Startups

How Cryptocurrency, Crowdfunding And A Little Internet Altruism Saved Jamaica’s Hopes For Bobsled Gold

Comment

Just in case you missed it, a heart-warming story unfolded this week involving an unlikely combination of bobsled, Jamaica, virtual currency, crowdfunding and generosity. It has all the makings of an inspiring Disney movie — er, an inspiring Disney sequel. Last Sunday, news began trickling out that a two-man bobsled team from the island nation of Jamaica had qualified for the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The country’s official Twitter account for the 2014 games announced the news that the team had qualified, including an image that appeared to be a reference to Cool Runnings, the John Candy-led cult film that loosely chronicled Jamaica’s debut in bobsled for the 1988 Olympic Games in Alberta, Canada.

The world apparently loves a sequel. In a plot twist seemingly right out of Cool Runnings, despite qualifying for the 2014 Olympics, team captain Winston Watts told the New York Times that the team hadn’t been able to raise the necessary funds to make it to Russia. Watts said that he had essentially been self-funding the team’s efforts thus far, and had even dug into his personal savings to fly the team to the U.S. for the bobsledding qualifiers. Nevertheless, after finding little help from the Jamaican Olympic Association or private investors, the team was forced to turn elsewhere.

In the world of bobsled, and perhaps sports in general, there has never been a more quintessential underdog story. First of all, the Jamaican bobsled team is from, well, Jamaica. Second, the team is competing against teams with significant some financial backing (and actually hail from more arctic climes). Not only that, Winston Watts came out of retirement to lead the 2014 bobsled team, and if the team were to compete in Sochi, Watts would be second-oldest bobsled pilot in Olympic history at age 46.

Luckily, the citizens of the Internet are sympathetic to an underdog story and were not about to let the team sit this one out due to lack of funding. And that’s when Jamaican bobsledding had its first introduction to the altruistic power of both virtual currency and digital crowdfunding proponents alike. Fittingly, it was a joke currency — or a virtual currency inspired by a dog meme — that came to the rescue. Yes, the very peer-to-peer cryptocurrency loved by Lassie, the world’s pooches and geeks alike, and the very currency that began as a joke but has since been hailed as a potential successor to Bitcoin: The noble, Dogecoin.

In a movement that began on Reddit, the Dogecoin Foundation seized the opportunity to promote its virtual currency on the world stage and help send the Jamaican bobsled team to Sochi. Over a matter of days, the Dogecoin community raised over 27 million Dogecoins, the equivalent of $30,000 for those without a canine cryptocurrency analyst on hand.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 4.26.36 AMThat, in and of itself, is something to behold, but the Internet wasn’t done yet. Just as the Dogecoin campaign began to hit full steam, word of the Jamaican bobsled team’s plight got to the founders of Y Combinator-incubated, group-funding platform, Crowdtilt. A Jamaican bobsled fan launched a campaign on Crowdtilt to pool funds for the team from sympathetic fans and, before long, the startup got wind of the campaign, as did the team’s president, Chris Stokes, and founding member of the original “Cool Runnings” team, Devon Harris.

The team made the Crowdtilt effort its “official fundraising campaign,” and the Crowdtilt founders worked with the Dogecoin Foundation to convert the $30K raised in Dogecoin (from 1,600 Dogecoin supporters) into Bitcoin and then combine it with the money raised on Crowdtilt.

As one might expect, the campaign quickly surpassed its goal and then some. After three days live, the campaign raised just under $130K ($129,587, to be precise) — more than 12 times the campaign’s goal — including the contribution from the Dogecoin community.

Crowdtilt co-founder James Beshara tells us that it was one of the fastest campaigns to reach its goal in the platform’s history and there were points when as much as $3,000 was donated in 60 seconds. The average donation was $34.60, with nearly 3,000 individuals contributing to the campaign from 50 states and 52 countries.

Because of the outpouring of support, the Jamaican bobsled team will now be able to make its flight to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. In a message posted to Crowdtilt, Devon Harris said that the money raised will be used to “cover training expenses (food, board, traveling, track fees, etc), and equipment purchases as the team completes its final preparation for the Games … And funds will also be earmarked to ship the sled and related equipment to Russia.”

This is the kind of stuff that makes one proud to live in a world where generous people from all over the world can leverage digital currency and crowdfunding — and technology in general — to help those in need. It’s just one example of millions of underdog stories out there deserving of our time and consideration, and hopefully it becomes an example to a whole new generation of the tools we now have at our disposal — and how they can be used to benefit the greater good. Or at least give bobsled a story that’s worth following …

Either way, we look forward to seeing Cool Runnings 2 come to theaters near us in 2015. After all, it’s clearly the follow-up to The Social Network that we’ve been waiting for.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

13 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

15 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android