033. A Decentralized Digital Economy and How Blockchain Can Remove Bias w/Betsabe Botaitis

Why do you think decentralization is important?

“I think because the end user is ready and is asking for it. I truly think that a lot of people want to have ownership of their data and a record of it. And if we really dive a little bit on what is the promise of blockchain. What is the promise of this decentralized ledger that everybody’s talking about? It is a simple ledger. It’s a database with more benefits, but truly it’s the promise that it’s going to deliver personalized experience.”

Betsabe Botaitis is someone who really comes from humble beginnings. She comes from a small community in Mexico and Betsabe pursued her passion of becoming a banker and a successful businesswoman. She immigrated to the United States, worked her way up the corporate banking ladder and became Global Director of Finance and Operations at one of the country’s biggest banks.

Looking back she’s one of those inspiring people who made her American Dream come true to become not only a successful banker but now a tech startup founder in Silicon Valley.

But it wasn’t until she was at the height of her career, when she was dealing with options and derivatives and realized that she wasn’t really doing what she wanted to do, from way back when. She remembers back to when she was playing with fake money when she was four years old and pretending to give out microloans like she’d seen at her parent’s bank. She remembered that what she really wanted to do was to help people.

What she’d seen at the bank wasn’t customer driven. Customers would wait in line for hours to make small deposits on their credit card debt with what little cash they had, and they didn’t understand the fees or commissions they would have to pay on top of the interest they were already paying. And when she thought back to how she felt at that time, she realized that her dream was to help people. Betsabe believes that if we would go back to our childhood dream, and do what we wanted to do then, that we would all be a lot happier.

So talk to Betsabe about her current project, Aikon, how she got back to her childhood dream and how she got out of her own way.

One of Betsabe’s main learnings was that she had to overcome her own bias. What she realized was that the thing that was holding her back the most, was herself. As her own worst critic, she looked at who she was as ‘an immigrant, female, with a heavy accent’ and may have been judged by outsiders, but realized she was even judging herself.

So how do we get around bias? Betsabe decided to use blockchain tech and the anonymity of the technology as an advantage. If transactions can be anonymous, then bias is removed inherently. If no one knows what gender someone is or country what country someone’s from or what university they went to or what community they do or don’t belong to, if the work that gets posted on the blockchain doesn’t have those markers attached to it, then the work can just speaks for itself.

We also talk about why job creation is more important than financial inclusion in emerging markets. Microloans are a first step to including people, by building credit and credit worthiness and also the ability and desire to repay a loan. But if non-profits give out a loan for example to a store owner in a small village to buy inventory, then they have all of this new inventory, but who’s going to buy it if other people in the village don’t have an income to buy anything from that store? What needs to be done is to expand their spending capacity. If neighbourhoods can be revitalized, than the ultimate outcome is financial inclusion. And Betsabe explains how Aikon is helping.