‘You Can Know Nothing About Blockchain Today And Have A Job In A Few Months’: Meetup At SXSW

Written by Dana Sanchez
Jonathan Gagliardoni, Kelcey Gosserand, Carl Dorvil, and Brian Brackeen on a Blockchain Meetup panel at HBCU@SXSW 2018. Photo: Dana Sanchez/Moguldom.

People ask Kelcey Gosserand this question all the time: “Did I miss it?”

She’s talking about investing in cryptocurrencies.

With Bitcoin’s historic price run in 2017 from $900 to $20,000, some people feel like it’s too late for them to invest in crypto.

Gosserand is the founder and CEO of Trellis, serving companies and startups that are going through token-generating events — that’s Gosserand’s preferred term for ICO, or initial coin offering. She’s been investing in blockchain for years after she got bullied, she said, into buying a few thousand dollars worth of Ethereum when they were worth less than a dollar. Gosserand just launched a new media platform called Women Plus Blockchain “so we can change the narrative around this ‘bro-ey’ space and talk about real-world implications of blockchain.”

“This is a revolution and there aren’t many rules yet,” Gosserand said during a blockchain meetup at HBCU@SXSW 2018 in Austin. “The education’s out there, it’s all online, it’s totally democratized, and the digital divide is pretty closed. We’re seeing real-world implications all over the world in developing countries outside of America. America’s actually very very late to the game. Go out there and get involved at any level.”

Along with Gosserand, other speakers at the SXSW blockchain meetup included:

  •  Jonathan Gagliardoni, co-founder of Shop, a global commerce cooperative that is working to decentralize and reorganize the retail core onto a blockchain protocol.
  • Carl Dorvil, CEO of GEX Management, finding human resource and integrated office solutions. “I’m the 11th African American — and the youngest-ever — to IPO a company,” Dorvil said. GEX trades on the OTC, and is looking to move onto the New York Stock Exchange before the end of the year under the ticker GXXM. His company is in the payroll space and looking to blockchain to revolutionize the payroll game.
  • Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, a Miami facial recognition firm that does facial recognition on the blockchain. “So if you’re going to send somebody 1,000 Etherums, you can use our solution to verify their identity before they receive it but still remain anonymous, and say ‘only this face can unlock this transaction,” Brackeen said.
  • Meetup moderator Samson Williams, a financial anthropologist and partner at blockchain mining firm and consultancy Axes and Eggs.

Here’s more from the blockchain meetup, HBCU@SXSW 2018:

Samson Williams: What can we do to encourage more women and more women of color to come into the blockchain ecosystem?

Kelcey Gosserand: The ecosystem’s not going to pave the road for women and minorities to join the club. You just have to make yourself known and be that presence. That’s what I did. I started my career at Microsoft. I was the youngest, I was the only woman, I was the only woman of color. You have to be that force. I created my own women’s group — my own Black girl magic group. I want to be an evangelist for this space but I want to make it accessible to the communities I care about. I got into this space because I got lucky. I’ve been in tech my entire career. Almost four years ago, someone was like, “You know what, you should invest in Ethereum.” I was like, “What’s Ethereum.” They were like, “Girl, it’s like under a dollar. Give us a few thousand dollars.” And now it’s like, I’m doing OK. No one knows about this unless they’re given access to this. It’s not like the internet, where you have this huge digital divide and you have to have this multi-thousand-dollar computer so you can participate. Blockchain’s very low tech. You can have a non-smart phone and participate. Knowledge is the big divider. If I can divide that knowledge and make it easier for people like me to get involved, I’m going to do this all day. Everyone can get involved.

Brian Brackeen: For the gentlemen in the room, when that woman does do that, when she comes into the ecosystem, help out. Be inviting. Say ‘Yes, absolutely.’ Share something. Or learn from her as well. Let’s not pretend we have all the answers. Be open and be helpful. Be a decent human being.

Jonathan Gagliardoni: With blockchain, there’s no doubt there’s a diversity divide. No one can argue that but we’re so new in the space right now that you can literally not know anything about it today, go home, learn a lot about it, and you can have a job in blockchain probably in the next few months. I didn’t know anything about blockchain over a year ago. But I know business. I spent hours upon hours a day reading white papers, reading technical documentation — stuff that I don’t normally like to do. For me, this is super fascinating because the opportunities are endless here. I just want to encourage everyone in this room, if you’re interested in blockchain — yes, it would be great if there were groups to teach you about blockchain, but don’t count on that. Don’t wait for that to happen. Just read. You know what I do every morning? I do a Google search: “blockchain tech,” “blockchain retail,” (retail is my space), “latest ICO”. Take it upon yourself to find that knowledge and if there’s anyone in your network (with blockchain knowledge), knock on their door.

Samson Williams: You mentioned that you bought Ethereum when it was a dollar. (It was about $890-to-$910 on March 11 and 11 days later, was down to $527 as of this writing). What made you buy Ethereum and what other cryptocurrencies are you interested in? Disclaimer: this is not investment advice.

Kelcey Gosserand: I bought Ethereum because I was bullied into it. My friends were early employees. I didn’t know what I was doing. Is it too late to buy Ethereum, Bitcoin, Litecoin? No. You don’t have to buy a whole coin. You can buy a fraction of a coin. You can put a group of friends together like a syndicate and invest together. There are so many entry points to get in. Play around with it. I didn’t know when I got into it three years ago that it was going to be a thing.

Brian Brackeen: I’m a default investor in Ethereum because our ICO was built on Ethereum. We’re going to keep about 20 percent of all the Ethereum that we take in to prove to the world that we are believers, so we’ll be an investor in that forever.

Jonathan Gagliardoni: I have some investments in cryptocurrencies here and there but it’s important not to have FOMO (fear of missing out). You need to find things where you trust the founder, you think the founders have the ability to execute on what they’re saying that they’re going to do, they actually have a white paper. Mark Cuban said this: “Don’t put any money in this that you’re not willing to lose.” Don’t go cashing out your mortgage. Even if it’s just $1 worth of Bitcoin — that’s what I did. I did $10 worth of bitcoin. I just wanted to figure it out.

Samson Williams: What key factors should people consider as they look at making an investment (in crypto)?

Kelcey Gosserand: If you’re in the U.S., you have to be an accredited investor to partake in any of these cool projects that are coming about. The rules for accredited investors are: you can have a Series 7 and be linked to a broker-dealer, make a net revenue of $1 million or have a net worth of $1 million or have an annual salary of $250,000. It’s pretty rigid for Americans to join. Be very critical (about what you invest in). What does their community have to say about them? They’re going to evaluate their community by using normal social media measures. Really assess. Are they really about this ecosystem, or are they just trying to get rich, which has been the case for a number of ICOs that came about last year.

Samson Williams: Last year about $4.2 billion was raised for ICOs. This year already there’s over 3,000 ICOs. What’s your investing philosophy?

Carl Dorvil: My investing philosophy is a four-pronged approach. 1. Understand the management team. 2. Believe in them. 3. Make sure there’s some kind of competitive advantage that exists in that space. 4. Buy at a discount.

Question from the audience: How can students get involved in blockchain?

Kelcey Gosserand: Get active in the community. Every city has some type of blockchain meetup group. Start your own if you don’t see one. Get on Telegram, get on Reddit, search out these communities.

Samson Williams: Keep in mind that blockchain as a technology is disruptive, and one thing it has disrupted is the accredited investor mindset. There’s a space developing for utility tokens. From a disruptive perspective, where do you think utility tokens will be in the market, particularly in fundraising?

Kelcey Gosserand: Blockchain changes the infrastructure completely. Blockchain is going to be very intuitive. We’re going to incentivize each other with tokens. It’s going to be a give-and-take system and we’re not going to think about it (when we use the blockchain).

Samson Williams: There are some regulatory things that the industry as a whole is working through, particularly when you introduce something disruptive. There’s always the people who want to keep it in the old box and the people who want to move it to the new box.

Takeaways from the blockchain meetup HBCU@SXSW 2018:

Carl Dorvil: Hard work is the great differentiator. It’s the great equalizer and it’s the whole game. Whether it’s crypto, the stock market, school, or work, the people who work hard are going to win. And it’s not just about working smart. People want to believe it’s about just working smarter, but usually, the people saying that are lazy. I promise you, if you’re competing against me, I’m going to destroy you because I’m willing to outwork you. I don’t care what you’re doing because that’s true — I know I’m going to create a situation where I win. If your mindset is, “Oh I’m going to do blockchain because it’s the easy way,” or “I want to look at cryptocurrency because I can get rich quick” — it is very very difficult to get rich quick in America and it is very very easy to get rich slow. If you remember that you can be really successful.

Kelcey Gosserand: Will Smith has a famous quote: “Anyone can be smarter than me but I will outrun anyone on the treadmill.” My takeaway is it’s not too late. People ask me all the time, “Did I miss it?” No. We’re at the very beginning. This is a revolution and there aren’t many rules yet. That’s what’s scary. The SEC hasn’t even put down rules. They’re just scaring people with subpoenas. The education’s out there, it’s all online, it’s totally democratized, the digital divide is pretty closed. We’re seeing real-world implications all over the world in developing countries outside of America. America’s actually very very late to the game. Go out there and get involved at any level.

Jonathan Gagliardoni: If life’s a race, we all start at different places in that race but we are all competing with each other. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you’re going to be in the same race so it’s up to you and the people you surround yourself with to work really hard. You can learn this pretty quickly.