Simona Pop is the co-founder of Bounties Network, a freelance work dApp built on the Ethereum blockchain with the goal of changing the world. Yeah, the raw enthusiasm is refreshing. But at the same time, one wonders exactly how much of a transformation this bootstrap team can make.
After all, we’ve officially entered the blockchain fatigue cycle – too much over-promising and under-delivery. And yet, even though ETH has spiralled into the gutter since the last time I spoke with Pop back in mid-2018, she’s continuing to soldier on. Then again, I would have expected nothing less.
“Cynicism is easy. Mimicry is easy. Optimistic contrarians are the rarest breed.”
— Simona Pop (@Sim_Pop) March 3, 2018
The crypto winter forced teams to rethink their focus
Far from clenching her teeth while weathering the bitter winds of the crypto winter, Pop is resolute in ensuring that Bounties Network gains traction. She explains:
“I think the crypto winter was a key step in refining the focus and resolve of a lot of teams out there. We’ve always been an incredibly bootstrapped team, even when spending in the ecosystem was rather rampant. So for us, everything we’ve achieved, we’ve achieved with low spend and high levels of work.”
She’s not a developer or a mathematician, and she doesn’t get off on playing dirty on social media. Pop is hands down one of blockchain’s most active women, playing her part in advancing the revolution brick by brick.
What Bounties Network is all about
Pop has a background in marketing and communications, and for that, she’s especially proud. It doesn’t deter her in the least that she isn’t an Ethereum developer. There are plenty of roles for people in this ecosystem after all, and she firmly believes that no one – female or otherwise – should shy away from blockchain because they don’t write code.
“I am one of those rare non-technical background blockchain builders,” she reveals.
“One of my roles is to ‘translate’ all the amazing work being done into inclusive, relatable, and accessible language and initiatives. I got involved because I believe in blockchain’s power to level out the playing field in terms of access to information, resources, and work. As a co-founder of Bounties Network, my work is about creating the space and the right conditions that enable this power to manifest.”
Proud of this one 🙂 pic.twitter.com/TVcuLhwGIZ
— 🌾 Oatis Redding 🌾 (@BeerCanDid) April 20, 2019
When I ask about the main goal of Bounties Network, Pop gets on a roll. It’s not just a blockchain-based way of working freelance, she corrects me: “It’s doing so much more than that.”
“We are redesigning and reengineering the way organisations, communities, and individuals collaborate, incentivise, and organise themselves and each other. The bounty as a mechanism is an incredibly flexible tool that enables transparent and efficient task outsourcing and global circulation of funds.
“This can be applied to a variety of verticals across technology, design, research, art, music, social impact, and more. By layering projects on top of smart contracts, we are removing the need for third parties, countless fees, and the blind trust and opacity that plagues Web 2 solutions.”
What is Bounties Network developing at the moment?
I ask Pop about the most important developments Bounties Network has made lately. She’s extremely proud to reel off a list of achievements starting with partnerships with UNICEF and Opera:
“We also ran an incredibly successful pilot for one of our social impact bounties over in Manila Bay, in the Philippines. As we wanted to document the process of an IRL blockchain application, we filmed a documentary about our experience,” she says. You can watch the trailer below.
“We’ll also be running youth workshops across the hackathon circuit this year which we kick-started with ETHCapeTown this month. The focus for us is a ‘learn by doing’ model supported by engaging bounties to put the learnings into practice.”
What are the biggest challenges for Bounties Network moving forward?
Even through text chat or email communication, Pop’s enthusiasm is as infectious as ever. But, I have to admit, checking the status of ETH dApps on any given day can leave one feeling rather flat. Low user adoption coupled with lacklustre transactions… I ask how Bounties fares when it comes to gaining traction.
“The Bounties Network Protocol is actually one of the top five most used Ethereum smart contracts (excluding games and exchanges), and has seen continuous growth in usage despite crypto winter.”
She still (grudgingly) admits that even so, “onboarding and education” are still the “biggest hurdles” to wider adoption, but “we are getting much closer”, she assures me.
Pop and her team have been working on the user interface and design, trying to take away a lot of the complexity that many dApps have. She explains, “We very much believe that human-centric design, accessible communication, and a focus on broader communities are all vital to adoption.”
What’s it like for Simona Pop being a woman in blockchain?
I ask Pop how the journey’s been so far and whether being a woman in blockchain has made things harder for her or if she’s sensed the “toxicity” that many women describe.
“No, I haven’t”, she answers with complete assurance.
“I have always felt welcome, supported, and have genuinely felt a sense of belonging ever since I got into blockchain. I definitely think there is a lot of work to be done in terms of diversity, inclusivity, and equal pay. But it will not happen overnight and we must keep working at it.
“Everyone needs to be on the same page with regards to the fact that each and every one of us contributes their skills, time, and energy to initiatives and projects and every contribution has value.
“This goes beyond gender, beyond ethnicity or sexual preference. We are reshaping decades upon decades of misperceptions and miseducation so, much like blockchain, new perspectives can be difficult for some.”
I ask her how she would encourage more women to join in the revolution (if they want to, of course). Below is a list of key Twitter handles for women in blockchain that Pop suggests to follow and converse with:
@womenwhocode, @sowcoders, @girlswhocode, @blakcgirlscode, @momscancodepgh, @railsgirls, and @girlsintech.
She also says, “Participate in blockchain and get to know this new economy!”
You can also check out @ETHGlobal and attend a hackathon or organise a blockchain meetup in your city.
Wrapping it up
Pop is clearly in her element pressing ahead with Bounties Network. But, I wonder if, after so much time, she’s frustrated by the slow pace of blockchain adoption.
“I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I do get frustrated from time to time,” she acknowledges. “But then I watch something like an instructional video on using email from the late 80s that’s over 30 minutes long and it looks complicated as hell!
“I remember things can take time to get right, to get good, to get growing… A tree does not grow overnight, neither does a well functioning organism of any kind.”