Jonha Richman is a firm believer that people in blockchain and cryptocurrency needed to be judged on their talent – and not on their connections or gender.
She’s an entrepreneur, CMO, adviser and blockchain influencer who says she thrives on helping great companies get the attention they deserve – by helping them identify their unique story and advising them on which narrative to focus on.
Previously, she has worked with Unilever, Ikea, Sony Pictures and OCBC Bank and creatives Leo Burnett, Media Contacts and VML Qais.
She’s a keynote speaker and mentor in Google Business Group, Startup Weekend and conferences around the world. Her work has been featured in numerous publications. She sits on the advisory board of a number of blockchain companies.
In 2017, she was recognised as one of the top 10 females in crypto.
It was six years ago when one of her colleagues at RebelMouse introduced them to Bitcoin. “I did a bit of digging when there wasn’t much information written about Bitcoin and it its underlying technology blockchain,” she says.
“I was convinced that if we were to experience another imminent financial crisis, people who don’t normally have access or felt like they’ve missed the board on usual hedges such as gold and silver, are likely to turn to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.”
She says she looks up to Mike Novogratz “for his consistent efforts in bring in institutional players in the industry,” to Anthony Pompliano “for busting various myths about bitcoin and providing objective updates to keep people from speculating, and focus on the crucial numbers.”
She also looks up to Rachel Wolfson “for her ability to sift through the noise and highlight interesting projects and their underlying stories.”
On the diversity – or lack of – in the space, she muses: “I look forward to the day when we are all recognised based on our own talents and merits – regardless of race or gender.”
On the price fluctuations of recent weeks she says: “Every industry will always have speculators, market shapers and shakers. Even tech had its dotcom bubble, so it is pretty normal for blockchain to undergo a similar cycle.
“The market and the whole industry has an interesting way of policing itself as people who get involved tend to become wiser, projects that don’t necessarily deserve the attention and money of their investors get busted, and hopefully the industry will clear of such junk projects and have more time on focusing on building impactful products and services.”
Regulation is necessary she says as: “I think that legitimate projects aiming for scalable adoption wouldn’t have problems working hand-in-hand with regulators who simply want to protect the public’s safety.”
She says we’re still “a long way from a mature and stable blockchain environment,” adding: “I think the fact that more and more unsustainable projects [from the get-go] are starting to wither away means that there will be more room for legitimate and more impactful projects.
“We’ll see more and more governments become more clear towards their stance on cryptocurrencies, while blockchain and its expanding use cases will be embraced not only by the consumers, but even governments themselves that are looking to streamline their internal processes.”
Her thoughts on Initial Coin Offerings which have been getting poor publicity, is that a report by Ernst & Young suggested $3.7 billion ICO funds are “either lost or stolen.”
“Either these firms premeditated the move, or they were unable to deliver the technology that their investors expect from them,” she says.
“Either way it’s crucial that in order for new projects to gain the trust of the public again, projects need to do more than just publicity stunts and focus on building a company and value before trying to raise any more funding.
“A new and interesting option for established companies to raise funds is through Security Token Offerings (STOs) where companies raise money or create an investment offer where stock, bonds or real assets are tokenised and put on blockchain.
“That means investors will no longer just hold their breath and wait for a project to eventually accumulate value, but whatever money is being raised is tied up in an existing asset’s valuation.”
When she first head of blockchain, she used her experience working with hypergrowth tech companies to tap into her marketing and PR expertise.
“As I learn more about the industry and its various use cases, I couldn’t help but be immersed and realise there’s so much more to learn,” she says. “Almost every industry that currently has expensive and redundant processes in place can eventually be disrupted by blockchain.”
She admits it’s “not going to be an easy route ahead with all the current technical limitations,” but it is feasible. In the same way that early adopters didn’t give up on the internet earlier on, current limitations shouldn’t really baffle the industry from pursuing all potential applications in various industries.
She always wanted to be a lawyer, but was told early on she had a knack for finding a “great story in some of the most boring items” and selling them. She was allowed access to the computers in her high school library in exchange for helping keeping the area tidy. “That immediately opened my eyes to the potential of the web,” she explains, “When almost every website was one-pagers with funny fonts and animations.”
Lack of women in blockchain is not just about lack of interest, she argues. “In some countries, some women still don’t necessarily have equal rights as men. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not yet allowed to have their own bank accounts.
“So usually, it’s a problem of not necessarily having enough exposure or access to opportunities. It’s interesting to see that compared to other industries, blockchain seems to be gradually opening up and levelling the playing field for both genders.”
She would say to young women “identify your key skills and what exactly you bring to the table. Keep harnessing and developing those skills so you’ll become more confident on your skills and place in the industry.”
She warns: “There will always be people who will undermine and try to downplay your value and success.” But with inner-confidence “you will not let these distractions and detractors baffle you from achieving the best that you can be.”
Every society, she believes, needs to be race and gender blind where “meritocracy needs to be the sole basis for opportunities – not just one’s status or existing connections.”