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Meet The Women of The Blockchain: Rachel Cook, Founder and CEO of Seeds

The intention behind Seeds is about bringing good, bringing harmony, to the world, from entrepreneurs in Paraguay who just need a few…


The intention behind Seeds is about bringing good, bringing harmony, to the world, from entrepreneurs in Paraguay who just need a few dollars worth of help, to women in Kenya receiving money on mobile, to people who have suffered as a result of a natural disaster, trying to rebuild their lives. Because we all need help sometimes.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Cook, Founder and CEO of Seeds. Seeds is the easiest way to ask the blockchain for help, and receive it as a gift, with no strings attached. Their mission is to transcend what’s failing about this iteration of capitalism. Rachel thinks the broken parts of Late Capitalism are institutionalized finance, which doesn’t work because its OS is patriarchy. Rachel led Seeds through the Boost VC Bitcoin startup accelerator in 2014, through Techstars Barclays NYC in 2015, and she and Seeds competed in Techcrunch Disrupt Battlefield in December of 2016 (her pitch can be found here). For those who care about such things, the fanciest-sounding collaborator on the Seeds project was the #2 engineer at Whatsapp. Rachel is based in Los Angeles.

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

My pleasure! I grew up in a town of 1000ish people in rural Ohio, and I think 5 kids out of my graduating class went on to graduate from a 4 year college in 4 years, and roughly twice as many had had kids of their own by the time we were 19. I still love a lot of people there and spend time there, but I had that cliche thing, the feeling that I couldn’t wait to get out, and I didn’t feel heard, understood, or supported there. As I got older and woke up to feminism, I also understood how bad things were there for women and girls, and still are.

After graduating from Duke, I moved to Chicago to study improv and comedy writing at Second City, and while living there, I worked as a Futures and Equities Trader.

The best comedy sketch that I wrote was this sort of weird, abstract feminist piece call Mime Brothel. Instead of prostitutes, the brothel was full of… mimes, and when you thought they were going to engage in a sex act, suddenly the mime would be trapped in a wind tunnel, or picking a daisy, or whatever.

Then the mime would speak, and the wraparound joke at the end was that the brothel patron would get mad when the mimes spoke — he hadn’t gone there for sex, he’d gone there because he wanted silence. So there was this sort of feminist commentary happening on several levels, regarding what men want and expect from women in perhaps the most patriarchal of contexts.

The sketch worked well onstage and I thought it was good, but like 20 people saw it. So I started thinking more about how I could make things that would reach a larger audience.

Simultaneously, I was the only female trader, or one of only a few female traders, everywhere I worked.

I was paid a 15% lower base salary that the dudes who started at the same time I did at one firm, Transmarket Group, despite negotiating my starting salary, having experience as a profitable trader — only one other guy I started with had experience making money -and having a better educational background than any of the men who started when I did. I could have been more aggressive in my negotiation, but the other guys weren’t, to my knowledge, so it had all appearances of straight up textbook wage discrimination. Later on, when performance-based bonuses came out, mine was 3x bigger than any of the men who started when I did. This was so whack that it got me actively thinking about systemic misogyny in the financial system, how little sense it made. Prior to that, I wasn’t very woke to this — it was that thing I see that is still true for so many people, that patriarchy is the water, and we’re the fish. It’s still largely invisible to so many of us.

I also got that the zero-sum framework of trading was entirely manufactured. If I made a dollar with a trade, it meant that someone else lost that same dollar…but money, in fact, was not scarce. This manufactured sense of scarcity seemed to me to be a thing that patriarchy sort of forcefully thrust upon everything.

This led me to want to explore alternate ways to get women money, and that, coupled with my desire to make things that reached larger audiences led me to have an epiphany one night at 3 am on the trading desk, as I was trading the European shift. I was 25 at the time, and hadn’t experienced something like this before or since, but I just knew that I needed to make a film about microlending to women around the world.

I had no idea how to do that, but over the course of the next few years it got done. Filming SMS-based microlending in Kenyan led me to consider that there must be ways to connect industries in the developed world to mobile capital access for people everywhere — especially women, who are a statiscally-incredible investment. And from there, Seeds was born, though it’s evolved a bunch since then.

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

I guess there are three big categories of things that I’m primarily thinking about and working on right now, and they’re all interrelated.

Seeds is the easiest way to ask the blockchain for help — and receive it as a monetary gift — with no strings attached. It exists to try and cure the rampant, systemic discrimination I have personally seen baked into institutional finance.

This iteration of Late Capitalism is failing us in many ways. I think it’s primarily because of institutionalized finance, and that the reason that’s not working is because the OS of institutionalized finance is patriarchy — a structure that overvalues the masculine and undervalues the feminine. Unfortunately, patriarchy is the OS of….virtually everything, I’d say, particularly in the West.

All humans have both masculine and feminine energy, and because we’re taught to overvalue the masculine energy and undervalue the feminine within ourselves and in others, things are way out of whack. I believe this imbalance has created a lot of the problems we’re seeing in the world today.

If the masculine is about the “doing,” and the feminine is about “being,” this imbalance lends itself to this idea that we need to be “productive” at all times, that we should be kind of embarrassed/ashamed when we’re not “productive.” But productivity doesn’t matter if you’re doing the wrong thing. It takes you further away from where it’s best to go.

When you’re practicing the “being,” stillness, or meditation, you’ll start to develop a sense of inspired action — you’ll know what to do and when to do it, you can birth things. This is just one example, but the manifestation of this imbalance is something I see everywhere since I’ve woken up to it, and I think a big part of my life’s mission is to contribute to bringing that balance to the world in whatever way I can. So I became very interested in thinking about how to practically ground a healthy masculine and feminine energy balance in myself, and in Seeds.

In 2013, I discovered Vipassana meditation. It’s non-dogmatic, not a religion or anything, and it’s thought to be the specific practice Buddhas use to achieve enlightenment. In my experience, while all forms of meditation are beneficial, this practice gets to the root of what’s causing misery and provides a way to release it forever. I had a repressed memory of a date rape come back to me because of my Vipassana practice, and I was able to heal from it fully, and there have been a thousand other moments of healing like this because of this wonderful thing I was lucky enough to discover. Before Vipassana, I didn’t feel like I experientially understood what forgiveness meant. I intellectually understood the concept, but it was like the ‘how’ of it was missing from all teachings I had found. Now I understand that you do Vipassana, and sooner or later you release the pain…and then all that’s left in that new opening is compassion, forgiveness, love. It’s incredible.

There are free Vipassana courses, including free lodging and food, offered all around the world — you can find them at www.dhamma.org. I’ve been to 7 so far, and am volunteering at an 8th next week. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, they’re also the most efficiently run organizations I’ve ever interacted with in any capacity, and they’re non-profits run by volunteers.

So what seemed obvious was to try an experiment in which I’m bringing Vipassana meditators into Seeds, creating a culture in which Vipassana is an integral part. Thus, if you’re a Vipassana meditator, or you’d like to become one, and the mission surrounding Seeds resonates with you, please let me know!

Lastly, I felt like I landed upon an important realization just yesterday, in connection with the idea of how damaging and pervasive the masculine/feminine energy imbalance is in the world of tech — and how we might transcend that from a root level.

I’ve understood for awhile that binary code, the practical use of which was foundational in modern computing, is patriarchal — it’s all 1s and 0s, either/or, zero-sum. If you’re a Wikipedia scholar like me and look up Leibniz and Binary Code, you can read about its roots in the idea of yin and yang — the masculine and feminine, yet again — in the I Ching. But I think that maybe Leibniz’s mathematical interpretation of that — or maybe the use of the medium of mathematics for interpretation itself — significantly contributed to putting us on this patriarchal course that isn’t what’s best for humanity. But virtually everything is built on top of this premise and it isn’t a thing I’ve seen questioned.

But what if building blocks of code somehow take quantum mechanics into account? What if, instead of being either a 1 or 0 from the outset, the building blocks behaved more like the basic building blocks of the universe, and were somehow able to be multiple things at once?

We have to move away from centralization, yes, but the entire structure also has to align with nature, and binaries don’t do that….a bigger wave of innovation will be about creating (or discovering?) a new technological system that allows coders to wield building blocks that behave not like 1s and 0s, but like photons….they don’t even have to behave like atomic particles, because code doesn’t have mass.

I have no idea how this will look, but I think there’s a nugget of something important here….something that would send us off in a better direction.


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?

Maybe this sounds pat, but the first thing that comes to mind is the idea that I feel grateful for the struggle I’ve experienced, for every misogynistic investor who made my life harder through subtle and blatant forms of discrimination we haven’t defined societally yet, something we could maybe call imposed scarcity (?). I was really angry about this for a long time, and am only now coming out of it. At one point in the not too distant past while working on Seeds, I was so broke that I was stealing food from grocery stores. I know many mostly white male startup founders who had a lot less to show that our company did who were raising millions of dollars with relative ease, and all these myriad messages that women get from society that tells us we have less value had really impacted me.

At this point, I really understand that without having experienced the pain of that manufactured scarcity is, something that so many people deal with every day, I wouldn’t understand how important it is to use a tool like Seeds to eradicate it from the world. I had to really run through it, but as a result I get that it’s not real — a dysfunctional system doesn’t dictate my value, or anyone else’s.

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

  1. Transcending institutions, particularly financial institutions — more of the ways patriarchy has trapped us all — and thereby rendering them obsolete. We need to move beyond any form of centralized power, because they create a manufactured sense of scarcity, with promulgates fear.
  2. There’s something about the notion that crypto tokens have multiple purposes — utility within the context of a product ecosystem, and that they can also be used for value exchange on decentralized and centralized platforms — that is much more in line with nature, which I think always means that a thing is trending in the right direction.
  3. The potential to eliminate the reality for many of us, which is that we work jobs that we don’t like because we have to to survive in the current system.

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

Worry #1 through 1000 is that the people primarily making crypto things, and receiving the support necessary to continue making them because of bias baked into the current system, are deeply entrenched in patriarchal thinking, such that they’re the fish and it’s the water, and that this will continue to perpetuate a lot of the old problems.

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

The intention behind Seeds is about bringing good, bringing harmony, to the world, from entrepreneurs in Paraguay who just need a few dollars worth of help, to women in Kenya receiving money on mobile, to people who have suffered as a result of a natural disaster, trying to rebuild their lives. Because we all need help sometimes.

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

  1. Don’t worry about emulating anyone else’s career. Instead: Listen to yourself. This is a skill that may take some practice — particularly if you’re a woman, because so many of us have been conditioned to overly question ourselves/to focus on external indicators regarding what we’re meant to do, rather than on our own voices. We go to school all our lives, entangled in the belief that we must learn skills to then fit ourselves into jobs defined by external entities, which is backward. In the future, more and more of us will listen to our voices and follow where that leads, which will add more value in all sense to the world.
  2. You have some uniquely your own to contribute to the world. Until you’re aware of what that might be, listen to yourself. Vipassana meditation has been the best tool I’ve found to help me realize what this is in my own life, and you can go to courses for free (including food and lodging) by signing up at www.dhamma.org.
  3. As soon as you can, try to separate yourself from the way other people and the external world measure value, because it’s all out of whack. This will help immensely.

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 heard Barack Obama was becoming involved with digital media-related things. I’d be pretty excited to have lunch with him. 🙂 Reid Hoffman has also been someone that I find to be much more forward-thinking and woke than virtually any other VC out there…but again, the driving idea behind Seeds tokens is about eliminating institutional finance altogether, and thereby rendering VC obsolete….so yeah.

Most of all, I’d love to talk to Oprah. I admire her immensely, and she would intuitively get this. She could also help us get the tokens into the hands of the people who could put them to best use — women.

Originally published at medium.com

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