At the North American Bitcoin Conference 2018, only three of the 88 speakers were women. Blockchain had a diversity problem. Since then, women-led businesses and nonprofits such as Women in Blockchain have sprung up to help increase female representation – just in time for the explosion of interest in blockchain due to the emergence of Web3. Rosa Shores, co-founder and CEO of BlockSpaces, and Macrina Kgil, CFO of Blockchain.com, are two women at the forefront of this exciting, still male-dominated space.
BlockSpaces, founded by Shores and Gabe Higgins in 2017, enables enterprises to seamlessly integrate their applications with blockchain networks by combining no-to-low code, drag-and-drop workflows, performance analytics, and platform infrastructure. managed blockchain for optimal security and monitoring. Over the past 12 months, BlockSpaces revenue has increased by 40% and the number of customers has increased twenty-fold. In January, the company announced the closing of a $5.75 million funding round.
Blockchain.com is a $5 billion business that allows people to buy, sell, and trade crypto. With over 73 million wallets, the company has processed almost a third of all bitcoin network transactions since 2012. Kgil is one of the few female CFOs of a unicorn company, not to mention finance and crypto. Since joining Blockchain.com, she has led a $300 million Series C funding round and has seen the company double in size to surpass $1 trillion in transactions.
· Rosa Shores, co-founder and CEO of BlockSpaces
Shores had been trying for months to find an investor for her BlockSpaces startup, but she kept getting turned down. She noticed that the only investors she spoke to were men and thought if she could try a female investor, things would be different. She then found a Forbes article listing a number of female investors and sent in a cold pitch. Within weeks, Ali Rosenthal with Leadout Capital had sent over $1 million for the BlockSpaces seed round.
“The one thing I’ve known in my heart since I was young was that I wanted to challenge the status quo,” Shores says. “But even though my mind has been extremely open to any concept that’s radically different from the norm, for most of my life the ‘how’ has been a moving target. That is, until I learned about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in 2013. It became the means to fulfill my life purpose. Although it’s a huge amount of work, it never feels like simple work. It looks like my contribution to a better world.
The biggest challenge Shores faces is being in this space so early. “Even the most savvy and knowledgeable enthusiasts are in a constant state of study and research. You have to be very comfortable with the unknown,” she says.
This problem is compounded for her as a woman in emerging technology. The blockchain space is both highly technical and male-dominated. “I don’t think sexism is overt or even intentional, but it does manifest in learned stereotypes that have significant financial consequences for startups,” Shores says. “It makes it difficult to compete on an equal footing. This is why attracting more women into venture capital while attracting more women into tech and blockchain is so important.
“Accept that life isn’t usually laid out in front of you in a nice, clean timeline with clear phases and transitions,” advises Shores. “It’s completely normal to try something new, regardless of your life stage or past experiences. You don’t have to decide when you’re young (or at any age) what you’re going to do for “the rest of your life”. Understand that sometimes the best ideas will have the most detractors. Let your own deep, gnawing feeling guide your life purpose.
· Macrina Kgil, CFO of Blockchain.com
Kgil was born and raised in South Korea. She learned English when her family temporarily moved to Sydney, Australia, where she was one of the only Asian children in her community. After a short career in the oil industry, she eventually moved into finance and got a job that brought her to the United States. In 2018, she joined Blockchain.com. At the time, many of his colleagues in the financial services industry doubted that crypto would ever become mainstream. But the company has grown by leaps and bounds.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Kgil started out as an engineer because she loves solving problems and thinking about processes. But later, she decided to take a CPA exam and learn more about business and running a business. “It’s been a much better fit,” she says.
“I’ve always been passionate about bringing financial services to the average person,” says Kgil. “I was lucky enough to be able to open a bank account, a credit card and a mortgage without too much difficulty. But that’s not the norm for most people around the world. Borrowing just $2,000 for everyday emergencies is a real luxury for many people. With crypto, people can transfer money in an instant.
Like Shores, the biggest challenge Kgil has faced is that people are barely learning what crypto is and how blockchain works. “It’s not about ‘get rich quick’, it’s about fundamentally changing commerce for the first time in over a thousand years,” she says. “Imagine explaining this new way of doing business to different countries with different financial rules! It has certainly been a wild ride.
For people looking to tap into their life purpose, Kgil offers this advice. “Be curious. Delve into topics to understand them. Think about what you want to spend your time with every morning when you wake up.