“I’m proud to work for an organization that values and prioritizes giving back. This year, Ripple and its executives donated $29 million to DonorsChoose.org to give back to America’s teachers, fulfilling every request listed on the nonprofit’s website. Reading the comments from teachers, supporters and students and seeing the real impact these donations made was surreal. The donation allowed our team to take a minute to step back and help the broader community and world we live in; it was a new dose of inspiration that I didn’t expect. We currently have hundreds of handwritten thank you notes hung up all over the office as a reminder to share the company’s success and bring goodness to the world.”
I had the pleasure to interview Monica Long a Senior Vice President at Ripple
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve always been passionate about and I studied third-world development and economic disparity in college, seeking to understand why it exists and how we might fix it over time. There’s a world of history and many converging factors that have shaped the world we live in so there’s no silver bullet solution, but…
I met Chris Larsen in 2007. He co-founded and was CEO of Prosper, one of the first — and at the time, the largest — person-to-person lending marketplaces. Chris’ vision was to return lending to its roots in community. The upshot was to financially empower the disenfranchised — those whose banks would turn them away for loans. I started my career at a PR agency and Prosper was one of my clients. Chris made a lasting impression on me as a visionary and a leader, so when I heard he’d started a new company years later, I was intrigued.
When Chris explained to me what he was working on, I saw fireworks. He was more excited about Ripple’s potential to democratize people’s financial access globally than he had been about any past project. He made the compelling point that money doesn’t move fluidly around the world. Held back by antiquated infrastructure and foreign exchange oligopolies, people and businesses in certain markets can’t even participate in international commerce. Growth in the global economy itself has been stifled by outdated technology. Blockchain and digital assets introduced the possibility to finally modernize rusty, old pipes.
His belief and ambition to realize this vision rubbed off on me. I joined as Director of Communications and later took on an expanded role as SVP of Marketing and Communications.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
It’s hard to pick! I’ll highlight Swell by Ripple, our customer conference now entering its second year. Swell brings together financial institutions (our customers), regulators, and other industry leaders.
It’s so much more than just an event. People sometimes say, “Ripple is an enterprise software company.” Yes… but NO!
Ripple is a networks business. Part of our offering is software and APIs but what makes the tech powerful is our role facilitating new connections for our institutional customers. For example, a bank may see a prime opportunity to expand into Brazil but not have a partner institution to work with. We matchmake our customers.
Swell is a highly impactful venue to efficiently make connections and to absorb customer feedback. We’re planning a few crowd-pleasing surprises too, so our customers enjoy their time with us.
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?
Chris Larsen and Brad Garlinghouse gave me the break of a lifetime and have both been a consistent source of inspiration to me. They believed in me (more than I can say I did!).
I’d also say my parents. They taught me to be responsible for my actions and commitments, the discipline and grit to work hard, gratitude for good fortune, and never to sacrifice dignity or integrity. The values they taught me led me to surround myself with good people — like at Ripple — and I’m thankful for that. I have endless respect for them.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
a. Here to stay: The world is coming to know, understand and embrace this new technology and its potential to affect transformative change. It’s no fad; it’s here to stay. It feels good to share my excitement about the industry with people all over.
b. Tipping point: In our experience, institutional adoption of blockchain is the real deal. We’re past experiments and are actively commercializing. We’re reaching the tipping point at which the technology will underpin real world transactions and improve lives in a meaningful way.
c. Talent: The caliber of people who want to be a part of the industry and more specifically Ripple’s vision is awesome — it’s the best and brightest from tech and finance. Having been at the company for almost five years, I have had the fortune of seeing the talent pool grow immensely.
d. Regulation: In order to transform and modernize the current financial system, we must work with regulators, governments and central banks. Ripple is working with governments, not against them. I expect when regulation for the space fully comes into focus, it will provide a solid foundation that’ll enable the industry to harness innovation in the technology while protecting consumers from bad actors.
e. Impact: I’m most excited to see the impact blockchain and digital assets make in people’s lives across the globe. Making money move faster, at lower costs and with transparency is ultimately about making our financial system more inclusive — improving the economic opportunities for those at a disadvantage because the current system is prohibitively expensive for them to participate.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
a. Misguided mania: Mainstream interest in our space both excites and worries me. I worry that the interest is misguided; fervor around the “investment potential” in crypto in terms of high and hot returns. The focus should be on the technology’s transformative potential to solve real problems and improve lives.
b. ICOs trending: Novel ways to raise funds for real businesses are great! But I question the motivation and validity of many ICO businesses; last year, almost half of the ICOs that launched ended up failing. When people raise millions of dollars based on nothing but a whitepaper, I am concerned consumers are getting sucked into scams.
c. Representation of minorities: You hear about it, read about it and see it, but the male dominance in this industry is overwhelming. I’m glad to see strong female investors, entrepreneurs, researchers and journalists take leadership (like Meltem Demirors, Katie Haun and Neha Narula) and pave the way for more women to contribute their ideas and enrich the industry overall.
d. Religion vs. pragmatism: Many in blockchain and crypto are motivated to apply the innovation in constructive, pragmatic ways — we’re building businesses to improve lives. There is, however, a vocal minority motivated by ideology and politics — crypto is a religion to them. The danger is these folks wage holy wars, spreading misinformation about any technology or approach that’s not their religion. And it’s crazy but these folks carry influence in the industry and with press. Point being — check your sources before you believe what you hear or read.
e. Imposters!: Imposter accounts on social media are scamming consumers and spreading false information. Proceed with caution on social media — check information sources and if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I’m proud to work for an organization that values and prioritizes giving back. This year, Ripple and its executives donated $29 million to DonorsChoose.org to give back to America’s teachers, fulfilling every request listed on the nonprofit’s website. Reading the comments from teachers, supporters and students and seeing the real impact these donations made was surreal.
The donation allowed our team to take a minute to step back and help the broader community and world we live in; it was a new dose of inspiration that I didn’t expect. We currently have hundreds of handwritten thank you notes hung up all over the office as a reminder to share the company’s success and bring goodness to the world.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
a. Seek mentors: Seek the advice and counsel from those who have done it before. Chances are the leaders who inspire you and you look up to would love to help you. You just need to ask and come prepared with specific questions or topics to make good use of your time together.
b. Trust your gut: Taking on a new industry or new role can be intimidating. I find many friends and colleagues underestimate their knowledge and capabilities — they may feel deep down like they can take on a challenge but they talk themselves out of it. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy said something that resonated with me at an event recently along the lines of: “Silicon Valley was built by people who had no business taking on the jobs and opportunities they did.” We’re capable of more than we think!
c. Embrace risk: Opportunities like this have a huge upside. The only downside is you fail and move on — and you learn something along the way. Not so bad!
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 :-)
Oprah: I recently listened to the “Making Oprah” podcast and see why everyone is so inspired by and enamored with her. She is a powerhouse who had the courage and confidence to follow her vision, be true to who she was — even when she ran against the grain — and broke new ground for women along the way.