Brock Pierce, cryptocurrency 'hippie king,' visits Israel

“Most of my trips are really just to talk to local government and business leaders. And in this particular instance, it’s as much for me as for everything else.”

 IN ISRAEL: 'Jerusalem has been on my list of places to spend some time for a while.' (photo credit: JACOB BERKOWITZ)
IN ISRAEL: 'Jerusalem has been on my list of places to spend some time for a while.'
(photo credit: JACOB BERKOWITZ)

What made a former child star turned tech entrepreneur think he has a chance to run for president of the US in 2020? 

In the case of crypto-king-billionaire Brock Pierce, the Oval Office is actually a place he spent many hours in as a child – well, at least a set that looks exactly like the Oval Office itself. 

The 41-year-old Pierce is a familiar face to those who grew up in the ’80s and the ’90s as a child star on the hit movie series The Mighty Ducks, where he starred as the younger version of coach Gordon Bombay (Hollywood actor Emilio Estevez). But Pierce also starred as Luke Davenport, 13-year-old son of the US president in First Kid (1996). 

“I actually got to visit the Oval Office before filming First Kid and got to meet then-president Bill Clinton,” Pierce tells the Magazine this week in a Jerusalem hotel during an action-packed visit to Israel. “As a kid it was really cool to meet the president and to work while the rest of my friends were at school,” he says with a smile.

As mentioned, in 2020, Pierce ran as an independent candidate for the US presidency on a platform of unity and collective prosperity. Born into a middle-class home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pierce began his career early as a child actor. At 16, he recognized that the Internet would change the world and decided to take the path of tech entrepreneur.

 BROCK PIERCE: Offering innovation information. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) BROCK PIERCE: Offering innovation information. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Actualizing this, he became a leader in blockchain technology – a modern vehicle for the American dream. Upon moving to Puerto Rico in 2017, he immediately prioritized philanthropy after seeing the devastation Hurricane Maria left behind.

Pierce is an entrepreneur, impact investor and philanthropist with an extensive track record of founding, advising and investing in innovative businesses and foundations. He is a global leader and pioneer in technology, blockchain and cryptocurrency, raising more than $5 billion for companies that he has founded. 

In a February 2018 issue of Forbes magazine, Pierce was named in the “top 20 wealthiest people in crypto” with an estimated net worth between $700 million and $1.1b. Rolling Stone crowned him as “The Hippie King of Cryptocurrency.” 

Developing the Integro Foundation, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit, Pierce provided philanthropic resources to Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Islands and indigenous people. With programs designed to revive areas in critical need, Integro works to solve the ecological, economic and social challenges of this region. 

His nonprofit, the Brock Pierce Foundation, supports a range of causes, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Center for Individual Rights, the Brennan Center for Human Rights, as well as the arts and cutting-edge research in medicine and mental health. Pierce is also vice chair of the US Marines Toys for Tots Foundation of New York, Long Island and Puerto Rico.

His life’s work has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Wired and Rolling Stone. Serving as an economic and technology adviser to world leaders and US politicians alike, he has helped cities, states and nations craft policies and solutions to sustainably grow their economies and improve the lives of their citizens.

When asked why he visited Israel, he replied, “I’m talking to a number of governments around the world. I typically try to go to the places where I think they need the most help,” he says, yet excludes the current visit to the rule. “Israel’s a little bit different in the sense that I really wanted to come here anyway.

“Not that all of those other wonderful places that I visit aren’t wonderful,” he adds with a smile. “But Jerusalem has been on my list of places to spend some time for a while. I’ve been to Israel a number of times, but most of my meetings were in Tel Aviv. But this trip serves multiple functions. 

“Most of my trips are really just to talk to local government and business leaders. And in this particular instance, it’s as much for me as for everything else.”

Hey, it’s okay to prioritize yourself, right?

Absolutely, I don’t really ever take off, I barely even get hours off. Hours. I don’t remember the last time I had vacation.

During your visit you met senior Israeli officials such as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, former premier Benjamin Netanyahu and others. What’s your agenda for these meetings?

So for me, I’m not really seeking anything. I’m really just offering information. One of the things that I’ve learned is that governments around the world tend not to have very good information as it relates to innovation. It’s actually shockingly, right behind [the curve]. And that’s because the groups that are genuinely creating the most innovative things in the world are not. 

It’s not that they’re allergic to governments. It’s just the idea of bureaucracy and of those sorts of issues.

That’s because government offices are in boxes, while innovative companies are the total opposite. 

Way outside it. Right. And so, I come from that world of innovators and I care about how these things happen. I want to see how the public and the private sectors can work together, how the Left and the Right can work together, how the new and the old can work together. I want to see how we can find this sort of path to unity.

And a lot of conversations began with just trying to inform governments about what’s happening with this innovation, because it’s human nature to fear what you don’t understand. And you conquer fear with knowledge, right? I went out and just started playing this role of informing and educating, and what I learned is that as people become more informed, their stance in their positions change. 

What I’ve identified as an opportunity of talking to governments, world leaders, as well as local businesses around the world is figuring out how to get them access to the 21st century.

And you do this as a philanthropic cause or in order to promote business? 

Right now, it’s just philanthropic. I’m just acting as a facilitator. This is all happening organically. I see a need. I ask myself, ‘Where can I make the biggest, most positive impact in the world?’ And what I’ve realized is that it’s with governments.

So pretty much this is the second best thing you can be doing with your time if you’re not president of the US, right?

Other than that [laughs]. 

So is this why you are interested in politics? Is this what brought you into the political world?

I don’t want to say the specifics, but let’s just say I had conversations around things like national security, and other things that are critical to America’s future. The sort of things our future depends on and the conversations I’ve had, in some instances with some government officials at the highest levels, and I don’t want to say which governments or agencies because I don’t want to speak poorly of it.

Let’s just say the conversations were so alarming that I couldn’t sleep.

PIERCE RAN for president as an independent and was endorsed by venture capitalist and Bitcoin advocate Tim Draper as well as Senegalese-American singer-songwriter Akon, who managed his presidential campaign as chief strategist. Pierce received just 0.03% of the votes in the election. A few months ago he announced that he would form a new party and run candidates in 2022.

How was it running a political campaign?

Well, that was just a reconnaissance mission. A research mission. This was just a trial run.

Okay, so what did you learn?

I’d say it was a success. There’s no faster way to learn than to dive in headfirst and actually just run a process, learn everything about ballots, platforms and people. But it definitely wasn’t a cheap way. I spent $7m. on an experiment. 

Clearly, I’m not doing this to win right now. I think everybody understands that, but if you’ve raised your hand in a way where he creates tension – people say: ‘I want to see who this guy is.’ It takes a lot of courage to put your name in that ring since this can hurt your business or good name. We’ve seen, especially now, that the state of our political system today has never been more vicious. I mean, it’s bloody.

 IN CONVERSATION with the writer. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) IN CONVERSATION with the writer. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

I NOTICE that Pierce has been wearing an unusual gold bracelet on his arm – with a very deep Jewish connection. It was given to him at Rutgers University’s Chabad House where he met Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg, 95. 

Mosberg had given Pierce his tattoo-numbered bracelet to pass along to famed Schindler’s List director Steven Spielberg. The numbers are the same as the prisoner number marked on Mosberg’s forearm.

“And these are his Oskar Schindler numbers,” Pierce says, holding up his arm with pride. Mosberg survived the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, which was shown in the Oscar-winning film. 

“He’s a wonderful man,” Pierce says of Mosberg, “and I’ve had the pleasure of spending a bunch of time with him. I was also given [the bracelet] mission by him... I don’t think he’s given these to many people, I think just his family.

“The Holocaust survivors are getting quite old, therefore I wear this as a witness as someone who has spent time to listen, to hear.”

Do you know Spielberg? Why did he think you could get it to him?

I didn’t know Spielberg, and it turned out to be a little bit harder than I originally thought, mostly because of COVID. But I made it happen. [Pierce says this with a smirk, without filling in the details.]

PIERCE ISN’T Jewish himself yet is surrounded by Jews: His chief of staff is a hassid; he was accompanied to Israel by senior Chabad Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, who runs 10 Chabad houses in central New Jersey, and his son Rabbi Mendy. Father and son run the Rutgers Chabad House together. He is also very close with globally recognized Israeli-American photographer Shahar Azran. 

“I work with a very diverse set of people since I greatly enjoy being surrounded by a diverse set of people with different backgrounds. It adds to our collective perspective and allows us to see better. You know, we don’t have a 2020 vision, we have a 2022 vision,” he says and his team laughs. 

Do you consider yourself a religious person?

Typically I don’t use the word religious, but spiritual. You could say that I’m a religious person. I would consider myself a very religious person. I just don’t use that language because it can be polarizing for a lot of people. 

There’s a lot of people in the world who have a different perspective and I try to use language that’s more inclusive personally.

Where do you find your sources of spirituality?

A lot of it is from the Torah and Judaism. Obviously, I spend my time around some very knowledgeable people when it comes to the Jewish religion. 

I grew up Christian, so I obviously learned a lot from Christianity. But I spend time with people of all faiths, and all backgrounds and understand where their faith comes from. And as you do that, with a very diverse set of people with different religious or spiritual backgrounds, you eventually see more and more that actually are much more similar than you see on the surface. 

As you dig deeper and deeper into these spiritual or religious paths, you start to find the same fundamental truths as the foundation or core, which is God, love and being of service.

THE MIGHTY DUCKS is a 1992 American sports comedy-drama film about a youth league hockey team. The film grossed $50,752,337 in the US and Canada, becoming a surprising success and inspired two sequels and an animated TV series.

OK, I have to ask about ‘The Mighty Ducks.’

“The Flying V,” he quotes one of the famous lines from the movie, explaining the formation of birds flying in a V, and implementing it on the rink. He holds his fingers in a V shape and says “What a cool thing to do as a 10-year-old; to make movies. I started acting at the age of three; my first memory takes place on a set working.”

So you’ve always been working.

Yes. Always working hard.

How did you become an actor living in Minnesota?

Things just happen to go that way. My mother was asked to be a casting director, which she didn’t really have a plan to do. She was just asked to come do this in Minneapolis. Since The Mighty Ducks was filmed in Minnesota I booked the role. 

I grew up acting in Minnesota, and there were not that many kids who acted there back then. So when Disney came there, they wanted to see if they could hire anyone locally. And I was one of the only kids with acting experience who knew how to play hockey. That gave me my edge.

Is this something that you would recommend for other kids? Many child stars suffer mentally throughout the years.

I think performance arts are a wonderful thing. But I understand what you’re saying, it’s very tough psychologically on a lot of young people.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m 41, so I guess Brock Pierce. But seriously, making the most impact in the world I can, while helping others using my unique skills. ■