…Hammers looking for nails — I’ve seen a lot of blockchain projects that just seem like they are using blockchain for the sake of it — or because it’s a buzzword that is a proxy for ‘good’ or ‘high tech’. There are many instances where a good old-fashioned database would be a better, cheaper and easier solution. Let’s use this technology for what it’s really good at, which is decentralized, permissionless accounting.
I had the pleasure to interview Deana Burke. Deana is a serial entrepreneur who recently launched a new app, Gracias, that allows users to easily send and receive Bitcoin. Through the app, Burke is committed to driving mainstream crypto literacy and adoption, with an emphasis on reaching communities traditionally underrepresented in finance.
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’m not sure I believe in career paths. Mine has felt so random at times, and not at all linear. Today, I’m the founder of a technology company, but had you asked me 5 years ago if I thought this was possible for myself I would’ve definitely said no. But, I found something that I had enough passion for to truly throw caution to the wind and take a leap of faith into something brand new. That was scary! Especially because I felt like such an outsider, and not at all qualified for the job. But, I’m still standing. The lesson that I’d love for people to see in my story, and the one I feel I have to keep learning myself, is that so many people share these same feelings, especially entrepreneurs, and you can’t let these limiting beliefs define you.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Starting my company Gracias has easily been the most challenging thing I’ve done professionally, and maybe even personally! Gracias is a Bitcoin payments platform for beginners- think Venmo for Bitcoin. We’re a mission-driven company, and we’re very much focused on Bitcoin accessibility for all. Helping people understand and become comfortable with this new money won’t be easy, but we think the opportunity is so huge, and so potentially transformational, that it’s worth all of the effort.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- A level playing field — an emerging asset class means an opportunity for new wealth creation for all. However, opportunity needs access, and the crypto world is not particularly accessible right now. But I think the raw materials are there and it’s just about figuring out how to create good access solutions for everyone — including marginalized communities.
- Better money — Bitcoin is a truly global currency that is backed by math, rather than a nation-state, and this feels like the right transition as we enter the digital age.
- Lossless Lottery — a project called PoolTogether that is working on creating a lottery where people basically park their crypto in a pool for a period of time and the winner receives the interest on those funds. Then, everyone gets their money back!
- Bitpesa — A company that uses crypto to move money in and out of Africa. I’m particularly excited about all the crypto work that’s being done in developing economies.
- My own app, Gracias! We’re making Bitcoin social and fun.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Access — On a macro level, I’m concerned about what a cashless society, or a society built on digital payments, does to our most vulnerable members, like the homeless or low-income individuals without credit cards or phones.
- Governance — I’m also concerned about letting the technology and finance industries dictate the future of this new money. Not because they are inherently bad, but because they have biases that could be damaging left unchecked.
- Bad actors — The crypto industry, as a whole, is working tirelessly to make crypto more safe and secure. But risks exist, and I worry about them personally, for my company and for the industry. Every hack is damaging for us all.
- Hammers looking for nails — I’ve seen a lot of blockchain projects that just seem like they are using blockchain for the sake of it — or because it’s a buzzword that is a proxy for ‘good’ or ‘high tech’. There are many instances where a good old-fashioned database would be a better, cheaper and easier solution. Let’s use this technology for what it’s really good at, which is decentralized, permissionless accounting.
- Land grabs — I think the Facebook Libra project is doing great things to raise awareness and legitimize the crypto industry as a whole, but I do worry about the impact of a corporate currency at that scale.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I love to help young people, women in particular, navigate their early careers. Shout out to the Gracias intern, Maria Healy, who is so inventive and enthusiastic. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her!
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?
I think this is a great industry for women because everything is all so new. We’re in the build phase right now. Sure, there are big players and major companies, but there is far less to deal with in terms of impenetrable social networks or entrenched wisdom. The time is now to step in, no matter who you are! I honestly can’t imagine working in any other industry after being in crypto for the last year and a half. What a wild ride!
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
I think we just need more visible female representation to act as beacons for other women to feel like this is a good space to jump into. There are a ton of powerful and successful women in this space who are doing really exciting things. We just need to give them more headlines.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
Oh, I have so many life lesson quotes that I love! But the one that is especially useful to me right now is, ‘don’t be a prisoner to your past.’ This goes back to the idea of giving limiting beliefs too much power. I want to let myself and the other people in my life, grow, change and evolve every day in whatever shape they so choose. This requires a loosening of the grips of identity, and what we think about ourselves.
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. 🙂
Everyone should buy a small amount of Bitcoin now, and give some to the people in their lives who can’t afford it. Then, hold onto it for at least 5 years no matter what the market does!
How can our readers follow you on social media?