SXSW 2019: The Year of Women in Blockchain!

18 March, 2019

South by Southwest Interactive was an amazing experience this year! Held in Austin, Texas, the annual summit exploring tech, business, culture, music, and film brought together industry leaders for ten days of non-stop festivities, learning, and networking this March 8–17.

Making its first foray into the decentralization movement, SXSW 2019 debuted the new Blockchain and Cryptocurrency track, featuring four days of blockchain-centric programming with over 48 panels and presentations from major players in the industry. Thousands of developers, startups, and blockchain enthusiasts tuned in for the diverse range of panels and presentations offered by industry leaders from IBM, MIT, Ripple, ConsenSys, and Gemini, among many others.

Our incredible CEO Anne Ahola Ward – an IBM Futurist, O’Reilly author, and former Austinite herself – made multiple appearances at the festival to represent Veritoken Global and our mission for data privacy and control via blockchain. Her first appearance was on TV, leading into the opening day of SXSW on Great Day SA!

Focus on Women in Blockchain

Recently featured in a Forbes article by Rachel Wolfson titled “Balance for Better: Recognizing Women Shaping the Blockchain Landscape,” Anne is one of relatively few women in the engaged blockchain community, which is currently 91 percent male.

Considering this gender imbalance, we’re proud of our commitment to inclusion and diversity at Veritoken. “[I]n light of International Women’s Day, it’s important to point out that the Veritoken C-Suite is two-thirds female,” said Anne. “It’s a passion of mine to bring more women developers into the company.”

At SXSW 2019, Anne joined a team of women called the CryptoVixens on stage to give a talk titled “Minting the Future.” Led by Adryenn Ashley and featuring Anne as well as Carrie Eldridge, Keller Fisher, and Monika Proffitt, the ladies discussed different kinds of investments and shared tips on how startups can qualify for seed funding and what to give investors in exchange for capital.

The CryptoVixens reconvened for a fireside chat a few days later on March 12, covering the topic “Own Your Data.” Anne joined Brittany Kaiser and Rachel Wolfson to talk about digital asset ownership and how blockchain can democratize the world of data, pushing out the data oracles who have turned our data into profit for themselves.

In honor of International Women’s Day, Anne appeared live from SXSW on a special episode of Laura Mignott’s podcast, The Reset, chatting about blockchain, the importance of data security, Anne’s experiences in male-dominated industries, and how best to support other women and be an actionable ally. Check out the full episode here!

SXSW 2019 featured many other inspiring women leaders in the blockchain world, like Amber Baldet, co-founder and CEO of Clovyr; Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain; Neha Narula from the Digital Currency Initiative at MIT; Kim Cope, founding member of CryptoKitties; Valerie Szczepanik, head of the SEC’s Distributed Ledger Technology Working Group; and the members of Black Girls Code.

SXSW 2019 Blockchain Highlights

In a timely featured session at the Austin Convention Center, Wikipedia Co-Founder Larry Sanger championed blockchain tech and smart contracts in How and Why We Need to Decentralize Social Media. Moving away from centralized institutions is crucial in this time of rampant disinformation, he noted. Sanger also called for open data standards (we agree!) and a one-day social media strike sometime later this year.

Amber Baldet of Clovyr presented a featured session titled Money, Apathy, and Cryptography: The Fates of Internet Societies. Among other things, she discussed how emerging technologies “at the intersection of cryptography and distributed systems” are helping with the pushback against “ongoing aggregation of data in the hands of a few.” At Veritoken, we’re working toward this goal of keeping centralized power and data accumulation in check, so this session was of particular interest.

Solving Humanitarian Issues Through Blockchain, a panel discussion led by Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain, delved into how blockchain is being used by leading humanitarians to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Aligned with many of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), these global leaders are aiming to use blockchain to “increase trust, provide new access to the underserved, and create new models for change” worldwide.

Some of the global issues covered in this discussion are problems that we are also tackling at Veritoken Global. We love seeing people come together to make the world a better place with blockchain!

Another session, Combating Global Poverty on the Blockchain, discussed the way that trust in institutions is failing worldwide, and underprivileged global citizens are falling behind when it comes to financial and digital participation. The talk covered how blockchain solutions can “circumvent the barriers to economic mobility” through their “inherent trust mechanisms.”

In fact, we’re working on doing just that at Veritoken Global – check out our previous post on reaching the world’s unbanked population.

A few other SXSW blockchain sessions caught our eye, as well, with the discussions touching on issues close to our heart:

As the blockchain industry continues to grow and mature, it has undeniably earned its new place in the SXSW experience. We’re proud to have been able to participate this year!

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