Written By
Candice Morgan & Terri Burns

As part of our ongoing celebration of Black History Month, we partnered with CapitalG to host a panel of Black leaders driving influential work in the blockchain space. We brought together Yele Bademosi (CEO & Co-Founder of Nestcoin, Founder of Microtraction), Mercedes Bent (Partner at Lightspeed), and Leon Marshall (Global Head of Sales at Genesis, Co-Founder of Crypto@LBS) to discuss trends in the broader web3 space, crypto as an investable asset, democratizing access to economic opportunity, and the potential impact of these systems on Black communities and culture.

Blockchain—the technology behind crypto, NFTs, web3, and more—has generated a wave of innovation that many historically underrepresented groups are keen to be part of, and in fact, are leading in many ways. The panelists shared several reasons behind the fast-growing participation. First, there is a great collective interest in the blockchain's ability to evolve our global economy out of a traditional financial system that has gated technology innovation and has kept marginalized groups socioeconomically oppressed.

Yele discussed blockchain's potential to have a profound impact. "Everyone who has access to it has equal rights to control the database. That's the core of what blockchain technology is, and that innovation has tremendous implications for everything from financial services to art to media to gaming," he said. He also reminded us that "talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not." A recent Nestcoin survey revealed that most remote workers in Africa (who work with companies in the US or EU, for instance) do not convert their earnings into local currency, illustrating the need to democratize access to globally stable forms of money. When stablecoin is available, geography no longer determines one's quality of life. This is a key motivator for Nestcoin, whose mission is to build, operate and invest in simple-to-use products that make crypto accessible to everyone.

Everyone who has access to it has equal rights to control the database. That's the core of what blockchain technology is, and that innovation has tremendous implications for everything from financial services to art to media to gaming.

Building from Yele's points, Leon explained that in its purest form, the blockchain incentivizes people to do work in a network through token receipts or cryptographic assets. Anyone can participate: you can verify pieces of the chain, participate in governance in how the database and networks are run, and receive fees from trade and exchange. That cryptographic asset is scarce and increases in value over time. It is also sovereign: you own it and can send it to anyone in the world. It is also tradeable against dollars or stablecoins. The key advantage, said Leon, is that "it offers a change to existing power structures. Your level of access is phenomenal, and it's appealing on the retail side for Black consumers to look at crypto as an investable asset."

Mercedes further connected the dots about how web3 can be a positive for Black and Brown communities and culture. She cited a Harris poll stating that historically marginalized groups like Black Americans have significantly higher investments held in crypto—23% of Black Americans, which is nearly double the representation of Black Americans in the U.S. The research attributed the difference to the blockchain having fewer barriers to entry than traditional finance. She also noted the intense discussion about how to bring web3 to mass America. "Everyone knows the way into mass America is through entertainment and sports. And where have Black people always over-indexed? Through entertainment and sports. There is a large opportunity, but we need to organize. It took me six months to find out what Black people were doing in the space." And, she added, "Black folks are not getting all of their shine for their contributions—even though we over-index, we're not seeing accurate representation as being top receivers of funding."

Looking ahead, the panel discussed how to address access and better organize Black and Brown-led communities for knowledge sharing and collaboration. They cited the Crypto for Black Economic Empowerment group, co-founded by Erikan Obotetukudo of The Audacity Fund. Mercedes also shared a list of women-led communities formed around the blockchain and web3.

With a better alignment of resources, we believe that there is incredible opportunity ahead for Black and Brown communities in crypto and web3. We're hopeful that with greater engagement, we'll see the democratization of access for more people across the diaspora worldwide.