Denver, Colorado-based entrepreneur Nina Nichols is committed to creating positive change in the crypto/blockchain industry. She’s the founder of Global Women in Blockchain (GWB), an umbrella group dedicated to accelerating the formation of partnerships to encourage and enable women to become leaders in the education, development, and promotion of blockchain technologies. In addition to her leadership role with GWB, Nina is a cofounder of ClueChain, LLC, a specialized full-service blockchain solutions provider and consulting agency, and established Resolution Research & Marketing, Inc., a market research agency. ODEM spoke to Nina ahead of International Women’s Day 2019.
Ms. Nichols, please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be so passionate about blockchain technology and the crypto industry.
I’ve been an enthusiastic entrepreneur for my entire life, with market research serving as the backbone of my professional endeavors. As I read more and more about blockchain and started attending meetups and events, the light switch was flipped and there was no turning back. I see blockchain as life changing and an opportunity for all.
What challenges have you personally faced as a woman in blockchain? How have those challenges influenced the path you’re now on?
At first, a few around me (men) thought I was nuts for spending so much time on crypto/blockchain since I wasn’t a trained programmer and they questioned how I would ever make money in the space. Fortunately for me, that’s the kind of challenge that inspires me to press forward even harder. When in doubt, I just think about the internet and society’s initial hesitations about adopting that now ubiquitous technology. Despite not necessarily understanding the inner workings of the internet, this doesn’t stop even the most average user from taking advantage of what the technology has to offer. Similarly, I haven’t allowed an initial lack of technological proficiency to stop me from pursuing what’s obviously the fourth industrial revolution.
Other women leaders in blockchain have talked about being outnumbered by men at meetups and conferences and how some women are reluctant to ask questions at those events. What compelled you to establish GWB?
I, too, have felt outnumbered at these gatherings, but the thing that really changed my perspective was a female friend who was attending an early blockchain meetup with me. She pointed out how when one of the two women in the group asked a question, it was essentially dismissed. The women weren’t reluctant to speak up, but they weren’t necessarily being heard, so I decided to launch a platform specifically for women (from beginners to experts) to introduce much-needed diversity in the space.
How is GWB different from other group’s seeking to boost women’s representation in the industry?
As with other women-focused groups, GWB seeks to create positive change in the technology space and attract exceptional women. Our differences exist in our momentum, collective intelligence, and active participation from members. We have a global network of enterprise executives, entrepreneurs, and service experts who are leading blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives. Our members are key thought leaders and pioneers who are harnessing the transformative power of blockchain technology to solve critical world problems, enable borderless currencies, and introduce new approaches to supply chain, asset management, and financial services. GWB members are leaders within their respective industries including education, energy, financial services, mass media, real estate, legal, chemical, and information industries and hail from over 25 countries speaking probably 40 languages or more.
Our mission is to create a global ecosystem of women to provide education, market research, conversation, and financial and other resources to empower inclusivity and diversity in the blockchain revolution. Our active participation is seen with ongoing community partnerships. For example, GWB is a select global community partner invited by the Blockchain Research Institute for their upcoming Blockchain Revolution Global Congress in Canada.
How is GWB advancing the cause of women in blockchain?
We believe blockchain embraces feminine energy and the changes we’d like to see in the world: more trusted, accurate, transparent decentralized ways of working. We strongly believe in and provide education, inclusion, exposure, and mentorships – we’re creating a community of women that are stronger together.
Currently, we're putting together a media project, called the “2020s View: Global Women in Blockchain”, a short form documentary series that tracks women-led blockchain projects across the world. Similar to Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" series, we tell the story of what's happening at a hyper-local level and will also connect the dots for similar projects.
We are seeking sponsors and strategic partners for all our initiatives including the media project above and also expanding our membership database, elevating our fundraising platforms, and spreading our blockchain evangelism and activities worldwide.
What are GWB’s goals? How will you know if GWB is making a difference?
We strive to provide practical resources for our members starting with the No. 1 challenge, access to capital. We also endeavor to establish links between enterprises, ventures, education institutions, and governments to spark dynamic connections and discussions on best practices, policy, and shared experiences.
We’re currently building out a decentralized global projects platform for our members which includes a “crypto crunchbase” to highlight blockchain-specific member projects as well as provide access to our collective knowledge base to foster greater awareness, education, and capitalization.
We seek to address the enormous challenges women face in securing seed-to-growth capital by forming strategic partnerships via crowdfunding and investment management to harness new approaches, avoid obstacles, and focus on the fundraising end-goals. Ultimately, we’ll see the growth of our membership, participation in our offerings, and the active use of our platforms to raise capital. We’ll track that by the launch and roll out of our member’s global projects.
We’ll know if we’re making a difference when we see women’s projects highlighted and moving forward within the proper regulatory, legal, and financial frameworks at a pace greater than the famous 2 percent female funding hurdle.
Do you believe the anti-female bias in blockchain capital raising is greater than in other industries? Why?
First, there are fewer women in STEM and finance than men to begin with (which is another thing we’re aiming to change) and therefore, historically fewer examples of successful fundraising by women. However, I believe Dana Kanze explains it best in her TED Talk wherein she provided research that concluded that VCs displayed implicit gender bias by emphasizing prevention-based dialogue with female entrepreneurs versus promotion-oriented discussions with their male counterparts. For example, VCs expressed a statistically higher level of concern regarding how women protect their customer base (prevention) and what men project their overall market potential (promotion) versus the other way around.
Looking globally, who are your female heroes of blockchain?
For one, CEO of Nasdaq, Adena Friedman, who bridges the gap in technology and finance in the US – not to mention she’s the first woman to lead a major U.S. stock exchange. But honestly, my female heroes are all the women that I’m working with who are incredibly smart, talented, innovative, inspiring, and hardworking. I’ve met more women in GWB that I like to talk to and brainstorm with than ever before in my career. We’re not going to let this opportunity pass us by.
Are you hopeful for the future of women in blockchain? Why?
I think the tide has turned as blockchain is a new transformative technology that touches every aspect of our society. As women, we actively embrace this energy and opportunity to rely on more “trustless” and transparent decentralized ways of working.
Ms. Nichols, thank you.