The Vancouver women making a dent in the city’s Web3 space
Here are some of the people helping make Web3 more inclusive.
A few weeks before Christmas, I noticed my Twitter feed starting to buzz with references to Web3, signalling to me that the time had come to figure out what it was all about. I already knew what NFTs were and was investing in crypto but had little knowledge of the rest of the industry.
To be honest, I still don’t fully understand what Web3 is or why someone would want to participate in “it”, so the easiest way for me to think about it is as an evolution.
Web1 was the period of building critical mass and getting people and businesses online to view static websites with logins that require usernames and passwords. Web2 is our current internet that is much more social and relies on multinational corporations for participation and monetization. This era also allows you to move beyond the username/password login and towards using other platforms (that are owned by these massive corporations) to log on.
Leveraging blockchain, Web3 is the next step in the evolution of the internet that is seeing concepts, applications, and ideas built with this technology. Put another way, if Web2 has been operated by tech giants where your data and information are owned by them, Web3 is decentralized and gives power back to the people since users can own their data and the platforms. We will have our own digital wallets that we will use to log into things.
You’re likely already aware that Vancouver is a burgeoning tech hub with a lively Web3 scene. If not, you’re in luck—fellow Vancouver Tech Journal contributor Ray Walia put together this primer on Vancouver’s Web3 scene.
But, to be honest, I didn’t see myself or the Vancouver I know accurately reflected in the piece. Where were all the women? And more importantly, where were all the women of colour?
As of 2016, less than half of Metro Vancouver’s population (49.3 percent) was white, and while Ray’s piece included some women and women of colour, it just didn’t feel entirely reflective of reality. And this isn’t a knock on Ray; he literally said that he was just going off the top of his head, so surely there are going to be gaps.
I consider myself to be “extremely online,” insofar as I consume a lot of news, know all the memes, and have often heard about the Main Character of the day. Because of that, it’s easier for me to grasp what Web3 is. However, when I sought to speak to Vancouver women working in Web3 and asked them how they explained what they do to the extremely not-online people in their lives, the responses had few common threads.
“What most people can agree on is that it's an ownership economy where your accomplishments are on a chain, making it immutable data that everybody can see. Nobody can really stop you from contributing and building something and owning a piece of that, so it removes the corporate influence that we have with other social media where your data is owned by a person or company,” says Leilani Ledingham, a product marketing manager at Covalent.
For Jae Heller, co-founder of Rapture Labs, Web3 is more about community and removing the middleman from online transactions, “rather than me having to take my money, put it in PayPal and then transfer it, I can just send it directly to another wallet.”
Meanwhile, Brook Charles, head of artistic partnerships at West Coast NFT, sees it as an opportunity for women artists and others traditionally excluded from the art world to “benefit from all of their hard work and ensure that they're able to reap the rewards of their hard work by making a living for the first time in history.”
To be honest, I was surprised not only by the responses I received but also by the diversity of the roles the women I spoke to had in the Web3 space. On Twitter especially, there is a lot of discussion around NFT drops and the artists behind the art. While this is great for building hype and branding, it’s generally not ideal for people to get a sense of what an industry is like.
Ultimately, Web3 is a nascent industry that will increasingly have opportunities, but it’s important to emphasize that there are jobs in this industry now. It’s how someone in marketing, sales, or business development can take their career to the next level, much like Ledingham, Charles, or Indira Smith (a marketing coordinator at Covalent).
The newness of the industry makes it easier than ever to carve out a niche and become an early expert or wear multiple hats, which is what Katreena Tecson, a Web3 multi-hyphenate making the most of being an early adopter, told Vancouver Tech Journal.
“When I talk to women, I tell them the basics of web 2.0, how it's evolving, and how they’re going to be part of Web3 eventually, so they might as well be early because yes, it can be profitable and yes, they're looking for a lot of talent. Right now, you don't even have to be an expert in the space because they need accountants, marketers, anything in the traditional world—a lot of those positions haven’t been filled yet.”
Others like Tecson (partnerships at Coco NFT, NFT consultant, and metaverse architect) are taking advantage of entering the industry early, including Carmilla Sumantry, an NFT artist and NFT creative strategy advisor, and Juliana Loh, who is an artist who works in metaverse design and creates empathy VR experiences.
Then, of course, there’s the founder route that Heller and Janice Taylor are taking. Heller (Draft Kings) is working on Rapture Labs with other well-known Vancouver tech faces in Dario Meli (Invoke, Quietly, Foodee) and Paul Becker (Art Rapture). Rapture Labs is a creative development company specializing in Web3 technology, with a focus on community development, DeFi gaming (play to earn), and expanding culture through blockchain building and integration.
Taylor (Mazu, AHAVA) is the founder and CEO of EQ, a platform that helps creators build capital and wealth through maintaining intellectual property rights, for example, through NFTs or on a Web3 platform.
But these aren’t the only Vancouver women in Web3. Others include Sonia Chhinji (kern.al), Shahrzad Rafati (BBTV), Jacqueline Kim Perez (Covalent), Ashley Smith (From the Blockchain podcast and Fame Ladies), Annika Lewis (Gitcoin) and Caty Tedman (Dapper Labs), to name a few.
Says Sumantry about the influx of women in Web3: “We're still so early and I think it's really important that there are voices like mine, voices of women and people of colour, and the queer community who are making some noise before mass adoption occurs so that there’s a safe place for people on the margins.”
Tech is no longer exclusively a boys’ club, let that be known.