British JJ Jones is a semi-professional DJ and civil society enthusiast. He was one of the early adopters of cryptocurrency, dabbling in it back in 2012, and has a background in crisis communication and management consulting. He’s currently in charge of the regulation and compliance aspects of Peccala and fundraising as he tries to build something for everyday people.
JJ, Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m JJ. Although my real name is Jeremy Jones, I’ve been called JJ since I was young. I’m British, and I grew up in a small town in the UK. I subsequently lived in Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and now live in Cyprus. So I consider myself a European even if Brexit disagrees. I love music and was a semi-professional DJ for a while, back when dubstep was cool. When I was 16, I was part of a 60’s rock band, and there’s photographic evidence of me with long hair down to my shoulders! I studied political science and thought I wanted to work in politics, but after working in the UK parliament, I realized a lot of professional politics is all talk and no real action. Still, I think politics and civil society are important, and it’s important that people stay engaged in the political and social system.
What work experience do you have?
At Peccala, I’m the co-founder in charge of keeping stuff going if you like. I’m basically in charge of the process that is legal and regulatory, like compliance, operational, and fundraising. So I don’t focus on the product, technology, or marketing, but everything else falls into my domain. That’s great about the team because we have a great match of skills. Laura has marketing, has built the product front end, and has become a really experienced product person. Aldo is our trading genius, improving the algorithm. And I was a consultant and saw how companies operated and regulations were structured, so that’s where I fit in. While we are a small company, we still have a lot to do regarding anti-money laundering rules and everything else involved in being a fintech startup.
Before Peccala, I worked in crisis communication and crisis management in Geneva for a consultancy, and before that worked at Deloitte in London in their crisis team. I studied politics at university and did a stint working for an MP in the British Parliament. Previously when I was 18, I started an alcohol delivery company, my first entrepreneurial adventure. A friend and I decided that our small town was missing a 24/7 alcohol delivery system — obviously! The main issue was getting the right license to sell it, and we did it for a few years until we realized we didn’t have a big enough market. But it was a fun experience.
How did you meet the team?
We all met at the Antler startup incubator in Berlin. We signed up as individuals to Antler, a program for people who have a startup idea but don’t have a co-founder or funding. I came with an idea around helping people manage their money better. I spoke with everyone in our cohort and remembered Aldo mentioning that he had already built this trading technology. I had first bought bitcoin at $13 and sold it when it reached $100 (something I regret now). In 2017 I invested in a few ICOs, including Swissborg, Bloom, and some others that never went anywhere, and I also held various cryptos, so I always kept up with the crypto world. So when Aldo told me about his trading technology, I was immediately impressed and knew he had a money-making idea, and one that could help people achieve their financial goals. After the third week at Antler, we decided to pair up and soon invited Laura to join the team. She was a very active crypto trader (the most active in our team before Peccala) and had worked in marketing for Lykke, a Swiss crypto exchange, so we knew she’d be an excellent match. Ultimately, we sat down, explored what Peccala could look like, and went from there.
I’ve been interested in crypto for a long time. In 2012 a friend of mine introduced me to Bitcoin, and I liked the idea of it being “digital gold.” I also saw how the world was moving towards more decentralization and thought it could be a way out of banks’ stranglehold on the financial system. I don’t necessarily see it that way anymore, and I don’t think crypto will take over the world and replace banks or currencies like the dollar or euro — but it offers a new asset class that allows people to make good money and is truly open to everyone. That’s very important to me and something that brought Aldo, Laura, and I together. Hedge funds, for instance, which can make good returns for their investors, are only available to high net worth individuals and are closed off to ordinary people. I don’t think it’s fair and locks ordinary investors out of the most profitable investments. Crypto shatters that mold. Of course, there’s always a risk of losing money, and I don’t encourage people to invest more in crypto than they feel OK with potentially losing. But it’s still exciting because it’s an asset class open to everyone.
How would you describe Peccala’s mission?
I see it in three parts. First, we want to help people make money through passive investments. We want people to be able to use our incredible tool to make money in a way they couldn’t achieve otherwise. It’s a way to work towards financial freedom or security, rather than putting your money into a savings account at 0.01% interest and seeing it do nothing. Secondly, we want it to be open to everyone. It’s a core feature for us. We want to serve retail clients rather than just make the rich richer. That’s why we built a product that works like an investment fund but in a way that’s much more accessible. Third and lastly, there’s a lot to navigate in the wild west of crypto, but we want to get people excited about crypto and give them a way to make money safely and easily.
What’ve you learned since starting Peccala?
So much stuff. I founded a small company before, but this is the first time I have been involved with a startup with high growth potential. It’s different from any job I’ve ever done! If one of us founders doesn’t do something, it doesn’t get done. When you join a company, even a small one, someone does admin, payroll, day-to-day things like ordering toilet paper, and just details you don’t think about. But with a startup, we need to think of everything — building the product, raising investment, marketing, etc. So you have to classify tasks effectively and think about what to focus on now and then find the right headspace to do that specific task, and that’s a constant challenge in startups.
Another learning is running a remote team. We didn’t start remote, as Laura, Aldo, and I were all in Berlin for the first 4 months. But once we left Berlin, we had to learn how to run a remote team which is a different proposition. For example, there is no “watercooler” chit-chat. Every call is about something business-related, so we must ensure we also take time to build human interactions with each other and the team. It’s even more complicated when hiring someone. How do you make someone feel a part of the team culture when they’re at home in a different country or time zone? We currently have two full-time employees and work with several freelancers part-time, and we’re still figuring out our company culture. I’d also say that my knowledge of regulations has gone through the roof. I have a risk and policy background but no specific knowledge of crypto frameworks or structures — which are also changing constantly. So, it’s been a steep learning curve for me but very exciting at the same time.
Any last thoughts?
Overall, I’d like to see us become the mainstream way people invest in crypto in the next five years. We’d also like to reach unicorn status by that point. But, of course, this all starts with trust. I understand this industry is rife with scams, as well as projects like Terra and Celcius, which were poorly thought out or executed, but we’re trying to build something disciplined that runs well so people can achieve financial freedom by investing with Peccala.