Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “We need many more female role models” With Seema Khinda Johnson, Co-Founder of Nuggets and Tyler Gallagher

I’d love to see more VC money made accessible to women, ensuring that more female-driven startups succeed. We need to see more female leaders in the blockchain and wider tech industry — and we need to raise their profile through marketing, media coverage, awards and conference panels. We need many more female role models, to inspire girls and young women to study STEM subjects, as a route into the industry.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Seema Khinda Johnson, co-founder and COO of Nuggets, a blockchain-based identity verification and secure payments platform redefining online privacy and security. She has almost two decades’ worth of experience in strategic experience, leading teams in the launch of products globally with world-renowned brands.


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?

The transition into blockchain was a natural progression from my previous career, before the technology emerged. I’ve spent the past eighteen years leading teams and launching global products with brands like Microsoft and Skype.

I became interested in blockchain as a powerful tool for levelling the playing field — ensuring financial inclusion for all, with minimal counterparty risk.

We were fascinated by the problem of data breaches, and how to give users the power to share and use their data without losing control of it. Blockchain was attractive because of zero knowledge storage, the high level of encryption and the immutable ledger. That combination simply didn’t exist in previous technologies.

Using blockchain can be a double edged sword, on the one hand its offering amazing new opportunities and potential but on the other it requires you to educate and prove it out to many on the journey.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

At the moment, I’m focused on building and expanding the reach of Nuggets, the project I co-founded and where I’m the COO.

Nuggets is a blockchain-based platform that enables secure payments and identity management, leveraging the distributed ledger and zero-knowledge storage to help users keep control of their personal information.

With Nuggets, that data is stored using dual encryption in the blockchain. Only the owner can access it, via a biometric login. This secures their information, and enables them to make payments or verify their identity without ever needing to share or store their information with anyone. Not even us.

The platform is our response to the proliferation of data breaches targeting businesses holding customer information. If compromised, that data is used for identity theft and fraud, or sold on to other malicious actors. With digital interactions becoming so central to everyone’s lives, we have to replace those failing infrastructures with more decentralised ones, characterised by self-sovereignty.

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’m thankful to so many people, who continue to support me and the team on our journey. We’ve had incredible support from our friends at other start-ups and other founders. It makes all the difference.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

The prospect for financial inclusion. For me, this is most important of all. Making the unbanked self-sovereign (and not reliant on any third party) should be an absolute priority.

Mitigating data breaches. The existing model of personal data storage is broken. We see that on a daily basis, with bigger and bigger breaches. We need to fundamentally change the way personal data is stored.

Transparency. There are hundreds of industries and use cases that desperately need greater clarity. Just think of insurance, supply chains, or pensions schemes. Immutable and public ledgers are an ideal way to achieve this, offering unprecedented levels of auditability and easily-viewable provenance.

Smart contracts. Second-generation blockchains (Ethereum, QTUM, Neo) are capable of Turing-complete scripts. That allows for for a wide range of applications for trustless execution of code, under certain conditions.

Less need for middlemen. The peer-to-peer nature of cryptocurrencies, and blockchain as a whole, means we can dump many convoluted industry structures. Stakeholders can now communicate value directly between themselves (leading to reduced operating costs and lower fees).

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

Poor regulation. This should worry most people in the industry. It seems legislators are slow to catch onto technology in general. So it’s imperative that they’re well educated, so they can recognise the intricacies of blockchain technology — and not lump everything into the same category.

Energy expenditure. Thankfully, this one looks solvable. The most popular block generation algorithm, Proof-of-Work, requires alarming amounts of electricity in order to secure the network. To date, it’s by far the best method, though advances in Proof-of-Stake may soon provide an environmentally-friendly alternative.

Interoperability. Everyone is aiming to build systems that resolve fragmentation problems in various industries. However, we’re using so many different blockchains for this, we may see the same problem repeat itself before long. In the long run, I don’t think it’ll be a major issue: there are already efforts to build third-generation blockchains, which would effectively allow cross-chain interoperability.

Scalability. Even in these early stages, the most popular networks have become congested at peak times — often to the point of standstill and exorbitant fees. It may seem like a temporary setback, but for the technology to thrive and serve billions, we need some serious solutions to vastly increase transaction throughput.

Mass adoption + UX. Most decentralized applications and crypto services are still quite techy and not particularly user friendly. A good rule of thumb to judge this is whether your parents would be able to set up a wallet on a service such as MyEtherWallet. At the moment, probably not. So it’s going to take a vast improvement and focus on developments in UX/UI before we see mass adoption.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

When you set out as a startup, you realise it’s a great privilege to be able to do so — just to be in a position to have the experience, to have the knowledge, the funds and the commercial ability. All that comes from education and hands-on experience, which some people never get the chance to enjoy.

That’s why, from day one, we’ve made sure our model ensures that a percentage of transaction profits goes to charity. A key focus of Nuggets is to empower people to bring their ideas to life in the future

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

Learn. We’re lucky to be in an age where there’s so much information available online — textbooks, articles, blogs, webinars, etc. This is such a nascent space — now is the time to dive in.

Support. Support each other by sharing learnings. Things move incredibly fast in this space, and we’re all experiencing different facets of blockchain technology.

Get involved. Hackathons, meetups and social media are a great way to interact with other people involved in every area of the burgeoning blockchain field.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

I’d love to see more VC money made accessible to women, ensuring that more female-driven startups succeed. We need to see more female leaders in the blockchain and wider tech industry — and we need to raise their profile through marketing, media coverage, awards and conference panels. We need many more female role models, to inspire girls and young women to study STEM subjects, as a route into the industry.

Mentorships within the blockchain industry are important too, and women should be given more opportunities to learn leadership skills. Another important factor is education about issues like unconscious bias. We need to inform men, women and businesses about the steps that can be taken to eradicate the gender imbalance.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

Enjoy the journey. Until very recently I tended to say “we’re getting there” a lot. A good friend pointed out to me that I should start trying to live in the moment more and focus on the journey itself.

I found this advice to be particularly relevant for my journey with Nuggets. There’s always going to be change, growth, improvement, problems and opportunities to focus on. It’s a never-ending journey. So I may as well enjoy it and stop focusing so much on “getting there”.

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’m very fortunate to be involved in a project that has already developed into a movement for good. We want to revolutionise the way data is held and managed. People everywhere are forced to hand over all sorts of data to both the businesses they’re dealing with and other payments providers when making simple purchases. By doing this, they put their security at risk and hand over control of significant monetary value that should rightfully be theirs.

I’m proud to be a part of the drive to help people take back control of their data. I always want to do more, though. For a start, I want to make sure that part of our transaction fee always goes to charity. And as we grow, we can help other causes grow, too.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Medium or join the Nuggets Telegram chat.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!