Crypto, as big as it once was, often feels like a family affair – and sometimes that’s literally true. Natalia Ameline is the mother of Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, but she may be better known for her personal contributions to the crypto industry.
She’s the founder of CryptoChicks, an educational non-profit dedicated to supporting women, and a leader of Metis, a startup that’s building a promising scalable layer 2 companion system for Ethereum that’s run as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).
“I want to be part of something great,” Ameline told CoinDesk in an interview. For her, that means being a part of a DAO and investment collective working to expand the Ethereum ecosystem.
Like other scaling systems such as Arbitrum and Optimism, Metis uses a novel technology called Optimistic roll-ups to essentially create a more efficient version of Ethereum. Although all part of the same family tree, layer 2s often develop quite distinct ecosystems – and Ameline has high ambitions that a host of non-fungible tokens, decentralized finance applications and other crypto tools will make their home on Metis.
“You need to have a lot of perseverance and a lot of patience,” she said when asked what it takes to find success in crypto. It’s those qualities she sees in Vitalik that help explain his success: He was willing to “stick around” and put the time in, she said. “It wasn’t easy.”
CoinDesk caught up with Ameline for “Future of Work Week,” to hear more about her contributions to crypto, the changing nature of work and how her son’s invention is changing the world. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Considering your background in business administration accounting, what does your day-to-day look like doing investor relations at a DAO?
I am a lead on the ecosystem fund, which we call Genesi, that invests in projects building on Metis. We look at projects that come to build on Metis, which fit what we're looking for, select the best projects and present them to investors.
Genesi is a bit unusual – It's essentially a joint project by investors of Metis. Everyone [involved] was super passionate about our ecosystem and looking to support it so they got together and formed an investment fund. It’s maybe more like an investment club.
We’re trying to create a DAO, and will actually be operated on-chain in the future. We're building infrastructure for that. But at the moment, Genesi exists offline, if you will.
What is missing from DAO tooling today?
I think one of the tools that will really help a lot is actually reputation power, which is something that Metis will launch shortly – a product called Matrix. It's a reputation power system based on the concept of soulbound tokens that will allow you to have your digital identity online.
It’s a bit like an on-chain resume, where you will have tokens for you to participate in different activities – contributing to different deals or open source projects, going to university or doing work for some charity.
The idea could be useful not just for individuals but for companies. It also could become part of your credit score. It's really like your identity on-chain. And once DAOs are equipped with that you also will be able to see the ranking of contributors.
Do you think DAOs are already changing how we work?
People don't want to work for someone, they want to work for themselves. Some people are forming these cooperatives. For example, one of the projects we'll talk about is like a cooperative of developers. So they all formed a DAO. The DAO can subcontract to any companies that are looking for developers.
This work can become part of your on-chain history, and then you build your resume that way. You will be able to see on-chain what exactly individuals have been working on, how successful they were, what their rating is, etc.
There are many different opportunities there. I think a lot of them maybe haven't even been explored yet. Somebody asked me, what's a great use case [for crypto]? It's something that hasn't been developed yet! We're very early. I keep saying that.
I really think that this gig economy that everybody is talking about is going to be a big thing. Younger people just want to do their own thing, they want to work independently, they want to travel, they don't want to have to be connected to any particular one entity. They want to be the owners of their time.
And I think working in cooperatives like this really helps. Because you can work when you want, how you want and with whom you want.
Do you consider yourself as someone with power or influence? What do you think of your own success or influence in crypto or the bigger world?
No, I don't consider myself in that way. I positioned myself as a member of the team. I want to be part of something great that we're building, and I am super happy that I can contribute to Metis.
If we step back to CryptoChicks, I'm super happy I am part of it and co-founder of it. We were able to, and continue to be able to, help women around the world to learn about what crypto technology has to offer. A lot of them got into the business.
As the co-founder of CryptoChicks, what do you think about women in crypto now? Is it hard for women in this industry?
I think the situation with women in crypto has improved a lot. There are many organizations around the world that are working on similar goals as CryptoChicks. There are so many more females who are not just part of the scene, but they are also active members of projects.
How could crypto fundamentally change how we work?
Crypto is already providing alternatives. Traditional fundraising is very different from what's in crypto. Back in 2017, there were a lot of ICOs (initial coin offerings) that were put up. We're raising money now for communities on distributed platforms. Crypto democratizes access to money. Instead of getting it from one fund, you really can run a global fundraiser, it simplifies the way you can do it.
I think it democratizes the labor market, too. Right now, you don't need to work in a certain country to do a certain type of job in crypto. As long as they qualify to do the work, nothing prevents you from getting employed. Also, you don’t need to wire money through the complex bank account system. You can do it pretty fast. You can transfer it from one country to the next without any issues, which is convenient for companies.
What do you think of Vitalik’s success?
I'm super happy for him, obviously. I think he accomplished a lot for somebody of his age. I think he owes his success also for perseverance and patience, and sticking around and putting a lot of time into it. It wasn't easy. You really have to love what you do. And I think Vitalik really enjoys what he does. He's passionate about it, and he works tirelessly on it.
What advice would you give to someone trying to make it in crypto?
I would say that you need to have a lot of perseverance and a lot of patience. If you got into crypto as an investment, you really need to be able to kind of stick with it. I see a mistake a lot of people are making: They will invest and when the market turns the wrong way they get out, sometimes at a loss. And they never want to go back anymore because they got burned. It’s painful.
I think with anything in life, in order to succeed you really need to study it. And you need to stick around and persevere despite your experiences. So you do need a lot of patience. And you do need to be able to say right now is a bear market, but we'll just keep working. We'll keep focusing and we will get there.
I think people should not be afraid to try new things. It's hard to make a jump and go into the unknown. My suggestion would be to try as many things as you can. I think when you grow older, the only experiences that you remember [should not be] how you sit in the office and [at] the same desk for the last 40 years.
It may be a bear market, but there are still plenty of jobs to be had at crypto companies.
Crypto can make it faster and cheaper to pay workers. This article is part of the Future of Work series.
By adopting a more open, fluid model, traditional firms would find it easier to attract talent and end up with a more passionate, engaged workforce.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.