Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET), Rubyist, Agilist, blockchain adventurer, vegetarian, and runner – these are just among a few terms to describe Rhian Lewis.
And that’s just the beginning…
Rhian is the former digital journalist at @thetimes.co.uk, co-developer of the altcoin portfolio tracker CountMyCrypto, and co-host of London Women in Bitcoin. She has been named to the CoinFilter list of Top 40 Women in Bitcoin and more recently in the Richtopia Top 100 Fintech Insiders list.
She lives between London, Berlin and Devon where she’s engaged in a life of building things, testing things, writing things and doing cryptocurrency things, in roughly equal measure. These days, she’s providing blockchain consultancy services to Yope! Blockchain Development and B9Lab. In her spare time she blogs (mainly) about blockchain at medium.com/@rhian_is. And as though her life is not busy enough, she is in the throes of a new startup called Mamoru that allows everyday users a way to mark their valuables with their own digital identity, codifying proof of ownership to the Ethereum blockchain.
BTCManager recently had the chance to talk with Rhian about her fast-paced journey as well as the future of Blockchain technology from her own eyes.
On the blockchain journey…
I’m a technologist, and I also have a BSc in Economics. So when I first heard about Bitcoin, I was hugely interested in its potential. Around 2013, I discovered altcoins and began trading a little on the side, and that’s when the bug bit me. I wrote a small script to help me aggregate and track my cryptocurrency balances on different exchanges, and with the help of my friend Bruce, who’s a front-end developer, we turned it into the altcoin portfolio tracker countmycrypto.com, which we launched at the beginning of 2014. I then became involved with the Bitcoin and crypto communities in London and Berlin, and met a heap of interesting people and the rest is history.
On blockchain innovation in Germany and the U.K…
It’s an exciting time to be working with the blockchain in both countries, although I think the focus is quite different in Berlin versus London. In Berlin there’s a hugely energetic startup scene and a very passionate grassroots community, centred around the legendary Room 77 in Kreuzberg, where Bitcoin is not only accepted but actively promoted. We are also working out of the Transistor co-working space, which is blockchain-focused.
There are also some great and very driven people at the grassroots level in London, and some really interesting and successful startups, like B9Lab, for example. But in London, there is a lot more activity centred around corporate blockchain development, as London is so much more of a financial centre than Berlin. So if you’re a blockchain developer looking for work in the banking or insurance sector, or a startup wanting to partner with financial institutions, London is good from that point of view, though I still think Berlin is a better location for startups in general.
Brexit, of course, will change the landscape fundamentally, and I think everyone’s waiting to see what happens.
On founding London Bitcoin Women…
When I moved to Berlin, I was welcomed into the Berlin Bitcoin Mädchenabend (Girls’ Night) by Anna Kurth, whom I’d met online. Anna became a good friend after we met in real life, and when I moved back to London, I decided, along with another friend of ours, Magda, to start London Women in Bitcoin, as I’d had such a cool time meeting interesting women at the Berlin meetup. We don’t see ourselves as separate from the wider, mixed, Bitcoin and blockchain community, but I think in the past there has been this view (largely unfounded) that it’s a bit of a ‘guy thing’.
The idea was to host an evening where women could come along and ask noob questions in a friendly atmosphere, and we always encourage our members to participate in the mixed meetups, too.
I’m not in London much at the moment, so the group is being organised and taken forward by Neha Murarka, who is the CEO of Smoogs.io. She’s got so much energy and drive. She’s brought the group into the Skills Matter fold; she’s organised some great talks and presentations; and it’s no longer an exclusively women-only event, which we felt was the right way to go in the longer run.
On the catalyst behind Mamoru?
Although I guess I’m a Bitcoiner at heart, over time I started looking at Ethereum and became interested in the idea of smart contracts. So I teamed up with some friends in Berlin to found a blockchain SAAS startup Mamoru.
The four of us (shoutout to Enrico, Massi and Gianluigi!) have been working together for a while, playing around with different blockchain ideas. Then – true story – Enrico had his bike stolen, and it was like a lightbulb moment when we realised that the various local bike recovery schemes that operate were almost useless in this situation. We suddenly saw the potential for a blockchain-based service company, which could provide not only a decentralised ownership registry but also lots of other different information about an asset’s history and state, so we started working on our first Minimum Viable Product (MVP), SafeBike.
The name Mamoru comes from the Japanese word ‘protect’. We see our product as a kind of superhero, protecting the things that you love, powered by the blockchain. We were one of the eight finalists out of 270 European blockchain startups which applied for the Nexuslab blockchain accelerator, based in Switzerland, and we have learned so much from our journey with them, not just about how to run a blockchain startup, but also about ourselves. Unlike many other startups, our entire team comes from a development background, so we have been learning a lot about the less technical aspects of running a company, such as branding, pitching and so on, and being in an accelerator was a great opportunity to be mentored and improve our skills in these areas.
We’ve set ourselves an ambitious roadmap. We already have a prototype and we’re going to launch our first full MVP in October, before moving into other market sectors.
On what trends will begin to emerge in the bitcoin/blockchain space in the 12-18 months?
My main prediction is that there may well be a move away from private chains as people wake up to the benefits of using properly decentralised chains. I think a lot depends on what happens with the fallout after the Ethereum hard fork, and similarly, what happens in terms of the differences within the Bitcoin community. I think if people can see that crypto-economic incentives and mathematics can help resolve disagreements and that the ledgers remain resilient and secure after major events like a contentious hard fork, then there may well be a drift back to the idea that public chains can allow organisations to transact in a really trustless environment.
I’m sure that many companies who are developing their own private distributed ledgers will wake up to the idea that a traditional data structure may be better in many circumstances and abandon some of their more ill-conceived projects, so we will see some consolidation in the sector. The wholesale insurance companies have been slow to wake up to the possibilities, so there is definitely potential for some interesting proofs of concept in the insurance sector.
I think everyone is watching the R3 consortium to see if that lives up to the hype. And, despite the total disaster that was the DAO, I think we will see, in about another year or so, the first real DAOs starting to come into existence. Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting. Everything moves at the speed of light in blockchain world, and that’s going to continue to happen.