Ramsey Deal did what few of us do: When he saw something he didn’t like, he actually did something about it.
See, Deal spent the beginning of his career at New York City-based SuperBiz, a barter exchange platform where businesses trade unused and extra inventory among each other. At these types of exchanges, businesses accept payments in “trade dollars” rather than cash, allowing users to purchase goods or service without paying with real money. Deal was their head trade director at the time, and he found himself beginning to disagree with management on a few key ideas.
“They were doing a decent amount of revenue, but I felt like the company owner was more focused on money and I was more focused on the customer experience,” Deal said in an interview. “We disagreed about the means to the end, and I said ‘With all due respect, have a good day’ and I left and went back to Cincinnati.”
Instead of staying on, Deal left SmartBiz to start his own cryptocurrency barter exchange, Uptrade, in his hometown of Cincinnati.
“Cincinnati is on the up-and-coming, and it gets better every year.”
Here’s how Uptrade works: Businesses with a surplus of labor or inventory can sign up to have their services used in the traditional bartering system. Say an accountant is working 40 hours each week for one company, but he or she says they could handle 50 hours. Another company on the exchange can purchase the 10 extra hours of work per week using Uptrade’s cryptocurrency, TradeCoin, which goes to the accountant.
“The primary model is that they trade surplus goods or services or product for what they need from other businesses,” Deal said. “Rather than having to wait for that cash customer, you can get products and services from other businesses that you need in exchange of your product or services.”
At this point, it’s fair to start thinking about the value of this cryptocurrency. Is it just made up money? Does it outweigh the value of Monopoly money? Unlike most barter exchange companies, Uptrade relies on data to fuel the price of its currency. Deal said the system prohibits anyone from creating a currency out of thin air, and TradeCoin’s price point is created by the people making purchases and sales on the Uptrade market.
Right now, TradeCoin isn’t trading publicly, like Bitcoin. So users can’t convert their TradeCoins to dollars or any other currency they rely on outside of their business transactions. In order to do that, TradeCoin has to reach their total capacity of business — in this case $84 million in trade and transactions annually — before they can even consider bringing the currency public. And Deal has outsized ambitions for Uptrade, projecting the currency to be more valuable than the dollar in 15 years.
“It’s a massive expense to run the power to have this launch. But in the longterm, it makes a lot more sense.”
When looking for users, Uptrade isn’t focusing on one specific set of industries. The ideal client is any business that isn’t operating at maximum capacity already.
So, what’s the true challenge in launching Uptrade so far? The expense. They’re on the hunt for the right angel investors, especially since Uptrade sees itself as becoming profitable in 2-3 years, but they haven’t found a match yet.
“I’m not launching an ICO with this. We’re not bringing in a bunch of investor revenue by launching this TradeCoin,” Deal said. “In fact, it’s a massive expense to run the power to have this launch. But in the longterm, it makes a lot more sense.”
When people think of cryptocurrency hubs, they think of San Francisco or New York City. Not Cincinnati. But for Deal, who is a Queen City native, it just made sense to come home to launch the three-person company.
“I know a lot of people here. I know smart people who are interested in being a part of my team, so I don’t really have to go out and hunt for talent,” Deal said. “Cincinnati is on the up-and-coming, and it gets better every year.”