The ongoing bitcoin bear market has been difficult for cryptocurrency entrepreneurs like Tyrone Ross, but it hasn’t been enough to slow him down.
Bitcoin is down more than 60% since it reached a high point in November 2021, and the broader cryptocurrency market has been plagued by bankruptcies, scandals, criminal investigations and increased regulatory oversight. The market has challenged Turnqey Labs, the startup Ross co-founded in 2022 after leaving Onramp Invest, the cryptocurrency-for-advisors startup he helped launch that recently sold to Securitize.
Turnqey was impacted by crypto-lending company BlockFi declaring bankruptcy. The company also held bitcoin with FTX — the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange whose founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, is facing criminal charges — but was able to pull out in time, Ross said. To top things off, the company banked with Silicon Valley Bank, which collapsed in March.
But none of it has caused Ross’s personal belief in bitcoin to waver.
“It’s been incredibly difficult from a business standpoint, but personally — not too much,” said Ross, who was an InvestmentNews 40 Under 40 in 2019. “I’ve dug my feet in in terms of my conviction. I’m that confident that [bitcoin] is going to effect meaningful change.”
Nor have challenges put a dent in his confidence that Turnqey can be for crypto what is Plaid for banking assets, aggregating data on digital assets and make the information readily accessible inside financial advisors’ other tools. The team has been quietly building since launching a minimum viable product in 2022 and is close to announcing significant enterprise deals with some large players in the industry, Ross said.
As a financial advisor — Ross is also the president and founder of 401 Financial, a fully digital RIA that charges clients a flat subscription fee — that works with crypto-enthusiasts (or “crypto-hippies,” as Ross calls them), Turnqey solves the ongoing problem of simply being unable to see all of a client’s holdings.
“We as an industry can’t say we advise clients holistically on their assets if we can’t even see them,” Ross said. “You can hate [cryptocurrency], but if a client has $1 million in a Coinbase account, you should be able to see it.”
More recently, Ross joined Wealth.com as the digital estate planning software’s first strategic advisor. Ross was introduced to the fintech company through Erik Smith, chief investment officer of 401 Financial, and worked with the startup to help make it a viable tool for his firm. He hopes this will serve as a blueprint for how Wealth.com can work with other advisory firms, and as an advisor will engage with the product team to help drive growth.
“I’m committed to bringing this to folks who have never had an estate plan before. Seventy-five percent of Black Americans don’t have a will, and that needs to change,” Ross said.
Wealth.com also hopes to benefit from Ross’s experience in the cryptocurrency market to guide how digital assets can be incorporated into modern estate planning.
“Tyrone’s forward-thinking approach will help us optimize our solution to empower advisors to deliver a holistic client experience,” Wealth.com chief partnership officer Tim White said in a statement. “Together, we are committed to developing meaningful solutions that empowers more people to achieve their financial well-being.”
What encourages Ross is that none of the large wealth management platforms he talks to about Turnqey have turned their backs fully on cryptocurrency. The true believers remain, but Ross is concerned about what recent events mean for expanding the cryptocurrency market with new advisors and retail investors, especially those who got burned by companies like FTX.
“I’m worried that crypto is just going to be the kids’ table at the barbecue. We keep anointing these clowns to be the face of the industry,” Ross said. “I’m very concerned that [crypto is] going to be this trinket and not meet its true use case. It’s a circus, and that’s disappointing.”