The Big Interview

Angelica Villarreal: Blockchain can open doors to equality and inclusion

Angelica Villarreal believes cryptocurrency will go mainstream in Mexico within the next three to five years. And she is calling for more women to get involved in the space

Coin Rivet: How did you get involved in the crypto and blockchain space?

Angelica Villarreal: It was not so long ago. I’ve been in the industry for the past three years. And it has been quite an exhilarating experience. I’m an engineer, so for me it wasn’t that difficult to understand the whole crypto and blockchain environment.

However, it was still amazing to learn about this revolutionary technology. I started working for a German company back in 2015, developing products such and services for paying with crypto. I began becoming involved in the whole business development side of things as well as project management.

CR: As a woman in blockchain working in a male-dominated field, can you tell us how welcoming your colleagues were and how you feel today?

AV: Many women are starting to take their place in the industry. There are so many amazing women involved in different areas, but when it comes to the technical aspects, it’s undoubtedly male-dominated. So, yes, it has been quite challenging, although I have to honestly say it’s more about what a person regardless of gender has to offer. It’s more about the experience and how to build connections.

I believe there’s much room for women in the industry in order to achieve some balance. I’ve had the privilege to meet women who are coders and developers who are doing fantastic work. I believe women are on the way to getting roots in the ground. I also firmly believe women have an extraordinary place in the industry.

CR: So in your opinion, will women make the blockchain and crypto space better?

AV: I think so, definitely. However, I believe balance is good and that men and women can complement eachother. Women have always been known for their multitasking abilities, and the blockchain is all about multitasking.

CR: What is the current female to male ration within the industry in Mexico and Latin America?

AV: Currently, I would say about 30 to 40% are women, and the remaining 60 to 70% are men, which is quite significant. However, I believe we’re on our way to balancing out the ratio because there are more and more talented women in tech.

CR: How do you see yourself bringing about change within the blockchain and crypto revolution?

AV: I believe many doors can be opened through blockchain and cryptocurrency. Many doors to equality and inclusion as well as many other opportunities. I’ve discovered these possibilities, and as an engineer, I can see myself opening up those doors to people with different needs. I have discovered some other fields in which I can help bring about change. Currently, however, I’m trying to make systems work better now that I am able to work with friends and people from around the world.

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CR: What kind of changes do you believe blockchain can bring to the world?

AV: Well, to begin with, a world that’s fairer and more transparent. Blockchain has the potential to enable people to create their own opportunities and start building their lives, their professions. It makes everything more transparent so it can take manipulative media out of the picture and allow people to see things as they are. You have the freedom to actually see by yourself what’s happening, which is great.

Inequality can be resolved as blockchain can help with a fairer distribution of wealth by enabling people to build communities and begin working with other similar communities. In Mexico and all countries for that matter, it opens the door to an equal society by helping to bridge the enormous gap between the very rich and the very poor, something that affects my country profoundly.

CR: So you see blockchain being used to fight poverty, corruption and inequality?

AV: Yes, for sure! Unfortunately, however, it’s not going to happen in the short-term. We’re definitely going to use blockchain to fight poverty and reduce corruption. There are people in Mexico and Venezuela that have resorted to cryptocurrency to circumvent local crises, and they’ve had the chance to see life-changing possibilities.

CR: In the case of Mexico, do have any information that may lead us to believe that Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office in December, will implement blockchain to fight corruption?

AV: I think so. Recently, news surfaced that Lopez Obrador and his team are exploring blockchain technology. However, it’s not only up to politicians and officials it’s also up to us, the blockchain and crypto community, to begin implementing blockchain systems.

This relatively new technology is increasingly being talked about in meetings I’ve attended where there have been government officials of all levels. Mexico still has a long way to go in regards to regulation, but there is increasing talk of the technology and a better understanding of its potential, and this is good.

CR: Since you entered the industry three years ago, how much has interest in cryptocurrency in Mexico grown?

AV: It’s a bubble as it is everywhere else. In Mexico that bubble is not a bubble in a wrong kind of way. Last year, it seemed as if nobody knew anything about cryptocurrency. Moreover, now it’s massive. When the price of Bitcoin made that massive leap, that information just stuck in people’s minds. Also, people in Mexico began asking, why is the industry growing so fas?. Even people from universities, people in my community and my friends didn’t know much about Bitcoin and crypto. Today, everybody appears to know something.

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CR: So would you then say cryptocurrency is becoming mainstream?

AV: I believe that in a way it already is. However, there is a huge void when it comes to what’s real and what’s not because there are many misunderstandings in the field. Some of my colleagues and I carried out market research which revealed that there are still many people who have the notion that everything to do with crypto is either bad or so volatile that it will make you poor.

It will go mainstream, but people, corporations and academia need to get the right message out there. We need to help people understand that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies along with blockchain are not only about investing and getting rich and poor again. It’s much more than that, it’s about banking inclusion, loans for the underserved, taking back control of your personal, professional and medical data. It’s our responsibility to make sure people understand the potential benefits.

CR: In your opinion, how long before crypto becomes mainstream in Mexico?

AV: I believe that it will happen in anywhere from three to five years. There’s been a boom in Mexico. Last year, few people were aware of cryptocurrencies but because there has been massive exposure in the media, interest and knowledge has increased.

CR: Can you tell me about ZenCash (now known as Horizen)?

AV:  Being part of the team is just amazing. ZenCash began as a privacy coin with privacy protocols written into our blockchain. We are a fork from Z-Cash, which comes from Z-Classic. So, in a way, we grew up and matured. We’ve integrated the best of Bitcoin’s different protocols, including SSI, Cash and Dash. And we’re now building a whole new privacy platform.

What I mean by this is we’ve been in the process of creating on top of blockchains. So, it’s more than only a cryptocurrency to invest in. It’s going to be products and services for people. We’re expanding on usability and scalability as well as reducing transaction times and fees. We have very talented people on our team and amazing advisors, including Charles Hoskinson from Cardano. We’ve focused a lot on research and development to become more than just crypto but rather a whole ecosystem.

CR: What has been your greatest challenge within the industry?

AV: I believe it has been communicating the right things to people and getting them to understand it’s real and that it’s unbelievable that such a cool industry exists. However, there are sceptical people in Mexico so it’s about telling them how important and empowering crypto and blockchain can be for all of us.

Our Mexican history and our politicians have made sceptics of us all. We are not a dreamer country. I have to say we are more driven by ‘let’s work and give the best of ourselves and then we’re going to have something good in our lives’. It’s not like I can dream and hope for the best and those things will come. It’s more like prove it to me, prove me wrong, you know? So, yes, the biggest challenge is to communicate the benefits of cryptocurrency.

CR: What has been the biggest highlight of your career thus far within blockchain and crypto?

AV: Being offered such a cool job at Horizen, especially considering I’m only 25 years of age. I’m in charge of a whole country and an entire region (Latin America). I have the trust of the firm’s founders to help them open up markets in the area and spread the word about crypto.

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CR: The most surprising question somebody has asked you about cryptocurrency or blockchain?

AV: They’ve asked me if Bitcoin is a scam and if it is used to steal money. Another surprising question has been how I got this job being so young. I reply with  ‘dude!’, I read, you know. I do research, and that’s it. I’m not a genius, a coder or a developer. It’s about reading and doing my homework’.

CR: What for you is the most significant thing about cryptocurrency?

AV: That it is a currency that allows you to have way more control of your money. It gives you far more independence because you no longer need financial intermediaries.

CR: The most amazing thing you believe blockchain can do to change the world?

AV: Blockchain will bring freedom, and it will empower people to have that freedom. I own my own time and my own money.

CR: Where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?

AV: I do have a lot of hopes, expectations and dreams. For me it’s about starting a movement and telling people about how amazing this is. So I see myself founding a blockchain school to prepare people to become involved in the industry. I also want to have my own footprint in the world by helping people through non-profit organisations. I would like to help women to take steps into the field. I want to see myself in 10 years being very happy with what I’ve become and with what I’ve accomplished.

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