The State of Women in Crypto and Blockchain: Rachel Cook
Today we hear from Rachel Cook, the founder and CEO of Seeds, which allows you to ask the internet for help—and receive it a gift—with no strings attached. Rachel discusses how she entered the crypto and blockchain space, and where she saw a great need and opportunity: in leveraging blockchain technology to transcend the zero-sum parts of our economy, so that together we can move into “a true economic system of abundance.”
How did you first become involved with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology?
I started paying attention to Bitcoin after it came up in a few conversations back in early to mid-2013, I think. I specifically remember an econ professor I had had at Duke, whom I had kept in touch with, mentioning it. I used to be a futures and equities trader, and when the Fed seized all of Silk Road's Bitcoin in September or October of 2013 the price dropped, and the trader in me recognized that it was probably a good time to buy, so I started then. I began purchasing it at around $90, and was really excited about what it could mean in terms of reshaping what was dysfunctional about the financial system.
In 2014, the startup I founded, Seeds, went through a Bitcoin-focused startup accelerator program called Boost VC. At the time, we were moving capital to help people in need in Kenya and it seemed like doing so on the blockchain would make a lot of sense at the right time, so I was interested in exploring more about how that would work within the context of our product. It also seemed clear that the big opportunity for mass adoption was in the developing world.
How has your background in areas like economics and studying how lending and finance impact women informed your insights in this space?
I minored in economics at Duke because I thought that I should do so to make myself look more employable. I remember sitting in some of those classes and just thinking, like, this entire field of study presumes that people are rational and act in their own best interest, and that is often not the case. The founding presumption seemed to me to be very obviously flawed. But it wasn't until I became a futures and equities trader a couple years out of college that I really began to think critically about how bogus the system was for women. I was always the only female trader, or one of the only female traders, and at one trading firm I learned that I was paid a 15 percent lower base salary than the eight men who started at the same time I did—despite my having a better educational background than all of them, and experience as a profitable trader that only one other guy had. And I had tried to negotiate the starting salary, so it's possible that that contributed, but gender discrimination certainly seemed to be the big contributing variable.
After that, I really started to try and think through how and why systemic misogyny operated within the financial sphere, and what I could do to change that.
I've noticed women—especially in the absence of a system that recognizes their expertise and authority—often tend to reach out and collaborate with one another. Have you noticed this as well, and do you think it blends well with the newer, decentralized blockchain/crypto system, by taking out intermediaries like financial institutions and letting us interact more directly?
I agree, and I think this is a profound insight. I love that you're seeing this as well. I've been reflecting often about the concepts of masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, and how all humans have both. I feel certain that the reason for many of the problems we're seeing in the world today has to do with patriarchal societies overvaluing masculine energy and undervaluing feminine energy. Women and men get taught to overvalue the masculine—the "doing" energy, the "active" and "productive," even if what you're doing isn't the right thing. And we get taught to undervalue the feminine "being" energy, and I think that listening, receptivity, reflection, and emotional connection all fall into this category.
Because we live in a patriarchal system, I think this energy imbalance has infused our institutions. So with regard to your question, it's a powerful thing when we can go around that energy block and find new, more balanced ways to interact without having to kind of hit that patriarchal wall. I think that women are instinctively finding ways to do so, and have throughout history, but with the advent of blockchain technologies, we can now do so in a way that has the potential to allow us to self-actualize like nothing else has.
Since this field lies at the intersection of two areas in which women are still often underrepresented—finance and technology—it can often still be an environment dominated by men. What are some good ways to support women in this space?
Even though this is my own project—or, maybe more accurately, this is my project precisely for this reason—I believe that Seeds tokens are the best means of supporting women in finance and tech right now, at least to my knowledge. So I'd say to buy Seeds tokens, and try redeeming one to ask our system for help with something you need, to get a sense of how it works. Gift them to your friends or other folks who are in need. Share them with other women so that they can redeem them to make requests for help as well. Seeds tokens allow you to get the resources you need so that you're not wasting energy worrying about having resources, and you're working on what you love—what you were meant to do on this planet—instead.
What are you working on right now that you're most excited about?
Seeds tokens. I believe I've landed upon a way that can help us shift up from the current extractive economic system, to a true economic system of abundance. I talked about this when we competed in TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield here, as you can see in my pitch in the video toward the bottom, if you'd like. If you want to get a hold of some Seeds tokens to give them a try, you can do so at www.seedstokens.com.
What else would you love women to know about this growing field? How can women best make their mark in this industry?
Again, I don't want this to sound like some forced, weird self-promotion, but truly, I think that women can get a Seeds token, ask our system for what they need to get the resources necessary, and then just go out and build those things. They can use a token to ask our system for literally any help that they need, so long as it's legal. It can be for startup resourcing, to cover old debt, to get the support needed to quit a job that they hate so that they can explore doing the thing that they love.
This way, once we have this support in place, then we're not wasting any additional time fighting the current system to try and make it give us what we need. Instead, we can channel our energy into creating.
Find out more about Seeds tokens or try them out at www.seedstokens.com.