As I venture more into the world of blockchain, and investable technologies, I find myself participating in fascinating and energizing conferences. The most recent panel I was thrilled to be a part of, Exponent Explore: The Pulse on Blockchain, Cannabis, and ESG, was put on by an original organization called Exponent Women. The mission of this organization is clear: to raise women to a new power, to provide access to an existing ecosystem, to deliver meaningful interactions and actionable content, and to unite one of the largest collectives of women dealmakers on the east coast. The topics of each speaker were incredibly diverse, but tied together by a common "pulse"- they are new, they are exciting, they are mystified, and they are lacking women.
The Value of Getting Into Disruptive Technologies
Investable Innovation...How do we know if it's in the right stage? Is it too early? Is it too hyped up? This is the first consideration as we look at these new innovative technologies and decide whether we want to jump in. While the other panel members shed so much light on the cannabis industry, and ESG Investing, I took the audience to the block. In this case, what I'm referring to is blockchain.
All of this goes back to this "being the only woman in the room" thing. Because of the industries I've found myself in over the span of my career, it has been more common than not that I am the only female. And while I've learned so much, on the flipside of that, is the lack. The lack of not enough women being in the room, the lack of not enough women being involved at the ground level.
Markets Show Us The Gaps
We see seven out of ten mass market products fail. Simultaneously, we know that women account for eight-five percent of the buying power in consumer markets, whether its service or cannabis- the market doesn't matter, eight-five percent or more of that power lies with women. Even mens underwear are bought and influenced by women. And yet, we don't have a large enough voice in the development of technologies and innovation and it's actually gotten worse as we've shifted our development, sourcing and manufacturing offshore. I've only ever met one female factory owner in China. I've never met a single female engineer or designer in fifteen years of regular trips to China.
The Numbers Don't Lie
It's projected that less than ten percent of the design of goods and technology are created by women, or have women participating in the creation process. That number drops to two percent when we look at China and factor in offshore development. When innovation is being developed, do we really want to leave this possibility of change out? It seems risky, at best, to leave so much potential on the table- especially in already risky innovative fields.
Welcome to the Block
A publicist invited me to a blockchain conference and to say I was on the fence would be an understatement. Sensing my hesitancy, this publicist guaranteed me an interview with Steve Wozniak, an offer I could not refuse. Going into this conference, I expected the usual: a room full of men, and counterculture investors, and while I did find some of that, the diversity of men, women, young, not as young, investors, counterculture hopefuls... this energized me. The bias I was so used to didn't exist here.
Diversity Killed My Skepticism
More than fifty percent of the speakers at that conference were women, and they changed my mind about blockchain. I believe that blockchain is our new infrastructure. Internet, our current superhighway, was never designed for the way we use it transactionally today. Nobody imagined how we would buy things online or how we would convene socially. It was designed to transfer information. It's like the roads being built for horses and buggies, but now we have faster, more technically advanced cars.
The New Trust Economy
Consumers are more savvy than ever, and part of this is because they have to be. What our marketplaces, online opportunities, and even (especially) financial institutions and lack right now is transparency. What we're seeing now is entrepreneurs and innovators coming in and building new systems and new businesses around these giants, but with transparency at the center of their operations. This New Trust Economy is the place we are creating where everything online is built for transactions, impeccable records keeping, and transparency from every angle.
Knowing When to Hold, Fold or Play
There's crazy money flowing freely into blockchain right now, and when we see so much capital flowing into a potential hype cycle, where we haven't yet seen the potential valuable outcome for a specific consumer market, this is worrisome. Especially when we know that the overwhelming majority of buying decisions are made by women. We have to look at these ideas and these directions objectively and really know, will they be understood? And will they see mass market adoption? When these most viable market concepts are being overlooked, that's when there are deals to be had, and this is what I see in blockchain today. What's better than a good deal on an investable technology? Understanding when, how, where, and why to play your best hand.
Learn from the best. The greatest thing about this information age we live in right now is that you can turn on a podcast, for your thirty-minute commute, and you can learn from an expert or several experts, on just about any topic of investable technology you might be interested in.
Go to the skeptics. If you're anything like me, I go to the experts, I learn, I research- and then I go to the skeptics. See both sides of the debate, understand the risks and potential upsides.
Question everything. During your research, make a short list of questions, and ask both sides of experts. Podcast hosts and even players in these games who are so passionate about what they're doing, encourage questions and welcome engagement. Take advantage of that.
Go to a conference. Spend a day or a weekend learning from people, hearing speakers talk, and broadening both your network and your perspective.