“Listen to yourself with much greater curiosity than you listen to anyone else. A lot of times we tend to lose contact with our intuition and fall short on understanding ourselves. There’s a humongous amount of good advice and insight guiding us from the inside and sometimes we tend to listen too much to outside factors.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Pawluk, CEO and co-founder of Orion Vault
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a philosopher, a cook & baker, kitesurfer, huge fun of MMA, wife and businesswoman who is passionate about art and technology. I like to spend a lot of time in the future and look at the world from macro-perspective. Being a nomad, changing a place called ‘home’ every few years I realized how wonderful and diverse the world is, but at the same time how similar WE are.
I started my career while studying at two universities and working full-time to be able to pay for my rent and bills. After a few years in business, I had to choose between a Masterchef program and a business opportunity in London… I chose the later. In London, I was building an influencer tech platform from ground zero, scaling the business to global presence and building strong partnerships in EMEA & APAC with the biggest companies. Most recently, I founded Orion Vault to bring openness, quality and trust to the art market by using blockchain technology.
I co-founded a startup purely from my passion of art. I am a daughter of a ballet dancer and a lawyer. Having those two influences from an early age I always looked for opportunities to merge business and analytical thinking with creative, artistic ones. I grew up surrounded by huge books on art, philosophy and psychology and my mom writing and practising her new choreography, listening to Bach most of the day. I didn’t understand classical music until I was almost 30! Now I love it, but back then it was unbearable. Being surrounded by artists and seeing their everyday struggle made me realize how important it is to support those who preserve our culture and sacrifice a lot from an early stage of their lives. My mom was 10 years old when she left her hometown and family and went to ballet school in Warsaw, then for her Masters to St Petersburg in Russia. She did only ballet all her life, but yet struggled financially…and still is after retirement.
I believe in working with people who are better and smarter than you are, creating bullet-proof technologies of exceptional quality, challenging stereotypes and empowering women by mentoring and reverse-mentoring.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
After years of doing business, I wanted to start to invest in art and surround myself with inspiring works everyday. I realized after a few weeks that the market is so old school, where you need to make actual phone calls or even go to a gallery on your own to buy anything… instead of having technology handle all of the heavy lifting for you. That’s when I realized I can really make a difference by merging blockchain tech with art space. And do it in a forward-thinking way, not only using blockchain to record transactions and ownership but rather to create a fully digital market for art investments and donations. This is how Orion Vault came about.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a lot to people I met and worked with, especially early in my career — Joanna Kazak that is managing Mindshare in Poland. When we met I was very young and already had a team and big business to manage. I always said that ‘when I grow up I want to be like her’. She taught me how to manage teams, listen to people and empower them. But I would say, maybe controversially, that I owe the most to people who doubted me. And those I probably have quite a few on my list! From my childhood I remember having the craziest ideas that a lot of close ones where very sceptical of. When I was a teenager I once announced that I am going to ‘sing’ (even though I can’t really sing) in a hardcore band. I got a lot of scepticism and rejection at first, but actually I really started a hardcore band when I was 15, we even had concerts and fans and I didn’t need to sing but ‘growl’! I tend to find the most strength in those moments of loneliness and rejection. This is probably the most motivating and humble space to prove yourself to yourself, not even to the outside world but purely to yourself. I do account most of my successes to people who doubted me most, without them I probably wouldn’t have that much passion and determination to move forward and succeed eventually.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
The first time I heard about Bitcoin was in 2015, so quite late. I immediately got interested in it and ever since tried to understand how the world will change, in what direction it will go. I knew it’s a huge opportunity and didn’t doubt for a moment that it will create the future. I am a nomad and a heavy traveler, so for me world is very small — there are cultural differences, but once you pass them it’s extremely easy to build relations with anyone, no matter his/her origins, background, etc. From my perspective it seems that blockchain and Bitcoin started to bring people even closer together. The technology itself and underlying philosophy supports a social movement of redefining boundaries, borders, cultural differences and freedom of people (not only financial but also intelectual, career wise, etc). The world is getting smaller, people can come together even faster and create value.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Bringing rules to the blockchain world. I think there might be too many parties involved in trying to put ‘old world’ rules above this space instead of truly understanding the innovation and creating rules that support the change, not take us back to the old times.
- Centralized structures — I think it might not be the best use of decentralized technology to build centralized entities. I think it’s better to be in or out, not be stuck with only one leg out the door.
- Scams! There’s a growing number of parties who want to get involved and offer start-ups ‘help’. A lot of entrepreneurs I know are struggling with understanding the value of some offers out there and sometimes are being taken advantage off.
- Lack of education — there’s still a lot of investors entering the space not knowing how the rules of physics and economy work. For those participants, a bad experience can be very traumatic and bring even more distrust and worry to the entire space. From marketing books, I learned that one happy customer can bring three new customers by recommendation, but one unhappy customer can have influence over ten others.
- Crypto is bad — let’s talk blockchain. There’s a trend now where people try to eliminate word ‘crypto’ and talk only about ‘blockchain’ or ‘underlying technology’. Even more and more conferences are renaming their endeavours to ‘blockchain’. I think crypto is here to stay, as the education increases we might have a bit less bad press and panic attacks in the future. I do believe that usually we are afraid of things we don’t understand and I want to make a difference here, especially bringing more and more women into this space!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I am very passionate about helping people who suffered from violence, especially domestic violence. Besides running an early-stage startup, I am creating a movement to empower people who are at their lowest and don’t even know how difficult their situations are. I hope to bring much more understanding and stream the bad energy into a creative one to support all people who are suffering and don’t see a way to stop this vicious circle.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
- Listen to yourself with much greater curiosity than you listen to anyone else. A lot of times we tend to lose contact with our intuition and fall short on understanding ourselves. There’s a humongous amount of good advice and insight guiding us from the inside and sometimes we tend to listen too much to outside factors.
- You are an artist, so act like one. I think that a lot of entrepreneurs are extremely creative, sometimes even more than they tend to think, as we like to rationalize everything we do, put numbers behind it. We tend to attach our successes to the measurable, rational decisions we’ve made. But I think what truly makes us who we are is the unmeasurable, chaotic, surprising and unexpected decisions that create new opportunities no one could ever replicate. I think it’s super important to curate artistic, sometimes chaotic parts of ourselves and accept all the benefits and challenges it brings instead of trying to be ‘realistic’ and ‘pragmatic’ most of the time.
- Whatever you do, however long the hours you work — have fun doing it! I think the most important factor of tracking if you are on the right path is how much fun you have doing what you do. Entrepreneurs usually work between 60–80h per week and if you think that you can have fun ‘after work’ or during vacation you are in the wrong place. Work is an intrinsic part of any entrepreneur’s life, you don’t really have a fixed schedule or time to only relax. There’s no work-life balance. It’s all one, holistic life. For that reason you want to be happy and fulfilled every single day, not just when you ‘don’t work’. If you don’t have fun along the way — change what you are doing as soon as you can. It’s not a quick process, take your time, the passion for new things will find you.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I am a huge fan of Peter Thiel’s philosophy and thinking. His ‘Zero to One’ is by far my most favorable book, I actually read it over and over and carry it in my suitcase all the time. I think that some things like books, music, anything that is inspiring at some point in time is good to carry with me. I travel a lot and treat the airplane as my second living room. Usually I travel on my own and to have those precious and valuable things with me is what keeps me grounded. I am philosopher by education and by passion myself, so to meet Peter would mean a lot.
Originally published at medium.com