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London Startup Talks #3: Women in the Blockchain

Hey! Here another chapter about women in startups and their thoughts about tech and women in tech. From Social Belly to BOTs, our journey is involving more tech: we’re talking about Women in Blockchain!

Why talking about Women in Blockchain?

The blockchain technology is evolving and becoming even more attractive and there are more and more startups trying to build a business in the field. Why shouldn’t women be involved? As one of the most important leaders in the sector said, women, step in!

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Stats by womenforblockchain.com

The interview with Quynh and Neha, women in the Blockchain ecosystem

In this article, we’ll learn everything we can about the Women in Blockchain, including technology and opportunities from two young women working in the field: Quynh Tran-Thanh and Neha Murarka.
I met those amazing girls at one of Techbees’ meetup in London during an amazing night dedicated to Blockchain, of course.
Quynh is a Quant Developer at CryptoCompare, a data analytics firm for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Neha is the co-founder of Smoogs.io a startup which aims to provide affordable content streaming solutions via Bitcoins.

1) When did you understand you wanted to be in tech?

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Quynh Tran-Thanh, Quant developer

Quynh: I realised I wanted to be in tech after my first hackathon experience around 2 years ago with a group of friends. Back then I was completely non-technical, I joined the hackathon as a project manager, but since we had to finish our prototype app in 48 hours, I ended up jumping in as a front end developer, doing basic html and CSS coding.

Neha: It was multiple things that finally led me to end up in tech. I first used a computer when I was 6 years old. My father had bought one from the US (I’m from India). I didn’t know what to expect when I first clicked on that button; would there be fireworks on the screen? Would an orchestra start the moment? But none of that happened of course. But what happened seemed so natural and ever since then using and being around a computer was the most natural thing to me.
I was always more inclined towards the sciences and maths through school. My school offered limited computer science courses but I found all of them way more interesting than my other classes. When I reached college I wasn’t sure what to pick. I landed up selecting a degree of Physics, Maths and Statistics; there was no Computer Science as an option at the time. But within a year, I was bored ad even though I liked the Maths field, I wanted to do something more interesting with it. I got an opportunity to go to USA to study Computer Science and it just felt… natural… again 🙂

2) Did someone help to achieve it? If yes, how big was his/her contribution?

Quynh: There are a lot of people that helped me along the way. Especially my team at my previous job, they just threw a C++ for beginners book at me when I told them I wanted to learn programming and gave me an opportunity to work on software projects (I was working as a quant analyst in banking). After 1 year, I quit that job and joined CryptoCompare as a developer.

Neha: I guess my father buying the computer had a lot to do with it. Because of his interest in the field, I landed up spending more time than my peers on a computer. If he hadn’t bought one all those years ago… I’m not sure I would have been so comfortable with it.

3) Why do you think Blockchain is the next big thing in tech?

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Neha Murarka, co-Founder of Smoogs.io, who won two awards at Digital Catapult’s Blockchain Pitch Off

Quynh: Blockchain is very interesting, as it has the potential to fundamentally change status quo. The main idea is to decentralise organisations, industries and networks. Just think about Google, Facebook and all the services or products we are using on a daily basis: they are mostly owned and controlled by a single company or entity. Blockchain promises a democracy of organisations by creating trust in an untrusted environment. I think the idea itself is already revolutionary, I hope that the technology will gain momentum soon.

Neha: I think it really depends on the area you are looking at. Personally, I think it has given the ability to add transparency in a lot of processes thereby reducing the chances of corruption in the system. Something so simple implies so much – people can be more in control of their money in banks, identity theft is virtually impossible, government ids can be used globally, middlemen are not required.
And when looking at the most successful application of the blockchain -being used as a currency like bitcoin- there are enormous implications for how money is managed across borders, the effects on financial inclusion, being able to go down to smaller denominations, financial services for the unbanked (approx. 2 billion worldwide)… Basically making money into a digital asset can changes lives for a lot of people.

4)What are you looking to achieve at CryptoCompare, Quynh? And how did you come up with the idea for Smoogs, Neha?

Quynh: CryptoCompare is a data analytics firm for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. We provide insight and data on trading of cryptocurrencies. Through this company, I am looking to educate people about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. I know bitcoin can sound like a scam at first, but I would like people to understand the underlying technology, the many advantages of it (such as micropayments and financial inclusion in the third world countries). I believe that the more people work on this technology, the safer it becomes.

Neha: My co-founder Duncan had been involved with cryptocurrencies since the early ’90s. And believe it or not, he had actually written a research paper in ’94, that talked about micropayments and the consumption of digital media through that. Finally, when bitcoin came around, there was a cryptocurrency that could fulfil his ‘prophecy’, so to speak, with a practical and real possibility of creating real micropayments.

5) Who’s inspiring you?

Quynh: I don’t have a single role model, but I take the best part of everyone I admire: The loyalty and fairness of my boyfriend, the patience and love of my family.

Neha: this might be very cliche but inspiration is all around. I learn something new from my tech team every day! This is something very important to understand about tech: it’s constantly changing and it’s impossible for one person to be completely up to date with the technology out there today.
So firstly, never be discouraged that you don’t know something but take that as inspiration to learn out of it–make it an advantage–and from that comes being inspired by the tech and people around you.

6) Best advice to give to an 18-years old girl looking to find/build her future path? 

Quynh: Don’t be scared. Make mistakes. Whenever you feel stuck in life, just read, read and read!!
Try different things but only quit if you achieved something. (I give these pieces of advice to everyone regardless of gender or age).

Neha: Honestly, being a developer is just so much fun. You can do so many different things with it… create an algorithm for perfectly fitting jeans, recommendation algorithms for your fashion tastes, identify art pieces with a computer programme, create a nurse robot for a hospital, a video game that helps people recover from heart strokes, create apps for a device that talks to your house to adjust the lights, help farmers get a credit score based on the colour of their crops… make a piece of technology do what you want it. It’s just fun and it can be applied in any field that you enjoy, may it be fashion, art, medicine, governance, media, robotics or anything else!

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Techbees’ Meetup [yeah, I’m the last one on the left)

Thanks for sharing your amazing experience girls and good luck, I’m sure you’re doing great!

ps: if you want to learn more about Blockchain and Bitcoins you should follow Techbees, the community born to engage everyone around those fields. And much more!

Startups Women in Startups

London Startup Talks #2: How to become a Bot Builder

Hey everyone!

It’s been quite a long time since my first ever London Startup Talk with the founder of Social Belly, and that happened for a couple of reasons: I’ve been experimenting a lot with my blog and I’ve decided to reserve this space to introduce amazing women entrepreneurs in tech.

Why the London Startup Talks Series?

During this year of blogging and consultancy for startups, I realised that, even if women are engaged in amazing projects, they’re less exposed than men and that’s not fair. We’re working twice as much, why can’t we have the same treatment? We’re always involved in diversity and equality topics or easily involved in the fashion industry or blogging contests, but why can’t we just talk about tech or engineering? Is it that strange asking a woman about her love for tech?
As I’m in love with tech, I’ve decided to interview the most amazing women I know and not only because we share the same love, but also to give them exposure and highlight what they do.
And of course to give you a bit of insight of what I feel about tech. 🙂

So, a few months ago I went to a Chatbot Meetup and together with the amazing organiser Kriti Sharma (recently featured on BBC for Ada Lovelace Day) I met with Anindita from Gupshup, a Bot Builder Platform, and Susana Duran, Director of Mobile Development at Sage.
I was curious to hear from them, learning about their experience, concerns and ideas about Bots and the next technologies, that’s why I decided to ask them a few questions.
And today I’m very happy to share this interview with all of you!

The interview with Anindita and Susana: become a BOT builder!

1) When did you understand you wanted to be in tech?

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Pic by Ian Schneider

Anindita: It was a natural progression. I always wanted to do something that would help people interact. Communicate better and faster. Technology is evolving so rapidly that every day is a new with a million promises.

Susana: My parents bought me my first computer when I was 10 years old and that was a long time ago. I liked it and I took some programming lessons by that time although it wasn’t very usual. Time went by and I started my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and after that a master degree.

2) Did someone help you achieving it? If yes, how big was his/her contribution?

Anindita: My mentor, boss and guide, the CEO of Gupshup.io. Mr. Beerud Sheth. He changed my perspective. Sometimes it is important to be futuristic yet elegantly simple.

Susana: My parents. Although they would have preferred other traditional careers, they provided all the support I needed since I was very young.

3) Why do you think Bots are the next big thing in tech?

Anindita: It is a once in a decade paradigm shift. It is similar to the web or the app wave. It will change the way people use technology to communicate. It will be a bigger and more powerful medium than anything we have seen before.

Susana: Mobile is the future and immediate and quick actions are the key. Mobile apps are also trying to follow the trail of bots with solutions like Google with Android Instant Apps but now bots provide the best and most complete solution for any platform.

Bots represent a once-in-a-decade paradigm shift. It is similar to the web or the app wave. It will change the way people use technology to communicate. It will be a bigger and more powerful medium than anything we have seen before.

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Pic by Fabian Irsara

4) Do you think there are more or fewer obstacles being Women in Tech?

Anindita: Depends. I think technology is a great leveller. It does not look at gender. It looks at innovation, usability and reach. If you have the grit and willingness to change and adapt to new things and to serve people, there is no stopping you.

Susana: Although everybody says there is no difference, women need to demonstrate more than men and by default are considered less valid for tech issues.

5) How do you think we can improve a more gender equality in STEM?

Anindita: Ability, humility and hard work. The world is changing. Gender biases will have to go away if there is talent.

Susana: Family is still a matter that is considered a woman duty, as well as all tech stuff is a man thing. Equality will be achieved when both things can be imagined for anyone.

6) Who’s inspiring you?

Anindita: My mentor, boss and guide, the CEO of Gupshup.io. Mr. Beerud Sheth

Susana:  There are lots of entrepreneurs and people who deserve being our inspiration but my inspiration mainly comes from my own overcoming instinct and my willing of continuous evolution. My family give me their support and even when I am frustrated and I think that this is too much they are always there to hug me and make me smile again.

Family is still a matter that is considered a woman duty, as well as all tech stuff is a man thing. Equality will be achieved when both things can be imagined for anyone.

7) The best advice to give to an 18-years old girl looking to find/build her future path

Anindita
:  it is important to be focused, but it is equally important to have fun. Great ideas come from a free mind. Changing these ideas to reality come with a disciplined self. All the best!

Susana: Do what will make you happy as you will probably spend the most part of your time and life on it. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s not going to be easy just try it.

 

giphy-girls-feeling-stupid

Conclusion

..and now we need to follow their advice, girls: do what makes you happy and remember to step outside your comfort zone! And if you feeling stupid, just do it anyway, it won’t be that stupid if it’s really what you want to do!

How are you feeling, girls?
Say hello on Twitter!

How are you feeling boys?
Does it sound like a bunch of stupid words? Read why we need your help

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Startups Women in Startups

London Startup Talks #1: Social Belly

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Hello everyone, are you enjoying your Friday ? I know Friday is not the most amazing day to read a blog post, but, no worries, it’s a simple, interesting and really nice one! 😉
This is the first of a new series of articles sharing the experience of early stage startups, especially when they’re run by women.
For this very first post, I’m glad to introduce you Dimple Lalwani, founder of Social Belly, a platform to let people host, take part and share amazing dinner parties.
If you have more questions for her, feel free to add them in your comments below! 😉

1) How did you come up with the idea of Social Belly?
I first came up with the idea of Social Belly towards the end of 2013. This was after I started hosting multiple dinner parties with friends of friends as a means to get to know new people. I was new to London and soon realised that my life was revolving around long hours at work and commuting from home to work. Most networking events I attended were a combination of drinks at pubs and/or work related events. But what I really wanted is to have a good meal with a few people I had common interests with. This is basically how it all started…social-belly-platform-screenshot

2) Being an expat, is it difficult to set up your own business in London?
Not at all. Actually, I felt it was easier to set up a company here than anywhere else. The procedures are really well explained plus there are lots of events for entrepreneurs to find out the first steps into starting a business. I definitely think that you need to be extremely passionate about what you’re doing. There’s a lot of research you should do and always try get the best deals out there. 

3) What are the main things you need to do at the start?
First, it’s important to validate your concept through an MVP. Make sure you don’t spend too much money on this, remember it’s a product with the highest return on investment versus risk. Second, really narrow down who exactly is your target market. It’s easy to say that everyone would use your product however it’s important to be very specific, it will be helpful when you start your marketing campaigns. Finally, listen to your users. Keep talking to them and ask them the key questions; why are they using your product?  Why did they sign up? Why would they visit your website again? 

social-belly-logo4) You’re based at Google Campus, which is the co-working space you’d suggest to people aiming to open a business in London?
Yes, and it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. I’m based at TechHub and the networking and community here is excellent. I had no background in startups before and I feel I’ve learnt so much in the past six months due to the community here. If you’re working on an idea, I’d recommend you work in either a co-working space or coffee shops within the tech city. It’s amazing how many people you’ll meet and build relationships with. For me, that’s been one of the biggest advantages since I started Social Belly.

5) Who’s the first person you would hire (or you have hired) at Social Belly?
It really depends on the business you’re in. I remember that one of the first things I needed for Social Belly was a prototype therefore I hired a Graphic Designer. After this we won a startup competition worth £50,000 from Simpleweb and from that we got some tech support as well. After that, we’ve hired a CTO and now on the lookout for a COO. 

6) Do you really think people will change their schedule to attend a dinner with strangers?
Absolutely. This trend has been going on for several years around the whole world. I think there is a definite market for people to meet like-minded people without the pressure of going on a date or a double date. When you’ve got a new job or when you’re new to a city, it becomes hard to meet new people outside of your circle and that’s where Social Belly comes in. We match Londoners based on common interests and let them bond over an authentic meal. 

7) Is friendship possible in the startup world?
In my opinion, your success as an entrepreneur will be strongly impacted by your ability to build new business relationships. It really depends what you consider to be a friendship. For example, I’m based at TechHub in Google Campus and I feel that we’ve become more than friends. When you’re working long hours and continuously supporting each other through difficult times, you become more like a family. Trust and support is key when you’re running a business and that’s probably the best thing about having your own startup. 

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