CryptoFriends to Spotlight Women in Crypto at SXSW 4 1532

Last year, I was the chair of Blockchain 360 in NYC, and I hosted a panel on the risks and benefits of ICOs and DAOs. On the first day of the conference, I went to check in for my credentials. Going through the lobby of the hotel, the closer I got to the conference hall, the fewer women there were until, after descending on the escalator to the banquet room, it was immediately striking that there were hoards of men and literally no other women in my line of site.

During the course of the conference, I met maybe five other women, who, along with me, navigated condescension and a few thinly veiled pickup attempts in nearly every conversation. Those women included a venture capitalist who had more knowledge of the regulatory landscape than perhaps any other attendee, and a smattering of other incredibly intelligent and insightful women making moves to push the industry forward.  

That’s why I’m so pleased that CryptoFriends, the first blockchain summit happening in conjunction with SXSW in Austin later this month, will be dedicated to women in crypto. The first day of the two-day event will showcase some of the “New Girls on the Block,” featuring keynotes and panel discussions on the main topics surrounding the blockchain world right now. And it’s about time.

Just 5 percent of all tech startup owners are women. It gets worse. Of all the funds invested by venture capitalists, just $1.46 billion went to female-led companies, compared to $58.2 billion for male-led ones. If ever there were a chance for us to level the playing field, it’s now, in the newly developing blockchain community, where we can raise funds through ICOs without depending solely on VC dollars.

The summit will introduce us to some of the women who are taking the blockchain world by storm, shining a light on the roles that women are playing in the blockchain community. Among the top speakers so far confirmed, will be Sqeeqee founder, Jenny Q Ta, Paragon Coin CEO, Jessica VerSteeg, and SuperBloom founder, Emmie Chang.

CEO of conference co-host, CryptoFriends, Daria Arefieva, enthuses, “There are some incredibly talented and successful women in the Blockchain community already doing amazing things. However, at most industry events you still see a more male dominated environment.” Tell me about it. How refreshing to finally attend a conference without people wondering if you’re there to record the minutes.

With women making up less than 2 percent of the blockchain community right now, it’s time to attract more female talent. “Blockchain is one of the most disruptive technologies we have ever experienced, so we want to encourage more women to get involved and lead the way in shaping its future,” Arefieva says.

The conference will also feature a variety of ICO pitches, whereby blockchain startups can present their ideas to investors, networking opportunities and educational content, as well as some lively debates.

For more information about tickets and pricing, check out the CryptoFriends page. And, who knows? Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Tina Mulqueen is the founder of The Block Talk and the CEO of Kindred PR. She consults with blockchain projects on marketing and public relations strategy, helping clients to secure more than $10M in funding. She is a 2x Top 100 Women in Media honoree and was named one of the top young communications professionals by INC Magazine. She's an advocate for women in technology, and often speaks about the intersection of technology, media & marketing. She writes regularly for Entrepreneur, and has written for Forbes, Huffington Post, Today, Thrive Global, Elite Daily, New York Lifestyles Magazine, and more.

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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 48

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 49169

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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