When did blockchain and Ethereum pop on your radar?
My intro to blockchain was probably one of the more dramatic ones. I was introduced to it during the Burningman Festival in 2015 in the high desert in Nevada. Two friends and I set out on our bikes to attend a session on decentralization when a dust storm hit. It was a total white-out, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my eyes, and I lost my friends in the dust. But I made it to the talk. About 25 people were discussing everything from sharing and coop models to circular economies. That’s when I first heard about Blockchain and Ethereum. It was described as a trust layer for the internet that would decentralize agency by replacing the need for a middle man and empower peer-to-peer transactions. It made total sense to me.
What specifically spoke to you about decentralization?
I was attracted by the opportunity of decentralization to include and empower individuals by removing gatekeepers and replacing intermediaries with technology.
The Ethereum blockchain enables different degrees of decentralization across applications, empowering peers, increasing efficiency, and orchestrating collaboration.
Identity was the first blockchain use case I got deeply involved with. As a German/Iranian, I grew up with several passports and accumulated even more documentation when I moved to the US. I had experienced ‘progressive identity’ - identity-based on context - and had even created an interactive art installation on the topic.
Today fragments of authentications and credentials are spread across different platforms. These platforms are honey pots for data hacks, and many businesses feed algorithms with user data, which leads to abuse and manipulation.
Blockchain-based identity wallets solve this by putting control over data in the hands of the owner. With a self-sovereign digital identity, a person can decide where and what to disclose and where to monetize or withhold details. The application, created with proper technology and ethical considerations, can empower everyone. Thinking about the catastrophic losses suffered by refugees or victims of natural disasters, it can even be essential in recovering their lives by helping to restore identity, credentials, and ownership records.
My other draw to decentralization is financial inclusion and autonomy for those who are largely excluded. I previously worked with JPMorgan’s Corporate and Investment bank creating trading products. Experiencing the complexity of the financial machinery and the financial crisis got me interested in how the financial system could be innovated and led to my involvement with the Alternative Banking Group, an activist working group of Occupy, focused on exploring how to empower people economically.
We spoke of blockchain as an enabling technology and solution. In 2012 I purchased one bitcoin but only understood its magnitude as a full-stack monetary network when I later learned about Ethereum and decentralized applications.
Replacing the gatekeepers with technology offers permissionless access and autonomy. The technology can increase transparency and replace the need to trust, reduce cost, and thus move agencies from institutions to individuals - empowering all and creating a peer-to-peer economy.
When did you join Consensys?
I joined Consensys in the spring of 2016.
A few months before that, I had met Joe Lubin, Consensys founder, and Ethereum co-founder, at a FinTec conference. I liked his talk and invited him to speak at an Occupy meeting.
Meanwhile, well, on the way down the rabbit hole, I was attending every blockchain-related event and kept meeting people who already worked with Consensys or who eventually would.
Consensys had 25 to 30 people then, and as I learned more, I knew something interesting was going on.
And I was right. Working at Consensys from the start was exciting. It was an explorative environment filled with intelligent and fun nerds who tackled the core use cases to create the ecosystem. I initially worked on uPort identity (today’s Serto), and my work was fulfilling because it brought my professional life and activism together.
Tell me more about Women in Blockchain.
Back to hearing of blockchain during the dust storm. After my immediate fascination with the technology, I was also struck by the thought that a fundamental societal shift requires diverse perspectives, or we would recreate the same flaws our current society has.
But at most events I attended, I was one of few women and minorities.
In response to that, I started the Women in Blockchain community in 2016.
Our events are a mix of education about the technology and networking for talent, speakers, and jobs, and we feature female practitioners.
While the events are ‘female first, they are very well attended by males, who enjoy the inviting atmosphere.
WIB is a distributed movement, not a centralized organization, and has blossomed into a network of local chapters that are run based on a set of WiB principles.
Since 2016, many women-focused organizations with various flavors and community styles have emerged and grown into a buzzing network of colleagues and friends, movers, and shakers. They influence the foundational tech and support each other with deep reach into communities from Haiti to Tokyo, from Cape Town to Iran, Egypt, and anywhere. Having this global community helps in special projects benefiting women and minorities.
Our technology is global and inclusive, and so are we. Women in Blockchain’s tagline is ‘All People One World.’
What tips and tools do you have for women getting started in the blockchain space?
Blockchain has become a buzzword. First, understand what attracts you. What opportunity you see and whether that solution needs blockchain.
Then learn about the technology. Blockchains are not created equal, and there are key differences.
There is a lot of information online, YouTube is a great resource, and all the conferences are recorded. The space is open and friendly, so get in touch with people, attend events. A great way to start in the blockchain industry is to participate in hackathons as a builder, a dev/UX or strategist, or as a mentor who brings domain knowledge and in turn learns about tech.
You don’t have to be an engineer, but to understand the projects or even understand crypto for investments, one has to understand the purpose of a chain and how it functions. It’s a fascinating and revolutionizing field.
How did you start Liquality?
Liquality was incubated at Consensys.
Simon Lapscher and I first met when implementing an Identity project in Brazil. Together with Alex Griessel, we started a research project exploring how to exchange value without the need to know or trust the counterparty. Removing the bottleneck of a centralized intermediary from the exchange of value means that many more people could participate in the digital economy.
This is how we got to cross-chain atomic swap technology, one of the foundational technologies of Liquality, which we started in 2018. Today we have a multi-chain non-custodial wallet. Anyone can hold tokens from different blockchains and easily swap, i.e., BTC to ETH, to access DeFi and the broader multi-chain crypto ecosystem.
The Liquality wallet brings different chains together to access features and dapps across ecosystems and their communities. It solves the need to have either multiple wallets or a 3rd party/ intermediary blockchain or wrapping technology and lets peers easily interact with the decentralized economy.
We continue to build out the protocol to enable everyone to provide liquidity right from their wallet, thereby creating the decentralized cross-chain liquidity network that we will eventually decentralize to be entirely community-owned.
That’s what Liquality stands for - Liquidity + Equality
What are the benefits of decentralized liquidity networks?
A decentralized liquidity network is an essential part of a decentralized financial infrastructure. For example, it lets the 1.7B people participate who are not currently banked because their business isn’t worth it to banks or because they don’t have a registered ID.
It’s an open marketplace vs. a siloed one. Any token should be easily accepted anywhere, without friction or additional fees—all with one wallet accessing all chains with the most secure foundation.
And the opportunity is immense. In Sept 2020, Coinbase’s 14B Ethereum trading volume was for the first time exceeded by that of a Decentralized Exchange, trading 15B at Uniswap. And that’s just on Ethereum. We are in the cross-chain space where BTC has the most value, and Ethereum has the most dapps. Just like communities, liquidity will benefit from network effects.
What has been the feedback around Liquality?
Building our technology on a multi-chain unintermediated architecture from the start has impressed many who are familiar with space.
Core members of the Liquality team have experienced hyperinflation or other adverse financial events, so we have never taken the easier shortcut if it meant to give up on decentralization.
As a values-driven team, we have attracted many attractive partners who value peer2peer technology and censorship resistance at no counterparty risk.
So far, Liquality has integrated RSK, NEAR, and BSC, and we have more chain integrations lined up. Liquality’s users, like all users, favor convenience and love that they only need one wallet and Liquality’s ease of use.
Where do you see your career or the blockchain ecosystem in the next five years?
As planned, Liquality will spin out of Consensys and leave the nurturing mothership. It's an exciting time for this global team of 8, and especially for me, having been with Consensys for so long. Those five years is a lifetime in our space. I will forever cherish this experience of working with so many intelligent and innovative people to grow the ideas and the ecosystem. We are continuing to collaborate, i.e., by integrating chains into Liquality with people from the Mesh (Consensys community) and collaborating on diversity initiatives.
For the next five years, I expect the ecosystem to expand exponentially and enable features we haven't yet thought of.
As the co-founder of Liquality, I'll be assembling more amazing people to help create the decentralized future and equality for all.