By the time he discovered cryptocurrency, it combined his interest in finance, computer science, economics and books.
I mention books because, while he believes in the power of the internet, he says the more old-school source of info, books, helped put him on the entrepreneurial track.
Some of the ones that influenced him are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey and Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Guy Kiyosaki. To understand the power of decentralization, he also loves The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.
Something that he thinks is fundamental, but that's missing from classrooms has to do with finance and understanding time preference.
In practical terms, that means thinking about what things will “look like in 10 years, even 5 years.”
“INTO TOO MANY THINGS”
Over time, he’s realized he has a bad habit he needs to break - “trying to get into too many things.”
In today’s world, it seems to be a tendency that must be rampant among entrepreneurs. That must be why we keep hearing about “serial entrepreneurs.” He calls his habit “entrepreneurial ADD.”
The wisdom of age (even though he’s only 35) has taught Doug that maybe it’s not such a great idea to jump on every opportunity. Doug says, “You want to make money doing everything. Let’s put up this website really quick. Let’s start selling this right now. It’s really hot right now.”
He’s realized everything has a price to pay, and what he could be giving up in the other businesses may force him to pay a heftier price.
“I think that I have had businesses fail that, in my opinion, I should have cut...sooner. And they become time sinks. Because, hey, if I was able to put 100% of my time into this, it probably would be a multi-million-dollar business. But how many of those can I really put myself in, right? And what is that doing to the other businesses?”
So, for now, he’s decided he’s going to concentrate on Bitstop, what he believes will be his golden ticket. He and his business partner, Andrew Barnard, have about 1200 machines in the U.S. Doug’s dream is to eventually expand to South and Central America.
When I mention that some critics have suggested Bitcoin could be like the dotcom bubble from the ‘90s, he scoffs and calls it lazy thinking. He points to Bitcoin's four bubble periods, before adding, “Most bubbles don’t continue to inflate for 10-12 years”.
Just like in the early days when he and Barnard got scammed out of $20,000 by the Bitcoin ATM supplier and had to decide whether to quit or double-down on the investment, he’s again doubling-down on his choice.
He believes in the technology even more. “It’s just a tool and, right now, it’s in price discovery. Every day, we learn even more things about this new technology that add even more value to it.”
THE TIP JAR (Tips passed out courtesy of Doug Carrillo)
“Go do it.” Don’t suffer from “paralysis by analysis.”
Don’t know how to do it or where to start?
“Go study a vertical. See how big the industry is. See what the impact might be…And don’t think you have to go from zero to 100 so fast. Go for those small wins. Build things up.”
“90% of the mistakes you make, in my opinion, you can recover from. [Only] 10%-20% may “wreck the whole thing.” His mindset? “So the little ones [mistakes]? Don’t sit around and stew on stuff.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (MID-CAREER):
“If the industry is local”, go to Google to find “entrepreneurial groups…Find co-working spaces where there’s people doing things.” Doug says you need to “create those collisions that may guide you to people or may guide you in a direction for yourself.”
“Want to get into tech? Go to a tech meetup. Go meet developers.”
But what if you’re not a coder? Doug says, “Maybe there’s a coder there who doesn’t know anything about marketing or how to run a business…But, together, maybe there can be something.”
Another suggestion? “Discord groups. Just like humans are organizing themselves in person, they’re organizing themselves in these chatrooms and these channels…Hunt those success stories.”
“I think it’s probably scarier if you’ve worked at a corporation your whole life.” But with COVID, Doug says, “I really feel like people are getting unlocked.” Ask yourself, “how can things be different?”
“Sometimes, having community or having people [around who are entrepreneurial]”…can be “really a great resource or a great motivator.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “Putting your eggs in that one [tech] developer and letting him hold you hostage because you’re scared that, if we fire him…this whole thing is going to fall apart…So I’ll never, ever let another developer hold me hostage again.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”: “Familia, familia…family, family all the way.” Doug says, “My wife, my kids – they’re my motivation behind everything. What a great experience to be blessed to have that."
“One thing that my mom told me that, gosh, stays with me: ‘You can do anything. Anything. And you can literally do anything you want. With enough perseverance and enough practice, you can do anything’…and I remember her telling me that at 5, 6, 7 years old.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE…because we can all use a helping hand:
BEST BUSINESS PODCASTS
Ever notice how, when a restaurant menu has too many items, it becomes a lot more difficult to decide on a meal? In this age of information overload, I appreciate curated lists of recommendations to keep me from feeling overwhelmed with choices. That’s why I liked this list of the best podcasts, specifically for business owners. From Hidden Brain, which gives insight into how people act and react, to Duct Tape Marketing, which shares marketing tips for those on a shoestring budget, you might find your next favorite podcast by checking out this list from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives):
WORKING ON THE INSIDE…because, let’s face it, our culture has a hard time asking for help:
I'm always looking for webinars that can add a little more meaning, motivation or just joy to your life. My search led me to this 30-minute, lunchtime meditation session. This one has a twist. It's being offered by the Smithsonian's Asian Art Museum. What I like about it is that, on the Friday sessions, the theme is art from the museum's collections. How cool is that? You get art + a mindfulness session, and it's FREE. Here's the link to register:
Smithsonian Institute - Asian Art Museum
Oct. 1, 4, 6, 8, 11 and 13
12 PM - 12:30 PM EST
Virtual Webinar - Free
No experience needed - all levels welcome
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS ISSUE:
I first learned about cryptocurrency back in 2017 when a politician told me about the digital form of currency. He was so excited about it and really encouraged me to look into it. I politely humored him and carried on about my business.
For better or worse, chatter about it has really picked up steam.
Most people don’t really grasp the whole cryptocurrency world. Truth be told, I can’t say I fully understood it, either. I definitely wanted and needed to learn more (and still do). I figured readers of Generation Si! would also be interested.
So I started looking for someone who could shed light on it. And I found Doug Carrillo. I saw an ad touting a cryptocurrency event the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was hosting, and he was listed as one of the speakers.
In the interest of transparency, I own less than $200 of Grayscale Ethereum, a fund which provides exposure to Ethereum, the blockchain platform that has its own form of cryptocurrency. Clearly, I dipped my toe very conservatively in the cryptocurrency world by going with a fund, not actual Bitcoin.
For reference, Bitcoin's price range for the prior day as this newsletter published was between $41,472.58 and $43,330.95.
I was interested in finding out what drove someone to go all-in on Bitcoin. What I found with Doug Carrillo was someone who has truly done his homework on the topic (10 years of investing in that business will do that). He had such a good handle on entrepreneurship, I’m convinced, if it weren’t Bitstop, he would’ve found success in another tech-related startup. That’s why I wanted to share his views on entrepreneurship.
What also is clear about him is that he understands the value of time, enjoying the present and family. So I’ll leave you with a little gem about how he defines success in life (it’s in relation to his family):
“You get one shot, and we should enjoy what we do. Being able to leave that legacy – that I created this thing [Bitstop] that I really love - and them [his wife and kids] having all these memories of me never being miserable while I was building it, that would be a great success.”