By: LAUREN COMANDER
Derrick Thomas, founder of Miami Tech Runs, takes crypto to court… the basketball court.
Derrick Thomas has always been serious about basketball, recruited from his hometown of Harlem as a teenager to play hoops for a boarding school and then later at Drexel University. He counts NBA players among his friends and former roommates. Still, when he recently found himself playing at the FTX Arena with some 55 like-minded Miamians, he was in awe.
As the closing event to Season One of Miami Tech Runs, the firstsports club to exist on a blockchain, Thomas marveled that the group he launched with the help of friends drew the likes of mainstream executives, startup founders, and even NFL players. Members — 80 percent of whom knew nothing about cryptocurrency when they first joined Miami Tech Runs — used tokens to partake in the game while off the court, forged connections, and gained new skills.
“Our mission is simple: to be the ultimate playground in the metaverse at the intersection of sports, crypto, and culture,” Thomas explains. “We come together to play basketball, but we leave better than we came: whether that’s a new relationship or one that has fostered deeper, a better understanding of fitness & mental health, or a better understanding of a topic we talked about on the sidelines.”
The idea for Miami Tech Runs was a long time coming for Thomas, who created an App in college to connect collegiate athletes with qualified agents after being unimpressed with the ones he encountered while trying to further his own sports career. Because of NCAA rules, Thomas, a communications and mass media major, wasn’t allowed to monetize the App.
He moved to Florida and worked as one of Tesla’s top producers before joining a private equity fund in 2017, where he learned about cryptocurrency. After the 2018 crash, Thomas doubled down and began investing in crypto. “I tried version 2.0 of what I did in college,” Thomas says. “I connected athletes to managers and housed their contracts on the blockchain. But because of COVID, players didn’t care about connecting to the right agents anymore. They wanted to connect to people to create economic opportunities for themselves. I thought, ‘What if we could wrap a token around things we are already active and familiar with?’
Enter Miami Tech Runs, which brings members together twice a month to play basketball, drones flying overhead to capture footage. But it doesn’t stop with sports: they have token-gated dinner meetings and an active chat group that sees high-level executives interacting six hours a month.
The game at FTX Arena spurred people in 10 cities to reach out about starting their own DAO. LA Tech Runs launched with 60 members. “It took off!” says Thomas, 31 and father of two young boys. “We can see a world where Miami Tech Runs is the ultimate playground where people come together for sports and learn about crypto. The future is bright!”
With a waitlist in the hundreds and interest exploding, Thomas is confident the Magic City is the ideal locale for Miami Tech Runs to meet its goals. “We have great political governance that is very pro blockchain and crypto currency,” Thomas says. “We have a great climate and a really good quality of life, and the people here are very inclusive in a diverse way.”