We are kicking off a new series of interview which will be focused on the female presence in the world of cryptocurrency. Our first interview is with Rhian Lewis, co-creator of CountmyCrypto !
Serge: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What made you get interested in digital currencies?
Rhian Lewis: Well, I have a BSc in Economics and I have always been interested in how financial systems work. And I work in my day job as a software engineer, so I was also very interested in the technical side of cryptocurrencies.
Although I was aware of bitcoin from early on, I did not actually invest in it at the beginning, which I now regret. But then I began reading about other digital currencies and began trading on the crypto exchanges.
It was at that point that I decided to put my development skills to good use as I wanted a tool that would help me keep track of my investments, which were spread across exchanges and offline wallets. So I wrote http://www.countmycrypto.com to help me do this. I told a friend what I was doing and he decided to co-develop it with me – and he also started trading cryptocurrencies himself once he realised the potential of this whole thing.
But I think I didn’t really appreciate the real-life possibilities of bitcoin until I moved to Berlin and was welcomed by the very vibrant community there. It was amazing for me, being able to go out for the evening with my friends and pay for all our drinks in bitcoin!
Serge: What is in your opinion lacking in the digital currency community and how would you propose resolve it?
Rhian Lewis: It varies a lot from place to place. As I mentioned, the community in Berlin is very active, and also very welcoming to newcomers. It probably has more women involved in cryptocurrency as a percentage than most other cities, and there is a bitcoin meet up of some kind at least once a week: the BXB exchange every Monday, the Bitcoin Startups meetings once a fortnight and the social evening every month. There are also events organised by the Ethereum Project, such as hackathons… and my favourite event, of course, the monthly Bitcoin Girls Night Out or Mädchenabend, organised by my dear friend Anna.
But I know this is not the case in every city, and that not everyone gets the chance to participate in these events. So that is an immediate problem that needs to be resolved. I think real-life interaction is a good way to spread the word among the general public. And we need more merchants to accept it, of course!
And if I can think of one negative, it is that many of the conferences are very expensive for grass-roots activists. For example, the tickets for CoinSummit were around £1,000, which is way too expensive for most people except for large corporations or startups which are already funded.
There are many people who are active in cryptocurrency who are educators, evangelists or just enthusiasts and it is a shame that they are effectively excluded from these conferences.
Serge: What are your views on Bitcoin and Altcoins?
Rhian Lewis: I feel that altcoins get an undeserved negative reaction from many in the bitcoin community. I think people take the view that the scammers (of which there are obviously a few) or incompetent developers somehow tarnish the reputation of bitcoin, or confuse people with the sheer number of coins available.
I mean, we currently list the prices of 463 altcoins on CountMyCrypto – that is an incredible number. And many of these will simply die quietly or maybe are already dead.
But to ignore the potential of other cryptocurrency is to ignore all the amazing innovation happening in the sector. There are lots of coins that do specific things that bitcoin does not do.
And I strongly believe that while cryptocurrency is the future, it may be another coin rather than bitcoin that ultimately succeeds. Or we may see a situation where you use one currency for one purpose, and another currency for another purpose. Humans evolve, technology evolves. And it is unlikely that just because bitcoin was the first, it is always going to be the only answer.
So I think we should keep an open mind.
I mean, I have altcoin investments and I buy and spend bitcoin. It doesn’t have to be one or the other!
Serge: Is there something that you think is absolutely necessary to get more ladies involved with Crypto that is currently not addressed yet?
Rhian Lewis: I think it’s important for women to know that other women are involved in bitcoin, and that they are welcome at meetups and so on. Personally, I have never encountered guys being unwelcoming or patronising at bitcoin events, but I hear that other women have had that experience and that kind of bad news travels, so you can’t blame women for being put off the idea.
That’s one of the reasons Magda and I are organising the London Bitcoin Women evenings (more info at http://www.londonbitcoinwomen.com) – not to separate men from women in the longer term, but to provide a friendly and welcoming introduction to how you set up a wallet, how you buy and spend bitcoin and so on. And the hope in the longer term is that once they realise it is not a daunting subject, women will start coming along to the general events and also spreading the word in the wider community.
I think the whole question of how the community attracts and engages women is part of the wider question around how we attract wider adoption among the general population.
But no one can deny that with women responsible for up to 80% of household purchases, bitcoin needs to gain traction among both sexes if it is to become a truly mainstream payment option.
Serge: When I was at Inside Bitcoins London, there was a startup called “Miss Bitcoin”. It was created by women for women. They will be offering certain goods for Bitcoin, like beauty products, handbags, shoes etc. Do you think this is a step in the right direction or not? What do you think about this whole “Miss Bitcoin” concept?
Rhian Lewis: I think it is an excellent idea, and indeed, Moran is a friend of a friend of mine and I have spoken to the Miss Bitcoin team on Twitter and hope to meet them at some point for a chat. Anything that attracts women (or indeed, anyone else) to use bitcoin is a really great thing!
Serge: Have you ever visited a digital currency event or are you planning to go to one in the near future?
Rhian Lewis: Well, I go to a lot of the smaller meetups – probably one a week while I was working in Berlin, and I will be going to the CoinScrum events once I am back in London in October.
As for conferences – well, it is difficult to balance this with my day job, and as I have mentioned, it is also expensive. But I may well get along to the next Inside Bitcoins. It’s always great to meet people in real life whom you have only met online.
Serge: is there anything else you would like to add about yourself, what you do, or how people can get in touch with you?
Rhian Lewis: Yes! I would very much like to ask any women in London who may be reading this to come along to our Women in Bitcoin night on October 7. Details are on the website. Or if you are a guy reading this and have a girlfriend or female friends in London, ask them to come along.
You can get hold of me on Twitter at @rhian_is or on the CountMyCrypto Twitter account at @countmycrypto where I share news about what is happening in the world of cryptocurrency as well as news about the site itself.
We, Serge Schouterden and Jean-Pierre Buntinx from CryptoArticles, would like to thank Miss Rhian Lewis for sitting down with us for this and doing this interview. Stay tuned for more interviews with ladies that are involved in Crypto.