Tavonia Evans: The Entrepreneur at the Intersection of Blockchain and Women Advocacy
by Analytics Insight
April 4, 2022
Traditionally, the crypto industry is considered a ‘boys club’ since most of the executive roles in the industry were undertaken by men. But now, more and more women are spearheading the initiative of breaking the stereotypes and building an all-inclusive crypto and blockchain domain. Several major projects are being undertaken by women entrepreneurs who are hell-bent on breaking all the taboos and shackles that prevent women from building a career in a tech-focused area. One such entrepreneur is Tavonia Evans.
Analytics Insight has engaged in an interview with Tavonia Evans, Founder at Guapcoin & Block4Hire. During the conversation, she takes us through her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges she faced, and her interest in blockchain technology.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey and your responsibilities at Guapcoin and Block4Hire.com.
Tavonia Evans: I am a founder, blockchain engineer, technologist, and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience. I am the Founder and Creator of Guapcoin, a cryptocurrency focused on closing the wealth gap and providing access to crypto for African-Americans, Latinx people, and the global African Diaspora. I am the Co-Founder of Block4Hire.com, a platform that connects blockchain talent with budding entrepreneurs and companies. I am also the CTO of Black Wall Street, a cryptocurrency wallet and community aimed at empowering investors of color.
As a woman of color, I have had to step up and amplify my voice in an industry where women (especially Black Women) have less visibility. My first feature in Glamour Magazine, amongst other women leaders in crypto, tuned me in 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 I was in the future of money in general.
I was also impacted by my visit to Congress in 2019 as the Georgia delegate to the Nat’l Policy Network WOC Blockchain founded by former Obama Presidential Appointee Cleve Mesidor. During this trip, we spoke with policymakers to make them aware of our presence, voice, and expertise in the blockchain space, which is critical to our inclusion in the policy-making discussions.
What are the primal challenges you encountered while creating a foundation in the crypto industry as a woman?
Tavonia Evans: The biggest challenge I faced was one of the exact adversaries I was attempting to solve. It is the access to funding for founders of colors. This was my second startup, it was during my first startup, a company called ‘Safe2meet’, a P2P verification platform, that I discovered that Black women get less than 1% of VC or capital funding for their companies. So as a founder, it was disheartening that my partner and I (despite being two successful black women in tech) could not 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 crypto (Guapcoin) is essentially money, and as the days go by, it becomes closer and closer to becoming accepted as legal tender everywhere.
I also encountered the challenge of the lack of blockchain and cryptocurrency awareness and education amongst the community that I serve. Not only would I have to become the pioneer in a community that didn’t have an awareness of what cryptocurrency or decentralized is, in particular, but I also had to be the evangelist that is prepared to educate 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’s a daunting task to take on with zero capital, but an absolute necessity if I were to achieve my objective of onboarding them onto Guapcoin. I found it in the end to be a very liberating, exciting, and challenging way to connect with the people on the grassroots level.
My final challenge was finding blockchain talent and resources to support our project. Blockchain resources are scarce in our industry because technology is evolving at a fast pace. I had to hire offshore resources on a shoestring budget. I found myself managing hundreds of servers and also having to provide tech support all while running an organization for some time. The first two years were exhausting, to say the least. Eventually, teams began to build within the community, but as an organization, we are still operating well beneath our needs.
These challenges have not gone away and will continue to be a problem for women and women of color starting blockchain companies. Despite all the challenges I have experienced (and will continue to), I remain bullish about the future of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. It’s clear that this industry is still in its early days 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: Blockchain tech leaders or influencers must possess tenacity and endurance because it will be essential for them to build the trust that will foster the adoption of their platform or blockchain in general. This space is built largely on trust, utilizing a trust-less system, or a system that isn’t dependent on people or middle man to be the authorities that establish trust. In the end, we in the blockchain space are pushing for the mass adoption of a new way of exchanging value. That means we have to largely appeal to the common man and woman and address their concerns with the safety and security of relinquishing a financial system that has not benefited them equitably for a new system that could offer more fairness and freedom. In undertaking this task, one has to take into account the length of time it could take before your platform could actually be accepted.
Bitcoin itself has been around for, well, over a decade now and it is still establishing itself despite being the first cryptocurrency. It also takes time to educate people to the point where they are comfortable enough and savvy enough to navigate the crypto space like they are 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 around those roadblocks. Our main pain point is the frustration people feel when they encounter new tech and may not be willing to endure certain obstacles. Many simply give up and abandon these apps or tools. We work at defining methods of dealing with public frustrations by first acknowledging their concerns and perspectives and lastly crafting experiences that alleviate them. We are able to tap into our own culture and translate blockchain technology into use cases that fit within the confines 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 has to take into consideration the blockchain way of working in the world of finance. Old financial systems and technology, now, have to be brought up to speed and it has to evolve at a fast pace in an ever-changing way.
Leaders have to become more flexible and be open to change, and they have to become more technologically savvy if they want to stay competitive. Leaders are now also required to become evangelists to the public as a requirement in establishing trust in their tech.
How do you envision Guapcoin transforming the decentralized ecosystem?
Tavonia Evans: I see Guapcoin as a financial voice for the common 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 in the blockchain. We are still fairly early in this space so the majority of the people who are impacted have not shown up yet, but they will. When they show up, we want to have built an ecosystem that suits their comfort level and most 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, share your ideal advice for budding blockchain leaders and influencers.
Tavonia Evans: My advice to emerging leaders in the blockchain is to stay on course, this is one of the most transformative spaces in tech. There is a lot of work to be done and there is a need for people to step up to the plate and do it. You have to diversify your knowledge and your connection to people. As a leader in blockchain, you wear many hats, you are a pioneer, a teacher, a technologist, and a philanthropist.