Given that venture capital funds still fund female founders to the tune of 2%, and this is dropping in the Covid-19 world, it is notable that one accelerator that focuses on impactful blockchain applications that solve social issues has a cohort of 50% female founders.
Ethereum Classic Labs (ETC Labs), the core development and accelerator organization for the Ethereum Classic blockchain, is an accelerator based out of San Francisco that provides technical support for blockchain and digital asset startups. Through the ETC Core development team, accelerator, and relevant partners, ETC Labs provides mentorship and support for business strategy, venture funding development, networking, and investor introductions.
The Accelerator program is uniquely positioned to bring top developers to the Ethereum Classic (ETC) community, to fuel their projects, create more use cases for ETC, and ultimately drive demand and greater adoption of the chain. In addition, ETC Labs actively partners with universities and conducts research. They work with Lehigh University, which is part of a NASDAQ Center, and are in talks with several other universities’ to engage in various programs with their computer science departments. The research projects tend to focus on scalability solutions, or stateless channels including decentralized storage and interoperability between other chains.
ETC Labs’ Executive Director, Liz Kukka, discussed what it’s like leading an accelerator for one of the world’s largest public blockchains, while ensuring the next generation of female business leaders are properly supported. “We look for companies who are focused on social and financial inclusion, which includes decentralized finance or ‘DeFi’ projects that will have an impact in emerging markets — this is where we can see the most impact from blockchain technology. Our network of mentors, which includes several high profile female executives from world class organizations, has been a strong draw for our female entrepreneurs. Being around these women, seeing how they work, think, and navigate business, is really inspirational for the women in our cohort, but it’s also really fulfilling for the mentors to give back and be around the next generation of builders, creators, and business innovators. It’s definitely a two-way street.”
One of the female led and founded businesses in ETC Lab’s program is San Francisco-based Pngme, which is led by Cate Rung and Brendan Playford. Pngme seeks to unlock a $5.2 trillion lending opportunity by helping financial institutions in emerging markets scale their businesses and close the financing gap that’s affecting 200 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) globally. Pngme believes the best way to achieve financial inclusion is to provide the necessary human interaction, access to capital, and technology to responsibly issue working capital and credit. “Pngme is financial inclusion, impact, and DeFi all rolled into one,” said Kukka. “Their lending platform provided some of the first AI-backed microloans in countries like Africa.”
Another female founder is co-founder and COO, Beth Van Horn at OpenRelay, the team behind Rivet. Rivet is a high capacity, high availability node infrastructure that delivers “pay as you go” services via a suite of developer tools that are intended to enhance the decentralized economy. “OpenRelay is laying the necessary groundwork that fuels decentralization, by developing the open-source software and standards that enable people to build on top of each other’s work,” said Kukka.
ETC Labs also provides strategic investments when there’s a proper fit. Earlier this year they announced a $1 million commitment to a key partnership with the UNICEF Innovation Fund, to fund projects in emerging markets. The effort was supported by Digital Finance Group (DFG), an investment company across a diversified portfolio of blockchain and digital asset companies. “ETC Labs has a clear purpose to work with emerging companies seeking to harness blockchain and improve people’s lives, in some of the most challenging situations around the globe,” said James Wo, founder of Digital Finance Group. “We are committed to supporting their diverse array of entrepreneurs and companies who are working to realize the intent of blockchain to bring meaningful economic and social impact.”
Whether mitigating the technical challenges of blockchain development with developer tools and infrastructure, fueling interoperability, enabling female entrepreneurs, or using technology to elevate marginalized groups to make the world a better place for all, ETC Labs is doggedly pursuing the partners who believe in the promise of blockchain to address urgent, global business, and societal challenges.