Marina Titova, head of advisory at the NKB Group blockchain investment bank, says she was taking a break from her previous role in traditional investment banking when she began exploring blockchain, as some of her former colleagues from Morgan Stanley were “doing something exciting in blockchain out of Los Angeles.”
“At that time, my impression about the blockchain was mostly around the Silk Road dark net prosecution case that I read about in the FT,” she tells me. “As I started to dig more into the technology, however, I realised that there is huge potential in both blockchain technology and crypto.
“I feel like in this sector, I can make a real difference as part of a small team in a space wide open for innovation.”
Blockchain is on the “leading edge of technology” so this where you meet a lot of strongly motivated, amazingly bright individuals, she says. “I love working with entrepreneurs who are highly motivated and keen to change the world.
“The nature of the industry means that I meet and interact with these kinds of people a lot.”
She’s passionate around data and privacy. “The amounts of data we generate over the course of our lives has been growing exponentially, yet we usually do not have the ability to benefit from it and instead are effectively the product ourselves for large internet companies.”
She says blockchain has a very natural use case here. “Companies like Doc.ai and Nebula Genomics, for example [who have featured in Coin Rivet previously] are building a better world within healthcare by allowing individuals to take control of their health data by collecting and owning it and being able to securely share it for a reward.”
This accelerates medical research and contributes to science while individuals get “unique insights” into their health.
There are so women in blockchain, she believes, because “this industry evolved from engineering and developer backgrounds that historically were dominated by men.”
Women in blockchain
“I think the key is to focus how to change it. In order to engage more women into the blockchain industry, as with all other industries, all of us need to always try to become aware about potential biases we have.
“It’s easiest to think of a specific stereotype of a person who would seemingly fit the role best, but in many cases it would mean another person who might be a much better fit would be overlooked.”
She urges women who are not of a technical background not to be discouraged thinking “that in this space you can only become successful if you are a developer. There are a lot of roles evolving in the ecosystem that can suit a variety of backgrounds and skillsets well.”
She’s witnesses some amazing efforts out of the Oxford Blockchain Group and urges other universities to catch up.
The wild fluctuations in the cryptocurrency market of 2018 was a classic bubble scenario. “On the positive side, it brought a lot of interest and broader awareness into the space. On the negative side, the excesses of the bull market inevitably meant perhaps overly negative sentiment that we find ourselves in now.
“This is nothing new though, and over history this has played out many times with various assets.”
She says she prefers normalised market conditions rather than another leg of full-blown bull market. “I think where we are right now, we will probably start to see some strong signs of recovery about four to six months from now. If this will be the case, this will still be a much shorter cycle than say how it was for the internet, as generally the world seems to be accelerating.”
Mass adoption takes time
Mass adoption will come, she argues, and “the true believers in the technology (who will stay throughout this bear market) ought to think so. Otherwise it is simply not worth the effort to stay in the space.” She thinks it will “take much longer than we think – we are probably talking over three to five years, rather than one to two.”
There’s unlikely to be the same level of wider public interest than in 2018 this year as the “gradual building of the infrastructure continues, and so does the arrival of institutions into the space, which is very encouraging,” she adds.
The situation with ICOs is just a reflection of the bubble in crypto. “Unfortunately, it almost seemed necessary that many investors needed to lose money to let off some steam from the space”, she says.
“I think we will see continued institutionalism which would mean more fundraisings done via private placement exemptions where mainly institutional investors come in, and more so for equity, or a combination of equity and tokens rather than solely tokens.”
Crowdfunding exemptions also seem to pick up in Europe, as the amount that is allowed to raise is higher than in the US.
She calls for more regulation around fundraising activities for new blockchain projects that were in the past financed by ICOs to be regulated as other similar activities in asset classes are. This “seems to be where most regulators are going anyway mostly by applying existing securities laws.”
As for the cryptocurrency itself, she says “we can see it working best where existing financial systems are not robust enough – in jurisdictions with high inflation or insufficient banking infrastructure.” Regulation needs to be balanced there as for many individuals in those countrie,d crypto is “simply the only way to get access to the financial system.”
The space is “still very immature, which means that there is a risk of participants who do not necessarily operate ethically,” she adds. “As the market matures, I think it will become more and more important that individuals from traditional capital market backgrounds, with the right governance experience, come and join the market to raise standards around investing in blockchain and crypto projects.”