Tavonia Evans: The Entrepreneur at the Intersection of Blockchain and Women’s Advocacy
April 4, 2022
Traditionally, the cryptocurrency industry is considered a “boys club” as most of the executive positions in the industry are held by men. But now, more and more women are spearheading the push to break stereotypes and build an all-inclusive blockchain and crypto domain. Several important projects are being undertaken by women entrepreneurs who are hell-bent on breaking all the taboos and shackles that prevent women from developing a career in a technology-focused field. One such entrepreneur is Tavonia Evans.
Analytics Insight has conducted an interview with Tavonia Evans, founder of Guapcoin & Block4Hire. During the conversation, she takes us through her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges she faced, and her interest in blockchain technology.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and your responsibilities at Guapcoin and Block4Hire.com.
Tavonia Evans: I am a founder, blockchain engineer, technologist and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience. I am the founder and creator of Guapcoin, a cryptocurrency focused on closing the wealth gap and providing access to cryptocurrencies for African Americans, Latinos, and the global African diaspora. I am the co-founder of Block4Hire.com, a platform that connects blockchain talent with entrepreneurs and startups. I am also the CTO of Black Wall Street, a cryptocurrency wallet and community whose goal is to empower investors of color.
As a woman of color, I had to step up and amplify my voice in an industry where women (especially black women) have less visibility. My first article in Glamor magazine, among other leading women in crypto, put me attuned to the importance of the work I was doing, until then I really wasn’t aware. I thought I was just creating a platform. I didn’t know how impactful it would be on the future of money in general.
I was also impacted by my visit to Congress in 2019 as a Georgia delegate to the National Policy Network WOC blockchain founded by former Obama presidential appointee Cleve Mesidor. During this journey, we spoke to policymakers to make them aware of our presence, voice, and expertise in the blockchain space, which is critical to our inclusion in policymaking discussions.
What are the main challenges you faced in building a foundation in the crypto industry as a woman?
Tavonia Evans: The biggest challenge I faced was one of the exact adversaries I was trying to solve. It’s access to funding for founders of color. This was my second startup, it was during my first startup, a company called ‘Safe2meet’, a P2P verification platform, that I found out that Black women get less than 1% of venture capital or financing from their companies. So as a founder, it was disheartening that my partner and I (despite being two successful black women in tech) couldn’t raise the money we needed to scale our MVP. This led me to launch Guapcoin, which I felt could eventually open up more capital and more options for people like me. After all, cryptocurrency (Guapcoin) is essentially money, and as the days go by, it gets closer and closer to being accepted as legal tender everywhere.
I was also challenged by a lack of blockchain and cryptocurrency awareness and education among the community I serve. Not only would I have to become the pioneer in a community that had no knowledge of cryptocurrency or decentralization in particular, but I also had to be the evangelist who is prepared to educate the masses of people. I had to combine the skills of an educator and a marketer because I would be touching all levels of society, technical and non-technical, all at once. It is a daunting task to take on with zero capital, but an absolute necessity if I were to achieve my goal of incorporating them into Guapcoin. In the end, I found it to be a very liberating, exciting, and challenging way to connect with people at a grassroots level.
My final challenge was finding blockchain talent and resources to support our project. Blockchain resources are scarce in our industry because the technology is evolving at a fast pace. I had to hire resources abroad on a shoestring budget. I found myself managing hundreds of servers and also having to provide technical support while running an organization for some time. The first two years were exhausting, to say the least. Teams eventually began to build within the community, but as an organization, we are still operating far below our needs.
These challenges have not gone away and will continue to be an issue for women and women of color starting blockchain businesses. Despite all the challenges I have (and will continue to) experience, I remain optimistic about the future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. It is clear that this industry is still in its infancy and there is a lot of room for innovation. These challenges have made me stronger and more resilient, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Guapcoin and my other projects in this space.
Describe some of the vital attributes and ideal qualities that a blockchain leader should possess.
Tavonia Evans: Tech leaders or blockchain influencers need to possess tenacity and resilience because it will be essential for them to build the trust that will encourage adoption of their platform or blockchain in general. This space is very much based on trust, using a trustless system, or a system that does not depend on people or intermediaries to be the authorities that establish trust. In the end, we in the blockchain space are pushing for mass adoption of a new way of exchanging value. That means we have to appeal heavily to ordinary men and women and address their concerns about the safety of giving up a financial system that has not benefited them equally for a new system that could offer more justice and freedom. When undertaking this task, you have to take into account the time that may pass before your platform can be accepted.
Bitcoin itself has been around for, well, over a decade and is still establishing itself despite being the first cryptocurrency. It also takes time to educate people to the point where they feel comfortable enough and smart enough to navigate the crypto space as if they were used to navigating the banking system.
Where do you get the ideas to innovate and how do you make them fruitful?
Tavonia Evans: At Guapcoin and Black Wall Street, we innovate by anticipating every possible roadblock our audiences will encounter and creating solutions for those roadblocks. Our main pain point is the frustration people feel when they encounter new technology and may not be willing to put up with certain obstacles. Many simply give up and abandon these apps or tools. We work on defining methods to deal with public frustrations, first acknowledging their concerns and perspectives and, lastly, crafting experiences that alleviate them. We can tap into our own culture and translate blockchain technology into use cases that fit the boundaries of what we need as people of color.
How do you think blockchain has impacted leadership roles in the traditional financial world?
Tavonia Evans: Blockchain impacts us by transforming the way we use and spend money. It is also redefining what “money” is in most cases. Anything financial now must take into account the way blockchain works in the world of finance. The old financial systems and technology now have to be updated and have to evolve at a fast pace in a constantly changing way.
Leaders must become more flexible and open to change, and they must become more technologically savvy if they want to remain competitive. Leaders are also now required to become evangelists to the public as a requirement to establish trust in their technology.
How do you imagine Guapcoin will transform the decentralized ecosystem?
Tavonia Evans: I see Guapcoin as a financial voice for ordinary people in the future. We are constantly expanding our vision to be more inclusive of everyone, particularly those whose voices have yet to be heard on the blockchain. We’re still pretty early in this space, so most of the affected people haven’t come forward yet, but they will. When they do appear, we want to have created an ecosystem that fits their comfort level and, more importantly, has invested in building the trust they need to thrive in it. We are going to have a world of blockchains and blockchain ecosystems that interconnect and make everyone feel valued in some way.
As a final note, please share your ideal advice for budding blockchain leaders and influencers.
Tavonia Evans: My advice to emerging leaders in blockchain is to stay the course, this is one of the most transformative spaces in technology. There is a lot of work to be done and people need to take the initiative and get it done. You have to diversify your knowledge and your connection with people. As a leader in blockchain, you wear many hats, you are a pioneer, a teacher, a technologist, and a philanthropist.