A little over two years ago, I co-founded an ambitious nonprofit to create infrastructure that communities could use to freely design and create their own financial services. Now, the time has come for me to move on to my next project. I will be passing the torch to my co-founder, Jed McCaleb, and I will continue as Chairperson of the Board.
I have always looked at the tech industry as a powerful tool in shaping and advancing our society. I started Stellar.org because it is a technology that can make the world truly and meaningfully better. Digital currency is a great disruptor, but for me, it is time to find a new challenge. Still, the experience has been meaningful for me me both professionally and personally.
Working at Stellar.org, there were three things that had a big impact on me and my work. First, we live in a time when changes in technology far outpace changes in the law. Unfortunately, because most lawmakers, lawyers and judges are not technical, the repercussions are enormous. We need to figure out a better knowledge exchange system between tech and the law. Secondly, I feel that our perspective on product design is becoming narrower rather than broader—and I am not sure where this trend will leave us. With Stellar, I was immersed in designing for the diversity of the human condition. I count myself lucky for this experience as there are very few times in our careers when we design products beyond the tech-included demographic. I want to take these learnings with me to other parts of our ecosystem as well.
Lastly, working with amazing people on projects ranging from mobile savings accounts for adolescent girls in South Africa and connecting rural microfinance organizations in Nigeria inspired me and showed me sides of the tech space we seldom get to see here in San Francisco.
One example was Ahmad Mukoshy, the brilliant CTO of Gigalayer.com, a web hosting business. He told me of his first experience getting a web server as a teenager and then subsequently having his account suspended a few days later for the simple fact that he was based in Nigeria – the equivalent of redlining on the Internet. But Ahmad took this setback and used it as motivation to build his own hosting company in Nigeria for Nigerians. Gigalayer makes it easy for anyone to get their own web server and is exactly the kind of service that teen-aged Ahmad needed for himself. I met so many folks with stories that moved me. This kind of resilience and passion gives me great hope for a future that will be built by the programmers and entrepreneurs in their own communities.
I am proud of what Stellar.org accomplished during my tenure as Executive Director. Not only did we create an entirely new, scalable and provably safe codebase but we expanded the blockchain and distributed ledger dialogue with communities that are traditionally financially excluded. I believe this is where a truly massive impact can and will be made.
I will be taking the summer to think, read, reflect and digest my experiences to see how they shape my thoughts about the next 10, 50 or 100 years of technological change. I welcome any book recommendations and countries to visit. So far on the itinerary are Ecuador, Sweden, and Spain. By end of summer, I will return from my travels bursting with energy, ideas and likely a dinged up surfboard:)
See you in the future!