Tuesday 26 May 2020 9:24 am

Signals of growth: Crypto’s journey toward the mainstream

From pop culture icons to industry behemoths, crypto is indeed gaining momentum. 

Last week, many on crypto Twitter were surprised to see a post from JK Rowling responding to one of crypto’s renowned reporters, Leigh Cuen, with a question: “I don’t understand bitcoin. Please explain it to me.”  

I describe what followed as pandemonium. Crypto Twitter responded en masse with various anecdotes, metaphors and innumerable references to magic, Gringotts Bank and horcruxes. Her query received more than 3,700 retweets and more 9,900 likes at the time of this writing.  

Ms. Rowling might be the epitome of a ‘regular person’ asking about the evolution of money we’ve all been working on for years. You might be thinking, ‘JK Rowling knows about bitcoin? Wow, crypto is finally mainstreaming. This is our moment to shine!’ 

I likened what happened next to a swarming of bees. Bees are critical to our food supply. They buzz from flower to flower, spreading pollen and enabling growth and proliferation – similar to how crypto evangelists spread knowledge and information. But inadvertently stumble across a hive and disturb it, and the bees will swarm. For several days her tweet and numerous subtweets dominated crypto twitter with hundreds of responses from the industry. But, alas, the complex technical explanations of bitcoin and blockchain fundamentals eventually overwhelmed Ms. Rowling, who finally surrendered tweeting, “I don’t want to programme money. I can barely work my TV.”

But consider what might have happened had we harnessed our enthusiasm and tailored our message to inspire her famed imagination and her avid support of numerous charities, such as the Volant Charitable Trust, Gingerbread and Comic Relief. Ms. Rowling may have been surprised to learn how digital assets like bitcoin can offer greater financial access and inclusion to the under-banked (it’s estimated that 1.3 million adults in the UK don’t have bank accounts and are excluded from the financial system), how digital assets are creating new routes to raising capital for entrepreneurs like herself (especially women) and providing financial shelter in economies around the world with unstable currencies and monetary policies.

Here Come the Girls 

Some on crypto Twitter shrugged off Ms. Rowling’s response with generalisations that women ‘don’t get crypto’ and ‘aren’t into it anyway’. As a woman in crypto myself, I hear this often as a reason for why event panels are made up of mostly men, why event activities are geared toward traditionally male-associated activities and why there are fewer women in senior roles within digital asset companies (notwithstanding that the latter is prevalent in many other industries, especially financial services). 

As it turns out, that hypothesis is wrong. I could have told you that, but it’s always nice to have data to draw upon. In fact, participation in the digital asset markets by women is growing – significantly. Bitcoin fund operator Grayscale published a report in December which showed that 43% of investors interested in Bitcoin are women – an increase of 13% from last year – and research trajectory shows this number continues to grow.

A key foundation of the token economy is the democratisation of finance; through greater access to capital and fractional investment opportunities. Women are often responsible for managing their family finances and therefore thought of as more risk-averse investors. But why would we assume they too aren’t looking for ways to make their money work for them? Well, it turns out they are, and they are looking to crypto. A recent Contelegraph survey of the majority of top crypto exchanges found that the number of female users has grown between 22% and 160% since the beginning of the year. 

As confidence wanes in turbulent traditional markets amid the Covid-19 crisis, alternative investment options like digital assets have begun to realise their place as the safe haven hedge we have been pontificating, and women are listening. According to Grayscale’s research, 49.8% of women agreed that Bitcoin’s reduced supply would lead to future price growth following the recent halving event. 

I think it’s fair to say many more women ‘get crypto’ than some may think. And, if we are determined to truly grow adoption and mainstream crypto, we will get there faster by actively including the other half of the human population. Women do engage differently than men, and it’s up to all of us to create opportunities for more women to feel confident and comfortable to get involved – or more likely, admit that they are already here – and join the community. 

“Ok, how do I buy some bitcoin? Love, Dad”

Finance in general, especially sophisticated financial instruments, confound many people. As we watched oil futures go negative a few weeks ago, there were many who thought they could buy a barrel of oil and get paid around $33 for the pleasure. Now add in a little cryptography, computer science and economic theory, and you have yet another form of finance that confounds people. 

But what happens when a global pandemic spreads across the world, instigating widespread monetary easing, rollercoaster stock markets and financial uncertainty? Couple this with a once in a four-year bitcoin event and voila, people’s barriers to explore new ideas around money seem to have lowered. At least once a day I see someone post on social media that their previously sceptical friend, coworker, parent or grandparent has asked them how to buy crypto. 

Whilst it’s exciting to have these promising conversations with our nearest and dearest, I suspect this wasn’t the first time, and we tried to have these conversations previously. This begs the question, could we have explained the opportunities of digital assets to them better, earlier? 

Global Expansion 

Whilst many industries have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, crypto continues to grow. The appetite for access to alternative ways of increasing and securing wealth, raising entrepreneurial capital as well as new opportunities to earn income and yield propel the crypto industry forward. Digital asset companies are forging into new markets, completing M&A activity and hiring talent. 

I personally was delighted to join Binance earlier this month, and I’m excited to be part of our growth as we expand our offering in Europe. Why Binance? Apart from being an industry leader who thrives by continually offering customers innovative products and services, it’s diverse. I’m proud to be one of many women leaders in our company – there’s a lot of women at Binance who ‘get crypto’. But we are diverse in many other ways – age, ethnicity, location, education. This diversity enables us to cater our message locally, appreciate different cultural mores around money and connect on a personal level with our users and community. These ingredients are integral not only to expansion, but to true, sustainable growth. 

Our industry spends a lot of time, energy, and yes, money, discussing, planning and executing growth strategies. We talk a lot about the mainstreaming of digital assets, encouraging adoption, bridging the traditional legacy financial markets and offering better, cheaper, faster services.  

And yet, we still fall foul sometimes to clearly articulate to the newly curious – whether it be a pop culture icon or to our dad – just what crypto is, what problems it solves, for whom, and how. Our geek effervescence for the monetary sea change we are working toward is one of the things that makes this industry unique and interesting. But, it seems our elevator pitch could use some work if we want to ensure we bring everyone along on the journey. 

Teana Baker-Taylor, in conversation with James Bowater.  Teana is UK Director for Binance, the global blockchain company behind the world’s largest digital asset exchange by trading volume and users. Teana champions Binance’s presence in the U.K. and leads expansion across the European region. She oversees new business opportunities and partnerships, market strategy, operations and marketing, and leads government relations and regulatory affairs in the region.

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Twitter @TeanaTaylor

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