“Even when I had my tech company, I always took chances on the black sheeps. For most of my interns, my company was the first real experience they had with cutting-edge technology. It was a mutual learning experience. We both discovered the massive gaps existing in current colleges with preparation (essentially most of them are not preparing graduates for the “real world.”). Instead of focusing on resume, each intern was given a test to complete in 24 hours. That ended up being a decent enough test, because almost all of those interns went on to work for major companies, like Business Insider and Udemy. It’s too bad HR companies are still woefully behind on hiring outside-the-box, but startups can help change that.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Layla Tabatabaie, attorney and advisor to blockchain companies like Legaler and Canya. Layla works with tech companies at all levels, from early stages to raising millions. You can catch her on stage in October at the Harvard Igniting Innovation summit this fall.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Since the first year of law school, I was destined to enter the tech industry. My focus in law school was interactive technology and video game law, and I was the Editor-in-Chief for the law school’s law blog “All Your Law Are Belong To Us.” After working as an attorney at a couple law firms, I quit to start my own VC-backed, double-sided tech marketplace “BarterSugar.” I ran that for about 5 years, before deciding to shut it down to pursue other opportunities. I’ve been working with technology companies for over 6 years now with 95% of the companies I work with being blockchain companies, such as Legaler and CanYa.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Legaler is launching a tokenized Legal Aid platform that will incentivize quality attorneys to accept pro bono cases and gain compensation in tokens. This will allow easier access to attorneys for people who should be pursuing a legal route for their grievance, but were unable to do to cost.
CanYa is a p2p freelance marketplace where freelancers can accept both fiat and crypto compensation. When I was a founder, it was incredibly difficult to send money across borders and the transaction fees were enormous for a tiny startup. CanYa solves that problem, including more skilled labor and people that need them into the same environment.
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 never got to mention it to her before, but the first person to have a measurable impact on my life was the late, great Ann S. Moyles, a teacher at Scranton Preparatory School that taught my speech class and cast me in speaking role for a high school theater production. Because of her persistence and insistence that I become comfortable on stages and her compliments to my presentations in class, I didn’t become the more secluded, brainy introvert I was on track to become. Now I speak on stages for blockchain and crypto conferences every couple of months, and I always think of her when I do. Strong teachers really never get all the credit they deserve.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
1) Lowering the cost of every-day activities.
2) Including traditionally underrepresented communities due to hierarchical, legacy structures.
3) Compensation to members of a platform that add most of the value.
4) A system that takes one step closer to a meritocracy.
5) Potential shadow funds being eliminated.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
1. Malicious cyber hackers
2. Malicious authoritarian government hackers
3. Accidental malware/zombies
4. Wolf in sheep’s clothing with centralization (kind of already happening in some ways)
5. Traceability and transparency being diminished
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Even when I had my tech company, I always took chances on the black sheeps. For most of my interns, my company was the first real experience they had with cutting-edge technology. It was a mutual learning experience. We both discovered the massive gaps existing in current colleges with preparation (essentially most of them are not preparing graduates for the “real world.”). Instead of focusing on resume, each intern was given a test to complete in 24 hours. That ended up being a decent enough test, because almost all of those interns went on to work for major companies, like Business Insider and Udemy. It’s too bad HR companies are still woefully behind on hiring outside-the-box, but startups can help change that.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
1. Assuming you’re a normal person with no special connections or access to piles of money, do not quit your job to start your company until it has generated enough cash on a monthly basis to sustain you and your modest team. Do what you must until then, work at a call center, freelance write articles, work your dead-end job until you don’t have to anymore.
2. Make genuine friendships with people that look and act very different from you. It’s really the only thing you need to both fall in love with life and be endlessly creative. Plus, those friendships will open your eyes to the mental cages you didn’t know you lived in.
3. Read one book ideally every month, but at least every other month. It helps create new neural connections and you’ll discover you can drum up solutions and reach conclusions faster as a result.
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 would love to have breakfast with Jack Ma of Alibaba Group. He’s one of the only people I can think of that is truly self-made without the privileged connections and easier access to capital that almost all other companies I read about have. As the saying goes in VC land, a double-sided marketplace is the hardest sort of company to build, so I would love to learn from his experiences.
Originally published at medium.com