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Vancouver women proudly take up space in Web3
The WomeninWeb3 Summit showcased the opportunity for an underrepresented population to build inclusive experiences and invest in financial products.
While the crypto world has seen difficult times lately, Vancouver’s WomeninWeb3 Summit sought to highlight the potential for women to succeed in the industry. Organized by d3crypto founder and VTJ contributor Erin Gee, the two-day event showcased real opportunities for women – who are underrepresented in Web3 – to pursue financial success and product development. The event was the second women-focused Web3 summit to take place in Vancouver, following last year’s F3STIVAL.
Women pursuing financial opportunity in Web3
Keynote speaker Megan Nilsson, a high-end crypto and NFT consultant based in Spain, opened the summit with a message for all attendees: there’s real financial opportunity to be found in Web3 for women, who have historically been left out of the picture of traditional finance. Tokens such as Bitcoin and certain NFTs can be lucrative assets, she pointed out, worth millions of dollars.
Nilsson got her start teaching and educating others in the industry at her local country club, who were largely middle-aged-and-older white men with backgrounds in traditional finance. “This is not what Web3 is about,” she told the audience at the event. “I wanted to get out there. I wanted to take their wives aside and tell them, ‘Hey, why don't you and I do our thing — you and I can look into this together.’”
Nilsson, who is also known as CryptoMegan, travels with the aim of educating women in Web3 about cryptocurrency and NFT markets. Given the country-agnostic nature of the industry, the in-person community is just as decentralized as the blockchain it runs on. Nilsson has recently found herself at Web3 conferences in Dubai and Los Angeles, and met WomeninWeb3 Summit organizer Gee in Lisbon.
Amidst these travels, Nilsson has found that women continue to be minorities in the space. But there are female-focused communities to tap into. One of the most important for Nilsson is the Bored Ape Yacht Ladies, a sub-group of holders of the Bored Ape Yacht NFTs, with many valued in the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
“We go around the world, [and] we do events called Not a Plus One,” she said. “Because every time we go to these Bored Ape Yacht Club events, they ask us whose plus one we are. And you know what? We're not plus ones, we're in the community too.”
Nilsson maintained that it’s important for women to stand their ground in Web3, even amidst the adversity. “As a woman, it's not easy to deal with it. It takes courage and you’ve got to believe in yourself and have conviction in what you're doing. And just take your space. Don't wait for that permission.”
Local women bringing expertise to Web3
Aside from investment assets, the potential to build products and experiences in Web3 are endless, and local women are often at the helm of creating in the space. But when the biases that exist in Web2 don’t necessarily disappear in Web3, they all had to overcome adversity of being a minority in the room to pursue success in products such as a metaverse built on Web3.
Carina Kom, a game developer, has worked in the industry for about 15 years — most recently on large titles produced by Microsoft and Electronic Arts such as Battlefield 2042 and Halo Infinite. When she first started, one in ten women were represented at the table of game development, she said. “Fast forward to where we are now, almost 16 years later, [and] that benchmark average in North America is now at 17 percent. So I’ve been doing this for almost 16 years, and we got seven percent of the way there.”
Kom wanted to lean into diversity as a strength, rather than a point of difficulty. “What I saw when I came into Web3 was that there was a different opportunity for me,” she said. “It's really hard to find a female game developer and I'm really leaning into that this time around.”
She left her Web2 job to develop a game in Web3, called MixMob. The platform is built on the Solana blockchain, and gamers must play to earn its in-game currency called SUD$. The currency allows gamers to own, transact, and trade freely in the decentralized creator economy. Ownership of SUD$ can allow players to purchase an NFT, for example, that functions as their unique identity in the MixMob universe.
While this isn’t a game made specifically for female players, Kom brings an often-missing perspective as a woman to the world of gaming. The same is true for panelist and Vancouver-based metaverse architect Katreena Tecson, who is building Ceminted, a metaverse cemetery where people can upload videos, audio, and images of their loved ones to live on-chain. Having women, such as Kom and Tecson, at the helm of project design ensures that experiences in the metaverse are better for everyone on the gender spectrum, not just men.
Building in Web3 for women, by women
The Vancouver-based panelists also found value in building in Web3 specifically to target women as an underrepresented market. Ashley Smith, also known as Bored Becky, is a co-founder of the Fame Lady Squad, the first female generative project on the blockchain. “It was very exciting to finally see women represented in the space,” she said. “Many people might think, ‘It's just JPEGs: who cares.’ But I think it was really a way for women to claim their digital identity in this emerging tech sector and just be a part of the fun.”
The digital identity of women in Web3 can also include the brands and industries they interact with. Olivia Lovenmark, for example, is building private social clubs in Web3 through her company Repose, where fashion and beauty brands and creators nurture their social followings in digital spaces.
When brands operate on social media platforms such as Instagram, they don’t “really own [their] digital real estate,” says Lovenmark. “As we increasingly spend time in digital spaces, we're going to need to look at how we own the experiences that we have: the participation and the events, [and] the accomplishments that we have in digital spaces.”. As followers, these experiences could be valuable assets for individuals to own, trade, and operate — rather than leaving social media platforms to profit.
The nascent industry still faces challenges around regulation and funding, especially in the eyes of the government. While some innovation in Web3 can be attributed geographically to the United States, the decentralized nature of the industry means that there is opportunity for any jurisdiction to create favourable policies for innovation. “I think it's a race right now to see who can do the best regulation,” said Nilsson. “Dubai stepped in and they're trying [to develop regulation]. I think that right now, if the U.S. doesn't step up and do regulation that doesn't stifle innovation, they're going to lose their leadership.”
In Canada, Web3 is still at a disadvantage for government funding, said Anastasia Hambali, director of partnerships at Boast.ai, a company that supports ventures to access R&D tax credits and government funding. “I think government funding will shy away from [Web3] for the next little while,” she said. “I personally haven't heard of any [Web3] founders who have successfully raised from IRAP.”
From a macroeconomic perspective, Web3 still finds itself in the midst of a bear market with hesitant funders, especially given recent events like the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX.
For budding Web3 entrepreneurs, Pocket Sun, co-founder and managing partner at SoGal Ventures – a venture capital fund focused on investing in women and diverse entrepreneurs in underserved geographies – emphasized the importance of finding tangible issues where Web3 can best provide a solution.
“If you’re in Web3, find a really good use case and find really good customers, so that your project success is not based on hype,” she said. “Because hype can come and go, and it's not sustainable. It doesn't contribute to your revenue. And even if it contributed to your revenue in the beginning, that value could drop. So focus on an actual problem worth solving.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Ashley Smith’s name and title.
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