Guest post by Anna Makovnikova, CMO of Platio
It’s now a decade since Satoshi Nakamoto published his famous paper on the possibility of a peer-to-peer cash network. Since then we’ve seen enormous innovation and creativity throughout the blockchain space. Much of that progress has been down to the diversity of companies and individuals working towards solving all kinds of different problems.
For blockchain to fulfil its potential, we need to preserve and extend that diversity.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have worked with people from all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. Not only has it been personally fulfilling, but I’ve seen how combining different ideas and approaches results in better products and a deeper understanding of market opportunities.
Diversity within teams works to everyone’s benefit. Marie Wieck, General Manager at IBM Blockchain says that, “when you get interdisciplinary engagement and skills and people who have come from different backgrounds, that really does create an innovation sandbox.”
The Power of Diversity
Blockchain firms are often particularly diverse when it comes to nationality and location.
New technologies, such as online messaging services like Telegram or Skype, or professional team communication software like Slack or Basecamp, have enabled teams to function without all being in the same room, or even the same country.
Distributed teams can efficiently work together and achieve common goals with software and hardware solutions for remote collaboration such as the Nureva Wall and Span Workspace. And thanks to cryptocurrency, they can all be paid efficiently and quickly, without having to wait for expensive and slow bank transfers.
Though established tech centres like San Francisco are doing amazing work, innovation is now coming from all over the world. Blockchain is a truly international community and in my daily work I’ve had the chance to communicate and collaborate with fascinating and talented people from all continents, as well as travelling to meet them to learn how they are using this new technology to solve local problems.
Platio, for instance, is based in London but we have an international team distributed throughout Europe. The company prides itself on promoting diversity in gender, age and cultural backgrounds. As our founder Vlad Bunin says, “Between all of us, we speak over 10 languages (including various accents of English). We encourage diverse thinking and approaches to problem solving, and believe that diversity makes teams, companies and industries stronger. We are excited for the blockchain industry leading the way in this trend.”
The blockchain sector has already come up with some fantastically creative solutions to problems ignored by existing technology. For instance, the LGBT token is designed to leverage the economic power of the LGBT+ community to promote projects which will help that community achieve equal rights and acceptance around the world.
There is also great work being done throughout the developing world in promoting financial inclusion, bringing into the financial system people who have been excluded by traditional banking. Banking platforms like Platio allow talented people to participate in the global economy, no matter where they come from.
Exciting New Opportunities
A recent survey by Circle suggests that twice as many men as women are investing in cryptocurrency. Blockchain projects still missing out on a huge market.
Last month our CFO Irina Berkon participated in an event by BlockChain by Women at San Francisco Blockchain Week. The discussion pointed out that investors put their money into people and companies that “look like them”. If blockchain companies want to reach the broadest possible investor base, they must have diverse teams made up of people from all backgrounds.
Not only does team diversity bring in new ideas and ways of approaching problems, it also helps to identify new problems and new markets. When teams are dominated by men, it is not surprising that they generally talk to a male market. Sports stars and rappers are often appointed as ambassadors of blockchain projects, chosen to appeal to the core investor group of young men. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does limit how much these projects will resonate with the general population. A great example of a marketing case based on gender diversity is the bitcoin-based wallet startup Abra, whose pitch during an episode of Planet of the Apps impressed the renowned actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow so much that she joined the team as an advisor, bringing a whole new audience with her.
Although there is work to be done, it is to the industry’s credit that these issues are being discussed and there is a real willingness to get things right from the beginning.
As a new technology, we have the chance to set the tone for the future of this industry. We early entrants have the responsibility, the opportunity and the privilege to create an industry which works for everyone. If we all take responsibility for increasing the diversity of our teams, we can solve new problems, in new ways, and push the technology forward, together.