Taking a Lead in Blockchain — Victoria Gago, Co-founder of European Blockchain Convention, Shares What’s Next for Blockchain
If you work with blockchain technology, you’ve probably heard her name. In just four short years, Victoria Gago has become one of the most influential women in the industry, promoting the potential of distributed ledger technology (DLT) across Europe and around the globe. In honor of International Women’s Day, we thought it would be great to catch up with Victoria on what’s hot in blockchain technology now and on the horizon for herself and the industry. It only took six months, because — this woman is busy!
To give you a bit of an overview, Victoria is the co-founder of the European Blockchain Convention (EBC), a twice-yearly convention focused on enterprise blockchain technology across multiple industries. She is the founder of the Accelerate Network, a non-profit networking organization for professional women in Barcelona. She is also the Director of Master’s Degree in Blockchain and Business Applications at the Three Points School for Digital Business, and the OBS Business School in Spain. AND she is now an ambassador for the Global Blockchain Business Council, helping to establish global blockchain standards. So, as you can see, when Victoria jumps in, she goes all in!
Here’s what she had to say about getting into blockchain and where she sees it going:
Hi Victoria — at last, and welcome! Thanks so much for joining us today. Tell us how you did you get into blockchain technology?
Hello - It’s great to connect finally and outside of an event as well!
So, my blockchain journey began when I moved from Copenhagen to Spain around six and a half years ago. I went to work in the financial industry for a private equity fund, where I found myself basically surrounded by men all the time. So, I got the idea to create a women’s association to connect with other professional women with different backgrounds where we could help support each other to reach higher levels. I felt like I was stuck in a financial bubble and not getting input from other industries. By connecting with other young professional women with diverse profiles, we could get inspired and create something much bigger together. This was how the Accelerate Network was born.
It was through this association that I met a member who had a financial background too, but she was very “techy.” At first, I was like “hmmm, I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” I didn’t care that much about technology. I had my MacBook and iPhone, but that was it really. She talked a lot about blockchain, so I started to read about it. Then, at the Mobile World conference, I went to see the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, speak. The room was completely packed. Sitting there on the floor, I didn’t understand all of what he was talking about, but I realized it was BIG. So, I began reading even more and I thought “Woah, this technology is amazing.” I was fascinated by the philosophy behind blockchain — to build the new decentralized internet and to distribute wealth in a new and revolutionary way.
What inspired you to create the European Blockchain Convention?
Working in finance, I realized that I had the know-how to invest in cryptocurrencies. I saw so much potential in them, so I started investing. Then, I thought, why not bring people together with all the leading players in the industry to help develop the blockchain ecosystem in Europe. In 2017, I said to my colleague Daniel Salmerón “Let’s do blockchain conferences!” and his response was like “Nah.” Then in 2018, we went to a private equity conference, and I said to Daniel again “Hey, let’s do a blockchain conference.” I did some calculations and he said “Yeah, okay. Why not.” It’s grown like crazy.
Why did you choose to have the conferences in both Barcelona and Copenhagen?
It has a lot to do with my background, coming from Copenhagen and moving to Barcelona. But actually, Barcelona has a very active blockchain community. Barcelona is a top destination for holding conferences. It’s a nice experience to combine business with a great coastal city visit. We also thought that it would make sense to have two locations, one that represents the North of Europe in Copenhagen and Southern Europe in Barcelona.
> Read our event review — European Blockchain Conference Gains Momentum
That makes sense since the financial trends and systems vary from north to south in Europe — so you get both perspectives. And the industry is growing so fast a lot happens in six months. Last year, because of COVID, you had to make the conference virtual — how was that?
We were very much into the physical world before. Especially in finance, where there are several important conferences throughout the year where you want to get important face-to-face contact. Daniel had the idea early in the Spring, when most of Europe was in lockdown, to do something new. We were in the midst of organizing the Copenhagen event when he suggested that we ask attendees through our newsletter if they wanted to book a meeting to share what they’re doing in the blockchain space.
One of them suggested we take the conference online. We thought about it and decided to let’s go for it. We were fortunate that a previous client of ours like the idea and was willing to sponsor the virtual event. It went super well! So we’re doing it again this year in April.
When we can meet again face-to-face, we will, but we see a future and value to go “hybrid” to reach people beyond Europe and those who don’t have the time or budget to buy a flight, hotel ticket, and so on.
The level of industry leaders the event attracted last year was top-notch. Following such good input, what are the top three trends you expect to see in the blockchain industry in 2021?
There are a few things that are really hot right now and that we expect to see more of in the coming years!
Central bank digital currencies — The European Central Bank (ECB) issued a report on digital euros and asked their community if they were to issue digital euros what it would be that they should take into consideration. They received an astonishing 8,000 answers, which was more responses than they had ever received. Most of us don’t think about money itself in finance, and now we find ourselves getting into the money space. The emergence of Libra (now Diem), Facebook's own digital currency, create a big push for the central banks to consider CBDC (central bank digital currency). The ECB will start pilots for 18 months, and a digital euro could be issued within four years' time. We should know more about this before summer which will be exciting!
MiCA — A crypto regulation proposal by the European Commission was issued in late September last year to regulate crypto assets. The Commission is working to get feedback from companies, universities, and the ecosystem at large to get on the proposal. The regulation will be in place to protect citizens and companies, but they also don’t want to regulate so much that it prevents further innovation, which is promising.
Digital Assets — We are moving towards a digital world, and part of that is being able to put assets potentially on a blockchain to track ownership and move assets from one person to another, one company to another more easily. Traditionally, you would buy stocks through a bank. Now, you have different user-friendly options enabled by platforms such as DeGiro where you can buy different financial securities and the fees are low. It also allows you to access different markets around the world, but it’s still almost impossible to transfer assets (as a whole or fragmented) from one owner to another and we need to smoothen this system. This would be possible with blockchain and DLT technology.
Beyond the European Blockchain Convention, we have heard that you are developing a European Tech School. Can you tell us about this?
The next main goal for the EBC platform, beyond the launch of #ebcTALKS, our new monthly online talk series, is to launch the European Tech School. Through it, we will begin by offering blockchain courses which we are currently working on, but then potentially go beyond blockchain. We know we have something really valuable to offer the community. Not only will we offer the courses, but also our students will be able to access the conferences for free over the course of the year, which will give them access to a powerful community to network with, work for, or hire someone from. It’s all about working together.
> Read our round-up: 5 Blockchain Courses to Get Ahead
Lastly, what do you see as the most pressing issue for women in tech and what advice would you give to them?
My advice would be just to jump into it. There are still a lot of issues. For example, the amount of money that VCs invest in startups that are male founders compared to those with female founders is around 98%. But, the only way to get there is to just start. Get into a startup or join a larger company, gain experience, take courses, and build experience and expertise. Jump right into it!
Great advice and thanks for sharing your nights and experiences with us, Victoria. We really appreciate it and are looking forward to seeing you at the next #ebcTALKS and the European Blockchain Convention in April!
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