Bitcoin Buyers Flock To Investment Clubs Such As “Black Bitcoin Billionaires” To Learn Rules of The Road
The Black Bitcoin Billionaires group, which meets on the social-media platform Clubhouse, swells to 136,000 members. Bitcoin Buyers Flock To Investment Clubs Such As “Black Bitcoin Billionaires” To Learn Rules of The Road
Shalair Armstrong has a busy life. She runs two chiropractic offices in Boston. She has a teenage son. Still, every weekday morning she makes time to buy some bitcoin within earshot of hundreds of strangers.
Shalair Armstrong At A Boston Radio Station Discussing The ‘Room’ She Hosts In The Audio Social-Media Channel Clubhouse Called ‘Wakeup With Bitcoin.’
Dr. Armstrong hosts a “room” in the audio social-media channel Clubhouse called “WakeUp With Bitcoin.” Some mornings, listeners can hear her dog barking. It’s a far cry from sitting in an office with your broker.
“WakeUp With Bitcoin” is part of the Black Bitcoin Billionaires group on Clubhouse that has swollen to 136,000 investors in about a year.
The crush of people flooding into crypto has left a large information void, especially for individual investors. Every time bitcoin rallies, a new wave of buyers enters the market. A survey by the exchange Crypto.com estimated there were 221 million crypto holders in June 2021, more than double the number in January.
Social-media sites like Reddit, TikTok, Instagram and Telegram have become popular platforms for getting information, but they are also clogged with misinformation and outright scams. Getting objective guidance can be difficult. The mayor-elect of New York City, Eric Adams, recently suggested that city schools teach classes in crypto.
Groups like the Black Bitcoin Billionaires try to help educate new investors, but they stress the information being shared isn’t financial advice.
On Reddit, bitcoin conversations show up not only in crypto and investing threads, but in sports, politics and gaming threads. Crypto-themed videos are popular on YouTube and TikTok. Facebook became so interested in crypto it tried—unsuccessfully, so far—to create its own digital currency.
The Black Bitcoin Billionaires group was created by two bitcoin investors, Lamar Wilson and Isaiah Jackson, who wanted to help the Black community get into bitcoin while it was still relatively new.
Mr. Wilson, a 41-year-old software developer from Lexington, Ky., sees bitcoin as similar to the internet in the early 1990s or other early tech developments.
“It’s not that they don’t have the aptitude, they never get the introduction,” Mr. Wilson said. “By the time it gets down to those marginalized groups, most of the value is gone,” he said.
The Black Bitcoin Billionaires group’s membership is broad. The group has software developers, finance professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, students and educators of all ages. Some are financially savvy, some understand very little about finance. Not all the members are Black; a sizable percentage of the group is white. The common denominator is an interest in bitcoin.
Crypto investors are largely responsible for educating themselves. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, warned investors to do their own research on any company offering crypto investments. They cautioned against claims made via emails, cold calls or social media, and to be on guard against aggressive pitches or guaranteed returns.
The Federal Trade Commission outlined a number of hallmarks of frauds, both in the real world and increasingly across social media: One, guaranteed returns, or promises of free money; two, a lack of details about the investment; and, three, any request for money in advance.
Dr. Armstrong isn’t a financial adviser or professional investor, and doesn’t get paid for her time. In her daily talk, she covers the steps in buying bitcoin, with brief primers on the mechanics and history of the digital currency.
“We wanted to provide a space, where if you are a person of color you can come into here and feel comfortable asking questions,” Dr. Armstrong said.
While bitcoin has appreciated substantially over its short history, it is a notoriously volatile asset that can drop violently. She advises the people she talks to to be cautious with how much they invest.
“This is your discretionary income,” she said. “This is not for your daughter’s braces next year. It’s not your mortgage money.” Instead, she suggests they put in small amounts regularly, with the goal of building something over time.
“Many of us are looking at this as a generational wealth builder,” she said.
Marshall Johnson, a 54-year-old educational-television producer in Maryland, knew virtually nothing about bitcoin when he first heard about it—not even that it was possible to buy fractions of a bitcoin. Because of that, he stayed away from it. He tried to watch YouTube videos and looked around for information, but that didn’t get him far.
He found his way to Dr. Armstrong’s room last year. “They had people who cared, people who were interested in teaching and not just making money off you,” he said.
He may never be a bitcoin billionaire, but he’s become a bitcoin buyer. What he learned in the room helped him develop his own buying strategy. He even has an exit plan: to keep at it until he has at least one full bitcoin.
“That would be a wonderful goal,” he said.
Online Bitcoin Investment Clubs Aim To Fill Crypto Knowledge Gaps
Thousands of Americans interested in investing in cryptocurrencies have joined social media-based investment groups to learn the basics, including the sector’s risks. Lamar Wilson, co-founder of the Black Bitcoin Billionaires group, joins host J.R. Whalen to discuss what members learn, and how the knowledge has paid off.
This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.
J.R. Whalen: Here’s Your Money Briefing for Friday, December 17th. I’m J.R. Whalen for the Wall Street Journal. There’s no shortage of information about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies out there, but how reliable is it? That’s questionable, and many people still don’t really understand how it works or what the risks are. Stepping in to fill the information gap is a crop of online investment groups that aim to help everyday investors learn the rules of the road.
Lamar Wilson: People have heard of all of these other cryptocurrencies, and they tend to put them all in the same bin. I think that’s the part that is the biggest learning curve and the gap because people just think that because they’re digital assets, they’re all the same, and it could be further from the truth.
J.R. Whalen: On today’s show. We’ll talk with Lamar Wilson. He co-founded a cryptocurrency investment group that aims to educate investors who may have missed out on the early crypto craze but still want a piece of the pie. That’s after the break. Every time the price a bitcoin spikes, a new wave of buyers enters the market. In the first half of 2021, for example, the number of people who owned cryptocurrency doubled to more than 220 million according to crypto.com, but there’s still a large information void, especially for individual investors who either own crypto or on the outside looking in. Lexington, Kentucky resident, Lamar Wilson, saw the need to fill in that knowledge gap and co-founded the Black bitcoin Billionaires Group. It’s one of many groups on social media that aims to break down the complexities of cryptocurrency and make it more understandable and accessible. Lamar, thank you so much for being with us.
Lamar Wilson: Hey, how are you doing?
J.R. Whalen: I’m very good. So Lamar, tell us, why did you create the Black bitcoin Billionaires Group?
Lamar Wilson: Well, I’ve been in the bitcoin space for a while and I noticed that there was an actual void of people who look like me when I went to conferences. So I would go to a conference and there maybe two or three black people at the conference. And I realized that it wasn’t for the fact that black people couldn’t understand bitcoin. It was for the fact that they were intentional about inviting black people to the conference. So I said, “You know what? If I’m going to learn about this amazing technology, I’m going to have to get this word out here myself and be very intentional about who I get the word out there to.” So I started a group on Facebook that was pretty large and wound up growing to about 26,000 people. And one of those members told me about Clubhouse, and I was like, “Well, to continue the mission, what I have to do is get on the Clubhouse and start the same thing.” And so I founded Black bitcoin Billionaire and asked my friend bitcoin Zay to come along so that we could both found it together, and that’s why we did it, so that we could actually be intentional about getting the information about bitcoin to the black community.
J.R. Whalen: How many members does the group have now, and what are the members’ backgrounds?
Lamar Wilson: Man, the group has about 138,000 members right now. So it continues to grow. So it’s grown a lot within a year. The makeup of the group is probably around 40% black. The rest of the group is a hodgepodge of all types of individuals. We have black people, Latinx, people from Nigeria, people from El Salvador. We have people from all over the world in the group. So it’s a very, very, very diverse group. And I like to say it’s probably one of the most diverse groups on the entire application of Clubhouse.
J.R. Whalen: And tell me about the ages of people that belong to the group.
Lamar Wilson: Oh man, again, as diverse as it is culturally and ethnically, the big diversity also comes in from an age perspective. We have teenagers in the group, people as young as 16, 17, and then we have there’s a young lady in our group, I believe she’s 91 years old that comes in, and then we have crypto granny who’s I think 74, 75. So you have people along the entire spectrum. I think the majority of the people rest between their 20s and 50s, but we still have that huge spectrum of people throughout the entire group. It’s a very large group so you’re going to have a lot of different people.
J.R. Whalen: Now, what are you hoping members will learn about investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrency by being in the group?
Lamar Wilson: The idea for us is to basically focus more on the self sovereignty and the generational wealth aspects of bitcoin. The fact that bitcoin is this asset that cannot become confiscated once you own it yourself, it’s extremely powerful for the black community because in this country, when we’ve been able to build wealth, many times that wealth has either been burned down, taken from us, confiscated, so on and so forth. And so with bitcoin being an asset that you cannot confiscate once you own your own keys, no one else can confiscate, it makes it extremely powerful. And so we try to focus on that part of bitcoin as an alternative to a financial system that hasn’t always worked in our favor.
J.R. Whalen: What have you noticed are the biggest knowledge gaps when it comes to the group members and investing in cryptocurrency?
Lamar Wilson: The biggest gap I think usually comes from the fact that people have heard of all of these other cryptocurrencies and they tend to put them all in the same bin. So they make bitcoin the same as, say, a Shiba Inu or something like that. That’s a meme coin that’s meant to be fun and just be a meme. I think that’s the part that is the biggest learning curve and the gap, because people just think that because they’re digital assets, they’re all the same, and it could be further from the truth. And so we spend a lot of time educating on why bitcoin is completely different than something like a Shiba Inu.
J.R. Whalen: Lamar, bitcoin is one of the riskier investments out there. That’s not a surprise to anybody, but what kinds of pitfalls about investing in crypto do you try to inform the group members about?
Lamar Wilson: A lot of times, we’ll say only invest what you can afford to lose. And so the reason why we say that is because we know it’s extremely volatile, and we also realize that because of its volatility that people will probably sell before they even get the benefits of actually holding on to it. And so we say, “Listen, use this as a savings account that you’re never going to touch. It’s almost like buying a piece of land in Manhattan in the 1700s. If you could put $5 a week towards a piece of land in Manhattan in the 1700s, it would behoove you to hold on to it and to keep it for generations to come and allow your family and friends and everyone else that you love to partake in that land moving forward and be able to use it as collateral.” So that’s what we talk about in bitcoin. We say, “Listen, use the money that you can afford to lose, the money you were going to buy your coffee with or the extra money you were going to spend on Netflix or whatever. This extra amount of money. Don’t go putting your life savings in it, your mortgage money, none of that. Don’t make those huge bets.” And if you want to, you can, but we just say it’s probably better for you to dollar cost average in and make sure that you own it, own a little bit of it over time and not try to just completely take a huge bet on it. Because if you put the money you need into it, you’re more likely to get rid of it before it even gets the value that we think is going to be shown in the future.
J.R. Whalen: So what have you heard back from member in terms of what they’ve learned and has it paid off?
Lamar Wilson: Yeah. Many members are extremely happy. We did a whole campaign to tell people like, “Listen, if you want go become a satoshi millionaire” … So a satoshi is the smallest unit of bitcoin. And so our big push was during what we called Black Future Month, not Black History Month, it’s Black Future Month of February, our whole goal in focus was to see how many people we could get to become satoshi millionaires, which is to buy a million satoshis. And at that time, when we first started the campaign, buying a million satoshis with us was about $200. It was $180 to $220, something like that, in December. We continued to push that up into February, and that’s when we did the campaign. And at that time, I think being a satoshi millionaire may have cost you about $280 to $300. Now, of course, becoming a satoshi millionaire is around $500. So those people who became satoshi millionaires at the beginning of the year, they feel really good, right? Their satoshis have gone up considerably. The actual dollar amount has gone up considerably, and they start to understand what we mean by holding it for the long term. And so a lot of those members are extremely happy about that, and they tend to keep coming back to learn more about the technology and about how it works within the macroeconomic system. So, yeah, I think a lot of the members are extremely happy.
J.R. Whalen: All right. That’s Lamar Wilson, co-founder of Black Bitcoin billionaires. Lamar, thanks so much for being with us.
Lamar Wilson: Thank you.
J.R. Whalen: And that’s Your Money Briefing. I’m J.R. Whalen for the Wall Street Journal.