Written by Lisa Winning at Forbes Magazine.
March 2, 2018 - The blockchain landscape is commanding an increasing amount of attention. With more first-time companies and applications vying for ICOs, interest in the long-term viabilities of technologies based on the blockchain is also growing.
One of the questions many blockchain developers and entrepreneurs must answer to investors who may be intrigued, but skeptical, regarding the actual potential use of their blockchain solution is scalability, and inclusion. Luckily for entrepreneurs eager to make an impact in this space, more resources are popping up to help burgeoning ventures to hone their applications and refine their unique value propositions in the field.
I recently chatted with Tiffany Madison, one of the founding partners at DecentraNet, a full-service blockchain advisory, to learn more about the consultancy’s offerings and why the blockchain space needs guidance now more than ever. As a woman at the forefront of a growing company in the blockchain, Madison’s insights not only cover where blockchain as a whole needs to go, but also, how the vertical can transform into a more diverse and inclusive industry.
Lisa Winning: Do you feel there is a gender equality gap in blockchain and if so why?
Tiffany Madison: Like the broader tech industry, there is a gender equality gap in blockchain technology. I think this is attributed to the fact that in the initial days of crypto, the earliest voices advocating widespread adoption of privacy-enhancing cryptography (as a facilitator for social and political change), were mostly male. That is changing.
Speaking only for myself: while there is certainly a disparity between men and women in this space, I think the industry is rapidly evolving into a culture of inclusion. In my experience, the community is comprised of highly conscientious individuals that sincerely strive to include women and all underrepresented groups in the industry. These efforts will naturally continue to attract more female involvement. This is important to me. I have three nieces and a four-month-old daughter. I want as many opportunities open for them in this world, and want to only be a part of cultures that would actively welcome them.
Winning: How can we get more women into blockchain?
Madison: 1) Create new opportunities: As the blockchain industry is transitioning from its newborn phase into infancy, new opportunities are emerging for women. Until recently, most of the positions in this space targeted technologists, a niche underrepresented with women. While we still have work to do, more women are entering STEM and technology-related fields than ever. As the industry continues to grow, positions where women often shine become more in demand, especially operations, marketing, public relations, content development, and media. Further, over the next decade, many industries where women dominate will be disrupted by blockchain, creating a catalyst for their interest.
2) Offer a platform: I also think industry events are a very public way of demonstrating support for inclusion and diversity. Event organizers and leaders can play a very important role by continuing to foster an inclusive culture welcoming to all. At d10e, we specifically sought female moderators to mediate all-male panels. Our emcee, still to this day, is the very talented young woman, Naomi Brockwell, also known as Bitcoin Girl. The result was that more women leaders felt empowered by their roles as early adopters and thought leaders, and more inclined to speak at future events. When DecentraNet hosts events, we promote inclusion by seeking out as many talented and diverse presenters as possible.
3) Focus on cryptocurrency adoption first: In my experience, interest in cryptocurrency almost always leads to interest in the power of blockchain technologies. Estimates currently place that 5 to 7 percent of all cryptocurrency users are women, making the industry a highly male-dominated one.I think this will change in the next 5-10 years. As cryptocurrency investment platforms, including wallets and exchanges, continue to become less cumbersome and more user-friendly, many women that do not consider themselves technical, but financially savvy, are apt to become interested.
Winning: How did DecentraNet begin?
Madison: In early 2016, crypto was in a unique place. Technologists were waking up to the revolutionary applications of blockchain technology. While many had fantastic ideas, extensive experience and impressive credentials, many also had little business savvy. One of our founders, Matt McKibbin, had already started several blockchain companies and a popular DC Bitcoin meetup during his first three years in crypto. Matt saw the need for business-minded advisors early on. He was routinely sought out to consult on various projects as few professional blockchain-knowledgeable organizations understood how to scale startups into thriving companies.
Matt teamed up with Ted Moskovitz and Benji Rabhan, two accomplished entrepreneurs from the software world, and promptly recruited our other co-founders. Intrigued by the potentials of blockchain and the startups at the forefront of developing the technology, we quickly identified the gap for professional services and DecentraNet was born.
Winning: What's the goal of DecentraNet?
Madison: As the blockchain professional space has exploded, our team has become more attracted to social impact projects, and that interest is now enshrined in our mission statement: Leveraging Blockchain Technology to Solve the World’s Greatest Challenges.
We support teams improving the world at scale. Our current focus is on healthcare, education, good governance, financial inclusion, and clean energy. After seven years in this space, we have a fantastic network of partners and advisors. That we are willing to refer some projects out to our larger network, rather than taking all opportunities ourselves, has been essential to our success. Our clients know that if we don’t have the bandwidth for the job, we are in a unique position to connect them to top-performers that will.
Winning: How did you get involved in blockchain, and why are you passionate about it?
Madison: In 2014, I took a position as Vice President of Coin Congress, a cryptocurrency-focused event series founded by Brock Pierce. After the summer 2015 event in San Francisco, I realized the cryptocurrency event space had become an echo chamber of hard-core evangelists. The same voices and faces attended at every event and covered the same discussion topics every time, all geared toward people that already understood Bitcoin. To grow, crypto needed representation in new industries and more voices promoting Bitcoin and blockchain technology. Those industry innovators just needed an invitation.
Pierce challenged and empowered me to create a new event that could unite all of the makers, dreamers, and crazy ones whether they were in crypto or not. My partners at the time, Matt McKibbin, Meg Gilliland and Jake Tozier, created and launched d10e: the first event focused on decentralization in four disruptive industries: fintech, disruptive technology, the sharing economy, and the future of work. Our idea was simple: unite all of the inspiring people creating the world of tomorrow.
The experience of running d10e and watching so many industries embrace the concept of decentralization affirmed my view that the real hero of Satoshi’s vision was the blockchain. I’m passionate about this technology because, like the Internet, it has the power to liberate humanity and revolutionize the institutions that should serve us.
Winning: Who are some of the companies you consult and which ones are you most excited about? Which industries are these companies disrupting?
Madison: We have so many interesting projects that it’s really hard to choose just one. Our 2018 focus is social impact, and ImpactPPA is one of the most exciting social impact organizations to watch. ImpactPPA is an Ethereum-based decentralized energy platform that will transform the global energy finance industry. Distributed, renewable energy solutions bring electrical generation directly to the point of use, thereby eliminating bottlenecks created by NGOs and government agencies that have traditionally controlled energy financing. In 2018, the the technology exists now to solve this problem for millions of good people living in the dark. ImpactPPA aims to do this in places that need the help the most.
From our companies that are not singularly focused on social good, but have sheer disruptive potential, I’m excited about DeedCoin. Through blockchain technology, the real estate industry can be decentralized and streamlined. DeedCoin will accomplish this first by leveraging two popular startup ideas: lowering broker commissions and integrating cryptocurrencies into real estate. Their goal is to dramatically reduce brokerage overhead for homebuyers, many of which are struggling to become homeowners while balancing other financial obligations, by letting buyers and sellers pay agents partly with their own cryptocurrency tokens. The founders, Matthew Herrick and Charles Wismer, are really on to something special.
Winning: What's the future of blockchain and where do you see it going in the next 5, 10 years?
Madison: Blockchain technology will be incorporated into every industry. Those that do not evolve will be less capable of competing, and eventually suffer the market consequences. Just as nearly every business today uses the Internet, companies over the next decade will embrace blockchain technology. My co-founder, Ted Moskovitz, often responds to this question with a very simple answer: What competitive business wouldn’t want greater data security, less transaction fees, greater transparency, and many of the other features of this technology?