Meet The Women Of The Blockchain: “You need to be fearless and know your worth” With Margaux Avedisian
You need to be fearless and know your worth. Just dive in, and don’t think about whether or not it will fail. I call this “failing forward.” If you fail, you still have that experience, and hopefully you’ve learned from it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Margaux Avedisian, Partner at CooLPool & former EVP of Transform Group. Margaux , known as the “queen of bitcoin” by WSJ, was the EVP of Transform Group, a blockchain PR and investment relations firm that presents 31 percent of the total cryptocurrency market. She launched the first American Bitcoin Exchange, Tradehill, among other blockchain companies, and started a pre-ICO investment syndicate, CooLPool which is now being rolled into a much larger crypto fund. She created a step-by-step guide on buying crypto and was featured in the documentary “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.” Margaux was involved in the space since 2011 when Bitcoin was $1.00. She also has videos that try to break down blockchain and cryptocurrency in an easy to understand way at www.youtube.com/margauxwithanx
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
When I moved to San Francisco over a decade ago, I caught the startup bug. In 2011 I had a startup with free office space, and my co-founder and I thought it would be a good idea to mine Bitcoin. We ultimately decided against it because we were already using this company’s office space at no charge, and eating a lot of free snacks. Then in 2012, I met the people who were re-launching the first U.S. Bitcoin exchange. I thought “wow, this is something really disruptive.” After working with them, I co-founded two other Bitcoin exchanges. They’re both still around, but have pivoted. After that I joined the leading PR firm in the blockchain and ICO space, representing over 30 ICOs. During that time I made a video about how to run a successful ICO which really resonated with people. Since then, I’ve started a fund that is in the process of being rolled into a much larger crypto fund.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
I’m an advisor to ImpactPPA, a company that’s putting renewable energy on the blockchain and allowing developing nations to pay for in advance for electricity powered by hybrid wind and solar energy. ImpactPPA is already up and running in Haiti, and they have a deal with the government of India to provide electricity that will power looms, giving jobs to up to 50 million women. The fact that ImpactPPA is good for the environment and creating jobs for women in developing countries is really exciting to me. We see a lot of crypto companies that are just an idea, but ImpactPPA has a working product and users.
Another company I’m advising is Serve, which came out of Scoobeez, one of the most accurate and successful “last-mile” delivery companies. Serve is putting delivery on the blockchain, cutting out the middlemen who can take up to 30 percent in fees from restaurants and drivers. Serve has created a platform where users can get pretty much anything delivered, and delivery people can earn better money.
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?
There are really so many people who have helped me in one way or another, and I’d love to thank all of them. One person who really stands out in my mind is Cynthia Savage. She found me many many years ago online, and I did some consulting for her. She was always so positive and encouraging to me, and was a big help when I moved to New York.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- People are rewarded for contributing/participating in a blockchain ecosystem (i.e. rewarded with tokens for creating content).
- Blockchain is more egalitarian and can lead to less control by corporations.
- Blockchain/crypto offers more privacy and security than traditional banking and financial systems.
- Crypto provides lower fees and better access for low income and developing countries.
- Ultimately, blockchain and crypto gives power to the people.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Negative people tarnishing the reputation of blockchain
- People only focusing on the money generating an effect
- Lack of regulation, and then over-regulation
- People not really understanding blockchain
- Accessibility and making it easy to use
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I love speaking to women about getting involved in the crypto world. I speak at a lot of conferences and on a lot of panels. I don’t hold back with what I am saying, and sometimes women will come up to me and say how inspiring it is to see me tell a banker or whomever whatever it is I think. When I speak to women directly, I try to empower them by letting them know they can create a position in the blockchain space. You can leverage your skills from a more traditional industry and translate that to the blockchain world. You don’t need to be an expert to get into this space — There really aren’t any experts. This industry is ever-changing and it is impossible to know everything. There are so many men at crypto conferences, and most of them are there to learn. They didn’t need to feel like an expert to get out there and meet people.
The other way is that I’ve been fortunate enough to work on little projects that are bringing good into the world and using blockchain to do that. Hopefully my videos are helpful with explaining this world and why it is beneficial.
I tell people that I was living on friends’ couches and staying at friends’ places while I was struggling to create these companies. I was practically homeless and counting the last dollar in my bank account, and if that inspires other people to get somewhere, hopefully I can motivate them.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
I don’t think “emulate” is the right word, because you shouldn’t necessarily emulate anyone. There are many paths to get where you’re going, and the path that works for one person might not work for another.
For example, if you want to get into a crypto fund, anyone can do it — but not anyone can do it well. There are many things you need to succeed, including access and an understanding of token economics and the nuances of different people in the space. I’ve spent a lot of time reading white papers and negotiating the right deals. Raising money is a huge part of it. You need people to be willing to give you money, and trust that you’ll make the best decisions with it. Everyone who’s started a fund comes from a different place, and has learned by doing.
I meet people who tell me they’re not an expert, or they don’t know how to get into the cryptocurrency industry. I tell them there are no experts, and it’s impossible to keep up with how rapidly everything’s changing. You just need to do the research, get your foot in the door (even if it’s not your ideal position), and get to know people. You’ll learn by doing.
When I joined Tradehill in 2012, I didn’t even know what an exchange was. I just knew I wanted to be in Bitcoin. I knew it was something that could change the world. I learned about exchanges while on the job. That led to my next role founding and running an exchange, because I had experience in something not many people did at the time.
The last point I’d make is that you need to be fearless and know your worth. Just dive in, and don’t think about whether or not it will fail. I call this “failing forward.” If you fail, you still have that experience, and hopefully you’ve learned from it.
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 :-)
I would like to meet Elizabeth Warren. She is a champion in fighting against financial and corporate corruption, and would like to share my perspective on how blockchain can assist. It would also be amazing to meet Rachel Maddow. Her show is one of the few beacons of light exposing all the darkness in politics right now.