Meet The Women Of The Blockchain: Chitra Ragavan, Chief Strategy Officer of Gem
“I’m interested in working on projects that leverage technology to do good. As senior strategic advisor at Palantir, I was able to create and help build the company’s philanthropy mission from the ground up. I brought in projects and built partnerships to help organizations use the company’s cutting edge data analytics platform to find missing and exploited children, to examine incidents of genocide, to analyze patterns of subprime mortgage lending, to uncover global smuggling networks for human body parts, among other projects. I’d like to find ways in the cryptocurrency space, both at Gem and beyond, to build societal value through technological innovation. Cryptocurrency can be used, for instance, to help the two billion unbanked people in the world join the financial ecosystem. We like to say, ‘Join the Movement.’ Cryptocurrency is a movement, the great equalizer in society.”
I had the pleasure to interview Chitra Ragavan, Chief Strategy Officer of Gem
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Happy to be talking with you! I have a weird amalgam of skills and interests and an unconventional career trajectory.
I’m a journalist turned software strategist and C-Suite executive.
I’m the Chief Strategy Officer at Gem, the cryptocurrency startup based in Los Angeles, California. Before joining Gem, I was Senior Counselor to the CEO of Palantir Technologies, the Palo Alto based big data analytics unicorn. I was at Palantir for eight years, helping build their global business, and I helped conceptualize, implement, and expand their philanthropic mission.
Before my move into Silicon Valley software strategy, I spent more than two decades in journalism at major outlets, including National Public Radio (NPR) and U.S. News and World Report (U.S. News). I covered national security, law enforcement, and other major beats and specialized in investigative reporting and long form journalism.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
I’m excited about the new product we’re building at Gem, an all-in-one cryptocurrency platform that allows crypto investors and enthusiasts to manage all their digital assets in one place. The platform includes a portfolio manager, a universal secure wallet, curated discovery of new tokens and decentralized apps, and connection to the larger crypto community through social media tools.
We’re all crypto investors in the company, so we like to joke that we’re building the product for ourselves, because we are experiencing the gaps and pain points in the market. And those are the best products of all, built from personal experience.
None of us is 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?
In the cryptocurrency space, I would say my CEO, Micah Winkelspecht, who first urged me to start investing, opened my mind up to the vision of a new decentralized economy fueled by digital assets, and has encouraged me to use my reporting and writing skills to simplify complex crypto concepts for new investors.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Volatility: The ups and downs! Like a Greek drama unfolding.
- Newness: It’s like racing over a bridge that’s being built a foot ahead of you.
- Complexity: Grappling with head exploding concepts.
- Knowledge: All those fun weird acronyms. HODL! FUD! FOMO!
- Connectivity:The smart, skeptical, funny, tribal crypto culture.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Volatility: When the price drops, so does my heart, usually it’s in my shoes.
- Scams: It’s the Wild West. Hang tight and keep your britches on.
- Hacking: It’s dark, scary, digital mumbo jumbo.
- Government: When the regulators step in, in comes complexity, up goes paperwork. So will taxes.
- News: Like a tuning fork, the market reverberates to the global news cycle.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I’m interested in working on projects that leverage technology to do good. As senior strategic advisor at Palantir, I was able to create and help build the company’s philanthropy mission from the ground up. I brought in projects and built partnerships to help organizations use the company’s cutting edge data analytics platform to find missing and exploited children, to examine incidents of genocide, to analyze patterns of subprime mortgage lending, to uncover global smuggling networks for human body parts, among other projects. I combined my passion for investigative reporting and my journalism connections to provide the Palantir software for investigative reporting projects that helped shed light on some of these complex problems.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
- There are no rules: You have to do what’s best for you and your family and go with your gut in deciding whether an opportunity is best for you.
- Look for the helping hand: People will come into your life bearing gifts of jobs. Those are the jobs you want, these exclusive invitations to enter clubs. My whole career has been built with the helping hands of mentors who’ve invited me to share their adventures. It’s been a wild ride!
- Pick high risk, high reward jobs: I’ve never pursued a job for the money. It’s always the challenge of learning new things. It’s given me knowledge and experience, the best kind of wealth to have.
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?
I’d love to meet Kathryn Haun, the General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. who will be co-leading a new $300 million crypto investment fund, along with Chris Dixon, the VC’s long time crypto guru.
I really admire Kathryn for becoming the first female general partner in the firm’s nine-year history. But I’ve wanted to meet her for a few months now, long before she was appointed to this exciting new position. Kathryn is a longtime former federal prosecutor, who led the first government task force on cryptocurrencies. She also led the federal investigations into the Mt. Gox scandal, and was involved in many other groundbreaking crypto cases. I’ve wanted to talk to her about cryptocurrency crimes and the legal and technical challenges they pose for a while now, given my deep background in reporting on federal law enforcement issues for NPR and USNews. Put simply, Kathryn Haun has earned major street creds and kudos in the crypto space and I’d love to meet her.