Women of Crypto Event Highlights: Where We’ve Been and Where We Are Heading Next

Women of Crypto kicked off the Crypto Invest Summit conference on October 22nd, 2018 with a full day of panels featuring heavy-hitting women in the blockchain and crypto spheres. Alison Burger, co-founder of Women of Crypto, organized the event with the purpose of getting more women involved in blockchain to combat current underrepresentation. Burger described the organization’s mission as revolving around creating “gender neutrality and [evening] out the representation of women in attendance at events, in leadership positions, founding and running companies, speaking on stages, creating thought leadership, investing in projects, receiving more investment, and being hired for various roles.” She added, “As more women are seen in leadership positions, acknowledged in the media for their work, and leading conversations as event headliners, more women will be motivated to enter the industry.”

As far as the industry at large goes, it’s obvious to anyone who has been in the blockchain space for longer than a few months that we are in a very different position today as we were last year. 2017 has been heralded as the year of the ICO, and now, in 2018, we are experiencing regulatory backlash of the novel fundraising form and facing the hard realities that achieving mass adoption presents. Despite the intimidating prospect of developing decentralized platforms that are dramatically easier to use and even more attractive than centralized versions, many of the event’s speakers remain hopeful for the future of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

I connected with a number of featured thought leaders to get their ideas on the maturation of the blockchain and crypto industries in the last year and on what the future holds for this nascent sphere.

Jessica Versteeg, CEO of Paragon, said that enterprise involvement has had an overall positive impact on the blockchain space but also expressed regret over the “bad press [that] happened around crypto and ICOs this year alongside the bear market.” Her thoughts give voice to the unfortunate and often baseless tie between the valuation of cryptocurrencies and the public perception of blockchain technology. Versteeg alluded to the hype around ICOs dying down actually being a positive for the industry, especially as regulations become more clear. No doubt, dealing with the SEC’s uncertain stance on cryptocurrencies and ICOs is the source of many a CEO’s greatest anxiety.

Zayi Reyes, VP of Marketing at MetaX, was also of the opinion that the phasing out of the ICO craze is ultimately beneficial to the industry at large. “I feel like we’re weeding out the weak,” she said in our interview.

Kelley Weaver, CEO of Melrose PR and host of our Crypto Token Talk podcast, seconded these sentiments, expressing that, “though there was a lot more money being thrown around in 2017, in many ways this year has been better for us as a communications firm because the projects that come to us for support already have a product and often include validation in the form of VC funding or revenue from an existing business. It makes our jobs much easier if we’re not constantly wondering if this project showing off its 60-page white paper, and little else, is legitimate.”

The constantly changing regulatory landscape was a recurring topic of conversation throughout the summit. In the wake of the conference, Japan’s Financial Services Agency granted the cryptocurrency industry self-regulatory status. The move essentially means representatives of cryptocurrency exchanges will be able to vote on and approve regulations to protect consumers while safeguarding the status of the emerging crypto industry and associated businesses. This change in policy offers the entire crypto economy hope that governing bodies will see the light and embrace decentralized ideals.

This past July, Lisa Moynihan, head of communications, conferences, and media at Blockchain Industries, visited with Mrs. Satsuki Katayama, now Minister of Revitalization, Regulatory Reform, and Gender Equality, and asked her to speak at Blockchain Industries’ recent “Blockchain Unbound” conference held in Tokyo, Japan.

The need for female voices in blockchain and crypto is unquestionable. Sarah Austin of SOMA Coin, believes that crypto and blockchain technology can be leveraged to empower women across the globe.

Silvia Christmann, an executive coach and business consultant, noted that the blockchain and crypto worlds are not so different from other industries. “I think we’re still looking at similar problems that we had in the old VC model space of tech and funding, but there’s a greater interest in driving change,” she said in our interview.

Christmann went on to add that it was the interest in driving change and the motivation to be more inclusive that attracted her to work with blockchain companies. She offered an anecdote about a male founder she met at an event in San Francisco who said he’d love to add more women to his team, but all the people he knew were men, and they also happened to have the expertise. Christmann highlighted in her response to the man that it’s important not to place blame but rather to expand possibilities: “You’re operating out of a silo and it would require a little bit of extra work to turn around and look in, not your immediate network, but maybe outside of it,” she said. The data backs up this notion; a report on diversity in the workplace compiled by McKinsey shows that “[companies] in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Achieving mass adoption of cryptocurrency and blockchain-based applications is one of the greatest concerns facing the industry. People are only just beginning to recognize that discussion of mass adoption is tied intimately to the importance of reaching a diversity of users. The reality is, if platforms fail to reach men, women, young, old, and people across nations, religions, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and interests, they are likely to fail. As Alison Burger articulated, “We don’t want crypto to play out the same inequities that came with the internet, where one demographic was deciding how the tech was built out, how we would use it, and the accumulation of resulting wealth. If blockchain is going to build a better world and currency ecosystem, lack of diversity will result in biased outcomes.”

Calley Nye, CEO and Founder of Syren, a community management and growth hacking company, believes that in order for crypto to mature, “people need to stop expecting what they were able to expect last year.” She went on to add that Telegram channels boasting membership exceeding 100K don’t necessarily translate into anything meaningful; instead these are more accurately characterized as vanity metrics. What matters is building products that “people want and want to tell their friends about.”

When we asked Crystal Rose, CEO of SENSE, what she thought the ultimate impacts of blockchain and cryptocurrency would be, she emphasized the importance of real-world applications, believing that 2019 will be the Year of the dApps. She underscored that “Cryptocurrency is just one application of blockchain technology, and probably won’t be the largest or most popular [application.]” She went on to say, “Blockchain is going to change governance models through decentralization and distributed systems, in a way we’re not able to fully grasp yet. Everything from the way we handle government, voting, identity, healthcare, education and finance is going to change. The biggest change I’m looking forward to is a movement toward a true global economy.”

Though we can’t gaze into a crystal ball to see the future, thanks to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, we are empowered with the tools we need to build the future we want to see — one that is more democratic, inclusive, and empowering to all people.