As cryptocurrencies enjoy financial gains and mainstream popularity, public perceptions about the blockchain are moving away from the darknet towards societal norms.
Proponents of inclusion are taking aim at the stereotypical demographics of someone who dwells in crypto world — a young white male in a basement. They want to see more corporate people of color and women on the stage and at the table at the growing number of crypto summits and events popping up on the public radar.
One upcoming event — the Cryptoconomy Summit in Tampa, March 28-29 — has attracted the attention of the wider crypto industry for its inclusivity.
Rewind to January, when the London-based World Blockchain Forum Investments & ICOs held the North American Bitcoin Conference (NABC) in Miami. The event drew criticism for its lack of racial diversity, lack of female speakers, and for the tone-deaf act of holding an after-party “networking event” at a Miami strip club.
One of the leading critics of that bitcoin-conference-gone-wrong was Amy Wan, founder and CEO of Bootstrap Legal.
“I’ve spoken at numerous blockchain conferences and panels, but have yet to attend a blockchain conference with naked painted ladies walking around,” Wan told Moguldom. “I’ve been in the finance, tech, legal, and real estate industry for several years — all male-dominated industries — and have never been to an official after-party at a strip club with exotic dancers.”
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Wan is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Cryptoconomy Summit in Tampa. This will be the first in a series of Cryptoconomy Summit events planned by summit organizers that are being heralded for having an unusual level of diversity among speakers and presenters.
Summit speakers include Kyle Wang, senior consultant at IBM Global Business Services; Fahima Anwar, vice president of global marketing at IVEP/dubtokens ICO; Miko Matsumura, ICO advisor and investor; Victoria Silchenco, founder and CEO of Metropole Capital Group; and Xiaochen Zhang, a fintech thought leader.
Master of ceremonies for the Tampa Crytoconomy Summit is Samson Williams, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Axes and Eggs, a blockchain and cryptocurrency consultancy.
The level of diversity at the Cryptoconomy Summit is not just uncommon for a blockchain and bitcoin event — it’s unprecedented, Williams said in a Moguldom interview.
Williams credits Shane Liddell, co-founder of the event, with creating a crypto summit that includes more than usual people of color and women.
“Shout out to Shane Liddell,” Williams said. “He has been very purposeful in finding top talent that otherwise gets overlooked, like Dr. Maureen Murat. She is the Tom Brady of the legal/securities/tax and ICO space. All she does is win.” (Full disclosure: Murat is Williams’ partner at Axes and Eggs).
By contrast, the now-notorious Miami bitcoin conference in January had three female speakers and a handful of non-white men out of 80 speakers. Even after hearing the concerns regarding diversity and hosting an official after-party at an adult entertainment venue, conference organizer Moe Levin, CEO of Keynote Events, did not appear to want to back down. He said it was “the ideal layout for networking,” according to Bloomberg. “The nude performances were halted until 11 p.m., and if it later became a place where people felt uncomfortable, that wasn’t the conference’s fault,” Levin said in a phone interview.
“Inclusion wins,” said Williams, emcee of the Tampa Crytoconomy Summit. “Teams that are all-male do stupid shit.”
A crowdfunding industry veteran, Liddell is no stranger to the financial industry. He is the CEO of Smart Crowdfunding LLC, which helps crowdfunders succeed with their campaigns. He’s also the CEO of Cryptologist, a firm dedicated to revolutionizing modern business and digital infrastructure. A sought-after speaker, Liddell contributes to various media outlets including the Creating Wealth Podcast, Bitcoin Space, Business Class News, Swaay Media, Dice Insights and CEOWorld Magazine.
Liddell co-founded the Cryptoconomy Summit with Pamela Jean, the campaign manager for Smart Crowdfunding.
Liddell spoke with Moguldom about the upcoming summit, lessons from the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami, and the importance of diversity and education in technology today.
Moguldom: Why should people attend the Cryptoconomy Summit in March in Tampa?
Shane Liddell: Besides having a great line-up of entertainment, our line-up of international thought leaders means that attendees will learn from the very best thought leaders in the industry.
Moguldom: Why did you choose Tampa to kick off the series of summits?
Shane Liddell: For the simple reason that Tampa is local to us and the venue (the Tampa Convention Center) is ideally situated for international and domestic travel. It is also only a 15-minute ride from the airport. Besides this, the center sits on the Riverwalk, a popular downtown destination, which is a great place to hang out.
Moguldom: What differentiates your conference from other conferences that are starting to emerge in the crypto industry?
Shane Liddell: We have specifically focused our efforts on developing an all-inclusive educational event for everyone of any race or gender. Having attended many events over the years, I got a general feeling that many attendees were dissatisfied in that they felt that these events and conferences were nothing short of a pitch show for various service providers and vendors. We hope to address this pain point and many others because we want our attendees to walk away knowing that they have benefitted from the experience and can apply their new-found knowledge.
Moguldom: You have one of the most diverse groups of speakers with a wide-ranging background that I have seen in a while. What is your formula for selecting your event’s speakers?
Shane Liddell: Finding and selecting a diverse group of speakers has been challenging to say the least. What we were looking for first and foremost were speakers who can deliver valuable content and build rapport with their audience. This was no easy task as we have reviewed over 200 applications to find the gems that we now have onboard.
Moguldom: Why is diversity important for the industry as a whole?
Shane Liddell: Let’s get real here. It’s 2018 and not 1966. If we want to educate the masses, we need to be inclusive. Period.
Moguldom: By now you have heard about what happened at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami. What are your thoughts?
Shane Liddell: Yes, I heard of the shenanigans that took place there. My biggest concern is that the organizer released a press release a few days before the event stating that the lap dancers and strippers were to be canceled for their after-party. However, as we now know, this still went ahead anyway, placing an overripe, red tomato squarely on the face of the organizer.
Moguldom: I see you have a closing party on your schedule. Will it be at a strip club?
Shane Liddell: We have a fantastic entertainment line-up which includes a live band and all sorts of other fun things to assure a fun and comfortable party for everyone. No, we have no intention of upsetting our guests with what I call sleazy activities.
Moguldom: What are the plans and goals for the summit?
Shane Liddell: Besides positioning our event as a national event, we have big plans to take our event global, with our first international event taking place in London, England at the end of August 2018. From there we return to the U.S. East coast for our next event taking place during October 2018.
Moguldom: How do you see the summit helping to shape the industry?
Shane Liddell: As a crowdfunding industry veteran, I have seen many similarities in the development of the crowdfunding industry and the cryptoconomy. One of the most striking issues within equity crowdfunding is a lack of traction. Why was this? Because the players in the industry naturally focused on the hustle-bustle of doing deals, while education sat on the backburner. In fact, a telephone survey of 500 small and medium enterprises conducted during late 2016 revealed that only six out of 500 companies were aware that you could raise capital for your business using equity crowdfunding. Shameful I know. Based on this, we understand where our priorities lie – educate first, and the rest will follow.