Exclusive: in the latest of our women in cryptocurrency series, ICOBox’s Daria Generalova talks to us about her story, and the tendency for the industry to ‘overcorrect’…
When discussing the position of women in crypto from the outside, it’s tempting to look at any incremental changes as a seismically positive moves but, for those working everyday within the industry, it’s much easier to see them for what they are – a start. We spoke to Daria Generalova, managing partner at ICOBox, about her experience, and her hopes for the future.
Like so many, Generalova got into crypto through chance, in her case after a move to Canada. Jobless and bored, she called her friend asking if they had any positions open, and was suddenly thrown into the world of fintech.
“Quite soon after that blockchain became ‘a thing’, so we switched gears and started crypto mining and then went on to ICOs,” she told Crypto News Review. “At some point I got a job with a boutique ICO agency but we very quickly realised that what we really wanted to do was ICOs on a much larger scale. Otherwise, by the time one ICO was over, the market would’ve changed so much that we’d have no idea how to do the next one.”
And so ICOBox was born, billing itself as ‘the first and biggest new generation blockchain growth promoter and business facilitator for companies seeking to sell their products via ICO crowdsales’. The company now operates across more than ten countries with over 150 team members.
“Blockchain in general is a great infrastructure, so I’m sure in the coming years it’s going to be big in all areas of our lives,” Generalova said. “I’m not really a fan or believer in anarchy theories, and I’m pretty certain that blockchain will be used as a tool by businesses and governments rather than to bring them down or anything like that, like some blockchain enthusiasts are suggesting”.
“As for ICOs, they are merging with the traditional finance world as we speak, and it will happen much sooner than in 5-10 years. It will be a much more stable and clear business, though many will consider it much more boring. And being a marketing person myself, I will probably miss all these headlines touting ‘disruption’ and ‘revolution’.”
Despite its ability so far to shake up the fintech industry and warrant such hyperbolic terms, however, one thing that hasn’t changed so much is the position of women and minorities in the crypto and blockchain space. Generalova believes that, while there are many reasons to think that things can improve, people en masse are not known for their ability to learn from past mistakes.
She continued: “There is definitely more opportunity to change, and I believe we’ll use some accumulated previous experience to avoid at least some of the known mistakes. I’m not optimistic enough, though, to believe that we can avoid all of them. Sometimes we humans are overly enthusiastic or too arrogant to learn from history.”
Her experience of operating within the industry as a woman has been mixed, she says, in that she feels sometimes companies can pat themselves on the back for any perceived diversity, or highlight female staff members and speakers in a way that can do more harm than good
“I’d say that my opinion may be somewhat unorthodox,” she said. “I don’t really think it’s a lack of diversity among speakers; it’s a lack of diversity in the industry overall. But I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault, quite the opposite actually! I heard someone say once, ‘Let her present, she is a woman, the audience will listen to her’, or “What can we do to bring more women into blockchain?’. This actually makes me feel a bit odd too.
“I don’t want to present just because I’m a woman, I want to present because I actually have something interesting to say. And I really don’t like that women are treated as being so passive that they need to be ‘brought in’ by other people rather than being able to decide for themselves what they want to do.”
In an environment where the lack of diversity within teams is a topic of constant scrutiny then, there is a tendency for firms to perhaps overcorrect without actually adding anything of real value.
She continued: “This phenomenon sometimes takes absolutely ridiculous forms. I once discovered that our own team was presented on our website in a totally chaotic order. After asking around I found out that some colleagues were so proud to have women on board that they put the whole team in the ‘boy/girl/boy’ order instead of by seniority or by departments or in any other meaningful way.”
This can be looked at in a positive or negative light – perhaps companies are becoming more aware that diversity is needed as part of a functioning company in order to thrive, but this means very little if women are tokenised and treated as a marketing move rather than equal parts of a whole.
On the ICO space moving forward, she added: “Everybody was talking about an ICO bubble and comparing it to the dot-com boom, and still lots of people lost their money. Now people are much more cautious about the projects they fund – which is a good thing, but it comes at a great cost.”