Meet Four Women Pursuing Blockchain Innovation

Shanice Graves
Aug 15, 2019 · 8 min read

Last week, we announced the six companies (Brave, Chronicled, Concord, Everest, qiibee and Patientory) participating in the Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio, a studio designed to build a blockchain-based ecosystem that will position Oregon’s businesses, institutions and software ecosystem to lead in the growth of enterprise solutions serving local, national and global markets.

The Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio encompasses both strategic partners and emerging companies, creating an environment to pilot and deploy blockchain solutions, focusing on leveraging products, services, and tools to solve targeted business objectives for the Studio Partners including Moda, Umpqua Bank, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Business Oregon, ConsenSys and blockchain research firm Smith + Crown. Learn more about the mission behind the Studio here.

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With the Studio now underway, we wanted to highlight influential players within the blockchain space who are using their unique skill sets and perspectives to further the use cases of blockchain technology worldwide. Below you’ll hear from a crypto-economic researcher, a corporate healthcare strategist, a cryptographer, and an innovation executive as they speak on the importance of having women innovators in the technology space and share their experiences with the uprising of blockchain technology.

Lindsay Nelson

Senior Research Fellow at Smith & Crown

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What is your background and experience working with blockchain technology?

“I’m an Oregon native and graduated from the University of Oregon during the economic recession in 2009. After some international travel, my best friend and I started a video production company which we operated for about 6 years.

We worked with Fortune 100 companies and startups alike to take somewhat complex messages around software or product launches and condense them into short animated marketing videos. This led to the creation of derivative companies, focusing on more efficient turnkey video production and SaaS video analytics tools.

From there I went on to lead marketing at a data startup before a friend encouraged me to give blockchain and cryptocurrencies a close look in late 2016. What I’d mentally written off as some rebranded version of digital payments (without actually investigating), became a source of deep curiosity and inspiration over the course of a few days.

Once I had been exposed to Ethereum, the concept of smart contracts, and grasped how decentralized networks could be combined with cryptoassets to incentivize certain behaviors on a network, I realized how many industries and aspects of life could potentially be restructured by this technology to uphold more equitable distributions of power and profits.

I felt optimistic about blockchain’s potential to assist positive societal paradigm shifts over time, as the technology is refined through cycles of experimentation, trial, and error by projects, individuals, corporations and other organizations. When any new technology threatens to dismantle, undermine, alter or enhance existing power structures, there is a race for knowledge by both those within existing power structures and those outside of them,” Lindsay explains.

I worked as a senior member of the blockchain research and advisory team at Smith + Crown, the world’s leading blockchain research organization until transitioning to become a Fellow with them in late July 2019.

My role with Smith + Crown has been devoted to researching, analyzing and writing about current market trends and blockchain-specific projects, managing partnerships, and contributing to bespoke advisory engagements. Most of their research is published for free on their website, and through the Smith + Crown Intelligence platform, a platform currently in beta that provides comprehensive coverage on the blockchain ecosystem including project overviews, news, analysis, and more.

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How will blockchain technology shape the future?

How blockchain will shape the future is unknown, and it is the fascinating global negotiation, race, and tug of war we all find ourselves in the middle of. There are several parties with different goals exerting their perspectives on the world stage.

Projects want to have entrepreneurial freedom to pursue innovation, regulators want to preserve the integrity of existing financial systems, laws and consumer protections, investors want to fund the innovations of tomorrow and gain returns doing so, academics want to refine certain technologies, workflows, and processes, and corporations want to future-proof revenues, maximize efficiencies, and control the infrastructure that will be used by the masses.

Subsets of these groups have distinct ideologies and approaches, all competing for mindshare and adoption. What shakes out will be fascinating to watch, and considering surveys by Deloitte, Juniper Research, IDC and others along with project announcements and launches in the space, significant early traction seems to be concentrated in the financial sector and in supply chain use cases.

Chandra Wahrgren

SVP, Corporate Pharmacy Enterprise & Client Strategies at Moda Health

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What is the most interesting use case you’ve seen for blockchain?

“I was drawn to blockchain by my search for a better way to access, manage and protect the exchange of healthcare information. Blockchain has the potential to set new norms in many sectors. In healthcare, I anticipate greater levels of transparency, enhanced levels of privacy and much-needed simplicity for the consumer. Our active partnership with Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio is exposing us to fresh possibilities and keeping us from retreating to our comfort zones.

My primary interest is in secure digital identity, and in health information access and exchange, peer to peer. I am particularly engaged in exploring opportunities that relate to the pharmacy supply chain and financing. Pharmacy is the first and most frequent health benefit used; it demands the coordination of significant amounts of information for a patient to receive approval for payment and access to medication. It currently is the only benefit in healthcare that is processed in real-time,” Chandra says.

What does innovation mean to you?

“For me, innovation means creatively looking at ways to change the rules of the game, to disrupt its norms. Optimization builds efficiency but innovation allows you to redefine your business. Innovation values aspiration and acceleration. You have to want to do better and to think beyond your current state of success. I have a favorite saying: ‘Protect yourself from yourself.’ In other words, ‘Get out of your own way.’ When you look for unique ways to leverage assets, you naturally come across opportunities to innovate.”

Amira Bouguera

Cryptographer at ConsenSys

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Why are women important in the growth and innovation of blockchain?

“I think women are important to every single field in the world because men and women have different ways of thinking and different ideas that they can bring to the table. Of course, if we have a table with just men then we will have the same pot of ideas over and over.

If you want to work in innovation, you have to have new ideas and who can bring those new ideas? Women. In the blockchain field, it’s difficult because it’s really related to computer science, and mathematics and we don’t have many women working in this field. But it is happening. More and more women are joining this field every day. In the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll have more women in this space and especially now that companies have understood that they need to evolve and include women in the workplace. It’s a process that takes time, especially if women see a field dominated by men and there are not many women to aspire to.”

How will blockchain technology shape the future?

“Most cryptographers work in research laboratories because the resources and tools we’re using in labs are not really used within companies because companies have been using the same tools for many years. Innovation that’s happening is happening in laboratories. I think what the blockchain technology gave us is the hope that all these new methods will be used. With blockchain, there’s a real potential of use because it’s opened a door to innovation and showed that it can solve some of the different issues that exist. What blockchain gave me personally is the opportunity to work with something that actually has value in the real world,” Amira says.

Kathe Anchel

Executive Vice President and Head of Innovation at Umpqua Bank

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When did you first get introduced to blockchain and its capabilities?

“I was exposed to blockchain at the same time that I learned about bitcoin as a speculative investment opportunity. I’ve always been in the technology industry and never necessarily touched any blockchain projects but I found out about bitcoin in 2014 so I bought very early and was very pleased to watch it absolutely explode over the next couple of years.

As I moved into banking away from broader e-commerce technology, I started to really understand its application when it came to the ability to instantly move money to the other side of the world, becoming a great equalizer to access currency in a digital form.”

Why do you think it is that only 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency users are women?

“I think you can just look at the Venn diagram of women in finance and women in technology and then get an even smaller subset. Cryptocurrency is a combination of both. It’s also that it's a little geeky, it’s a little esoteric and when you look at the people really into it.

I’ll admit I’m one of them and I have been for many many years now. It’s not naturally in my wheelhouse. I had to really understand it a lot better from a programmatic perspective and engineering perspective to really respect the concept behind it,” Kathe says.

“The most interesting part of it for me is the whole idea of a currency that's not backed by a government. That is able to be bought and sold and moved around across the globe and is a 24/7 market that’s open. The volatility and the fluctuations that were seeing right is really interesting to watch because you’re starting to see what it means to not have currency backed by the government and the opportunity there.


Our Venture Studio programs are platforms for corporates to access startup innovation. Each venture studio focuses on aligning viable emerging technology solutions from the startup ecosystem with the targeted business objectives of our corporate partners.

For the startups apart of our Studios, we provide financial capital, creative capital and client relationship capital and leverage our partner’s strategic business opportunities to identify viable startup engagement. Learn more about OEBVS at

To learn more and stay in the know, visit or follow @rgaventures on Twitter.

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