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Spotlight on our inaugural she256 mentor-mentee pairs!

With the application process for she256’s second round of Mentorship underway, we wanted to share some experiences from a sample of our inaugural mentor-mentee pairs. From building companies to long lasting friendships, our mentorship program’s reach has been far reaching. These stories speak for themselves.

Nik is a serial technology entrepreneur with experience building startups from the ground up — idea, innovation, team-building, product development, sales, marketing, venture funding, community-building and exit. Most recently, Nik has been devoting his time to making blockchain more accessible for everyone.

Chase is on a mission to make blockchain technology simple. As a business student at the University of Michigan with no technical background, Chase saw the need for empathy in the space, hoping to make it easier for non-technical people like herself to use decentralized technology.

What is TryCrypto all about? Take us through the journey of its creation and launching the site.

Chase: TryCrypto started out of a vision that Nik and I shared, which was to make Web3.0 more accessible for mainstream users. When she256 first paired us together, we got on a call and instantly hit it off. We started working on PhotoBlock, which was our first product (launching beta in early September), and quickly realized there was a business here. Now we’re on track to ship at least two more products by the end of reaOctober — all of them working towards the original vision of making Web3.0 accessible and she256 was really the genesis block of it all.

As a serial entrepreneur, how did working with Chase change your entrepreneurial process?

Nik: My journey into blockchain was very much technical. One of the things I love about collaborating with Chase is that she inspires me to think beyond the technical elements of blockchain, to really explore how this technology could be used not just to make the world better, but to make people happier. Her fresh perspective often challenges me to consider different options and approaches to problems that I hadn’t considered before. It’s been such an amazing journey and none of it would have been possible without she256.

What did you come into the she256 mentorship program expecting to accomplish? How did the program meet/exceed your expectations?

Chase: When I first got involved with she256, my goal was to learn more about blockchain and to really plug into the decentralized tech community. I didn’t expect to find a business partner, mentor, and lifelong friend or such a wonderful community empowering women in the space. I am beyond grateful to the amazing team at she256 for creating such a strong ecosystem that empowered me to not only get involved, but to help shape the conversation around usability and access to decentralized technology.

*Update: Harmony partners with PhotoBlock to simplify login for Dapps! Read about it here.

Jill is a co-founder of the Open Money Initiative, a non-profit research organization that examines how money is used in closed economies. She is also an investor at Slow Ventures.

Roz studies computer science and economics at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she runs Badger Blockchain. She’s worked both as a researcher and software engineer at UMA, OmiseGo and Ripple.

How did Jill help you find a path in the blockchain space career and otherwise?

Roz: I signed up for the mentorship program expecting a bit of career advice on a niche industry, but Jill has guided me through far more than that. The big decisions and new experiences I’ve been up against have been no match for Jill’s thoughtful observations and funny stories.

Working in an industry where hardly anyone thinks like you can feel isolating, but this program has been a reminder that it’s worth digging a little to find them. Also, that it’s easy to be intimidated by people with a few years on you, but from conversations with Jill, I’ve learned that especially in the blockchain industry, we’re all just figuring it out, and that’s ok!

Could you share the most memorable discussion/anecdote you had with Roz?

Jill: One of the first times I met up with Roz, she dove right in and started chatting about some of the more technical intricacies of Plasma. In that moment, I sort of froze. How was I supposed to be mentoring her when she was so much deeper on this than I was? It was then I realized that mentoring is not just a give-take relationship. It’s a loop of learning from each other!

Linda is co-founder and managing director at Scalar Capital. Previously she was a product manager at Coinbase and a portfolio risk analyst at AIG.

Caroline is the Program Manager for Techstars’ first dedicated blockchain accelerator, which invests in founders building a more open internet and financial system. Previously she ran recruitment at Venture for America, an entrepreneurship fellowship that helps young founders start companies in emerging startup ecosystems.

You both work in venture. How did this drive the kinds of conversations that you had?

Caroline: This was my first role in venture (and in blockchain), so it was great to learn from Linda’s experience as both an investor and an operator. She was able to share valuable news resources, people to keep an eye on, and trends in crypto to watch out for.

How did you grow through the program? What were your biggest takeaways?

Linda: Caroline does an amazing job managing the Techstars blockchain accelerator program. I learned more about accelerators and how much work goes into running them. It was great to be paired up with someone who has a different perspective and experience in the industry.

Caroline: Let me just say that I feel like I hit the jackpot in my mentor. Linda’s takes are always spot on and it was great to have an ally in the industry as I grew into it. Additionally Linda’s fund has a specific focus that’s different than mine — that varying perspective was extremely valuable and it was great to share experiences.

Named by the Obama Administration as one of the top 100 Emerging Global Entrepreneurs, Farah has spent nearly 10 years working in critical infrastructure. Having a career that spans as a contributor to the President’s Daily Briefing and a Program Analyst and Software Engineer in the Intelligence Community.

*Her mentor, Anirudh, was unfortunately unable to participate in the interview

Tell us a little bit about the blockchain application you’ve been building. What were you looking for when you entered the program?

Farah: We are building an incentivized and decentralized peer-to-peer mesh Internet service. I joined the she256 mentorship program to connect with a seasoned software engineer for mentorship on building robust systems for consumer-facing products.

How did you grow through the program? What were your biggest takeaways?

Farah: We pivoted three times! From a jobs marketplace on blockchain, to a cryptocurrency micropayments platform, and finally to what we are currently working on. We also closed a seed round. My mentor, Anirudh, was supportive throughout. Fortunately, the engineering mentorship remained applicable in each product. My key takeaway was that by focusing on solving real problems and avoiding over-engineering, we were able to spin out three minimum viable products and test with users rapidly.

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