Meet the Women Of The Blockchain: Ayesha Kiani, Managing Director of Republic Crypto

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have gotten the education I’ve received. While I was in law school I ran an organization that…

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I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have gotten the education I’ve received. While I was in law school I ran an organization that built schools for underprivileged children — especially girls — in Pakistan. I wanted to give those girls a fraction of the chance I got. I fundraised for the nonprofit and built about 7 schools. I wish I had more time now to start that up again, but for now it’s something I hope to do in the future.

I had the plasure to interview Ayesha Kiani, Managing Director — Republic Crypto. Ayesha helped Republic’s CEO lead their pre-sale round, which successfully raised $12 million. She was also one of the first females to join a blockchain project in 2016 when ICOs were still a novel idea. Ayesha is also aiming to make crypto accessible to everyone.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I started my career as a corporate attorney at Skadden Arps after graduating from NYU Law. But I’ve always been a decentralized person and generally curious to give entrepreneurship a try. In 2016, I was fortunate enough to find and secure an opportunity at Consensys through Dreamers and Doers which is a female network for entrepreneurs. I joined one of Consensys’ first projects, SingularDTV, which was also one of the first ICOs to ever happen. I was the third employee and helped grow the company to 60 employees across 5 countries. This year, I left Consensys and joined Republic because I believe the future of blockchain is in compliant token sales. And I’m excited to say that, after a few months of fundraising, we’ve closed our $12 million round!

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

I think Republic’s tokenization project is at the core of what we’re looking to build in the crypto space. Early stage startup investing has historically been inaccessible, inefficient, and largely illiquid. Out platform is definitely democratizing both fundraising and investing now, but we’re excited to bring increased efficiency and liquidity to the global market.

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?

Building a network and contributing to a community is incredibly important to me, so I have to talk about a couple of people who have helped me get to where I am today. The first is Owen Davis of the VC firm NYC Seed and founder of — actually the first startup I worked on. He taught me the importance of building a tech network and made some invaluable introductions for me. He also had a great piece of advice that sticks with me even today. He was hosting a breakfast for female founders who wanted to meet him, and one question that kept coming up was, “Are women getting funded the way men do?” He acknowledged the difficulties that women face in the tech and VC world, but also was quick to clarify that good projects, male or female founders, will get funded. Sometimes it’s about speaking up and asking for what you want.

I’m also extremely grateful to Geshe Haas, through whom I got connected to Consensys. I am very grateful for my family and my husband who’ve been very supportive.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  1. Global reach. Crypto will always be a global movement because of the trust problem that it solves, which exists and is amplified when data or money crosses borders.
  2. Institutional capital moving into space. Traditional VC and other institutional capital have begun investing in the space, which signals a growing collective understanding of the power of blockchain technology.
  3. Increased government acceptance. In the same way that the VC world has begun to embrace crypto, some governments around the world have also done so. I believe government will play a role in adoption and development of blockchain tech, so it’s great to see that part of the movement emerge.
  4. A new asset class. Crypto represents a new asset class that people can invest in — alongside stocks, bonds or real estate. It’s a wealth-building opportunity and part of Republic’s core mission is to make sure that everyone has access to that opportunity.
  5. Social impact. I think blockchain has the potential to drive social and economic development in the way that other innovations have in the past — railroads, vaccinations, the internet, etc. Transacting data in a safe, cost-effective, and efficient way could accelerate global development like we saw in the latter half of the 20th century.

What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  1. Scalability. Crypto is growing and projects old and new get closer to scalability every day. But it’s going to take years until the potential of blockchain is realized in a way that the everyday person can understand. I don’t doubt that it will happen, I’m just worried people won’t give it the time it needs to succeed.
  2. Access to credible information. Part of the broader critique of crypto is the fraud and shady character of the industry — not entirely unjustified. Thankfully, platforms like Republic were started that will emerge as trusted leaders in the industry that retail investors will count on for access to credible, promising projects.
  3. Access to investment opportunities. In the same vein, it worries me to see so many projects raising millions (even billions!) of dollars of capital that the ordinary person doesn’t have access to. I don’t want to see another generation shut out of a massive wealth-building opportunity.
  4. People thinking Crypto will replace cash. I really don’t see Bitcoin replacing fiat currency — and definitely not the US Dollar. I think we need to characterize Bitcoin as a traditional commodity or as a member of an emerging new asset class.
  5. Hyper-Inflated valuations. People realize the potential of blockchain to change the world, and with world-changing technology can come hyper-inflated valuations of less-than-promising projects. We can’t have people raising millions on just a pitch deck and a white paper.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have gotten the education I’ve received. While I was in law school I ran an organization that built schools for underprivileged children — especially girls — in Pakistan. I wanted to give those girls a fraction of the chance I got. I fundraised for the nonprofit and built about 7 schools. I wish I had more time now to start that up again, but for now it’s something I hope to do in the future.

What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?

  1. Persistence. Especially as a woman, persistence is extremely important. There’s a lot of opportunity for women out there, but the reality is that we have often have to work a little harder to get access to it. In the same vein, I came to this country as an undocumented immigrant. I’m a legal, documented immigrant now (and will hopefully be a US citizen soon), but coming to this country in that way has made me a fighter.
  2. Take risks. Back in 2016, I’d keep what I did at Consensys really private. Crypto was not mainstream yet and there were a lot of unflattering misconceptions about the industry. In that way, it was risky to get into crypto early, but it has certainly paid off. But risk taking is not the same as gambling — you can’t just jump into things on a hunch. Do your research, test your assumptions, then make the hard decisions. Then do the same thing over again every once in a while.
  3. Network. Education and background helps with career development to a certain point, but it’s hard to understate how important one’s network is. In the tech world, like many industries, it’s very much about who you know and maintaining those important relationships. Join and engage communities by giving what you can, and you’ll be surprised how those networks will help you when it comes time to make an ask.

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’d really love to have lunch with Oprah. She’s so much of what I want to be: intelligent, poised, independent, unafraid, enterprising. She’s a powerful business woman, but she doesn’t feel like she has to put anyone down to get somewhere. She’s the icon that she is because she enjoys building people up, not taking them down.

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