Web3 Needs More Women
Jessica Galang: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Georgian Impact Podcast. I'm Jessica Galang, content editor at Georgian. In our last podcast, we spoke to Maggie Love, founder of SheFi and co- founder and head of business development at W3BCLOUD. She talked about how to solve scalability challenges in Web3 and some of the building blocks of DeFi. If you're interested in her thoughts on the technologies that will make a Web3 future possible, I highly recommend listing to part one of this podcast. This podcast is part two of our conversation with Maggie, that will focus more on her experience with SheFi, a crypto educational initiative that works to get more women into DeFi. In this podcast, we'll cover how SheFi is working to fill a gender gap in DeFi and crypto, the importance of active contributors in Web3, and why she's not down for the girl boss archetype, that's dominated tech for the last several years. We're going to share Maggie's story in the first part of this podcast, but if you caught it in part one, you can skip ahead to around the eight minute mark of this podcast. Otherwise, here's Maggie talking about how she got into crypto.
Maggie Love: I've always been interested in finance and financial literacy and financial empowerment, really since I graduated college in 2013. So I moved to New York about six years ago today, and just being around Wall Street and people that work in wall street, and one of the financial hubs of the globe, you can't help but be interested in what's going on. And specifically what I noticed, I worked in technology, so I was doing product strategy at IBM Watson in financial services. So I was touching finance, but I wasn't directly in finance, I didn't decide to do spreadsheets after college and work crazy hours at a bank. And I realized that my peers who had done that, mostly male peers and friends, were always continuing to talk about finance, talking about finance was table stakes. Whether we were watching football at a bar or on our way out to go see a show or hang out in the park, whatever it was, they had this special language and they were included on that. And I, and people who were not in finance were not included in it. So around then, I really realized that in order for me to be an empowered person in this world, to achieve the goals that I wanted to achieve, it wasn't enough for me to just be working. I really needed to be in the know in finance and people who had joined the financial industry just had such a leg up in this world. And it wasn't necessarily shared with people who didn't have that same background. And so I learned about blockchain in 2016, I was at a corporate strategy meeting at IBM and they were talking about technologies that they could start deploying in the financial services vertical, beyond Watson and others. This one man was on the phone, he wasn't in the corporate strategy meeting in the physical room, blockchain, blockchain, blockchain, talking about blockchain. And everyone's like," We should mute that guy. He won't stop talking about this blockchain thing." And for some reason, I was like," Wow, this man seems super passionate about this word that I've never even heard of. Maybe I should go look it up?" So I went to Barnes and Noble in Union Square after work, very old school, picked up a physical book called The Blockchain Revolution and I read it voraciously. I finished it, I think in 48 hours and it was all about the different use cases of blockchain, global remittances, supply chain, digital identity and transforming the financial services industry was one of them. And the fact that anybody could have access to this financial technology, from that point on, I made it my mission to get a job in the crypto space and in Web3. And I was interviewing at companies with all of my free time. And I was just endlessly curious about this technology, tried to read anything I could find about it on the internet in 2016, 2017, which wasn't that much. And found a friend of a friend through a LinkedIn search that worked at Consensus, which is this big Ethereum company back in 2017. If you were in New York, it was the place you wanted to work. And met with him for a coffee. He took me into this flat in Bushwick. Now for contrast, I was working in a very buttoned Astor place, beautiful, business- casual every day in New York City. And then I went all the way out to Brooklyn, to Bushwick and people were just wearing jeans and t- shirts and were very friendly and I was working in a flat above Roberta's Pizza, that would be amazing. So feeling that energy there, I knew I wanted to be part of it. And then when I got into it, I was 26 and I didn't need to be an accredited investor and I could invest in this thing called Ethereum. And I could see people building products on it, I could see people working on the core technology around me. And so no one could stop me from investing in something that I knew was going to have upside value, just because of the people working on it and what it had accomplished so far back then. And so that was really an empowering moment. And getting back to this, not gate keeping, my access to invest in finance and grow my wealth. And so if I was out with my finance friends again in 2017, after I had gotten the job, I was like," Oh, crypto and Ethereum's going to totally disrupt Wall Street. It's already disrupting investing, right?" In 2017, people could raise money from anybody in the world via ICOs, initial coin offerings. Even though it didn't end incredibly well, it showed that the use case, we could open investing, it totally disrupted that use case. So I was like," Oh, I'm going to totally disrupt your banking industry." I wasn't as fun for my finance friends to be around, but I was totally taken by this idea that anybody, anywhere could invest in this asset. And so we didn't really see decentralized finance take off until 2019, right? So I got into this space 2016, 2017. A lot of people were trying out many different use cases, tokenizing real estate, collaborative storytelling on the blockchain, early music NFTs. And definitely, there was some work around taking the financial sediment from T + 3, which is how long it takes a large transaction to actually finalize today, to just immediacy basically, on the blockchain, so there were some of that. But we really started seeing DeFi in 2019 with Compound and MakerDAO and Avi, these DeFi lending platforms, really taking off. And so at that moment, I had already co- founded W3BCLOUD, which is more of an infrastructure play. But at that moment I was like," Oh, it's here, decentralized finance is here. The thing I've been telling my friends about beyond just investing in Ethereum is here. We're going to open all these banking services." And I just noticed not a lot of my female peers were using it and I was like, if DeFi looks like traditional finance or TradFi and we're also promoting that it's different and inclusive and creating all this value for new people, That is a problem, there's like a mismatch there. What we're saying is not what we're enacting. And so I'm going to make it my mission to change that narrative and ensure that we don't leave women and non- binary folks and other marginalized communities out of decentralized finance, outside of DeFi, because then we're only creating the old systems. And we cannot deny that many of the people that were first into crypto and the earliest investors were already male and reaping the most advantages from this technology. So that's my long story of where finance has always been this through line of something I really wanted to master myself and make sure I share with other people. And my story into crypto was really a story of curiosity, hearing something, reading about it and just not giving up, until I found my way into the industry. And leaving that plushy Astor place, managerial job to risky crypto 2017 wild, wild west. But it was one of the best calculated risks I've ever taken in my life.
Jessica Galang: So a lot of consumers and even enterprise lack the right knowledge or confidence to start contributing meaningfully. From your experience, what are some of the key accessibility challenges that you've seen in getting more people onboarded into DeFi or Web3?
Maggie Love: Through my work in SheFi, I've noticed a lot of challenges. One, is there's already just a huge wealth gap between the genders in traditional finance. If you're already at a disadvantage for having less money to play with, how are you going to start experimenting in this new financial world? And then add on expensive transactions? So that's one thing in general, we have this wealth gap and that actually feeds into how people can spend their money. If you don't have as much risk money to start investing or experimenting with DeFi, how are you going to do it? Another challenge is the language, DeFi protocol, DeFi Dapps, DeFi application, DeFi tool and service. Wait, what's a protocol? Is it the same as an application? We have a lot of terms that are not user friendly and then on top of that, we use terms interchangeably. And because many people have been in this space so long, they'll maybe write a Medium post and they'll just write it in very crypto lingo. And so for a new person, that is a challenge, they have to go have a little Web3 dictionary with them while they're reading through all of it, so that's another big challenge. I think just getting set up with a wallet is a challenge for the first time, right? Storing seed phrases, understanding that you are responsible for your funds and you're responsible for this mnemonic phrase, that is a game changer for you. If you can't find it, you don't have access to your funds, so I still think there's a lot of challenges there. A new challenge we're really seeing with the advent of NFT projects and these big open Discords where anybody can join, is there's a lot of scams. So I don't know how many times I tell my communities do not accept a DM from anybody. If somebody wants to talk to you, they'll add you as a friend. And people are still clicking on things, because they're like," Oh, I really wanted to get on this NFT project. And now they're releasing more mints." So that's a problem, fishing is a big problem, right? Broadly that category. And so I think those are some of the main challenges, like crypto lingo, the fact that women in these communities start with less money and how they feel about money and they're not talking about money as much. And then a lot of the scams out there can be challenging sometimes to parse through. And so those I think are big things, just getting people up on that. And also besides the crypto lingo, if you don't have traditional finance lingo and knowledge, it's also not going to be super easy just to get into DeFi. So through my education, if there's ever a traditional financial concept that is applied in DeFi, I go over that as well. I'm going to make you a master at understanding finance and DeFi and how they work together on these open blockchains.
Jessica Galang: What is the SheFi approach to education, considering all these hurdles from education to access to awareness?
Maggie Love: The SheFi approach is built around three pillars, so it's education, experimentation and community. So I knew from my experience, I got most comfortable becoming a degen or going straight to Etherscan to Minton NFT from a smart contract by trying it myself and also having a peer with me. So it's experimentation and doing it in a communal way, is really the best way that I think you learn. Now, along with that, I need to know how everything works and a lot of my friends also love to know how everything works. So I applied that insight to, you're not only going to experiment, because I could just get on YouTube and be doing demos right, all day and telling people put your funds here and there and there, but really people want to know, what am I lending into? What am I swapping against? What am I signing? What is this NFT? What are all the applications of tokens? And so SheFi's really constructed in, you get both a full masterclass educational piece on all the big use cases. And then you also get to go experiment on it. And so I will teach you everything about wallets, what's a seed phrase? Tips on where to hide it, what is an automated market maker? And what is Uniswap and how to swap and how to liquidity provide? And then you also get a chance with a TA, a teaching assistant, to download your MetaMask, make that first swap on Uniswap, lend your tokens into a passive income play. And then we have a place for you to also document that you did that, almost like your proof of work. Because you need both, I think the education, but you really need to start trying these things. So a lot of our efforts are focused around trying it, trying it with a community, asking any question you want. There's no bad questions. And that community part is really important. I think, and I know women, we actually take recommendations from our friends and our peers, more so than reading a review or just reading about something, right? So I'm building that community aspect, you can ask anybody any question, someone will meet with you to make sure you do this DeFi thing. We're seeing women go from zero to NFT degens and then sharing that experience with the community. So everything we do is centered around learning, experimenting, sharing, increasing collective knowledge through those activities.
Jessica Galang: Okay. And I found this survey from BLOCKFIVE, that one in three American women say they plan to purchase crypto in 2022. If that's to be believed, it seems here's a lot of interest. Are you still seeing that gap in participation? Or are you still anticipating that there still might be challenges onboarding more women into this space, since it's still getting off the ground?
Maggie Love: I launched SheFi publicly, April 16th, 2020. And I can tell you when I did that, there was not a lot of women and that we were the first initiative to put a stake in the ground, that we're building something for a specific group of people and we're doing it in a different way. We're doing it with live education, experimentation at the heart. We're not just going to write Medium posts and hope people follow along. And so it's been really exciting, because my first cohort was 20 people and this last cohort I just launched in April, was 200 people. And I don't even want to say the amount of people we have signed up for the next cohort, it's so massive. And it's really fun to see how much the interest has grown and we don't do a ton of marketing. So it's just truly, clearly there's been something out there getting people excited. I think we can trace it down to NFTs. NFTs are a great consumer use case. The idea that you can join a DAO in a community and through NFTs and other tokens, is a really exciting use case. And so I think that's where we got this parabolic, takeoff and interest in crypto. Purchasing crypto is just one part, opening an account on Gemini or Coinbase or Kraken or Binance on an exchange, is like opening a bank account, you know the process, go through, verify your identity, make a purchase off the credit card. We're so grateful for on- ramps, it makes it super easy. But I want to get women from just purchasing that crypto. I'm sure what BLOCKFIVE didn't say, is how many people leave their crypto on those exchanges idly. And I want to get them sending it to their first user controlled wallet, sending it to the wallet from that exchange to something they totally control. Storing it on a hardware wallet, lending it in a DeFi platform, minting their first NFT, right? So I'm really focused on making women active users and contributors in the Web3 space, learning how to vote with their tokens if they're a part of a DAO. So that's where I'm excited a lot of women want to purchase crypto cause we are about wealth building, but the opportunities increase as you immerse yourself more in the DeFi native and even NFT and DAO use cases, which I teach all of, so that's really what I want to empower women with. It's like a different level of confidence and empowerment when you become in control of your wealth.
Jessica Galang: I like how you emphasize this idea of helping women become active contributors in Web3 and DeFi applications rather than just onboarding them onto this emerging technology and hoping that they figure it out along the way. Can you dive more into how that idea of building a community and consistent support ties into SheFi's underlying philosophy of getting more women contributing in Web3?
Maggie Love: The story that we're building and that we're putting out in the world is that this idea that financial freedom is feminine. And that we are building our financial freedom ind a feminine way, through collaboration, through co- creation with other women, through sharing, through networks. We're not saying," Go and do your own research, read about this token, Ape In." It's like," Bring it to the table, let's all discuss it. Let's think through it together." And I think that with the emergence of DAOs and a lot of these blockchain tools, it actually makes you think of the collective. And the collective in these blockchain infrastructure is about nurturing, growing value creation, right? The old way is read article, Ape In, text people, little information. And this is like, hey, let's think of a whole new way to grow wealth in this new infrastructure, that's actually inherently about value creation and interdependence and success together, so around that is really important to me. And another aspect that's really important is breaking down the archetype of girl boss or boss babe, being the one woman at the top. I fundamentally don't believe in that and that never resonated with me. So it was interesting, because on the SheFi value sheet, I have all the values and I put," SheFi is not girl boss, boss babe, lean in." That was before last summer and I got an article sent to me that was like, that's not the vibe anymore, anyway. That really makes sense to me, right? In crypto, everybody wins, if everybody invests, everybody wins if we build projects with women at the front seat. There's not this lean in, so you're the one woman at the table, it's like, let's bring everybody together in this collective and empower each other with sharing information and experimentation. And I think that's an inherently feminine way of going about building wealth and empowerment, that's more focused on, we can all be successful, it's all about the group. And not it's about one specific archetype is successful, right? And that's a boss babe or a girl boss, and that's leaning in. There is no leaning in if we're all at the table. So that's something I'm really trying to achieve with SheFi and with being an inherently distributed collective type of community that is inheriting these properties, even from the tech that were surrounded by. And really with financial freedom is feminine, we know at SheFi that financial empowerment is critical in a world where women face systemic inequalities when it comes to rights, economics, access and opportunities. And so while crypto investing, while crypto experimentation, while crypto is not a silver bullet for solving all of these problems, I believe that women can start to unlock opportunities across all areas of their lives, including overall health and wellbeing. When they're financially empowered as women, when we have money, we get to make choices about where and how we work, live and spend our time, right? If that boss is being a total jerk and you're financially empowered, you don't have to stay there. If you finally launch your NFT and make money, you can become a full- time creative. All of this is possible with blockchain. And so I believe that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to empower people globally, to truly own and build their finances, wealth building opportunities and value. And so this is why I find it really imperative to onboard women into this new financial paradigm and why I started SheFi in 2020. So I just wanted to really share that Genesis of that narrative. It's not just I saw people using DeFi, I wanted women. It's that I fundamentally believe this is going to help women break through some of these systemic risks or have more options. We need to increase optionality in life in crypto investing and starting now and getting comfortable with it now, is one great way to do that. So financial freedom is feminine, is something I am passionate about and it's what keeps me going. And I love nothing more than seeing the light bulb go off in these women's heads when they get it, when they feel confident when they got that Web3 job, when they told me they could move somewhere else or they could make really personal decisions that they didn't have, because of the SheFi program. And so that's what keeps me going. And I'm super excited that we've had 400 women go through the program and we're just going to continue to grow and make this Web3 world a better place, right? If Ethereum is the global sediment layer for the world, the whole world has to be brought on, on building it, or else we will inherently not make technology that is for everybody. So that's what we need to focus on, in this space.
Jessica Galang: Thanks so much for sharing your story and the philosophy behind SheFi. As we build a foundation of Web3 and DeFi, it's so important that we have as many voices as possible represented. I really appreciate you sharing the work you're doing to make that happen.
Maggie Love: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
In part two of a two-part series on the Georgian Impact Podcast, we talk to Maggie Love, founder of SheFi and co-founder of W3BCLOUD.
In part two, Maggie talks about how to get more underrepresented groups interested in Web3 and DeFi, what Maggie has learned about onboarding more people onto DeFi and the SheFi approach to education.
In this podcast, you’ll hear about:
- How Maggie became interested in blockchain
- Challenges with onboarding more people onto Web3
- How SheFi makes it easier to break through Web3
- The importance of community in Web3