Enrique Rodriquez Carries on Dad's Legacy of Service With Cryptocurrency Consulting Business
SOUTHERN INDIANA — Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren't the easiest thing to understand.
They're digital money — different than other types of currency because they're not controlled by the government.
Instead of going through a middle man, cryptocurrency owners' transactions are kept track of on an anonymous digital ledger called blockchain, which is what ultimately allows Bitcoin, the most prominent cryptocurrency, and its contemporaries to stay independent.
Perhaps Enrique Rodriquez, a Jeffersonville native, can explain further.
Rodriquez, 23 — the son of the late Jeffersonville City Councilman Josh Rodriquez — along with his business partner, Jacob Melin, teaches people about cryptocurrencies and what to do with them. Their company is Crypto Consulting Group, and through it, they host public workshops, private meet-ups and consulting sessions. Their clients learn — and maybe make some money at the same time.
While cryptocurrency can be difficult to understand, learning how to use it can pay off. Just look at where Melin was three years ago: an Indiana University Southeast student still living at home, according to a Washington Post article written about Crypto Consulting Group.
Spurred by his own research, Melin invested $22,000 meant for his education into cryptocurrency.
On March 5, 2015, one Bitcoin was worth $271. As of Wednesday, the currency was valued at $10,062.
Melin had made $770,000 by 2017.
Enrique Rodriquez didn't take quite the same path as his partner. Instead, he bought a couple hundred dollars worth of cryptocurrency here and there before getting more serious last year and spending his tax return on Ether, another popular cryptocurrency. But Rodriquez still says he's made money off his investments: about $200,000 worth, some of which he's put back into the business.
It's been crazy, he said.
While cryptocurrency has made Rodriquez wealthier than the average 23-year-old, and has turned some early adopters into millionaires, he doesn't promise that paying for Crypto Consulting Group's services will make you rich.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are volatile. In mid-December, investors were riding high when Bitcoin reached over $19,000. Less than a week later, the currency had lost one-third of its value in just 24 hours. It's since made a comeback, but occasional crashes are still expected.
Rodriquez thinks that the business strategy that other cryptocurrency businesses have adopted, promising to turn $50 of someone's money into $1 billion, is a “crazy approach.” If a cryptocurrency crashes, so does a customer's trust.
That's why his company focuses on education, as well as creating communities for people interested in cryptocurrency. Currently, there aren't many places like that, he said, and that's why Crypto Consulting Group hosts meet-ups and runs message boards.
“We found whenever you bring people together and really bounce off ideas in, like, a group community setting, that's the most beneficial, has the most value, rather than just trying to figure it all out yourself,” Rodriquez said. “So that's really the angle we're taking, is building out communities and then giving these communities resources so they can learn off of one another, and then also, you know learn from our team as well…”
Plus, the other life is just not him, he said. “I've never been a flashy person.”
Rodriquez built Crypto Consulting Group around the values he learned from his councilman father, including the most important one: serve others.
“It wasn't politics to him, it was 'how can I help the most people possible,'” Enrique said of his father. “And that's kind of the route I want to take.”
Dave Carl, a Charlestown resident, is not new to investing. He got into the stock market as a 20-year-old looking to put away money for his future. Over 20 years later, though, and he was being confounded by a thing called Bitcoin.
“I guess I didn't understand it whatsoever,” he said.
But Carl's son knew Enrique Rodriquez from school and told his dad about what the young entrepreneur was doing.
It piqued Carl's stock trading sensibilities, and soon he was attending Crypto Consulting Group meetings.
Now, Carl owns his own cryptocurrency and is one of Enrique Rodriquez's clients.
Carl doesn't treat cryptocurrency the way he does stocks, though. There's no day trading involved or hopes that it will secure the rest of his retirement. But he is happy to have it, anyway — because of what it might become in the future.
Carl envisions new currencies and different companies taking advantage of blockchain technology.
“That's what I'm interested in, is what it's going to be,” he said. “That's fascinating.”
And without Rodriquez, Carl never would have gotten that opportunity, he said.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Josh Rodriquez didn't overthink things.
“Once Josh put his mind to something, it was going to happen and it was going to happen pretty quickly,” said Meredith Clipp-Rodriquez, Enrique Rodriquez's stepmom and Josh Rodriquez's widow.
It was how Josh built the community garden in his neighborhood. Two days after he told Clipp-Rodriquez about his idea, he was stationed in the empty lot, digging holes and painting.
Determination. That was just one of the things he and Enrique shared, Clipp-Rodriquez said.
Last March, Josh Rodriquez died after experiencing issues with his heart. Enrique started Crypto Consulting Group not long after. He had been dabbling in cryptocurrency for a few years at that point and had just started meeting with people to talk about cryptocurrency for fun when he decided to turn his hobby into a business.
Rodriquez's friends, burdened by school and jobs, shared his interest, but weren't willing to drop what they were doing. Rodriquez was just as busy, studying communications at the University of Louisville and working as a plant engineer supervisor at UPS. But by August 2017, he had dropped out of school to start his business.
“The opportunity is here now,” he thought.
Rodriquez met Melin in August through some mutual connections. Soon, with the help of Tim Totten, the founder of a Louisville Bitcoin Meetup group, they were accumulating followers and meeting in coffee shops.
Crypto Consulting group now has six employees: four full-time workers and two part-time, as well as several outside advisers who help the company.
In January, they moved into their first office building in Louisville. A few days later, Rodriquez quit his job at UPS to focus on his business venture.
“It's been a roller coaster,” he said. “It really has.”
Rodriquez is still looking for ways to expand Crypto Consulting Group's influence. He's working on a certification that would equip crypto geeks throughout the country with the skills needed to educate others.
There are also Crypto Consulting Group podcasts and vlogs in the works, as well as a program to help clients earn cryptocurrency instead of buying it, which can be done by rigging computers to do the work for you. Soon, clients will be able to become Crypto Consulting Group members to access the company's services.
Outside the business, Rodriquez dreams of utilizing block chain technology to transform the way the world works: from shipping to elections. At UPS, when packages would disappear, he saw how inefficient the current systems could be And from watching his dad, who was forced through a recount process that a judge ruled as flawed, Enrique observed the fragility of democracy.
Through block chain, everybody can see all the cryptocurrency transactions made, but they're all anonymous and encrypted, to stave off tampering. Rodriquez wants you to imagine if those transactions were votes. As for shipping, the one system of blockchain could replace all the systems currently used by the industry.
“I just want to spend my life trying to help people in different ways, using technology,” he said.
One of the last conversations Enrique had with his dad was about cryptocurrency. He promised to teach his dad how to use it. And then Enrique left for a trip to Colorado.
He was about to ski for the first time when he decided to take a picture for his dad. When Enrique looked at his phone's screen, he noticed five missed calls from his uncle.
“What's going on?” he thought.
His father's sudden death spurred Rodriquez to act on his business idea.
“Just do it,” he thought. “If you fail, you fail. If not, then you know you gave it your best effort.”
That was something his dad had always told him to do.
Enrique's family has seen a transformation in him.
“I think [his dad's death] gave him a lot more drive to see it through,” Clipp-Rodriquez said. “To find a way to make it happen so he could, I wouldn't say prove to everyone else, but to show that it is possible and that if he put, you know, his heart and his passion into it, then he could have it done.”
If Josh Rodriquez could see Enrique Rodriquez now, he would be proud, she said. “So proud.”