Men and Women of Color Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Maya Parbhoe
I had the pleasure of interviewing Maya Parbhoe, the CEO of OuroX, a FinTech platform for Latin America and the Caribbean with a global future. OuroX is comprised of an exchange, a payment processor and a multi-vendor marketplace. OuroX’s mission is to advance financial inclusion in the regions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
I started my first company when I was 15 years old. Importing products for friends and customers I got through word of mouth. Credit cards and placing orders online were not something people did back then. Even now in Suriname, South America, there’s only a small amount of people that can transact online. The company grew, now helping thousands of people to place orders online. After the success of my first company, I sat on an airplane coming back from a shooting competition in Curacao, next to Serge Tjin Wong Joe. We talked about starting another company, focused on bringing innovation to the region. Icarus Geosystems was born. Two years of hard work and we turned it into a multi-million dollar company. Because the company was mainly focused on engineering (Serge’s strong suit) we decided to invest in what is mine, Finance. I fell in love with the technology behind Bitcoin in 2014 and in 2017 decided it was the right time to start our venture. We wanted to give back to the community and bring development to the region. Though it’s been difficult, coming from a small country and a region that is often overlooked. It takes a lot of resources for vendors to take you seriously. We want to encourage other entrepreneurs to reach for the sky. Though the threshold to entering the tech space is high, we want others in the region to know that it is possible and we will empower them to do so!
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Right now we are working hard to finalize the development of the exchange and will be launching soon. We’re working on several projects:
- An exchange for the Caribbean and LatAm region
- A payment processor
- Multi-vendor marketplace for the region
- Check out our whitepaper: www.ourox.io
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?
I am grateful for my mother. She raised me to be the woman I am today. She was always supportive and believed in me. She taught me to dream big and gave me the confidence to take risks. She also supported me when I started my first company when I was 15 and that enabled me to build the company and buy my house at the age of 21 with money I had saved up from my company. Without her, I would not be where I am today.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Blockchain technology: distributed ledger technology, the ability to interact/transact without a central governing authority, because this opens up so many possibilities to fulfil transactions in a manner that is cheaper and more cost effective.
- Bitcoin: because of it’s economics and consensus mechanism. There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin available. The way scarcity is created by halving the mining reward every x amount of blocks (approximately 4 year intervals) and that 17 million coins of those have already been mined.
- Smart contracts: these can replace notaries, the need to have an intermediary when selling a house. Can change the way we fund businesses and campaigns. How we build apps. How we govern businesses, etc.
- Stable coins: create a bridge between legacy systems and crypto currencies.
- Funding for SMEs: using smart contracts companies can fund their businesses through an ICO. Companies can digitize/tokenize their securities and raise funds to grow and scale their business, without the high threshold to entry and fees associated with current systems in place.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Bad actors, a lot of people are using the hype and technology to scam people out of money. I think these form the largest risk to the industry as a whole, because they negatively influence the perception of cryptocurrencies.
- Market manipulators, people/businesses with large amounts of cryptocurrency, hashrate or capital that manipulate the market. Ultimately retail investors are the people who lose money and ultimately faith in the market. Efficient and fair markets like regulated stock markets offer exactly that, a fair market.
- AML/KYC, there are a lot of companies that are unwilling to comply with KYC and AML regulation or are trying to find/ have found ways to circumvent it. This puts these companies at risk for litigation and penalties from global regulators, which in turn hurts their investors, customers and company.
- Regulations, the lack of clear regulations for cryptocurrencies and the industry is hurting the industry in the long term. Companies have to self-regulate to make sure that they aren’t breaking any laws, which is difficult in an industry that has no clear guidelines. Also regulation that keep companies from reaching their full potential are also a threat to innovation.
- The price of Bitcoin. Consumers are so focused on the price of Bitcoin, that it negatively influences their opinion of blockchain and the industry as a whole. Outside of the crypto community people only know about the price of Bitcoin, not the actual technology behind it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I honestly believe that I haven’t brought enough goodness to the world. Nothing noteworthy enough to be mentioned.
This is my story, OuroX.
This is my way of bringing goodness to the world with OuroX;
- Changing the way people interact financially.
- Advancing financial inclusion in the Caribbean and Latin America. Reaching the 440 million unbanked in the region and giving them access to the system.
- Lowering the threshold for SMEs to get access to funding.
- Giving businesses the opportunity to grow and scale.
- Giving entrepreneurs the tools to grow their businesses and thereby growing the economies of the region.
As you know, there are not a lot of people of color in the tech sector. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other men and women of color in the tech space to thrive?
- Don’t let anyone hold you back.
- It doesn’t matter how many times you stumble, it’s about how many times you get back up.
- Don’t be scared to join the big boys, you’re only as small as you think you are.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more men and women of color into the blockchain industry?
Honestly, it’s hard for a woman of color in any industry. Even harder in the tech industry and a lot harder in the blockchain industry. You are constantly underestimated. I think proving myself in this industry will open up doors for others. Give others the confidence to enter the industry. And I definitely have an accelerator/incubator in the pipeline for men and women of color wanting to enter the blockchain industry.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” -Jeff Bezos
I’m not afraid to fail. I’m not afraid to take risks. I believe that failures are what we learn the most from. I have learned more from my failures than from my successes. I know my weaknesses and my strengths thanks to my failures. I own them. I grow from them. I embrace them. I overcome them. They are stepping stones to success. Every success I have had is thanks to those mistakes, to those failures.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would start a movement to unite Latin America and the Caribbean. Create infrastructure for the region to be able to trade easily. (For example Hyperloop through all countries in Latin America, to transport cargo and people)
In the US you can easily travel from state to state, there are asphalt roads. Freight is easily transported from state to state.
Though South/Latin America is roughly the same size, countries are not connected with the same ease. I think the entire region would benefit from logistic and trade improvements.
Step 1 is creating the financial and online infrastructure. Step 2 is the construction of infrastructure and improve trade in the region. I would love to reach out to Elon Musk to connect Latin America with Hyperloop, get the project funded through blockchain and improve the lives of hundreds of millions in the region.
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Watch the full interview below: