Even if you feel like an imposter, do it anyway. We are so much more critical and doubtful of ourselves than other people are. There are so many times where I’ve doubted what I said or how I did on a presentation or pitch only to have people tell me otherwise. Even if you do fail — so what? Failure is how we learn and you can’t grow without failing and learning.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Huang, CEO of Altcoin Fantasy. Cynthia was first exposed to the tech industry after working for a 500 Startups funded company in 2014. She fell in love with the industry and since then has won numerous hackathons, totalling over $80K USD in prizes, and co-founded the #1 Airbnb host community online.
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?
My story is a bit atypical. I studied English Literature and wanted to become an editor or publisher because I am a huge bookworm but ended up in insurance and risk management. While I enjoyed it, it never felt quite right to me. In 2014, my husband’s startup was accepted into the 500 Startups Accelerator program so we moved to San Francisco for 4 months. I joined a startup there working in marketing and completely fell in love with the tech industry. I was determined to eventually work in tech even with a non-technical background. I started attending (and even winning!) hackathons. I also co-launched an online Airbnb host community, Airhosts Forum, which has become the largest Airbnb host community online and from which I learned an incredible amount of knowledge about building communities, which is extremely useful for my current startup.
My advice to others is to not limit or doubt yourself. If there’s something you want to pursue, learn as much as you can, take side projects and hustle until you get an opportunity. I truly believe that people can do anything they set their minds to if they give it their all. Also, never stop learning and always have a curious and open mind. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably doing something wrong. Embrace the discomfort of change and know that this will help you grow and improve.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Along with our Airbnb host community, Airhosts Forum, we also launched an educational platform to teach people about crypto and crypto trading called Altcoin Fantasy. We gamify learning about and practicing trading crypto through our weekly trading competitions. We’re extremely excited about how blockchain technology will change the world and we want to be a large part of evangelizing the space and bringing about mainstream adoption of blockchain technology.
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’ll have to cheat a bit here and talk about two people who have been the most influential in my life. First is my mom. She was widowed at a young age with two young children and didn’t speak a word of English yet managed to provide for us, financially and emotionally. She has always been my North Star for how to be a strong woman and a loving human being.
The second person is definitely my husband. Since day 1, 14 years ago, he’s always believed in me and encouraged me to be the best that I could be. A huge part of accomplishing anything is mindset and he has helped me realize that I can accomplish anything I want if I want it enough. He’s always supported me in everything and truly doesn’t care what I do, as long as I’m happy. I consider myself extremely blessed to have someone I trust inside and out on my side, cheering me on.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
· I’m excited about the kind of new economies that will spring out of blockchain technology. Just as mobile apps created new opportunities and careers (e.g. social media influencers), blockchain will create a new wave of possibilities for people to build businesses.
· The ability to connect the world’s unbanked population with the world economy. Much of the world’s population is unbanked in undeveloped countries and they don’t participate in the global economy. Imagine an artisan in one of these places now being able to sell online and grow their business because they don’t have to jump through the hoops of signing up for a bank account.
· The ability for consumers to take back power from large corporations and own their own data. There are a few projects that pay users to share their data and this is a shift from today’s world where large corporations use your data and profit off you. In tomorrow’s blockchain enabled world, consumers will own their data and be able to monetize it if they choose.
· ICOs (initial coin offerings) and STOs (security token offerings) as ways to raise startup funding. There has been a lot of bad press because of the number of ICO scams in the past year and while justified, it’s unfortunate because this is a valuable alternative to raising funds through VCs for legitimate companies.
· Looking at countries which are currently struggling with inflation, essentially reducing their currency to being nothing more than pieces of paper, it’s clear that decentralized currencies have the potential to solve these issues since they’re not controlled by one centralized (and political) party.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
· There were a lot of scam ICOs in 2017 and there will probably continue to be some projects that are not entirely legitimate. Due to the lack of oversight and regulations surrounding ICOs currently, these projects are not held to any accountability for delivery of product and timelines. This casts the entire space in a bad light and people discount the underlying blockchain technology because of the negative associations with ICOs.
· Blockchain seems to be a hot topic in tech. There are 1900+ tokens today and more being launched all the time. Yet, because of where blockchain technology is today, there are actually very few use cases where using blockchain is an advantage over using a traditional database. The complexities of building on the blockchain generally outweigh the benefits you receive from it, except for those very specific use cases. I worry that people will see this and not take the industry seriously, which could hurt adoption and development of the blockchain space.
· Many people who are investing in crypto projects are there for the short term. They’re out to make a quick buck on trading and aren’t investing in the projects because they believe in their technology and mission. It’s unclear whether that will continue to be the case but we need to educate people about the potential of blockchain technology and how these projects will change the world and focus less on the increases in value these projects will gain.
· Regulation around blockchain and crypto. It’s like the Wild Wild West right now and no one is really clear on what’s legal, illegal or a grey area. Added to that, the complexity of how different jurisdictions, even within one country, treat crypto means that we are very far from mainstream adoption.
· Because of the anonymity of transactions on the blockchain, the transactions could be used to fund illegal and dangerous activities. Fiat currencies have the same issues today but because the regulations around cryptocurrencies haven’t been clearly established yet, it’s much easier to use cryptocurrencies to fund illegal activities.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I believe strongly in mentorship and giving back. I’ve volunteered as a mentor for various programs in the past. I recently volunteered on the board committee with Ovarian Cancer Canada for their Love Her gala event, raising funds to help women with ovarian cancer. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to see and meet some of the survivors of ovarian cancer, who are doing everything they can to help those diagnosed with this disease.
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?
· Don’t be intimidated because you don’t look like everyone else in the space. Your experiences, opinions and thoughts are just as valuable as other people’s. Diversity leads to more successful companies so don’t be afraid to speak up or pursue that scary opportunity.
· Support each other! There is a lack of women in tech and in blockchain and we need to empower and support each other so we can change that.
· Even if you feel like an imposter, do it anyway. We are so much more critical and doubtful of ourselves than other people are. There are so many times where I’ve doubted what I said or how I did on a presentation or pitch only to have people tell me otherwise. Even if you do fail — so what? Failure is how we learn and you can’t grow without failing and learning.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
· We need to have more women be visible in the space. That’s why these articles are so great because they let other women know that there are women in this space and that women are wanted in this space. You don’t have to be technical to be a part of blockchain. As long as you’re curious, interested and willing to learn, anyone can get into the space.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“They May Forget What You Said, But They Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel” by Maya Angelou
This might sound a bit morbid but I’ve thought a lot about what words I would want written on my gravestone. Generous, loving and kind are the words I want to be known for. When I meet someone, no matter how short of a time I’ve known them, I try to be generous and helpful. While there have been people who have taken advantage of this, I believe that overall this has led to rewarding and rich interactions with many people I’ve met. I’d rather err on the side of being too generous, even with strangers, than to be miserly, because I want everyone I meet to walk away feeling like they were better for having met me.
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. 🙂
I am extremely passionate about the environment and wildlife and am deeply saddened by the amount of plastics and waste in the world, especially in our oceans. I strongly urge everyone to try to stop using plastics, especially single use plastics, and at the very least, to recycle as much as you can. We need alternative sources to replace plastic products that are less harmful to the environment. I would love for someone to create something natural and organic to replace plastics.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find me on Instagram and LinkedIn. If you are curious about blockchain and crypto or just want some advice and help, feel free to reach out because I love meeting people and helping them on their journey if I can.
Originally published at medium.com