“Beware of Elitism In the Industry” 13 Insider Tips With Alicia Ferratusco, Co-Founder of Starfish
“…Elitism in the industry. Blockchain needs to be accessible to the wider public. We can’t be guarded off from the rest of the economy and tech industry. In order for cryptocurrency and blockchain to take over the incumbent systems, we need it to remain decentralized and adopted across the world.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Ferratusco from Starfish. Alicia is the co-founder and growth leader at Starfish, an collaborative and educational ecosystem dedicated to accelerating the growth of the blockchain industry. Designing and building out Starfish’s infrastructure allows Alicia to combine her expertise in strategic consulting with a passion for sustainability and decentralization. Alicia and her team recently launched Starfish Mission, the flagship location of a network of coworking spaces and operational network structures for local blockchain communities, with plans to open up more communities across the US, with LA being the next location to open in July, 2018.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am driven by the belief that decentralized technologies are a key building block of a better world. As for my backstory… Privately I am extremely passionate about sustainability and social impact and that’s what led me to blockchain.
I was exploring incubator concepts to develop and build a sustainability and impact incubator, and during that time, while researching tons of high social impact projects, something in my head just clicked: We can’t address sustainability issues fully unless we upgrade the operating system of our society — meaning unless we change the nature of money and governance.
Money, currencies as we know it, are not tied to any kind of actual value for the planet. The only way to truly address the major issues we currently face in the world is by disrupting money.
So here I am, co-founding and starting community hubs for the industry. This truly feels like a calling to me and that’s why it’s taking off. We are a protocol-agnostic organization. Though privately, I might hold other views, at Starfish, we are not maximalists focused on a specific coin — we support all decentralized technologies, the community that’s building new systems for our society.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Expanding the offering at Starfish. We are looking into what it’s like to feed the network first — positioning ourselves at the cutting edge by being in service to a movement bigger than any of us individually. Where exactly this vision will take us remains undefined, but could include organizational frameworks for blockchain communities in other locations to help each other build and excel, open source development grants, coworking tokens, as well as connecting great visions to investors.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Countless people have given me support, advice and guidance throughout the years, too many to name. No person is an island. I am grateful toward a lot of people for their advice, grateful to my family for their support for my journey. Having said that, I can share a story from my teenage years.
I am from Germany and attended high school in a very traditional German town. Around the time I was fourteen, I was flunking out of some courses and generally not doing too great in school. I was extremely lucky because I got sent to a counselor who believed in me and, instead of labelling me as troubled, he sent me to take aptitude tests that helped us figured out that I was underperforming because I was underchallenged and just needed more academic support.
With my counselor’s support and a lot of lobbying within the school board, I was able to advocate for myself to skip a grade a few months later — the 9th grade in the German school system. A year later, at fifteen, I skipped 11th grade also, which allowed me to get out of high school two years early and pursue other passions.
I am really grateful for that. At the time the German school system was much more rigid, without many programs or opportunities to get ahead within the system, or attend college early, even if that’s where you are, developmentally. I would’ve probably dropped out of high school and found a different path if it hadn’t been for this man’s support.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- The cultural shift towards collaborative, decentralized, leaderless organizations, which blockchain plays a key role in facilitating and encouraging
- Changing the nature of money changes the entire “code” of how we run our world and gives individuals control over their own finances.
- Similarly, blockchain gives individuals unprecedented sovereignty over our data, enabling seamless smart-contract systems that support our human interactions, transactions and intentions. Removing red tape, changing the *speed* of how we conduct value exchanges will very impactful.
- Self-governance will elevate our collective consciousness.
- Decentralized internet: At a time when Net Neutrality is on the verge of collapsing, blockchain developers are working on decentralized internet platforms to distribute all the functions of the internet over distributed nodes. This will help return the internet back to a state of neutrality and help remove internet governance power from ISPs
5. What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- There is always the possibility of pure greed bringing us back to the same systems that blockchain is built to overcome
- Dishonesty and ICO scams cause people to lose faith and trust in the power of blockchain
- A shortage of technical talent and experienced blockchain developers to *build* the systems that need to be built (which is why Starfish is designed to give people free access to educational networks and resources to create their own tokens — we really want the industry to flourish and are helping to lay a strong foundation for that)
- Elitism in the industry. Blockchain needs to be accessible to the wider public. We can’t be guarded off from the rest of the economy and tech industry. In order for cryptocurrency and blockchain to take over the incumbent systems, we need it to remain decentralized and adopted across the world.
- Public misconceptions about the technology. Excessive media focus on money-making and scams deters many people from exploring and accessing the true potential of blockchain technology.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Starfish Mission is that vision. We are creating the mycelial web of goodness to accelerate this decentralized movement, and are opening up our space to blockchain visionaries and communities looking to change the world. Our space has held 35 events since our April 1st soft launch, and we are committed to paving the way forward with our partnerships, and future offerings.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
- Forget about school, university and degrees if that paradigm isn’t serving you, and find something to channel your energy towards instead. If you are just starting out, contact businesses and organizations about interning or volunteering. Don’t worry about your title or how things will look on your resume, focus on where you can find real learning opportunities. Humility. When I was young, I didn’t quite understand this. It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is getting a foot in the door.I would rather be a fly on the wall in an environment where I am actively learning than a “head of xxxx” at a boring organization. This is incorporated into the culture at Starfish by substituting titles for descriptors.
- Find Your Values and Live Them — There was a time period before Starfish where I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I took a deep dive into *living* my values. I was heavily focused on sustainability at the time and I took the plunge towards a “zero-waste” lifestyle for some time — a way of living, without creating any trash. It was hard but eye opening, and creating that friction between your *self* and the status quo is what matters and what ultimately energizes you and helps propel your vision forward.
- Travel and challenge yourself.. I am lucky. I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t lived in 5 countries and travelled to many more, starting aged 16. I moved to the U.S. by myself when I was 17, by myself, and then to England.. I had nobody in my family to emulate, but I didn’t see why I shouldn’t be doing it. Travel helps you see how everything on the planet is interconnected and where the real issues lie.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Anyone? I would like to meet Satoshi. I have my theories about who they are but the entire story just still seems so surreal. When I read the text on the Genesis for the first time it gave me shivers, it’s like the dawn of a new era. Starfish actually hosted Satoshi’s first contributor to the bitcoin protocol, Marrti Sirius Malmi, so that’s as close as I’ve gotten.
In terms of actual identified human beings: I would love to chat about decentralization with Ori Brafman. He’s the visionary author of The Starfish and The Spider, a seminal text in distributed network business strategy that we named Starfish after. He’s a professor at UC Berkeley so maybe we can get him across the Bay for lunch one of these days!