Don’t think of yourself as a woman. I think sometimes people become frozen and they create a false narrative in their head that goes something like ‘well all the (jobs/venture capital/opportunity) goes to men so I shouldn’t even try.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth. I dont wake up everyday thinking ‘I’m a female founder.’ I just wake up thinking ‘I’m a founder’ and I think that made a huge difference. Expel those self-limiting thoughts in your head.
I had the pleasure to interview Amy Wan, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Sagewise
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
I saw an opportunity in the blockchain ecosystem that no one else was really talking about, and besides being a big market opportunity, it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime window to change the current legal paradigm. But at the same time, it was a highly aspirational moonshot idea, so I was unsure about pursuing it.
It wasn’t actually until I found out I was pregnant that I went for it. As a a pregnant minority female founder, I thought, “I’m really uninvestable now, so if I’m going to do something, I might as well go big or go home.” So, I threw caution into the wind and decided to do it. That’s the story of how Sagewise was born.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
My legaltech blockchain company Sagewise creates business legal infrastructure for those working on blockchain and smart contracts. Our core product is dispute resolution infrastructure for when smart contracts fail to achieve their true intent. Smart contacts are prone to coding errors and security vulnerabilities. People will need to amend, modify or terminate smart contracts because code is static, but humans situation are not. And, there will be genuine disputes over execution of the smart contract. At Sagewise, we’re working to bolster the blockchain ecosystem with transactional confidence and certainty.
Right now, we’re targeting products that have ICO’ed and are in their building stage, and the STO industry, which is highly regulated industry and requires transactional confidence.
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?
When I started this journey, I had a false narrative in my head that women couldn’t raise money. Now, almost a year and half later, I’ve raised a seed round $1.25 million dollars while pregnant/ with a newborn.
There are a couple of people who helped me get there. First my business coaches at Coaccel (Cam and Jasmine) helped tremendously in reframing the narrative in my head. I remember, at one time, while I was trying to raise money while being pregnant and traveling the country speaking at tons of conferences, Cam pointed out to me that I was doing everything that a founder should be doing despite the fact that I was pregnant — that I was hustling so hard that I was the type of person that investors should want to invest in. And I realised, she’s right! After that, I walked into investor meetings with a far different (and much less defeatist) attitude.
One of my investors and advisors Terrence Yang was super supportive of me being pregnant. I remember when I told him about my pregnancy, he exclaimed with enthusiasm “I love artificial deadlines!” My cofounder Dan Rice, who is also a parent, has also been incredibly supportive. He took conferences that I couldnt fly to in my last few weeks and covered for me in the weeks after I had my baby and was trying to regain sanity. And, my husband and parents have been incredibly supportive and have pitched in in order to allow me to work on Sagewise.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- A second opportunity to recreate what the internet should have done: empower individuals — not create mass monopolistic enterprises.
- Consumers have the opportunity to own their personal data.
- The paradigm of several industries is changing.
- There will be better recordkeeping and authentication ability.
- The increased ability to reduce fraud.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
There’s an awful lot of hype in this industry, as opposed to substance. Lots of people love to talk about and perpetuate information that they don’t really understand.
1) There are (still) a lot of fraud and scams out there. I’m looking for execution and substance, not just big raises.
2) Blockchains consumes a lot of energy to run. People in the industry travel the world, leaving huge carbon footprints. We need to be thinking about the environmental impact of this industry.
3) I’m afraid all the money and talk won’t actually result in anything taking off.
4) Everyone who raised a huge ICO in 2017 and early 2018 has an obligation to their community to execute and perform. Those who do not taint the industry.
5) Conversely, I worry that regulators — U.S. and worldwide — are being too slow and will muck up and/or otherwise chill an industry with a lot of potential.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
My perspective on being a working parent has changed drastically. I think moms are society’s unsung superheroes. I’ve heard so many stories of women who have had to give up their careers or take a step back when they became a mom. So, I’m now a zealous advocate for working moms trying to have it all. I’ve shared my story of starting a company and raising a seed round as a new mother to give tips and to let other women that they don’t have to choose between motherhood and entrepreneurship — that you can have both, so long as you work hard to shape a supportive environment around you.
As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?
1 — you don’t have to be technical. There are plenty of roles in the blockchain ecosystem that need to be filled (i.e., marketing or communication or event planning). The only thing you need is a healthy appetite and intellectual curiosity to learn.
2 — don’t think of yourself as a woman. I think sometimes people become frozen and they create a false narrative in their head that goes something like ‘well all the (jobs/venture capital/opportunity) goes to men so I shouldn’t even try.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth. I dont wake up everyday thinking ‘I’m a female founder.’ I just wake up thinking ‘I’m a founder’ and I think that made a huge difference. Expel those self-limiting thoughts in your head.
3 — You’re stronger than you know. I think women are incredibly strong, and strong than they know — mentally, emotionally, and intellectually. I think women often feel torn between family and professional aspirations, and the whole situation is aggravated by self-imposed impostor syndrome. It’s hard, but it’s doable.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
I think this is a chicken-egg situation. On one hand, women needs to stick their neck out there. They need to engage in the industry, go to conferences, network, and become thought leaders. I’ve personally tried to hire women into my company but even when presented with an offer, some women have been reluctant to make the jump. On the flip side, the industry has work to do to create a less exclusive ecosystem. I can’t tell you how many times in the blockchain and crypto industry I’ve heard of conferences or events with official parties at strip clubs or all male panels or scantily clad russian models in bikinis walking around. That is the opposite of an inclusive environment.
I’m also starting to become disenchanted with the ‘women in blockchain’ panel at conferences. The panels are a good thought, but women in blockchain are able to hold their own and sit on any panel — not just get relegated to the ‘women’s panel’ (which is also when all the men walk out the room and network outside instead). I’m now more reluctant to sit on ‘women-in-blockchain’ panels unless the conference organizer also asks me to sit on a substantive panel.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
I think there is a quote by someone that says “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” I think that’s absolutely true. We have to constantly be on our toes and adapt to changing environments. The blockchain industry in particular changes every minute of every day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
So many things! I’m obviously a proponent of using blockchain to make access to justice more affordable. We need a better system for paid maternity/paternity leave that doesn’t lay the burden on the employer (Kristen Shapiro has some ideas on this). We also need a system that allows for more affordable childcare. The U.S. is a very individualistic society, but sometimes that’s detrimental — I now truly believe it takes a community to raise a child.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @amyywan, Linkedin: amyywan, Medium: @amywan
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!