Token model architect Eloisa Marchesoni and growth hacker Giacomo Arcaro took to New York City’s Wall Street to offer Ether crypto to the unhoused to fund potential ‘street startups’
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Imagine two people walk up to you and offer you not mainstream currency but hundreds of dollars worth of crypto with no strings attached. What would you do? That is exactly what Giancomo Arcaro and Eloisa Marchesoni did over the March 27 and 28 weekend in New York City, for the unhoused and those hit badly by the lockdown who needed help funding their startup ideas, or ‘street startups’ as Arcaro called them.
Marchesoni, a 23-year-old crypto-influencer and entrepreneur, recalls the occasion with a lot of fondness as she chats with The Hindu over a call.
How it worked
In a series of Instagram Stories, Arcaro snapped some posters with large block lettering of ‘Free crypto loans for the homeless’ and then images of said posters against the grey stone walls of Wall Street skyscrapers. Arcaro and Marchesoni certainly followed through with the posters’ offerings, distributing around 12.5 ETH (around $22,600 at the time of writing this) with an average of 0.5 ETH (roughly $900) per person.
Of course, many of the homeless did prefer to be given funds for necessities such as food, blankets or healthcare, while others requested funds for resources such as equipment like computers and microphones.
“The New York Stock Exchange, as I know it, has not been effective in representing the value of certain companies, even if digitised,” says Marchesoni. “It has also not been effective in aiding the mass adoption of financial instruments that should serve the whole purpose of triggering financial inclusivity, globally.” She adds it has actually built “an elite of people that have been speculating for many decades.”
So Arcaro and Marchesoni wanted crypto to be challenge this conversation around complex finance and market systems. “So we ventured out across the weekend days from 9 am till 5 pm, put up these posters and did this whole micro-credit endeavour from 0.01 ETH to 1 ETH for each unhoused person who wanted to have their own startup, or even someone who had a job before the pandemic and are now on the streets.” Many of these people could not even open a bank account and access credit or be eligible for loans or mortgages.
Marchesoni points out most of whom were vetted and then funded had a smartphone, and to get them to download the Coinbase or Binance apps (the crypto-exchange platforms) was certainly a process. She explains they had to first break down the concept of decentralised and non-tangible currencies that are still valid and legal — and the duo only proceeded if the pitchers were comfortable and felt safe about crypto.
The project drew many a curious eye and phone camera, which Marchesoni and Arcaro are thankful for, she says. Social media posts of what they were doing helped bring more attention to not just the funding for these ‘street startups’ but also invited larger conversations about Wall Street, the finance world, crypto’s scope for doing good, and more.
Inspired by r/WallStreetBets?
The inspiration for the unusual initiative is an amalgam of both real world and philosophical veins. Marchesoni refers to 2020’s headlines around r/wallstreetbets and it “was mind-blowing to see the people and the tech giants listed on that same Stock Exchange are challenging it, showing that ‘Wall Street is dead.’ If you were listed on NYSE, you used to be scared that they would run due diligence on you or correct your value at any time, but now you’re actually mocking it.”
Read More | WallStreetBets : Disruptors on the money street
Philosophically, it seems to stem from Bangladeshi social entrepreneur Muhammed Yunus’ concepts of microcredit and microfinance which were popularised during the 70s and 80s, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Marchesoni insists, “It doesn’t stop just here.”Arcaro and Marchesoni are keen to keep in touch with those they have funded to help them with any technical or logistical issues, offering them advice should they need it. They want to keep doing this in different parts of New York, and as travel normalises, different parts of the world such as Dubai, Thailand, and, who knows, maybe India too, depending on the Government’s stance on cryptocurrency.